“Revealed: UK ‘is in the throes of a housing crisis’ “

“Observer survey finds 71% couldn’t buy without family help, and 37% say home ownership is out of reach for good:

David Cameron’s pledge to build a property-owning democracy is called into serious question by a landmark survey revealing that almost four in 10 of those who do not own a home believe they will never be able to do so.

According to an exclusive poll for the Observer on attitudes to British housing, 69% of people think the country is “in the throes of a housing crisis”. A staggering 71% of aspiring property owners doubt their ability to buy a home without financial help from family members.

More than two-thirds (67%) would like to buy their own home “one day”, while 37% believe buying will remain out of their reach for good. A further 26% think it will take them up to five years.

With affordable homes in short supply and demand for social housing rising, more than half of Britons cite immigration and a glut of foreign investment in UK property as factors driving prices beyond reach.

The findings cast doubt on the prime minister’s claim before last year’s general election that Tory housing policies would transform “generation rent” into “generation buy”. In April last year, as he launched plans to force local authorities to sell valuable properties to fund new “affordable homes”, Cameron said: “The dream of a property-owning democracy is alive and well and we will help you fulfil it.”

The poll – which found that 58% of people want more, not less, social housing as a way to ease the crisis – comes as the government’s highly controversial housing and planning bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday.

The bill will force councils to sell much of their social housing and curb lifelong council tenancies, introducing “pay to stay” rules that will force better-off council tenants to pay rents closer to market levels. Described by housing experts as the beginning of the end of social housing, the bill has been savaged by cross-party groups in the Lords. They have inflicted a string of defeats on ministers and forced numerous concessions.

The government’s flagship plan for “starter homes” has also been widely attacked on the grounds that the properties – which in London will cost up to £450,000 – will not be affordable.

With local elections and the London mayoral election on Thursday, ministers now face the dilemma of whether to back down and accept many of the Lords’ amendments to the bill or face legislative deadlock.

On Saturday night Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is putting plans for more affordable housing at the heart of his campaign, described the bill as “the most extreme in terms of housing in a generation”.

The party’s housing spokesman, John Healey, said: “Opposition to this bill now comes from across the board: from housebuilders, housing experts, charities and even Conservative ministers’ own council leaders, MPs and peers. It seems that government ministers are alone in thinking their bill is fit for purpose when it comes to tackling our housing crisis.

“Despite the string of concessions the government was forced to make, this remains an extraordinary and extreme bill that will lead to a huge loss of affordable homes to rent and buy. Ministers need to listen to the opposition coming from all sides and back down on their damaging housing plans.”

Khan’s rival, Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, has pledged to build 50,000 homes a year by 2020 and to ensure that a significant proportion of new homes will be available only for rent.

The research by Opinium was conducted only five days after the Panama Papers revealed how a substantial portion of London’s most expensive properties are now owned by foreigners via offshore companies.

When asked what measures they would like to see implemented to restrict foreign ownership of British properties, 71% backed a ban on foreign owners buying British properties as investments or as buy-to-let; 60% backed higher taxes for foreign buyers involved in buy-to-let schemes.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the government had unveiled the “most ambition vision for housing in a generation”, doubling the housing budget and investing £8bn to deliver more than 400,000 affordable homes.

“There are billions of pounds locked up in local authority housing assets so it is only right that when higher value homes become vacant they are sold to build new homes that better meet local needs,” the spokesman said. “It means every home sold will be replaced with at least one new affordable home and two for one in London.”


Osborne promises Business Rate cuts for local newspapers but …

“…. Just five companies control some 70% of regional daily newspaper circulation.

Out of 406 Local Government Areas, 100 (25%) have no daily local newspaper at all while in 143 LGAs (35% of the total) a single title has a 100% monopoly.”

Click to access ElephantintheroomFinalfinal.pdf

Our View from … titles are truly independent but Archant Press (Herald titles) which gets a whopping 80% of EDDC’s £400,000 p a advertising budget has been under investigation by HRMC for £6m in unpaid tax:

The company’s chairman, Simon Bax, revealed the inquiry into potential tax avoidance by Archant in a letter to shareholders. It centres on a “legal reorganisation” carried out by the Norwich-based group in 2011 when some 40 trading companies were reduced to three.

Bax wrote: “In the event that HMRC were to prove that the company had a tax avoidance motive in putting this structure in place… there could be adverse cash outflow of up to £6m. …

… Archant has been locked into a dispute with HMRC since December 2012 over unpaid taxes, which led the company to suspend its dividend payments.

