A ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to redevelop the 86-acre estate and stately home at Winslade Park to create a destination in the region with 2,000 new jobs has been given the green light.
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
East Devon District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday backed Burrington Estates’ plans for the Clyst St Mary site which will convert the estate into a modern mixed-use campus of office and employment facilities in a parkland setting with associated residential development and on-site recreational facilities.
The £80m vision includes outline permission for up to 94 residential units split over two parts of the site, improved sport pitches for football and cricket, tennis courts and provision of parkland recreation routes.
Full permission for the conversion of the existing buildings into high quality, multi-let office space at Winslade Manor and Winslade House, an extension to Brook House for employment use and an extension to the leisure facilities to create improved facilities including a new gym, spa facilities and beauty salons, and a restaurant/café and high end business club was also granted.
Despite opposition from some local residents and parish councils and that the scheme would be a departure from the Local Plan, councillors backed the officer recommendation to approve the plans almost unanimously, with two abstentions.
CGI site plan for the Winslade Park redevelopment (Image: Burrington Estates -)
Development Manager Chris Rose told the committee that this was a balanced decision, as the scheme was contrary to the Local Plan, provided lower levels of affordable housing than policy requires, part of the car park is in the flood zone, and some housing will be built on agricultural land.
But he added: “That needs to be balanced between employment benefits of this, as will be highly skilled office jobs and not one you often see in East Devon, a high standard of refurbishment to the listed buildings, community access to the parkland and sports pitches that are being brought back into use and access to swimming pool for the school. The view of officers is the benefits outweigh the harm.”
How the redevelopment of Winslade Park could look like (Image: Burrington Estates)
However, Gaeron Kayley, chairman of the Save Clyst St Mary Residents’ Association, called for the committee to reject the plans. He said: “We believe the developers bought the site to manipulate the planning system to get housing and offices on the site that is well outside the Local Plan.
“They have ignored the Neighbourhood Plan and the Local Plan and this all about how much profit they can get out of the site, and the community isn’t getting enough out of the site. This undermines the integrity of the Local Plan that we fought so hard for and the 200 plus objections.”
Linda Trim added that approval would result in harm to the asset you are trying to protect, while Carole Spearman said that to add a significant extra levels of traffic to the area was misguided and not sustainable.
But Andrew Clancy said it was a once in a generational opportunity to create something outstanding for the community, while Clyst St Mary School said that they were in favour of the plans.
Matthew Bennett, from Burrington Estates, called for the scheme to be approved, saying: “We pride ourselves in quality, style, design and customer service, and will provide this approach to provide beautiful homes for many Clyst St Mary residents, new and old.
“The overriding principle to bring back the building into commercial use and we want to create a vibrant new business hub for East Devon which deserves the stunning manor. This will help create 2,000 new jobs, ensure the 94 dwellings are low density, and we have offered £2m for social housing despite not having to.
“It is providing 80 acres back into the Clyst St Mary community, the leisure club will be refurbished to exceptional standards, and cricket and football pitches for local use, and picnics and kite flying will be welcome.
“We have done this to create a destination that the region can be proud of, generating over £100m of economic activity and community activity. It is the most significant opportunity for the district in recent years and warrants the strongest possible support, as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to redevelop Winslade Park properly, so please let us fulfil it.”
Cllr Mike Howe, who represents the Clyst St Mary ward, said that the application had both positives and negatives attached to it.
He said: “There are positives and it will bring the listed buildings into sustainable use, it brings jobs back to the local economy, and it brings back the sports provision, but it is balanced against the downsides.”
Cllr Howe said that there was concerns about what may happen to the fragile transport infrastructure around the village and at the roundabout if 2,000 more cars were added to the road and the queues of traffic trying to get on the A376 will reoccur, but that can happen today anyway as per the current planning permission for the site.
Stock image of traffic build-up (Image: Save Clyst St Mary Residents’ Association)
Cllr Philip Skinner, recommending the scheme be approved, said: “There are many benefits that come with the application. This site has changed between different owners and they have found it hard to wade through the treacle to find something that works for the community and to make a profit and for it to stand up. There are pros and cons for this and it’s not the perfect application but we need to move forward.”
Cllr Tony Woodward said that the economic benefits should not be underestimated, and while he was concerned about the transport, it didn’t prevent a reason for refusal, while Cllr Geoff Pook added that a site with this many benefits will have some problems, but the trade-off was acceptable.
Backing the plans, Cllr Ollie Davey said: “Overall I think that the scheme is just about acceptable as it stands,” while Cllr Bruce de Saram described it as a ‘mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly’, but that there were lots of benefits.
Councillors voted by 10 votes to none, with two abstentions, to approve the plans, after more than two and a half hours of debate, with work set to begin of the office redevelopments early in 2021.
A separate reserved matters application will still need to be submitted and approval for the housing element of the scheme.
After the meeting, Burrington Estates Group Managing Director, Mark Edworthy said: “We are excited to move ahead with this unique proposition which we believe will be a project for the region to be proud of.
Winslade Park Redevelopment – Pictured (left to right): Paul Scantlebury, Co-Founder, Mark Edworthy, Co-Founder and Group Managing Director and Peter Quincey, Development Director
“Winslade Park will deliver lasting benefits not only for businesses and the local economy through the creation of much-needed employment opportunities, but for the neighbouring community too. The South West has always had an edge for those wanting a better work/life balance, and Winslade Park provides the perfect lifestyle choice. I would like to thank EDDC and local councillors for their support.”
Co-Founder Paul Scantlebury added: “The development of Winslade Park is being handled with great sensitivity and respect for its heritage.
“It has been dubbed a ‘hidden gem’ concealed from view for far too long. We are pleased to breathe new life into this superb asset for the region and deliver on its potential as an idyllic location for office workers, homeowners and the wider community.”
The property has sat empty for six years since Friends Life’s departure, but the site has a chequered history with development proposals, with campaign group Save Clyst St Mary from Inappropriate Development concerned against previous housing plans for the site.