Owl has received this communication from from Save Colyton Countryside:
Did you know that our town and countryside may be changed forever by outside forces?
Please take five minutes to find out why…
Like everywhere in the UK, Colyton and Colyford has a shortage of affordable housing. We need around 30 extra homes for local families.
WHO IS TACKLING THE PROBLEM?
The process of creating affordable homes is handled by a group of local volunteers called the Colyford and Colyton Community Land Trust (C&CCLT). It’s a difficult job and they are doing their best to resolve the housing problem in our town.
THE WRONG SOLUTION?
In an attempt to find an easy solution, a site for a 20 house development has been identified in some of our loveliest and most fragile countryside. The proposed site is a field known as Lewis Haye (formerly Seller’s Grave) on the corner of Love Lane and Old Sidmouth Road, above Hillhead.
When combined with the neighbouring Seaway Head community, this would create a huge 40 house estate on Green Wedge land, on the highest point for miles around.
A development of this size would change the face of our landscape forever, devastating wildlife, bringing many extra cars along rural lanes, and creating a precedent for sprawl into the countryside.
It seems obvious that concentrating all these homes in one fragile area would be completely disproportionate…
And yet we need houses for our families.
So what can we do?
THE RIGHT SOLUTION?
Official guidance from every available source – from EDDC to Central Government, recommends that the preferred solution is to create many small clusters of affordable homes. This is known as ‘pepper-potting’.
In this way, our families are properly integrated in the community, and the environmental impact is massively reduced.
So, for example: it might be fine to build 3-5 new homes on the Lewis Haye site along the Old Sidmouth Road. The rest of the Lewis Haye field could then be turned into a communal green space, with trees and a play area.
Some houses will go on the former CeramTec site, and the remaining homes could be scattered in small clusters throughout Colyton and Colyford – on brownfield sites wherever possible. In this way, we create homes for our families and protect our countryside too.
That’s common sense, isn’t it?
Read on to understand why is this NOT happening…
A SCARY FACT
In the same way as the government employs ‘Special Advisers’, our CLT is advised at every stage by a ‘silent’ team of professional planning consultants called Wessex Community Assets.
This means that huge decisions about the future of our community, and our green spaces are heavily influenced by outside forces.
Wessex Community Assets (also known as Middlemarch Associates) make money by steering through affordable housing developments, often employing an ‘exceptional clause’ to build on protected land.
This is happening at an alarming rate across the country. By exploiting loopholes in planning law, affordable housing estates are springing up even on National Parks like Dartmoor. In theory this should only be allowed when all other sites have been excluded, but that’s very hard to disprove. Yes, families get homes, but at what cost?
Obviously, the larger the estate, the bigger the commission the planning consultants receive. Putting all these houses in one place like Lewis Haye is more lucrative and a lot less hassle than finding several smaller sites.
Wessex Community Assets do not live in our town, but they are making these huge decisions on our behalf. Is that what we want?
The proposed Lewis Haye estate appears to be a quick-fix solution, but it would have profound consequences for Colyton residents, and a permanent impact on the environment for future generations.
HOW THE DEMOCRATIC VOICE IS SILENCED
Here are a few of the ways in which objectors’ voices are currently being suppressed –
1) We all know that it’s common courtesy to inform our neighbours if we plan to put up so much as a garden shed. But Wessex deliberately kept the proposal for a 20-house development quiet. They didn’t speak to the immediate neighbours at all. Or invite them to the Town Hall presentation last October. They say this was ‘to prevent the circulation of incorrect and possibly distracting rumours.’
Is that democratic? Is that polite?
2) The Town Hall presentation, which was all approved by Wessex, offered a vague, biased, one-sided story. In fact most people at the meeting had no idea where the site actually was, especially as the name had been changed from Seller’s Grave to Lewis Haye. The presentation failed to reflect any possible negatives, such as the impact on the environment, drainage, traffic, light pollution, or height above sea level. There was no allowance for a counter presentation. And, as they arrived at the door, the public were encouraged to vote in favour of the proposal!
Is that democratic? Is that community minded?
3) The presentation also omitted the fact that a ‘Heads of Terms’ deal had already been agreed with the owner of the Lewis Haye site! Wessex says that none of this breaks the rules. But it is Wessex who make the rules.
Is this democratic? Is this transparent?
4) Although Community Land Trusts are meant to represent the whole community, Wessex only allows people who agree with their proposal to become members. When people with opposing views try to join, their membership forms are returned. No reason is given except that ‘your membership has been unanimously refused.’
Is that democratic? Is that fair?
5) Already, dozens of people have written passionate letters objecting to the proposed development. If you are one of them, you will probably have received a standard response saying that ‘the matter will be raised at the next board meeting’ or referring you to the C&CCLT website. In fact your letter will be filed away and probably never see the light of day. In other words there is no official forum for debate.
Is that democratic? Is that respectful?
6) The C&CCLT website appears to invite comments, but like the town hall presentation, it only reflects one side of the story. We all have a right to be heard, so why not publish ALL letters on the website, even if names are redacted? Then everyone can see the consensus of opinion. Why don’t C&CCLT publish THIS letter on their website?
Is this democratic? Is it reflective of our views?
7) People who object to the development care hugely about the environment and about housing for local families too. But Wessex Community Assets refer to objectors as ‘wreckers.’ The advice they give is that there will always be people who ‘object stridently’… just ignore them and they’ll go away!
Is that democratic? Is that ethical?
Professional planning consultants push developments through by stealth. Like all ‘Special Advisers’ they give advice behind closed doors, ignore objections, create division within communities, and rarely enter into debate themselves.
But all the time they steadily accelerate like bulldozers towards their goal. And the process becomes increasingly hard to stop.
Right now they are using public funds to carry out a ‘feasibility study’. Shortly afterwards they will use public money to go to planning. One day these Advisers will take their money and move on to the next development… while we wake up to find that our countryside has gone.
That’s why YOU need to ACT NOW.
Write to C&CCLT today. If you’ve written before, write again. Tell your friends to write too:
Copy in Save Colyton Countryside:
You could even write to Dominic, chair of Wessex Community Assets:
Ask awkward questions: How much will these professional planning consultants receive? Why are no opposing views being presented on the Community Land Trust website? Why does the C&CCLT not include people with different opinions, and the families who will live in these houses? So far we have only heard one side of the argument, where is the public debate about the future of OUR town? Above all, why are we not looking for a grown up compromise?
Let them know what you feel about having decisions within our community dictated by professional consultants from elsewhere. Do not accept a standard response. Whatever opinions you have, insist that they are heard and shared for all to see.
Whether you are FOR or AGAINST the proposed development, we all have a democratic right to be heard.