But the tax headache was only one of the “critical matters” in the 2014 company accounts mentioned by Bax in his letter dated 18 March.

He also referred to “a large adverse tax movement of £24m in the company’s pension scheme deficit” due to “volatility” in the gilts market.

It means that Archant’s net assets have been reduced to levels that could lead, according to Bax’s letter, to a revision of the company’s credit rating.

Furthermore, it could lead to the company being required to pay additional pension protection fund (PPF) fees. It is already slated to pay a £700,000 increase in the levy and Bax revealed that the company has instituted a review of its pension strategy. … ”.

Oh, and those same newspapers have asked the government to get the BBC to pay £14 m for 364 extra regional journalists because they say the BBC has an unfair advantage in local newx and should be made to pay for the “democratic deficit” they say that engenders.


The person charged with this decision is John Whittingdale:


Not the First Time Whittingdale Has Enjoyed the “Perks of the Job” a Little Too Much!


Doesn’t look quite like the “preserve the freedom of the press” policy it started off as, does it?

Buying off criticism and oiling wheels, perhaps?

Thank your lucky stars for rebellious bloggers who wear their political hearts on their sleeves and answer only to their consciences …

First East Devon Alliance conference

The Who Cares What You Think? conference at EDDC HQ , Knowle, last Saturday (23 April marked a turning point for the new political group of Independents, established in March 2015, just one year ago.

They have now joined forces with colleagues from across the South West.


The East Devon Alliance of Independents (IEDA) have been hard at work since winning remarkable support in the May 2015 elections, which saw the number of Independent East Devon District Councillors increase five-fold, to 15.

Since then, two major IEDA reports have been accepted by Parliament:

House of Lords Select Committee on the economics of housing in the UK and

National Audit Office (Local Enterprise Partnerships)

The latter report, on LEPs, has just been sent to a higher level, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), at the suggestion of the National Audit Office (NAO).

Making a difference

Meanwhile, the new IEDA Councillors have brought positive change:

– raising the level of debate
– producing well-researched reports so that decisions can be based on evidence rather than party allegiance
– introducing proper scrutiny.

Full report on the Who Cares What You Think? conference coming soon.

Hinkley C: the most expensive thing in the world

“Hinkley is set to be the most expensive object on Earth… best guesses say Hinkley could pass £24bn ($35bn),” said the environmental charity Greenpeace last month as it launched a petition against the project.

This figure includes an estimate for paying interest on borrowed money, but the financing arrangements for Hinkley C are so opaque that it is impossible to calculate exactly what the final cost will be.

Even if you stick with the expense of construction alone, though, the price is still high – the main contractor, EDF, puts it at £18bn ($26bn).


Real localism … a pipe dream

“Morgan [Education Secretary] is presiding over the greatest centralisation in the history of British education – at least since the Forster Act of 1872 and its notorious and short-lived “revised code”. Her proposed employment of academy chains to replace local education authorities is only a bastard privatisation.

It is so risky – like giving the NHS to Tesco or the Royal Navy to a cross-Channel ferry company – that it will need armies of commissioners to run it. They must find money, plan capacity, reorder admissions and extract measurable results to validate the reform. Already there are rumours that Morgan may reduce the idea to absurdity by renaming local education authorities as “chains” – millions spent on doing nothing.

The best school is one rooted not in a corporate culture but in its community. It is one in which teachers are answerable to that community and its parents. The role of the state, as in the health and social care, should be in inspection and financial support. When the state decides it must run something itself, it will fail. This reform will fail.”


In Devon, child services have already been outsourced to Virgin.

Was your dad a GI who stayed here? Were you born in this country? You can can claim non-domicile status and avoid UK tax

“Richard Caring, the restaurateur and clothing tycoon, has emerged as one of the major beneficiaries of generous dividends paid by BHS in the early days of Sir Philip Green’s ownership.

The Guardian has established that Caring, the owner of The Ivy and Le Caprice, was handed £93m in payouts from the retailer, which fell into administration this week – his share of more than £422m in dividends paid to shareholders including the Green family. …

… Caring is a UK-born citizen, has a London mansion known as the “Versailles of Hampstead”, and claims hereditary non-domicile tax status thanks to the US origins of his father, a former GI who settled in London after the war. This quirk enabled Caring not to disclose the existence of his Swiss or Monaco accounts to the UK tax authorities, and legally to avoid taxes on his capital held there.”


