Villagers have said ‘enough is enough’ over development that has transformed the character of a small rural parish on the edge of Exeter.
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
Farringdon – a rural parish of 593 hectares in East Devon – lies between the A3052 and Exeter Airport, and includes the dispersed village of Farringdon and parts of Perkins Village and Rosamondford, as well as other scattered houses and farms.
The parish only has 140 dwellings and an estimated population of 368, not dissimilar to that in 1851 of 395, and is more akin to a collection of small hamlets, each with their own distinct appearance and rural character, than a village.
But despite being one of the smallest populated parishes in the district, thousands of people visit the parish daily, as it is home to both Crealy Adventure Park and the Hill Barton Business Park, both of which developed from previous farmsteads.
Over the last 20 years, nearly 15 per cent of the agriculture area of the Parish has changed to industrial or commercial, with the growth of employment activity both in and around the Parish having ‘not been without problems’.
Now, with the community feels that ‘enough is enough’, and in the Farringdon Neighbourhood Plan, for which consultation on is about to begin, the further ‘industrialisation’ of land within the Parish will not be supported and further change should be resisted.
Laura Fricker, chairman of, Farringdon Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said: “It has been made clear that we are preparing a plan for an area that is vulnerable to change, much of which should be resisted. Our purpose has been to develop planning policies that allow for some change to take place, but not at the cost of everything that makes the area special.
“The parish of Farringdon is a countryside asset for East Devon and is protected as such by the Local Plan. The Neighbourhood Plan for Farringdon endeavours to accommodate necessary change, whilst maintaining the healthy and harmonious rural environment that has for so long prevailed.
“For our own and for future generations, we serve as the guardians of a historic rural environment: not just for the benefit of the people and wildlife who are fortunate to inhabit the area, but for the many who appreciate and get value from having the countryside close-by, and for those who enjoy its rural character whenever they visit or pass through.”
The Parish has a dispersed pattern of human settlement that has been largely unchanged for many centuries, with the estimated population in 2017 of 368, not dissimilar to that in 1851 of 395.
Despite being a tranquil rural area, Farringdon Parish is merely five miles from Exeter. This has meant that parishioners are able to enjoy ready access to the City and all it has to offer, whilst still enjoying the rural character and setting of the Parish.
Farringdon only has its Church and Village Hall as facilities, with no ‘local’ shops or pubs within the Parish, but proposals for additional community services and facilities within the core area of the village, will be supported provided they would not have significant harmful impacts.
What the parish does now have though is several business/commercial zones that have established themselves during second half of the twentieth century. The largest business park in the area is that at Hill Barton Business Park, which straddles the parish boundary, and employs over 1,000 people daily, while completely within the parish area is Crealy Theme Park and Resort and the business areas at The Drive and Waldrons Farm.
CREALY THEME PARK
Crealy Theme Park and Resort attracts over half a million visitors a year. It is a family business that was founded in 1989 on the site of the family’s farm, but has grown massively since it first opened. Its initial aim was “to recreate a country childhood” and enable youngsters to get close to farming activities, but has since broadened its activities dramatically and now has over 60 rides, attractions and live shows, including rollercoasters and splashing water rides, indoor play zones and outdoor adventure play areas.
In 2012 the park opened accommodation nearby at Crealy Meadows, on a site that now offers camping and caravan pitches, themed tents, and luxury lodges and glamping and serves to put the area on the tourist map and creates opportunities for other tourism development
It has around 65 permanent employees and engages a further 250 temporary workers during the tourist season, but its impact on the Parish is ameliorated by the fact that it is situated on the south side of the A3052, away from residential areas, and by strong perimeter landscaping and screening.
As a ‘major visitor attraction’, any changes would be subject to the policies of the Local Plan, including policies E19 ‘Holiday Accommodation Parks’ and E20 ‘Provision of Visitor Attractions’, but the Neighbourhood Plan says that It is hoped that its future evolution will continue to sustain its original ethos and ‘Crealy’ remains a celebration of the countryside located in a sensitive rural setting.
HILL BARTON BUSINESS PARK
Hill Barton Business Park is the base for several substantial businesses and in total there are over 1,000 persons working at a site, that straddles the parish boundary, and like Crealy, it has been developed on the site of the owning family’s farm.
But the plan says that the rapid growth and incursion into the countryside of Hill Barton and the extended impact this has on the natural and living environment, are continuing matters of community concern, as is Waldrons Farm Business Area, the other industrialised farmstead area within the Parish.
Beyond the boundary of the Parish, but in close proximity, are other major business/commercial areas at Exeter Airport, Greendale Farm and Greendale Business Park, all of which have all experienced significant growth over the past few years and undoubtedly impinge on the Parish
The plan says: “The growth of employment activity both in and around the Parish has not been without problems. It is estimated that nearly 15 per cent of the agriculture area of the Parish has changed to industrial or commercial use last 20 years.
“The convenience of a location alongside the A3052 should not outweigh the loss of farming land and adverse impact such development has on the local landscape character and residential amenity. The community feels that enough is enough. It should also be noted that the majority of employees on the main business areas in the Parish do not live in the Parish.”
It adds: “There are several working farms in the Parish, especially beef, sheep and arable. The farming business is not standing still and there seems to be a continued interest amongst farm owners in diversification opportunities. Upham Farm Fishing is a long-established diversified farm business which is popular with both locals and tourists. The community believes that farming should remain a mainstay of the local economy and is fully behind sustainable farming practices
“Business and commercial development or redevelopment for business and commercial uses on the sites at Hill Barton Business Park, Waldrons Farm Business Area, and The Drive, will be supported, provided it is in keeping with those uses and business activity already on the site and does not lead to the outward expansion of the site.
