• To allow appeal at Feniton would ‘open floodgates’

    9th August 2012 | News | Claire
  • Speaking at the Wainhomes planning appeal inquiry yesterday, he was quizzed by the developer’s barrister about the council having identified a preferred piece of land for future housing in the village. 

    Mr Dickins said: “We have heard very well articulated and well expressed arguments from members of the public in Feniton, who have shown they have been fully involved in democratic processes” and “To allow this appeal would open the floodgates.”

    The planning appeal inquiry is the fourth to challenge East Devon District Council’s new local plan, which is about to starts its final public consultation, after which comments will be forwarded to the planning inspector.

    EDDC has won previous appeal inquiries at West Hill, Tipton St John and Lympstone.

    With a number of large applications outside its built-up area boundary, Feniton is believed to be deliberately targeted by developers, claiming that it is a sustainable location, due to its railway station.

    Due to the level of interest shown by developers in Feniton, planning officers, working with Feniton Parish Council and its district councillor, Graham Brown, have expressed a preference for a site for 35 houses.  This, it is hoped, will put EDDC and the village in a safer position with regard to defending it against further large-scale applications.

    The appeal inquiry lodged by Wainhomes is over a refusal to build 50 houses outside Feniton’s built-up area boundary on land next to Louvigny Close.

    In an unusual move, EDDC’s position is being backed by another developer – Strategic Land Partnerships (SLP) – which applied to build 120 houses in the village last year, on land next to Ottery Road, around half of which is in my ward.  This application was rejected in December 2011. 

    SLP has its own representation at the inquiry, whose main aim it appears, is to plug the ‘benefits’ of allowing SLP to build on the land next to Ottery Road. 

    One of the benefits, claimed SLP’s representative, Mr Seaton, was that that there was potential for Feniton School to develop from its present 210 place, to 420 places!

    Calculations on school placements, by Feniton’s Devon County Councillor, Roger Giles, who attended the inquiry, revealed that to provide an additional 210 primary school children, an additional 840 homes would be necessary! Mr Seaton said that his client (SLP) was prepared to transfer the necessary land to the school, subject to SLP obtaining planning consent. 

    EDDC has allocated 35 houses for Feniton in the local plan, until 2026.

    A fundamental bone of contention is once again, the five year land supply.  Government planning policy insists that all councils must demonstrate that they have enough land for five year’s supply of housing.  In East Devon the figure is calculated by splitting the district in half. Cranbrook and west of Cranbrook in one half (known as the principal urban area or PUA) and the rest of East Devon.  EDDC argues that this approach means that the ‘rest of East Devon’ has much more than a five year supply of housing, but of course the developers disagree.

    Barrister, Richard Ground was representing EDDC, with James Brown and Matt Dickins of the EDDC planning team as witnesses.

    On the first day, Mr Ground went through the EDDC reasons for refusing the planning application. This included that the site was not in the Principal Urban Area (PUA), was outside the Built Up Area Boundary (BUAB) of Feniton, was an unsustainable location, did not (as Devon Structure Plan policy says it should) reduce the need to travel.

    Other arguments in favour of dismissal of the appeal included limited facilities and little employment in Feniton, there were poor bus and train services, the land was Grade 2 agricultural land – almost the best possible (there is virtually no grade 1 agricultural land in East Devon). Reference was also made to the recent planning appeals in Tipton and West Hill which had been dismissed.

    Not surprisingly Wainhomes barrister, Mr Tucker had a different view to Mr Ground. The site was suitable. Mr Tucker claimed that EDDC had failed to ensure an adequate 5-year supply of housing land.  EDDC had claimed that there was.

    Planning officer, James Brown had produced some interesting stats that showed a very high level of car use in Feniton, in order to counter Wainhomes claims about good public transport availability in Feniton. He said that 68% of people travelling to work from Feniton did so by car. This compared with 57% in the rest of East Devon; 59% in the South West;  and 55% in England.

    This resulted in an exceedingly lengthy, and very difficult to follow, series of questions to James Brown from Mr Tucker about theoretical train journeys from Feniton to Pinhoe. This quite ignored the fact that if you go to work in Pinhoe by train from Feniton in the morning, you have only one train (at 17.54) on which to return between 8.35 and 23.06! Mr Tucker also said that if there is a choice between train and bus – everybody would choose the train. This is total nonsense.  The bus offers multiple points to depart; the train offers very few. It depends on the destination.

    Feniton residents made some well researched and persuasive arguments:
    Derek Bodycombe of Louvigny Close talked about Feniton`s flooding history. He said that there should not be any further development until the flooding problems had been resolved.

    Dr John Withrington, of Feniton Action Group, said that Wainhomes, at their information day, had said that 150 homes were needed for a viable housing scheme. What was planned was not wanted; not needed; and not appropriate. He quoted the NPPF reference to flooding and asked: “Why risk it?”. The infrastructure in Feniton is at bursting point.  He said Cranbrook is a sustainable community; “Where better to build than Cranbrook? Where worse to build than Feniton?”

    Jayne Blackmore said she had lived in Feniton for 47 years. Each housing development had worsened the flooding problem. The Wainhomes site was on an elevated position in Feniton – water would run down to low parts of Feniton such as Salisbury Avenue and Salisbury Close.

    She said the 2008 floods were devastating. It was devastating to spend hours worrying if you would be flooded, it was devastating to see your possessions taken away in a skip, it was devastating to have to move out of your home for many months while it was repaired from flood damage.

    She said that Wainhomes had said that they wanted to build 150 homes. If approval were to be given for 50, they would not stop at 50.

    Val Jones lives in Green Lane near to the site. She talked about the long history of flooding in Feniton (or Sidmouth Junction as it was called). Each stage of development worsened the flood problem. The church had been flooded for the first time in 2008. It was now at risk of future flooding. In 2008 the water level reached the top of the hedge on the field planned for housing “We were praying that the hedge wouldn`t give way.”

    Val said that Wainhomes wanted to build 150 homes, and “we all know that 50 would be only the first phase.”

    Val – like many others –said that the Coleridge Medical Centre in Ottery, and Feniton Primary School were at capacity.

    Anthony Harper said the Planning Appeal was purely to serve the profit motive of a developer. “Why is Feniton being targeted for development?” he asked.  He said that the access roads to Feniton were inadequate. He was concerned that the site access was 100 yards from Feniton Primary School and would create dangers for schoolchildren.

    The appeal continues and is expected to conclude tomorrow.

    My thanks to Cllr Roger Giles for his detailed notes.