“Vatican auditors close 5,000 ‘suspect’ bank accounts in tax evasion investigation”

The operation comes after the Institute of Religious Works (IOR) became aware of 544 suspect transactions which raised concerns of tax evasion.

The IOR have previously been caught up in scandal with accounts allegedly being linked to mafia activity, particularly during the 1980s before the Vatican tightened up its financial regulations. …

Vatican efforts to put its finances in order initially accelerated after Pope Francis’s election in 2013. But an economic reform commission he established has since been disbanded and three of its members are currently on trial with the journalists.

Moves to have all the Vatican books externally audited have also been a start-stop affair.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were appointed in December to do the job by powerful Australian cardinal George Pell, the head of the Vatican’s economic secretariat.

But PwC’s $3-million contract was suspended last week on the orders of a rival department, the secretariat of state, leaving Pell ‘a little surprised.’ ”


Fortunately, there is no proof of the existance of an East Devon Mafia …

Planning applications can be squashed if there is an emerging neighbourhood plan

“Communities Secretary Greg Clark has dismissed an appeal by developer Sunley Estates over a 120-home development at Hambrook, Chichester partly because of its impact on an emerging neighbourhood plan.

The scheme included both affordable and market price homes, retail floor space, a pavilion/community building, sports facilities, children’s play area and public open space. It had been refused by Chichester District Council. The inspector who held the recovered inquiry recommended that the scheme should not go-ahead.

Clark’s decision letter said the scheme was not in accordance with the development plan as a whole and “would also conflict with the emerging Chidham and Hambrook Neighbourhood Plan when read as a whole”. The NP has now passed its examination stage.

Clark acknowledged that the proposals would deliver housing and contribute to a more robust five year housing land supply and assist in meeting affordable housing needs at the district level.

However, he concluded that granting planning permission for the scheme “would be at odds with the shared neighbourhood planning vision that is referred to in paragraph 183 of the National Planning Policy Framework and would also fundamentally undermine confidence in the neighbourhood planning process that has taken place to date in Chidham and Hambrook”.

View more information on the recovered appeal: land east of Broad Road, Hambrook, Chichester.”


Monitoring Officers get defence scheme

Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) has launched a Monitoring Officer Defence Scheme in partnership with law firm Weightmans.

LLG said the new full member benefit would apply to monitoring officers or their deputies when acting in that capacity and was designed to provide advice and assistance with issues relating to the statutory role.
The offer includes a telephone advice line, a conference meeting and preferential terms in tribunal proceedings.

The scheme will run under the experienced lead of Simon Goacher, a partner at Weightmans.

Prior to joining Weightmans, Goacher spent nearly two decades practising local government law. His roles included Head of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer at Wirral Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council

Full terms and conditions of use are available in the member section of the LLG website at http://www.lawingov.org.uk.”

The public who take their cases to Monitoring Officers get the toothless, pretty-much-useless Local Government Ombudsman.

And should Monitoring Officers really need such help – if they don’t understand their statutory role and its responsibilities, why are they in the job in the first place?

Local Plan: more than 1,000 extra homes already projected – 18,391 not 17,100

As we expected, too many unaffordable, greenfield properties being built.

“83% of completions [in East Devon] on Greenfield sites (including fields and undeveloped greenspaces, barn conversions and garden sites)” …

… “A grand total of 18,391 net new dwellings are now projected to have been completed over the full plan period (2013-2031). This is above the 17,100 minimum figure of housing need outlined by the new Local Plan.” …

… “3.1 The final page of the HMU sets out the five year land supply calculation based on the 30 September 2015 monitor. It shows that East Devon can demonstrate 5.54 years supply of land for housing taking account of a 20% buffer as required by paragraph 47 of the NPPF for authorities that have persistently under-delivered in previous years.

3.2 Paragraph 47 of the NPPF sets out that in calculating the five year land supply authorities should apply a 5% buffer, or a 20% buffer where there has been a record of persistent under delivery. Application of the 20% buffer is a conservative approach to take. The Council could be more bullish and say that clearly it is now delivering above requirements and so the 5% buffer should apply in which case the Council could demonstrate a higher land supply figure, but it is recommended to apply the 20% figure for the time being.

3.3 This, along with the application of SHLAA methodology build-out rates and a robust but conservative assessment of future windfalls means that it is harder for an appellant to argue the five year supply figure down.

