Open letter to councillors on Winslade Park on “hybrid” application

Planning Applications – 20/1001/MOUT and 20/1003/LBC – Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary

This representation is written as an open letter to all Councillors on the Planning Committee to endeavour to explain the depth of feeling and opinions of residents in Clyst St Mary, who have submitted over 200 objections in total to Application 20/1001/MOUT (including 2 objections from the Devon Branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England), in an effort to assist the Committee in determining their decision on the above applications.

The Applicants have opted to submit a hybrid application, which is very difficult to determine because it combines a full application for the refurbishment and re-development of the redundant offices, which is fundamentally supported by the majority of residents –  but also incorporates inappropriate, outline new residential development proposals that are unacceptable to so many in this small village community. This leaves planners and decision makers with the burdensome task of either refusing acceptable proposals or supporting incongruous, unsuitable elements within the same application. This is considered a manipulation of planning procedures and two separate applications should have been submitted for such a vast developmental masterplan.

This also directly affects the tandem Listed Building Consent Application (20/1003/LBC), which is also supported by residents, to bring back sustainable, commercial uses within the historic assets but cannot proceed without an approval of 20/1001/MOUT.

 Local public trust was lost after the Applicants made major changes to the proposals after the Public Consultation, by adding substantial residential development in Zone A on a local  football ground (after objections – this has now been withdrawn) and by substituting 14 traditional homes with an inappropriate three-storey 59 apartment block in Zone D, opposite the Grade II*Listed Winslade Manor and historic Church (after objections  – this has now been reduced to 40 two/three storey apartments).

The submission of only outline proposals (as part of the hybrid application – 20/1001/MOUT) has also proved limiting and unsatisfactory to enable numerous consultees to advise constructively and the lack of transparency on specific details for the new build fuels anxiety for many in the community that the ultimate growth proposals will be in conflict and incompatible in a rural village community.

Although various mitigating amendments have seen an improvement on the original hybrid application, there are still not sufficient material considerations in favour of the development so as to outweigh the provisions of the Local Development Plan and the adverse impacts of permitting these proposed developments would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

In essence, the Applicants seek an intensity of commercial use and new residential use (94 units) that together are excessive in terms of demands on infrastructure and services and will impact on the local amenity and character of this village. Such a scale of development is inappropriate in this location especially as there is no local need for housing because around 100 new homes have already been provided in this village in the last few years.

20/1001/MOUT continues to be contrary to policies in and constitutes a departure from the adopted East Devon Local Plan (EDLP) 2013- 2031 (including Strategies 26B and 7 and Policies 5B, TC2 and TC7), the Villages Plan and Built-Up Area Boundaries, the Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan (BCNP) 2014- 2031 and also conflicts with core principles and policies set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, which are all in place for the protection of communities.

The Planning Officer’s own Report, before members, states that this application represents a substantial departure from the Local Development Plan and is contrary to the views of the Ward Member and the Parish Council. The public perception is that copious amounts of public money and substantial time have been expended preparing and adopting development plans that are now being ignored. It appears that greater weight is being afforded to the economic factors within this application, which is proving detrimental to the historic, social and environmental elements, when the National Planning Policy Framework recommends a balance for sustainability purposes.

Zone A is a best and most versatile agricultural green field that was specifically removed by EDDC from the EDLP for development purposes and the proposed 54 new homes constitute a clear departure from the previously-developed brownfield allocation in Strategy 26B of the EDLP.

Zone D proposes excessive quantum, poor design and placement (albeit indicative) in an area of landscape and historic importance. EDDC’s own Historic Conservation Officer stated that the 40-apartment block in Zone D was:-

 ‘totally unacceptable and appears to mimic the modern office development on the site or a student housing block. This should be an innovative well designed scheme being in such close proximity to the listed Manor. This is in the immediate setting of the listed building and still needs considerably more information to be submitted, as previously requested, to assess what will clearly still have an impact on the Manor, its setting and the original historic parkland.’

