Planning Application: Tipton St John primary relocation plus housing development in Ottery St Mary- Refused

At another long session this afternoon EDDC Planning Committee went against the Planning Officer’s recommendation and refused the application.

This application conflated the relocation of the school with a development application for 150 houses.

The final decision hinged on councillors balancing harm against benefits and coming down on the side that the harms: from building the school and houses in a countryside location; and the wider visual impact on Ottery; outweighed the benefits especially considering that the proposed development did not meet the 50% affordable housing requirement for building outside the built up area boundary. I.E. that the proposal contravened several Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan policies.

Refusal: 11 votes to 2 with 2 abstentions

 Here is what Claire Wright has to say:

EDDC planning committee refuses 150 houses and relocation of Tipton school

East Devon District Council’s planning committee has just refused a “tough” application for a relocation of Tipton St John Primary School, accompanied by 150 houses, on the edge of Ottery St Mary.

The application was refused by 11 votes, with two votes in favour and two abstentions.

The application, submitted by Devon County Council, was triggered to try and protect school places in the Ottery area, as Tipton St John Primary School has been deemed a ‘risk to life’ by the Environment Agency for flooding reasons.

There were 132 objections, including from Ottery St Mary Town Council and EDDC ward members Geoff Pratt and Vicky Johns, both of whom spoke this afternoon.

Several objectors, who live near the proposed development also raised concerns.

Speaking in favour were two governors, a representative from Devon County Council and Tipton St John Primary School headteacher, Colin Butler, whose testimony relating to the danger for his young pupils crossing the road to the upper site to safety when in flood, made me feel really sad.

I have worked with Colin on various projects for years, including trying to resolve this issue. He is an excellent and caring headteacher.

I spoke firstly to outline the background, which was essentially that the government rejected a bid under the priority schools programme in 2015 to rebuild the school away from the floodzone.

A piece of land in the village had been identified and there had been positive negotiations with the landowner. Sadly, after almost a year, the government rejected the funding bid, despite being fully aware that there was risk to the life of the pupils.

It left Devon County Council with a £5m shortfall and casting around in vain for other options and the application that was refused today, was the option it pursued.

Unfortunately, because of the £5m shortfall, Devon County Council’s proposal for a new school, also included 150 houses to help finance it. The application was contrary to the existing Local Plan, the Ottery St Mary and West Hill Neighbourhood Plan and is outside Ottery St Mary’s built up area boundary.

Officers said it was a finely balanced application and recommended approval on the basis the benefits outweighed the downsides.

The planning committee disagreed but still took almost two and and a half hours to refuse it.

Chair, Eileen Wragg, said it was a ‘tough’ application.

It isn’t clear yet whether Devon County Council will appeal.

While I believe the decision was the right one in the circumstances, I fully felt and identified with the understandable anger of the governors who spoke – and also the sadness in Colin Butler’s voice as he addressed the committee.

I have spoken at EDDC planning committees maybe hundreds of times over the years and won some and lost some.

But I have never felt so sad about the position I took as I did today.

Pic. Helping clear up after a flooding event in 2016.