EDDC to determine two controversial planning applications on “Super Wednesday” 6 January

Next Wednesday, 6 January starting at 10.00am, is set to be a “Super Wednesday” in planning terms as EDDC determines two major planning applications. Both are concerned with reacting to flooding and both have divided local opinion. In both cases planning officers are recommending approval.

Agenda item 8: 20/2089/MFUL (Major) BUDLEIGH AND RALEIGH (Pages 20 – 79) 151 Hectares Of Land Within The Parishes Of East Budleigh, Budleigh Salterton And Otterton From Lime Kiln Car Park (SY072810) To South Of Frogmore House (SY074850) (The Lower Otter Valley). [The Lower Otter Restoration Project]

Agenda item 9: 20/1504/MOUT (Major) OTTERY ST MARY (Pages 80 – 128) Land Opposite Barrack Farm, Exeter Road, Ottery St Mary.  [Tipton St John primary school relocation] 

Here is what Devon live says on the the school relocation:

Planners urged to approve relocation of historic Devon school

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com 

Plans to close a Devon primary school which has been in a village for more than 200 years and relocate it to a neighbouring town are set to be approved next week.

Proposals for outline planning permission to build a 210 space primary school and up to 150 new homes on land opposite Barrack Farm in Exeter Road, Ottery St Mary, are to be discussed by members of East Devon District Council’s planing committee next Wednesday, January 6.

The plans also include the construction of a new roundabout on Exeter Road, a new junction onto Cadhay Lane, and associated infrastructure.

Tipton St John Primary School, which has about 90 pupils, has suffered from repeated flooding with children being evacuated and the school being shut. It led school governors to take the decision to seek to relocate the school from its current location to a new site next to the King’s School.

The Thorne Farm Site from above (to the west of the King's School)

The Thorne Farm Site from above (to the west of the King’s School)

In December 2018, Devon County Council’s Farm Estates Committee agreed that Thorne Farm be declared permanently surplus and that part of the site be transferred to the Dioceses of Exeter for the provision of a new primary school, subject to planning permission being agreed.

Land at the farm will also be sold off for housing which will held to raise the finance needed to build the new school.

The preferred option had been to try and relocate the school within the village, but after a £3.5m bid to the Government was rejected, and due to the flood risk, a rebuild on the current site was not viable, a move to Ottery St Mary was considered the only realistic option.

The new school will accommodate children from Tipton St John and will also meet the need for additional school places for children from the new developments in Ottery St Mary which cannot be met at the existing schools which are at capacity.

Concerned Tipton St John former parent Matt Davidson says he is anxious about the proposals because no plans have been shared about helping to transport young children from the village to the new school.

Flooding at Tipton St John Primary School

He said: “The ‘flooding’ pretext used to push this plan through has been proven false. There are zero lost school days due to flooding on record. With simple remedial work, we have now successfully rectified a brook which had previously created a photo opportunity for excess water on the site.

“Other schools, such as Sidbury, have all successfully mitigated their flood risk with investment and community help.

“Technically the plan avoids the language of closure, which in reality it would be for Tipton St John Primary School, and the derelict site that will remain in the village.

“The financial gains are very significant for Devon County Council and the governors/ governing bodies pushing for the plan. The building of new homes on previously earmarked educational land, and against the town plan, is also suspect and need investigating.

“Our own social media polls and Ofsted ratings show how successful the school is in its current format and location. Why is a fully stocked, top achieving school being targeted this way?

“No impact assessment in the village has been conducted over the past years leading up to this point. The school has been central to the Tipton St John community and surrounding areas for 200 years.

“With current Covid-19 troubles, we desperately want to reduce travel, retain and look after the youngest members of our community here in Tipton St John.”

In planning documents, committee members are being recommended to approve the application.

It states that although it represents a departure from the development plan and the officer recommendation is contrary to the views of the ward member and the parish council, the application needs to be considered in the context of sustainable development and whether the benefits of the proposal outweigh the harm of departing from the adopted allocation.

The report says: “The provision of housing on agricultural land outside of a Built-Up Area Boundary (BUAB), below policy level of affordable housing, and the visibility of the site from various viewpoints within the town and local area all weigh against the proposal.

“However, the overriding benefits of the proposal through providing a new primary school to replace an existing school which is required due to identified dangers from flooding, control of the impact from the housing at the reserved matters stage, together with provision of affordable housing within the town and the construction of a new roundabout which would improve highway safety are considered to outweigh the dis-benefits of the scheme.

“Accordingly, on balance, it is considered that the proposal is acceptable subject to the package of measures proposed in the application to mitigate any harm, secure affordable housing, including an overage clause, and habitat mitigation through a legal agreement and appropriately worded safeguarding conditions.”