Idyllic sea view village aims to ensure young can afford homes

Another neighbourhood plan seeks to control second homes – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

With outstanding sea views across Start Bay, and with the parish lying entirely within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Strete is one of the South Hams’ historic and picturesque villages.

The village, located five miles away from Dartmouth, sits atop the cliffs behind Pilchard Cove at the north end of Slapton Sands, and the heart of the village is a Conservation Area with several listed buildings.

The area is popular with holidaymakers and the local economy rests primarily on tourism and agriculture, but job opportunities are few and far between, and house prices are high which can make it hard for local people, especially the young, to afford to stay in the parish.

As a result, the villagers have put together a plan to address the issues and to involve the local community in making sure that change and development in future are for the good of the parish.

Strete Village Centre

Strete Village Centre

The neighbourhood plan for Strete, which is hoped to go before the parish in a referendum in May, aims to help deliver the local community’s aspirations and needs.

The vision for Strete is to grow slowly and sustainably so that its high coastal character, sea views and natural beauty are conserved and enhanced while meeting local needs and improving local services.

THE HISTORY OF STRETE

The first documentary mention of the place was as Streta in 1194, and the name derives from Old English Strǣt , meaning a road or Roman road, as the village lies on an ancient trackway, but the name Strete appears to have first been documented in 1244. Formerly a part of the parish of Blackawton, Strete became a separate parish in 1881 when the Chapel of Ease (built in 1836) became the parish church of St Michael’s.

The ancient heart of the village is protected as a conservation area and the plan aims to safeguard its historic and architectural character for present and future generations

THE VISION FOR STRETE

The parish is home to about 400 people and the village still provides local facilities including a shop with a Post Office, a pub, a village hall, some public spaces and the parish church.

The area is popular with holidaymakers and the local economy rests primarily on tourism and agriculture, the plan says, adding that hob opportunities are few and house prices are high which can make it hard for local people, especially the young, to afford to stay in the parish.

The neighbourhood plan for Strete aims to help deliver the local community’s aspirations and needs. It has been produced by local volunteers, with the support of the Parish Council, based on the collective views of the people who live in Strete.

Strete: by Magnolia Cottage

Strete: by Magnolia Cottage (Image: Martin Bodman/Geograph)

The Strete Neighbourhood Plan aims to: protect the village from uncontrolled, large scale, or poorly placed development; allow for small scale development which is sympathetic to and will improve the look and feel of the village; take steps to give residents preferred access to many of the new homes; and give the village the potential to access funding to improve village facilities.

The vision for Strete is to grow slowly and sustainably so that its high coastal character, sea views and natural beauty are conserved and enhanced while meeting local needs and improving local services.”

The local community expects the plan to respect and protect the precious natural and historic environment, maintain and improve community facilities, services and infrastructure, and support existing and new business opportunities and tourism, in order to maintain and enhance the character and vitality of the village and parish, and allow sustainable development for natural growth to meet future local needs.

THE OBJECTIVES OF THE PLAN

The plan aims to create a place where the following objectives are achieved

  • landscape character and the natural setting of the parish are maintained and enhanced, including the high coastal setting of the village, the outstanding sea views, woods and copses throughout the parish
  • the particular sensitivity and visual prominence of the landscape on the seaward side of the A379 is recognised and suitably protected
  • valued local green spaces are maintained and enhanced
  • local heritage is valued, conserved and enhanced, including local history, village form and character, architecture, footpaths and other important features, and new buildings are sympathetically designed
  • local tranquillity and dark skies are conserved
  • people are able to move more freely, safely and conveniently, with new and improved footpaths, particularly in the village;
  • local needs are met through small organic developments, in scale with the locality and allowing future generations to maintain the viability of local businesses, but without substantially altering local character
  • There is economical use of resources so that future generations are not left a legacy of pollution, financial or environmental debt, with steady progress towards zero carbon energy and water footprints
  • local services are maintained, enhanced and extended with improved public car parking close to the coast path in the village, public transport to nearby centres maintained and enhanced and improved Broadband and Mobile Phone coverage, both for individuals and for businesses;
  • community well-being is enhanced and there are growing opportunities for people of all ages to expand and develop themselves, including public buildings and spaces to gather, pursue shared interests and contribute to the life of the community.

The plan adds: “The coast and countryside in and around Strete is recognized for its high quality natural environment, and unspoiled natural beauty. It is well loved by residents and visitors alike.

“But insensitive development could damage it irreparably. The plan recognizes the local landscape as one of the parish’s most precious assets and aims to protect it from harm.

“Development shall not harm, but maintain and enhance the landscape by having regard to the special qualities of the AONB in the area, safeguarding and enhancing local features that make a positive contribution to the landscape, particularly areas of green space, protecting the high coastal setting of the parish, and incorporating high quality landscaping, which retains existing features reinforces local landscape character, and provides mitigation from harm.

Pilchard Cove near Strete, Devon

“Development shall not harm but conserve and enhance designated and non-designated historic and heritage assets and their settings, both above and below ground, by having regard to national and local strategic policies for heritage and conservation.

