Planning laws will trigger “a second and luxury homes bonanza”, says Devon MP

Conservative MP for Totnes, Sarah Wollaston, sounds the alarm, in today’s Guardian:

Sarah Wollaston is one of the growing number of Westminster MPs who see the dangers of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). They are backed by a new nationwide movement of campaign groups calling for changes to the NPPF. The East Devon Alliance is an active part of this Community Voice on Planning

Examination in Public (EiP) of EDDC’s new Local Plan ….summary so far.

The Examination continues next Tuesday,25th February, with the Sidmouth hearing. The whole day session will start at 9.30 a.m. at Knowle Council Chamber, Sidmouth.

For an overview of what has already been discussed, please see the following links:

The EDDC Village Development Plan.

Some of the issues are summarised here by an East Devon Alliance correspondent, reporting on concerns at Budleigh Salterton and Newton Poppleford.


Recording one of the early days during the public hearing on the local plan, Cllr Claire Wright wrote:

“The usually unflappable EDDC planning policy officer got irritated at this and read out paragraph 1 of the national planning policy framework, which was all about encouraging communities to get involved in the planning process.

He said that communities were the best judge of where development should go.”

In East Budleigh due process of consultation has been followed with regard to three sites all of which had been identified by EDDC as suitable. The people overwhelmingly preferred a brown field site at the village entry to the South by a majority of 68.5%. In the plan, EDDC have introduced a series of spurious arguments to reject this site despite it being previously deemed suitable, and chosen a site favoured by only 29.7% with an entry at a known accident black spot.

Formal comments on the village development plan do not seem to be readily available on EDDC’s web site so the input from the Otter Valley Association has been circulated widely within the village by angry residents.

Steve Baker, the Chairman of the Parish Council, which conducted the consultation is quoted in yesterday’s Journal (20 Feb) as saying “we are reasonably happy with [the Syon House site] from all the bits of land around….I think we have got away with it pretty lightly when you consider Feniton and all the rest of it.”

In Newton Poppleford the Parish Council quite brazenly put forward the unpopular King Alfred’s Way site admitting the decision to choose this site was made behind closed doors. As we all know this turned out to be the EDDC preferred site but not that of the local community.

The end result of both processes cannot be said to confirm the notion put to the Planning Inspector that in EDDC communities are the best judge of where development should go. They have either not been consulted or where they have, they have been ignored.’


Reference Point r12.93

Policy 20 Residential Land Development in East Budleigh.

This representation is made by the Otter Valley Association (OVA). The OVA’s purpose is to promote and conserve the history, geography, architecture and natural history of this area of Devon and is a member of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership. The OVA is deeply aware that any development in East Budleigh must “conserve and enhance” the area. The choice of sites to be included in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) must conform to this policy.

The OVA cannot support the “Proposed Allocation Justification” (PAJ) set out in policy 20 of the draft East Devon Villages Plan which has been submitted for consultation.

The PAJ identifies site C059 as the preferred site for the development of 15 dwellings.

In November 2012 in accordance with a statutory requirement East Devon District Council (EDDC) invited the residents of East Budleigh to consider through a consultation process the sites put forward as available for development.

Due process took place and the views of the residents were expressed and are set out in the Village Consultation and Engagement Report 2013. However their views have been ignored.

The proposed site C059 was the least popular option. Only 29.5% of the residents completing the questionnaire prepared by the East Budleigh Parish Council identified this site and then only as “a last resort”.

See Village Consultation Report – C059. “was not favoured by members of the public who completed the questionnaire; 29.5% in favour. It was the last resort if we must attitude. It was felt that if development was here then it would be cut off from the village by the main road which is very busy and difficult to cross.”

East Budleigh is in an area of outstanding natural beauty and is enjoyed as an historic village visited by many tourists and any development must be undertaken with great care.

