Green light for East Devon business park expansion plans

Last DMC under the dying regime narrowly approves expansion of business park opposite Darts Farm despite it not being part of the Local or Neighbourhood plans.

Daniel Clark 

Plans for the expansion of the business park opposite Darts Farm have narrowly been given the go ahead.

East Devon District Council’s development management committee on Monday granted full planning permission to create six new units at Darts Business Park to be used for offices, light industry and storage and distribution.

A previous and larger scheme for ten units – that would have created 40-50 jobs – was rejected back in April 2019.

Councillors on Monday heard that while the site was not allocated for further development in either the Local Plan or the Clyst St George Neighbourhood Plan, the development could create between 20-25 new jobs and the economic benefits to the local and wider community weighed heavily in favour of the scheme, particularly given the shortage of business units in the district.

Speaking in favour of the scheme, John Milverton said that this should be a simple decision for approval as it would deliver ‘a long list of benefits’. He added: “My client has a three year waiting list for tenants. There is a job shortfall and a shortage of business units, so the solution is pretty clear.”

Cllr Helen Parr threw her support behind the scheme and recommended it be approved. She said: “There is extremely strong comments from the economic development officer about this and we must have more small units for people to work. This is a very good application and I have no hesitation in supporting this.”

Cllr Tom Wright added: “This is already in an industrial area so it seems a logical place to provide units. We should encourage this and be thankful for those people bringing forward facilities in the area.”

The council’s economic officer, in their report to the meeting, had said: “I admit to being at a loss as to how, in the face of such compelling specific evidence of economic need, benefit and even loss through planning delay, it has not been possible to make a determination that these outweigh the loss of trees.”

The site does forms part of a woodland plantation, some of which will need to be removed to accommodate the development, but Mr Milverton said that 97 per cent of the trees would remain and they would be better managed if the scheme went ahead.

It also lies in the open countryside within an area designated as Green Wedge and Coastal Preservation Area in the Local Plan, and identified within the Clyst St. George Neighbourhood Plan as being outside of the business park area and identified as an area of woodland for protection.

Cllr Paul Arnott said: “While I am sympathetic to the need of the economic argument for units in the area, the fact is it is trumped by this not being part of the Local Plan or the Neighbourhood Plan. I am sympathetic to what they want to do but it may have to come back when we have revisited our Local Plan. With regret, I cannot support this.”

Recommending approval, planners had said the revised proposals addressed the concerns raised by the previous application and that the economic benefits arising from the proposed development with the creation of additional new jobs and employment opportunities, outweigh any limited harm arising.

Councillors voted by eight votes to six, with one abstention, to approve the scheme.