3.4 The calculation shows that over the five year period a surplus of 617 net new dwellings are projected to be built over the district as a whole. This is a healthy surplus that means that should certain sites not deliver or under-deliver there is an added buffer of supply. …”


“Rural locations becoming more attractive to home movers in the UK”

“People in the UK want to live in villages but the need to have easy access to shops, transport and medical facilities and good broadband, new research has found.

Some 21% of people who are moving home said that they wanted to live in a village, making it easily the most popular type of location, compared to 14% for a market town and only 12% for either a big city or a suburb, according to the study by Strutt & Parker.

The Housing Futures Report found that broadband and mobile connections are essential to rural life. Access to broadband was a key factor for 49% of those intending to move to a village, while 38% highlighted mobile connectivity.

It reveals that with 60% want to be able to walk to shops, 48% close to local transport and 45% near to medical facilities.

‘The UK might seem to be focused on urbanisation but we believe a new, overlooked trend is set to shape Britain’s housing market over the coming decades and this is the desire to move back to rural locations,’ said Stephanie McMahon, head of research at Strutt & Parker.

The shift away from cities is being driven by people looking for neighbourhood safety at 86%, while 58% want space between neighbours and 48% are looking for a strong community feel.

‘The expansion of broadband and mobile communications has seen a greater uptake of working from home in rural locations compared to urban areas. It seems that the same factors that once drove urbanisation, improving economic and social conditions, are now inspiring the village revival,’ added McMahon.

The report shows a significant increase in respondents looking for rental accommodation. 10% of those wanting to move to a village would live in a professionally managed private rental unit, up from 1% in 2013.

The South East, South West and North East are the three leading destinations for people who are intending to move in the next five years. The South West’s appeal as a lifestyle and retirement location is set to continue attracting moves from the South East and London and with increased government investment in the Northern Powerhouse, the North West is likely to become more attractive.”

Source: Hinterland

Community Infrastructure Levy – 2

If CIL replaces Section 106 levy, the district council can put the money received from CIL and spend it wherever and on whatever infrastructure it wishes – in the past S106 money had to be spent close to the particular development.

This means, for example, if most developments take place in Sidmouth, the money could all be spent in Cranbrook.

However, a proportion of CIL money is supposed to any town or parish where a development takes place when it has a neighbourhood plan in place.

Using new powers introduced in the Localism Bill, the Government will require charging authorities to allocate a meaningful proportion of levy revenues raised in each neighbourhood back to that neighbourhood. This will ensure that where a neighbourhood bears the brunt of a new development, it receives sufficient money to help it manage those impacts. It complements the introduction of other powerful new incentives for local authorities that will ensure that local areas benefit from development they welcome.

Local authorities will need to work closely with neighbourhoods to decide what infrastructure they require, and balance neighbourhood funding with wider infrastructure funding that supports growth. They will retain the ability to use the levy income to address the cumulative impact on infrastructure that may occur further away from the development.”

Of course, as always, exceptions will be allowed to avoid it:

Given the importance of ensuring that the levy does not prevent otherwise desirable development, the regulations provide that charging authorities have the option to offer a process for giving relief from the levy in exceptional circumstances where a specific scheme cannot afford to pay the levy. A charging authority wishing to offer exceptional circumstances relief in its area must first give notice publicly of its intention to do so. A charging authority can then consider claims for relief on chargeable developments from landowners on a case by case basis, provided the following conditions are met.

Firstly, a section 106 agreement must exist on the planning permission permitting the chargeable development. Secondly, the charging authority must consider that the cost of complying with the section 106 agreement is greater than the levy’s charge on the development and that paying the full charge would have an unacceptable impact on the development’s economic viability. Finally, relief must not constitute a notifiable state aid.”

Click to access 1897278.pdf

Rush to avoid Community Infrastructure Levy?

According to Official Notices in the press, Community Infrastructure Levy will become payable to EDDC from 1 September 2016. This is charged per square metre and is in bands with Cranbrook being lowest and Sidmouth being highest.

Should we expect a rush to get planning permissions past the Development Management Committee before 31 August? Would this explain why Bovis is rushing through its application for phase 2 of its Seaton development where it wants zero affordable housing? Will we see the Pegasuslife Knowle application done and dusted before the end of August too?