The OVA cannot understand how this site was included in the assessment as the Draft East Devon Villages Plan recognises that “the site is particularly sensitive due to its location in the AONB”

The site C059 is grade 1 agricultural land and before considering development of such land the planners must take into account the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guidelines paragraphs 111 and 112.

NPPF paragraph 111 says “planning policies and decisions should encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land).”

NPPF paragraph 112 says “Local planning authorities should take into account the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land. Where significant development of agricultural land is demonstrated to be necessary, local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poor quality land in preference to that of higher quality”

Site C059 is on the gradient and on the edge of a floodplain. Building will increase the risk of flooding into the row of cottages below the site. Frogmore Road has experienced frequent flooding. Question 15 of the Sustainability Appraisal Objective was not answered on this topic which given the recent history of flooding in the area was a major omission.

The site is 50m. from a substantial Georgian house (now an hotel). If EDDC had a local heritage asset list this house would surely be included in it. A housing development in close proximity to this property will impact on its character.

OVA is concerned that an access road to 15 houses should exit from the site straight onto the B3178 and very near the crossroads at the Rolle Arms. This stretch of the B3178 has had three road accidents in the recent past. The OVA is astonished that it is deemed acceptable for children to cross this very busy road to access the Village Centre, the shop and the school.

There is an alternative site which meets the NPPF paragraph 111 criteria and other requirements. This is site C307.

The draft plan has ignored the wishes of the residents of East Budleigh whose preferred site is C307. This site was favoured by all who attended the meeting and 68.5% of those who completed the Parish Council questionnaire. It is a brownfield site including an industrial unit at the edge of the village. A new development on this site would have the least adverse impact on the village and surrounding countryside. It is within the recommended 600 metre distance from the centre of the village. One of the main attributes of East Budleigh is that is not bisected by a major road. The development of this site would contain the expansion of the village to the west of the B3178 and therefore will not impact on the exceptional landscape of the Otter Valley to the east of this road. With the construction of a pavement (which may have a calming effect on the traffic) residents of the new development would not have to cross the busy B3178 to reach the facilities in the village.

In the view of the OVA site C307 is the more acceptable site to meet the housing requirements demanded by the SHLAA.

Finally, the most important point the OVA wishes to emphasise is that the Draft Plan has disregarded the democratic process and ignored the views of the people of East Budleigh who did not vote in favour of site C059.

Next steps on Knowle footpaths.

Devon County Council has now acted on the Inspector’s recent ruling (See links given below). What implications does this have for East Devon District Council leaders, who plan to sell-off the site of their present HQ for residential development?

Some thoughts here, from Vice-Chair of the Knowle Residents’ Association, Kelvin Dent:

“Another important landmark along the tortuous journey to preserve rights of way at the Knowle. EDDC can, if they wish, lodge a further objection to Devon County Council’s modification order. Will the District Council continue to fight the local residents, I wonder, or will they respect the views of the Independent Inspector regarding the footpaths? Hmm. Tough one to call, that one.”

The Inspector’s report, and DCC’s follow-up, are stored on the SIN blog:

What price flood insurance for the now approved Longboat cafe?

Some clues might be found in the following extract from a letter, dated 25 September 2009, to Mr John Wardle of the Devon Area Office of the Environment Agency. It was sent by Budleigh Salterton resident, David Daniel, and is headed ‘Data relevant to Flooding from the Sea – Budleigh Salterton’,and mentions that damage had occurred 7 times between 1970 & 2000.

‘Dear Mr Wardle
Thank you for letting me come over to meet you on Tuesday , to discuss flooding from the sea at Budleigh Salterton.
I have been collating the evidence of severely damaging storms and storm surges from records kept in the local Museum. These are mainly eyewitness accounts, newspaper cuttings and photographs. These are not a complete record of all storms only those of sufficient severity as to warrant special mention. From empirical evidence (which PPS25 seems to suggest should always be used where available), the part of the beach worst affected by storm driven flooding from the sea is the eastern section of approx 1.2 km, from the Longboat to the Otter Head, of the 4.5 km beach. I am of the opinion that the section of the beach subject to flood damage and the extent of this damage is not easily subject to predictive calculation. This is because it is a three dimensional hydrodynamic effect caused by wind, waves and the angle they hit the beach, but perhaps your experts can correct me.