“Strete is notable for its rural tranquillity. Apart from traffic passing through on the A379 coast road there is little to disturb the peace. The parish is also sufficiently removed from light pollution that it affords good views of the night sky. Development shall be designed so that it will cause no undue noise or light pollution.”

SOUTH OF THE A379

The plan recognises the sensitivity of the environment in and around Strete, both natural and man-made, and that these two aspects combine to create a particularly sensitive landscape setting for the village.

As the views of Strete are framed by its coastal setting and the land lying on the southern side of the A379 coast road is particularly important in this respect, any development in that area should therefore pay special regard to the sensitivity of the location and its coastal landscape importance and development there shall not harm but must enhance that coastal setting

South West Coast Path above Landcombe Cove

South West Coast Path above Landcombe Cove (Image: Derek Harper/Geograph)

THE WESTERN AREA

The western parts of the village, along the A379 and western Hynetown Road, are predominantly characterised by detached dwellings built over the course of the twentieth century on single plots. That low density character is distinct from the rest of the village and the plan requires that any development should retain that character.

To protect the character of the area, proposals for residential development within this area should reflect the established low-density character

DEVELOPMENT

The availability of facilities and support services in and around Strete means that it is a sustainable location for small scale growth. While there are fewer than 300 homes across the parish with about 230 of those being in the village, development in scale with the village could help to meet local needs for affordable homes and some additional community infrastructure.

The plans outlines that some development is needed to help to sustain the community and meet local needs, but plan defines and shows the settlement boundary for the village within which suitable development will generally be acceptable.

Strete Church

Strete Church (Image: N Chadwick/Geograph)

Outside the village, development will be tightly controlled and only permissible where it is essential in order to meet agricultural, forestry or other small-scale needs which cannot be met within the village, it says.

The plan aims to control the scale and density of development so that it is in keeping with the parish and geared to meeting local housing needs, and development will be supported inside the settlement boundary, provided it is in conformity with relevant policies in the Development Plan, is of a scale and character with the site and surroundings and will cause no significant adverse impacts on the natural or historic environment, amenity, traffic, parking or safety.

Outside the settlement boundary, development will be strictly controlled and only permitted where it is in accordance with the Development Plan, can be delivered sustainably and requires a countryside location or will meet a proven local need which cannot be met inside the settlement boundary

As part of the plan making process a call for sites was issued late in 2016 and two possible sites for development were identified. The more suitable of these, at Cox’s Farm Fields, was proposed in the initial drafts of the plan, but no satisfactory way could be found to develop the site in keeping with local aspirations and constraints, and therefore allocating the land for development no longer features in the plan.

Housing development sites in Strete shall be limited to small sites to ensure that growth is at a scale in keeping with the special qualities of the village and the AONB and affordable homes for local people will be particularly welcomed, the plan says.

The parish of Strete

The parish of Strete

SECOND HOMES

The growth in the number of dwellings being used as second or holiday homes is having a significant impact on housing stock in the parish, the plan states, adding that in 2011 there were 50 second homes recorded but that had risen to 66 by 2016 – about 20 per cent of the local housing stock.

It adds: “House prices have been pushed up such that local people, particularly first time buyers, are generally unable to compete in the market, and that trend is continuing. The plan addresses this by requiring that new housing be restricted to occupancy as a principal residence.”

Occupiers of homes with a principal residence condition will be required to keep proof that they are meeting the obligation or condition and to provide this if/when South Hams District Council requests this information, and proof of principal residence could include residents being registered on the local electoral register or being registered for and attending local services (such as healthcare, schools etc.).

LOCAL FACILITIES

Strete is a beautiful place to live with a good quality of life, but with relatively few local facilities. Those which do exist – particularly the village shop and the pub – are therefore especially precious and the plan aims to safeguard them for present and future generations, and their retention and prosperity are important to local well-being, the plan says.

New facilities that will support the local community and enhance their well-being will be welcomed and supported, particularly if they will bring improvements in car parking or open space provision.

The local green spaces in the plan – The Village Green, The Village Wood (Blackbird Wood) and The Village Play Park – will only see development on them permitted in very special circumstances.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The Neighbourhood Plan was assessed by an Examiner at the end of 2020, and they have confirmed that, subject to the minor amendments being incorporated into the revised Plan, the Strete Neighbourhood Plan meets with the legislative and regulatory requirements and can proceed to referendum.

The plan will now forward to South Hams District Council, who at a forthcoming meeting, will be asked that the Examiner’s recommendations on the plan be endorsed and that a ‘referendum version’ of the Plan should proceed to the referendum stage.

A referendum where all electors within the parish of Strete will be invited to vote on whether the neighbourhood plan will be used to make planning decisions in the parish.

If more than 50 per cent of those who vote say ‘yes’, the neighbourhood plan will be made and will form part of the development plan for the South Hams, where it will carry full weight in the planning decision making process.

The earliest date on which the referendum can take is May 6, 2021, where it is expected that if the local elections go ahead as planned, as the Government has indicated, then the Neighbourhood Plan referendum would take place at the same time.