Senior Tory MP accuses Downing Street of “selling” policies for “cash and political favours”

[Conservative MP] Bernard Jenkin claimed the government watered down the Trade Union Bill to ensure union support in its campaign to keep Britain in the EU.

Mr Jenkin told MPs “this stinks” like “cash for questions” and showed the government was at the “rotten heart of the European Union”.

But Business Minister Nick Boles said his claims were “not right”. He told Mr Jenkin, who is a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, that “not every compromise is a conspiracy”.

Mr Jenkin made his comments in the Commons on the day the Guardian published an article jointly written by Prime Minister David Cameron and the former TUC general secretary Sir Brendan Barber.

In it, they say that “very special circumstances” have brought them together, adding that despite their political differences they are “united in our conviction that Britain – and Britain’s workers – will be better off in a reformed Europe than out on our own”.

Last week the government backed down over plans to end the right of workers to pay union subscriptions by deducting them from their wages.

MPs approved concessions to the Trade Union Bill on Wednesday following a series of defeats over the plans in the House of Lords. They included a climb-down on attempts to force all union members to “opt-in” to paying a political levy – which will now only apply to new members.

‘Wholly unexpected’

Mr Jenkin told MPs in the Commons: “Yesterday, the ministers’ concession was wholly unexpected.” He questioned whether the changes were linked to reported claims that unions could donate up to £1.7m to the “Labour In for Britain” campaign to remain in the European Union.

Mr Jenkin said: “It has been confirmed to me through more than two independent sources that No 10 instructed these concessions to be made after the discussions with trade union representatives.

“This being true would amount to the sale of government policy for cash and political favours.”

He went on: “This stinks, this reeks of the same as cash for questions. This shows this government really is at the rotten heart of the European Union.”
But Mr Boles said the Cabinet Office had advised him there was no breach of the ministerial code and nothing for the prime minister’s adviser on ministerial interests to investigate.

Ping pong

Mr Boles said it was “customary” for ministers to have regular discussions with shadow ministers to discuss possible compromises that would secure the passage of a Bill.

“The Trade Union Bill is now in ping-pong and, as is customary at such times, ministers have held regular discussions with shadow ministers to discuss possible compromises that would secure passage of the Bill and delivery of the commitments made in the Conservative Party’s manifesto,” the business minister said.

Mr Boles also said that the TUC, GMB Unite and Unison had declared their support for remaining in the European Union before concessions were offered.
He added that major opposition from peers, including prominent Conservatives, had encouraged the government to make concessions.”


“‘Behind-closed-doors, secret stuff’: council leader slams devolution deal-making”

“A COUNCIL leader who has spearheaded devolution for the Tees Valley has condemned the “behind-closed-doors, secret” nature of the deal-making process.

Sue Jeffrey, chair of the new Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), said she “absolutely agreed” with a National Audit Office (NAO) report’s finding that English regional devolution needed to be more transparent.

“We’ve all said that the deal-making process is very ad-hoc and all this behind-closed-doors, secret stuff isn’t very helpful at all,” the Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council leader said.

But she insisted the TVCA would deliver democratic accountability.

Ten English devolution deals have been agreed in the past 18 months, covering 16.1 million people across Greater Manchester, Cornwall, Sheffield City Region, the North-East, Tees Valley, Liverpool City Region, the West Midlands, East Anglia, Greater Lincolnshire and the West of England, and a further 24 proposals are being discussed.

The Tees Valley’s five councils, Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool, and the TVCA which brings them all together, have backed a package handing powers over transport, economic development and skills and planning to a new mayor to be elected in May 2017.

Negotiations with Whitehall are continuing, ahead of public consultation later this year.

But there has been criticism of the lack of public involvement to date and in the North-East the process has been riven with problems. Last month, Gateshead Council rejected the offer outright, while the other six members of the North-East Combined Authority (NECA) voted to postpone a final decision.

Last week, six County Durham Labour MPs wrote to every Labour member of Durham County Council urging them to reject or delay the deal until further details were confirmed.

A NECA spokeswoman said discussions with Government were ongoing and good progress had been made. An update is expected when the NECA meets on Friday, May 13.

The NAO said devolution deals offered opportunities to stimulate economic growth and reform public services but were untested and Government could do more to “provide confidence that these deals will achieve the benefits intended”.

A Government spokesman said the report recognised the “huge progress made in our revolutionary devolution agenda”, but added: “We agree there is much more to do and we will continue to talk to areas so everywhere that wants to take part in the process can do so.”