From this I believe there were at least eight storms between 1951 and 2000 of sufficient severity to flood this section of the beach. Namely: mid 50’s; 1970 (Feb); 1974 (Jan or Feb); 1982; 1989 (16 Dec); 1990 (2 Feb); 1991(end March); and 2000 (Oct). (Approximately one every six years although in practice they are far from evenly spaced). The effects of global warming are predicted to increase the frequency and severity of these storm surges. This represents an annual flood risk of 16% which seems to me to be thirty times greater than the “high risk” threshold used as guidelines in PPS 25 for flooding from the sea. We seem to be in uncharted “exceptional risk” territory.

Budleigh Salterton beach is described as “naturally protected” by the pebbles washed out from the “Bunter Beds” and thrown onto an underlying sandy substructure. But this protection is dynamic. Living memory from my family relates that on occasion some severe storms scour the pebbles off the beach and then years later another storm will throw them back. This has meant in the past the temporary loss of paths and a threat to the protection of the Otter Estuary. So, following the 1970 storm, protective gabions were installed in 1972. Their height had to be increased in 1974. And they were extensively repaired again by EDDC in 1990 following the 1989 storm in which 150m of gabions were torn open directly in front of the Longboat House. These repairs were incomplete when further damage was sustained in February 1990.

The purpose of gabions is to contain erosion, although as you can see from the evidence, they are not invulnerable to the extraordinary power of the sea. They are not impervious and they do not stop water coming through them or over the top.

I enclose a selection of photographs to indicate the extent of erosion storms of this severity cause and strewn pebble “witness” of how high the water has carried them.

Yours sincerely,
David Daniel

Gabions installation, 1972
gabions installation 1972
Storm 1974
Storm 1974
Storm Dec 1989
Storm dec 1989 1

The above letter will make uncomfortable reading for the owner of the Longboathouse cafe, as will reports in the national media of higher insurance premiums for properties, including small businesses, at risk of flooding.

The Inspector’s report and decision on the Longboathouse cafe appeal was announced today. Details here:
LB Appeal

Comments on the SIN blog at this link:

Destination Skypark: the ‘underlying assumptions, and effects’, of EDDC’s planned move

Next week, EDDC councillors will be asked to vote for a £1,000,000 spend on land at Skypark, for new Council headquarters which could cost a whopping £15,000,000 of taxpayers’ money.
But can councillors make an informed decision on the scant evidence so far provided? No they can’t, according to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC), which voted by a two-thirds majority for further details to be released before any decision should be taken. Despite this serious caution from its own watchdog, the Cabinet seems intent on forging ahead, with councillors blindly in tow.

This has prompted Save Our Sidmouth (SOS) to send an appeal to all councillors to read the details and implications of the relocation plan, (in a document SOS has provided), before the vote at Full Council on Wednesday, 26th February (6.30 p.m at Knowle).
The SOS letter and document are here:

Why Skypark?

As reported widely in the media, EDDC’s reasons for moving their offices, particularly to Skypark, have been greeted with derision. The financial basis for the move has also been questioned by the Council’s own Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC). They recently voted (by 8 votes to 4 abstentions), for a review of the cost of Knowle refurbishment (1970’s buildings) with the possible sale for conversion of the historic building, compared to the spiralling, uncertain and unspecified relocation costs. “Creative accounting” has been alleged by one member of the ruling party; other councillors are uncomfortable about what seems to be an untimely leap in the dark.

Will the OSC have an “open and transparent” answer? Will taxpayers be reassured? And will the Cabinet finally reveal the real reason behind the planned move?

Come to the Full Council on 26th February (6.30 p.m at Knowle) to find out!

More relocation-linked questions at this link: