A correspondent writes:
“Many of us in East Devon have spent, or are spending many volunteer hours in setting up a Neighbourhood Plan for our area.
Is it worth the effort?
Perhaps those in East Budleigh would say no. An application -18/0954-to build 2 bunkers in the conservation area, in the setting of many thatched, cob, listed buildings and within a stone’s throw of the Grade 1 listed church has been approved by planning officers. The application totally contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan and objected to by the Parish Council. Not a whisper from the Budleigh Boys, hence the application was not debated by the Development Management Committee.
The subjective decision by the officers can be summed up as “The benefits outweigh the harm” (see below). The residents may struggle to see the public benefits of 2 more potential second homes to add to those already in the historic centre of one of Devon’s historic villages. The private benefit is all too clear.
They may also struggle with the weight put on the Neighbourhood Plan Policy D2 to contribute to the need for 1, 2 and 3 bedroom houses and the absence of any weight put on Policy B3 which supports development only on previously developed land and dwellings that reflect the character of the surrounding area.
Here is the planning officers reasoning:
The location of the site within the built-up area and the characteristics of its past use suggest that appropriate forms of development would be acceptable in principle. The submitted scheme does have some shortcomings, particularly in terms of layout and changes to ground levels. These would result in some loss of significance to the conservation area because the historic layout and levels would be permanently lost. The only evidence that would remain would be documentary evidence in the form of maps and photographs. These impacts, however, would occur at a site level and would not affect the significance of the wider conservation area. For this reason the harm is regarded as less than substantial.
According to the NPPF, where a development proposal would lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal, including securing its optimum viable use.
In this case the proposal would contribute to the supply of housing in a sustainable location, bring additional people into the village to support local services and contribute to the need for 1, 2 and 3 bedroom houses identified in the NP (Policy D2).
While it would not support the provision of a community orchard as desired in the NP, the land was not allocated for such purposes and there is no evidence that it could be delivered. The benefits identified would be in the wider public interest whereas the harm would have limited public impact and would not harm the more public parts of the conservation which make the most contribution to its significance.
With regard to securing the optimum viable use of all land in the conservation area, it is considered that the site is effectively redundant for garden use and does not have any value as a public open space (it being in private ownership). Its development can therefore help to secure a viable use for the land while conserving the areas of main significance elsewhere in the conservation area.
Having regard to all other matter raised, it is considered that the public benefits outweigh the limited harm in this case and therefore the proposal is recommended for approval.”