The stunning Devon village fighting to save its identity – More on Kilmington neighbourhood plan

The village of Kilmington is remarkable in that it is situated in not just one, but two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the East Devon AONB and the Blackdown Hills AONB – and is bisected by one of Devon’s main roads, the A35.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

There is a strong sense of community and social cohesion within the village, with the vast majority of 830 residents in the parish very satisfied with living here, citing the friendliness of the people as major factor.

Crime is almost non-existent and residents tend to ‘self-police’ anti-social behaviour, speeding and other minor disruption.

The small physical size of the village, the network of its roads, footpaths and green spaces means that neighbours of all ages frequently meet, has created a caring community with significant social action organising many regular social gatherings to the benefit of the health and wellbeing of its residents.

Kilmington from the air

Kilmington from the air

But there is the danger that the village could become a “retirement community”. Currently, this is not the case and is decidedly not what the residents’ wish, however most residents recognise a need for a small amount of new housing in line with growth over recent decades to keep the village alive.

And so the Kilmington Neighbourhood Plan, which is now out for consultation, has been developed in order to give local people the chance decide what new housing was needed and where it should go and so any change in the parish should make a real and positive difference to the lives of local people and the future of our community.

Cllr Ben Trott, chairman of Kilmington Parish Council, in the foreword to the plan, said: “The Parish Council wanted the people of Kilmington to have a say in all aspects of the future of our village but most importantly it wanted local people to decide what new housing was needed and where it should go.

“The Plan also sets objectives on key themes such as moving around, housing, employment, green space and community facilities. It builds on current and planned activity and says what the Parish Council and its partners will work towards.

“Research in our community confirms that residents want to retain the heritage, community culture and identity of Kilmington and therefore any change in the parish should make a real and positive difference to the lives of local people and the future of our community.

“The Parish Council is committed to developing and strengthening the contacts and groups that have evolved as a result of the Neighbourhood Planning process. It believes that by working together to implement the Plan it will make Kilmington an even better place to live, work and enjoy.”

(Image: Derek Harper/Geograph)

In a vision statement, the draft Neighbourhood Plan states: “We recognise that Kilmington village and its surrounding Parish is a special place to live, lying within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. While recognising the need for evolution and development within the Parish, the community wishes the Parish to retain its unique and intimate character.

“We aim to maintain these qualities, whilst enhancing the rural and built environment by allowing limited incremental development to meet the needs of local people until 2031, in a way that will not compromise future generations and will encourage the maintenance of a sustainable and balanced rural community.”

When residents were asked, ‘what do you like most about living in Kilmington?’ the replies were very similar, the plan document says.

The majority liked Kilmington’s friendly community spirit. Community cohesion is critical to the quality of life of local people, adding: “We believe social cohesion within Kilmington has grown and been retained because the rate of population growth has been incremental and gradual. Any large increase in village population over a short period of time may breakdown this close spirit to the detriment of the community.

“The population size of Kilmington village provides a feeling of belonging as social interaction is high. The small physical size of the village, the network of its roads, footpaths and green spaces means that neighbours of all ages frequently meet. This has created a caring community with significant social action organising many regular social gatherings to the benefit of the health and wellbeing of its residents.

“Villagers take care of the lonely and elderly individually and through two churches, many social clubs and the strong Royal British Legion membership. Crime is almost non-existent and residents tend to ‘self-police’ anti-social behaviour, speeding and other minor disruption.

“Cohesive communities are communities which are better able to tackle common problems, to provide mutual support and to work together for a positive future.

“Kilmington residents care strongly about their village – they appreciate that change will occur, but they want a common-sense approach to maintaining the environment that drew them to Kilmington and helps to give them a lifestyle they value.”

St Giles Church, Kilmington

St Giles Church, Kilmington (Image: Roger Cornfoot/Geograph)

Kilmington has a range of facilities and amenities including a parish church, a Baptist church (The Beacon), village hall, cricket pavilion on the playing field (which doubles as a meeting place), village primary school, 2 pubs, a filling station with a shop, motel and café attached, and a large farm shop, and there is also a small wildlife park, while a mobile library calls into the village once a month and a post office once a week.

Residents were asked in the neighbourhood plan questionnaire if they wanted new housing, and the majority wanted no new housing (164 said no: 30 yes).

However, in further questions most residents recognise a need for a small amount of new housing in line with growth over recent decades (2 or 3 on average each year) to keep the village alive.

The plan says that the critical issue therefore seems to be the rate of growth and most respondents have suggested slow incremental growth so that Kilmington does not lose its sense of community, outgrow the existing village amenities, or cause further traffic pressure.

Any significant increase which cannot be accommodated through mitigation by provision of additional services, infrastructure or capacity could significantly overstretch existing resources which are currently running at capacity, the plan says.

It adds: “The population of Kilmington is similar to that of East Devon, which is older than the national average, a trend that is likely to be exacerbated in the future. There is the danger that the village could become a “retirement community”.

“Currently, this is not the case and is decidedly not what the residents wish. The provision of low cost housing to attract or retain young families therefore remains a priority, as does the retention of a thriving school, preschool and other youth leisure activities.”

In order to meet the needs of housing for the local community and be in a position of control over where development occurs, two potential sites which could be developed for new housing have been identified.