Even with the amendments of a reduction in height to two storeys at the eastern and western elevations of the Zone D apartments with the visual breaks – this is still an incongruous design, being too high and overbearing, which will overlook residents’ properties in Clyst Valley Road for 6 months of the year, when the screening of the deciduous woodland is lost. The substantial massing and bulk of any apartment block design in this rural and historic setting fails to respect the key characteristics and special qualities of the area. The proposals for Zone D continue to fail good design standards and are contrary to the Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan Design Statement (Policy BiC 05).

The Applicants need to demonstrate how they are complying with the Government’s 10-point National Design Guide and recently published Planning Practice Guidance for ‘beautiful, enduring and successful places’ to improve the quality and character of this area and not detrimentally impact on the historic buildings and landscape.

Parking in Flood Zones B and J – The Applicants admit that these areas are susceptible to flooding but the planner’s opinion that when flooding occurs, the offices would not be in use, therefore the lack of on-site parking would not be problematic, is disputed. It has been indicated that in such emergencies, the single-track Church Lane could be used as an alternative access to the site, which shows that vehicle users would require parking during flooding? The implementation of major flood relief measures is essential to alleviate the high-risk flooding in Zone B (176 parking spaces) and Zone J (395 parking spaces). Fundamentally, the question to be answered is where will 571 vehicles park during the storms that have been experienced in the past few years? In all likelihood in adjoining residential areas!

Traffic – These proposals conflict with Strategic Policy 5B and Policies TC2 and TC7 of the EDLP. PolicyTC7 states that permission will not be granted to new development if the traffic generated by such would be detrimental to the safe and satisfactory operation of the local or wider highway network. There are still major concerns with traffic from 94 more homes, visitors, services and sports etc which together with the employment use will completely consume and overwhelm the capacity of the local highway network at peak times in an area which already suffers with major gridlock. The development site is not well located in terms of sustainable transport and performs poorly in respect of modes of sustainable transport (walking, cycling and public transport) and no provision to improve public transport to directly serve the site has been provided. Furthermore, the Applicants’ submitted traffic reports have been shown to be flawed under independent traffic expert analyses.

Heavy volumes of traffic at peak times on the A3052 and A376 cause daily congestion around the Clyst St Mary roundabout, resulting in complete gridlock which leads to an unacceptable number of vehicles using the nearby residential roads, in particular Winslade Park Avenue, in an attempt to bypass the roundabout.

The traffic issues have become so acute in recent years that the Parish Council appointed a Traffic and Parking Group to investigate and prepare a detailed report which was completed in December 2019 and presented to Devon County Council. A copy of this report is available on Bishops Clyst Parish Council website here

The outline elements of this application seek to establish only the general principles of quantum, scale and the nature of the proposed development which will be acceptable to EDDC. However, this lack of transparency leaves huge voids regarding important details of what will eventually be built on this unique site? Low-rise bungalows could morph into houses in Zone A and inappropriate, towering 40 apartment blocks in Zone D could get two additional storeys added under future proposals for permitted development rights legislation. Community facilities offered to residents at the Public Consultation e.g. the swimming pool, indoor sports/fitness and cafes now appear likely to be restricted to office workers and those living on the site and not the Clyst St Mary wider community, although limited use of some facilities by the school (yet to be agreed) will be beneficial. Therefore, many of the amenities will not be of benefit to the existing Clyst St Mary or wider communities?

The Applicants purchased this complicated site with a full awareness of the planning history and environmental limitations and their comments that the whole development will fail and not be financially viable without the residential elements are unconvincing and equate to requesting planners to ignore planning policy.

This is not an urban environment and this exceptional, distinctive, historic landscape deserves a quality approach rather than one displaying quantity to safeguard and truly enhance this small, rural East Devon village. We, therefore, request that this inappropriate hybrid application is REFUSED.

Gaeron Kayley – Chairman

Save Clyst St Mary Residents’ Association