“We do not support the further ‘industrialisation’ of land within the Parish. This will also apply to any development proposal to provide for growth of a business or change of use for employment purposes on sites within the Parish. The expansion/incursion of business areas outside the Parish on to land within the Parish will be resisted.”
The Local Plan regards Farringdon Parish as a non-sustainable development area for housing, by virtue of it lacking local services and having inadequate infrastructure.
The Housing Needs Survey 2019 and consultations on the Neighbourhood Plan has established that the community is not opposed to a ‘small number’ of dwellings being built for local people, but any future housing development needs to be small in scale and should be aimed at satisfying a discernible local need that cannot be met within the neighbourhood area or a reasonable distance from it.
The plan adds: “It has been concluded that there is no overwhelming case to justify promoting major housing development in the Neighbourhood Plan or diverging significantly from the housing policies in the Local Plan. Any development proposal that comes forward for affordable housing will need to be supported by robust evidence of local need.”
With a housing need of 12 new homes in neighbourhood area, housing plans will be supported if they are self-built, the new dwelling, including access and outside space, are located within the curtilage of an existing dwellinghouse, and limited to one dwelling, it is single storey, has a maximum 100m2 gross internal area, and does not exceed three bedrooms.
It adds: “The Survey identified a need for small dwellings from local households that want to down-size or anticipate the need for more suitable accommodation as they enter old age. The Parish has an ageing population. This need therefore is likely to continue as long as local households wish to remain in the Farringdon area. For this reason, the policy supports, where appropriate, the development of a single dwelling on a current residential plot; thereby enabling existing households to downsize to more suitable housing and free up one family house per new dwelling.”
The Parish is intersected by two main roads, the A3052 and B3184, both of which carry a high volume and high proportion of through traffic, as well as providing parishioners and visitors with access to a network of narrow rural roads within the Parish, which are mainly single track.
The B3184, known colloquially by many as the ‘Airport Road’, runs through the Parish from the A3052 at Nine Oaks to Exeter Airport, and despite its importance for many airport visitors and users of the Sky Park Business Estate, it is a relatively minor road which is only wide enough for a single vehicle in some places.
On transport, the plan says: “The scale of traffic on both roads seems to be ever-increasing and ever more disturbing to life in the Parish. The main roads carry regular bus services to and from Exeter, Sidmouth, Honiton, the Jurassic Coast, Exeter Airport, and their distance from the settlement areas and a largely unsuitable timetable, means local people still find the motor car to be the most convenient mode of transport for most trips. In 2011 two thirds of local households had daily access to two or more cars.
“On several counts many of the roads of Farringdon could be considered not to be fit for purpose. The A3052 is too often congested at peak periods or when major events are taking place at Westpoint Exeter and is generally regarded as a hazardous environment because of the volume and/or speed of traffic. Too often serious traffic accidents occur on the stretch of A3052 through the Parish.
“The B3184 remains essentially a country lane, narrow in several places, that is used daily by a considerable number of buses, coaches and other large vehicles. The other unclassified roads within Parish are almost all single track, often with soft verges and unofficial passing places only
“Community consultation indicates that the community is not particularly keen on seeing its roads upgraded. This would likely lead to even higher numbers of vehicles, higher speeds, and more safety issues. Rather, the community of Farringdon would welcome traffic restrictions and control that made our roads safer and quieter
“Development proposals to improve accessibility and extend local footpaths, bridleways and cycle-paths and strengthens links with the wider transport networks will be supported.”
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Consultation is now open for people to have their say on Farringdon’s neighbourhood plan which has been submitted to East Devon District Council by the parish council.
The district council is inviting people to comment on the plan up until Tuesday, October 20, before the plan goes to an independent examiner, who will inspect the plan against a series of ‘basic conditions’ that the plan must meet. Should the examiner conclude that the plan meets the basic conditions it will proceed as soon as possible to a local community referendum.
However, under the Coronavirus Act 2020, no referendums are currently allowed to be held before May 5, 2021, so unless the law is repealed or amended, residents won’t have their chance to vote on the Plan until next year.
If more than half of the electors in the local area vote in favour of the plan, it will become part of the statutory development plan for East Devon.
Cllr Dan Ledger, the district council’s portfolio holder for strategic planning said: “I am delighted to see the progress made by the Farringdon community on the production of their Neighbourhood Plan and encourage interested parties to respond to the current consultation. The submission version of the Neighbourhood Plan is the result of a great deal of hard work by volunteer steering group members, working with the Parish Council to deliver local objectives, informed by extensive public engagement and consultation.
“I congratulate the steering group on the production of a Neighbourhood Plan that, with the support of the local community, will serve Farringdon Parish for many years to come.”
People can comment on the Farringdon plan on the district council’s website at https://eastdevon.gov.uk/farringdonneighbourhoodplan/ where the plan and supporting documents are also available to view.
If you wish to comment by email send your message to email@example.com or by post to Angela King, Planning Policy Section, East Devon District Council, Blackdown House, Border Road, Honiton, EX14 1EJ. Hard copies of the plan can be viewed by arrangement with Farringdon Parish Council by contacting the Clerk, Alana Sayers by email to Clerkfarringdonparishcouncil@gmail.com or by calling 01395 232439. The plan can also be sent out on request by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org by email or by calling 01395 571740.