Land allocated for housing in George Lane in Kilmington

Land allocated for housing in George Lane in Kilmington

Land allocated for housing in Whitford Road in Kilmington

Land allocated for housing in Whitford Road in Kilmington

Land off George Lane and adjacent to Dares Field is allocated for around 14 dwellings over the ten years 2021 -2031, while land off Whitford Road (north of The Beacon) is allocated for the development of 6-10 smaller bungalows depending on design and layout, over the ten years 2021 -2031, with developments on the sites expected to) deliver a mix of dwelling types and sizes which meet demonstrable up-to-date local needs to help maintain a balanced and thriving local community to accommodate the needs of younger generations and families and to respond to the needs of the elderly by providing housing to enable downsizing and also fully accessible housing to the needs of the elderly through design.

The plan also says that existing community facilities and amenities will be protected for such use and their loss will not normally be supported.

Particularly locally valued community facilities and amenities are the Primary School, a Village Hall, two Churches, two Pubs, a Recreation Field which includes a cricket oval, a tennis court, a children’s play park with equipment and a multi-use pavilion.

Proposals which result in the loss (redevelopment or change of use) of locally valued community facilities and amenities will only be supported where there is no reasonable prospect of viable continued use of the existing building or facility which will benefit the local community and they demonstrate a need for their proposed change and they do not have an adverse impact on the special character of the area’s natural and built environments.

Consultation on the plan also revealed that the volume of traffic passing through the Parish and the speed of much of this traffic was raised as one of the two major concerns to residents, as the extremely busy A35 trunk road, running east-west, cuts the parish in two and acts as something of a barrier between the two halves of the parish to its north and south.

(Image: Robin Webster/Geograph)

A recent Highways England Average Annual Daily Traffic Flow Survey recorded over 13,600 vehicles, of which 2,040 were classified as Heavy Goods Vehicles, passing along this road each day, with traffic flow is significantly greater during daylight hours, particularly during commuter times and the tourist holiday months.

The plan says: “The high frequency of these vehicles passing by, within a speed limit of 50 miles an hour, makes it very difficult for vehicles emerging from the village side roads to find a suitable gap to enter the A35 carriageway safely. As there is no pedestrian crossing facility it is also dangerous and difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to cross and as the majority of Kilmington’s population live to the south and therefore many villagers regularly have to make the dangerous crossing. Children and elderly residents have to be accompanied.

“The latest Highways England accident reports available show that for period 2010 to 2016 there were 24 slight, 6 serious and 1 fatal accident reported. Many more ‘non serious’ accidents and near misses go unreported. All of these discourage others, particularly the elderly from driving on, walking alongside and crossing the A35 road.

“Village residents made different suggestions in the neighbourhood plan questionnaire to improve the safety on the A35 including improvements to sign visibility, installing an assisted crossing point, reducing the speed limit on the A35 to 40 mph (or even 30 mph) and introducing traffic calming and half-way crossing island.

“We propose that the A35 corridor is considered a ‘planning entity’ in its own right, mixing commercial, residential (impact) and environmental components to benefit those travelling through the parish as well as residents. While the road itself is the responsibility of the Devon County Council (Highways), how it interacts more widely with the parish can be influenced by planning policies and decisions.”

A number of community actions have been identified through local consultation and the development of the plan’s Objective, and while they may be outside the remit of the planning system (and therefore the Neighbourhood Plan) to influence or deliver, the actions would typically fall to the Parish Council or the community, or partners such as local authorities or statutory agencies to lead.

Gammons Hill, Kilmington

Gammons Hill, Kilmington

They also provide an indication, in some cases, of what local infrastructure in Kilmington is seen as a priority

They include:

  • Improve safety by pursuing and supporting measures to reduce the speed of traffic through the village on the A35
  • Improve pedestrian and cycle access to facilities by pursuing and supporting the installation of a pedestrian crossing across the A35 close to Kilmington Cross.
  • Improve safety by pursuing and supporting the installation of a ‘Village Gateway’ on the A35 at the western entry to the village, to encourage vehicles to reduce their speed.
  • Pursue a 20mph speed limit in place of the existing 30mph limit or at least within the BUAB to reduce the speed of traffic passing through the centre of the village.
  • Pursue a weight restriction within the BUAB to reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles entering, unless they are delivering/collecting or gaining access to land and/or premises.
  • Investigate creating a Community Land Trust to maintain self-build housing in the long-term to provide a solution to the local housing need
  • The possible registration of Assets of Community Value: New Inn; School; Recreation Ground; Village Hall and St Giles Church
  • Changing the public bus route via Shute Road & The Hill to provide access to the east bound public bus to Axminster without the necessity to cross the A35
  • Creating an attractive ‘green corridor’ along the A35 through the village
  • Developing a hedge and tree green buffer between the A35 and the village
  • Creating a new footpath routed through the centre of the village from The Hill residential area to the centre of the village amenities around Whitford Road (see housing allocations and transport section)
  • Establishing a community orchard

The draft Neighbourhood Plan for Kilmington is now out for consultation until February 28, 2021, after which the parish council will decide whether or not to amend the Plan in response to each representation before the Plan is submitted to East Devon District Council for further consultation and on to independent examination.

A feedback form can be downloaded from the parish council website, and copies are in the phone box library on Jubilee Green. You can also email feedback forms to: np@kilmingtonvillage.com or post to The Clerk to the Parish Council, Tower View Fruit Farm, Offwell, EX14 9RW.