Hinkley C: who shoulders the costs if construction stalls?

“Energy secretary Amber Rudd (Letters, 21 April) clearly has the gift of clairvoyance. She says that no liabilities would fall to the UK taxpayer or consumer should Hinkley Point C be cancelled. Who, pray, would foot the bill to complete the project should EDF withdraw after a few years of construction when cost and time overruns became apparent, as they have with other projects in France and Finland?

And assuming the plant ever began generating its costly electricity, who would be responsible for the waste management costs, the size of which can only be estimated since the location, depth, technical details about cladding, inventory, or even if there will ever be a repository, remain stubbornly vague and could yet result in indefinite storage on site? Spent nuclear fuel from Hinkley C or Sizewell C would be on their respective sites for an estimated 160 years. Who will take title to hundreds of tonnes of spent nuclear fuel if, as is likely, within that time period, EDF disappears?

As usual, the public purse would be required to bail out a private venture. Rudd’s claim of “no liabilities” is as irresponsible as a short-term response to legitimate concerns as government’s energy policy will prove to be in the long term. Better to cancel Hinkley, Sizewell and all the other nuclear plans now while some semblance of energy policy credibility remains, than to see it unravel in the most embarrassing way over the coming decades, leaving communities like ours to carry the can for government obsession with a nuclear fix.
Pete Wilkinson
Chairperson, Together Against Sizewell C”


Two more reasons to vote for Robert Spencer (Ind) for Police and Crime Commissioner

“Richard Younger-Ross, the Liberal Democrat candidate for police and crime commissioner, has been forced to admit his campaign leaflet has massively exaggerated cuts to frontline policing.

The former Lib Dem MP wrongly claimed that there are now 200,000 fewer police officers than when Coalition austerity began in 2010.

The figure – which has been printed on 100,000 leaflets – was supposed to say 20,000.

According to a rival, who is a former police officer, the total number of officers in England and Wales is about 120,000.

The figure – which has been printed on 100,000 leaflets – was supposed to say 20,000.

According to a rival, who is a former police officer, the total number of officers in England and Wales is about 120,000.

Mr Younger-Ross is the second candidate to commit an embarrassing PR blunder during the campaign, after Tory hopeful Alison Hernandez spelt the job title incorrectly on her leaflet.

Mr Younger-Ross, who has pledged to campaign to abolish the commissioner role if elected, said the printing error was “very irritating”, aiming a jibe at his rival.

“At least I know how to spell commissioner,” he added.


Topsham: developers win appeal to build on green wedge

“Developers have won their appeal to build on the so-called Topsham Gap.

Now opponents are worried about a “domino effect” that could lead to more developments.

Hundreds of local people attended a planning inquiry to voice their opposition to plans for a 60-bed care home, plus more than 100 homes for over-55s.

Critics said the development would swallow up green belt land between the city and old port of Topsham.

The Planning Inspectorate has now decided that Exeter City Council was wrong to turn down the application by Waddeton Park Ltd.

The council has six weeks to make a further appeal to the High Court.

Earlier this year hundreds of protesters joined the battle over plans to build on green space separating Exeter and Topsham during a crucial public inquiry.

Banner-waving protesters made their feelings known at the start of the inquiry over proposals to develop land known as the Topsham Gap.

It followed Exeter City Council’s failure to determine Waddeton Park’s plans to build a 60-bed care home and more than 100 homes on fields next to Topsham Rugby Club.

The developer says it would provide “much-needed” housing for the area’s ageing population.

But campaign group, Save the Topsham Gap, claimed the town has its own identity and the “gap” is the last piece of land physically separating it from the city.

Organiser Lily Neal, 56, of The Topsham Bookshop, said:”It seems to come down to tough luck Topsham”

“The inspector has accepted all the developers’ arguments and are only hope was that he would accept the idea of more harm than benefit – but he hasn’t

“He says it would only cause modest harm.

“The council have six weeks to appeal but I have my doubts i it is expensive and its is the ratepayers of all of Exeter who would have to pay.

“I have to say I am worried about a possible domino effect – what’s next?”

Campaigners were anxious stop Topsham becoming just one more suburb of Exeter and retain its distinct, independent and unique identity.”

The proposals go against the council’s local plan, which designated the site a strategic “green wedge” not suitable for development.

Planning inspectorate Jonathan Bore had said he would determine the plans based on the need for additional housing in the city, and the effect on Exeter and the landscape.