Devon’s most rebellious town is fighting back again

Colyton has long since been known as the most rebellious town in England – and its residents are rebelling again against any future unwanted development.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

The East Devon town gained that moniker all the way back in 1685, when the Catholic James II was crowned king. Shortly after his coronation, his nephew, the Duke of Monmouth, travelled to the south west to build an army to overthrow the king.

Colyton was becoming increasingly influenced by Catholics, which led to religious dissent in the area, and as a result, 105 Colyton men chose to follow the Duke of Monmouth – more than any other Devon town.

It’s long history of rebellion has continued, and now the residents of the town have the chance to have their say on plans that would shape developments in the area for the next ten years and beyond with the Neighbourhood Plan now out for consultation.

The Plan outlines how the town and the parish wishes to conserve its historic heritage, protect its ‘green wedge’ between it and Seaton, and to improve links in and around the village, as well as with the Seaton Tramway.

Residents will now be able to share comments and views on the document for a consultation until June 22, 2021, and the plan covers a variety of topics including the natural environment, the built environment, heritage and housing, the local economy, transport and travel, and community and recreation.

The thrust of the plan is to ensure the unique and special attributes of the parish are protected and enhanced, and that any change is sensitively planned for.

Caroline Collier, chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said: “After a process that has involved public consultations, surveys and workshops and with excellent independent professional guidance we have eventually produced this Submission Version of the Colyton Parish Neighbourhood Plan, which we believe represents a fair and worthy vision for the future development of the Parish.”

THE PARISH OF COLYTON

Colyton Parish is a relatively large parish of 2,573 hectares, some two miles to the north of the coastal settlements of Seaton and Axmouth. The two main settlements are Colyton, a small town with a population of circa 2,300, and Colyford a village (population circa 800) both towards the south-east of the Parish.

While only a proportion of the Parish, in the north and west, is within the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and thus receives the highest level of protection under national planning policy, it is the opinion of many parishioners that the quality of much of the rest of the Parish’s countryside merits inclusion in the AONB and warrants all the protection that can be given to it.

Colyford is an ancient village that straddles the main coastal road (the A3052), which has often acted as its lifeline, but also carries with it several problems. Colyford was a ‘borough’ in its own right, in medieval times, during which it had a significant trading base. Colyford is now largely residential and home to the well-respected Colyton Grammar School (an Academy Trust).

Colyton Grammar School (Image: Colyton Grammar School)

Colyford and Colyton are connected by road and the Tramway, which runs along the discontinued railway branch line from Seaton to Colyton.

Colyton has long been known for its markets and manufacturing, while traditional businesses such as the Tannery and the Wheelwright with a Royal Warrant remain proud working symbols of its ancient past.

While the nature of and balance between its products and services may have changed, the Parish still retains a relatively healthy local economy, although it did take a significant knock recently with the closure of Ceramtec after almost 50 years, which employed 80-100 people.

The Tannery, Wheelwright and the Tramway are just three of the many heritage features of a Parish that is steeped in history, with some unique facets, with most notable being the town’s reputation as the most rebellious town in England, because of the town’s non-conformists and dissidents supporting the Duke of Monmouth’s attempt to take the Crown in 1685.

THE VISION

The neighbourhood plan sets out a vision for the future of its neighbourhood, with Colyton parish aiming to be a uniquely characterful and caring place to live and work

The plan adds: “The vision statement could hardly do other than remind everyone that Colyton holds a distinctive place in the county’s history and long should our Parish continue to be regarded as unique. While our Plan may not be unique, it does have to conform to the strategic context provided for us, its policies are aimed at ensuring the many attributes that contribute to making us different and special are protected and enhanced, and any change is sensitively planned for.”

THE GREEN WEDGE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The Green Wedge areas are fundamental to retaining and protecting the special character of the neighbourhood area, the plan says.

The green wedge between Colyford and Seaton extends to the south of the Parish, while there is a second green wedge between Colyton and Colyton, and the plan makes it clear that development proposals in the designated Green Wedge areas will not be supported, unless it can be demonstrated that no harm to the character or purpose of this area will occur.

The green wedge to be protected between Colyton, Colyford and Seaton
The green wedge to be protected between Colyton, Colyford and Seaton

It adds: “Green wedges are substantial areas of undeveloped land on the edge of settlements which are recognised as playing an important role in shaping the character and enhancing the appearance of the settlement areas. Its main purpose is to prevent ‘creeping development’ that could lead to ‘the coalescence of adjacent or neighbouring settlements, villages or towns’.”

Policies in the plan make it plain that isolated new development or incursions into the green wedge area will be resisted, adding: “We recognise there may be a need and justification for small-scale development in the interests of ensuring that existing properties and businesses within the Green Wedge can continue to function properly. Any such development should be subservient to other buildings within the curtilage, sympathetic in character to its setting and not visually intrusive.”

The plan adds that proposals for new development on designated Local Green Spaces will also not be supported unless ancillary to their existing recreation or amenity use, or exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.

The sites are Bridge House Garden, Colyford Play Park, Colyton Community Woodland and Picnic Site, Cuthouse Meadow Play Area, Road Green and Play Area, St Andrews Churchyard and St Andrews Garden, The Elms Amenity Area and St Michael’s Churchyard, Colyford.

Any designated area of local green space lost due to exceptional circumstances must be replaced by equivalent or better provision, in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location, the plan states.

And with ancient woodland sites evident throughout the Parish, especially the 22 hectares of Holyford Woods, development proposals that would result in the loss of, or which would create unacceptable harm to, wildlife sites and other areas of ecological or geological importance, and which cannot be suitably mitigated, will not be supported.

Colyton: in the Coly valley - Looking north west near Ratshole Gate
Colyton: in the Coly valley – Looking north west near Ratshole Gate ( (Image: Martin Bodman/Geograph)

Public rights of way in the Parish are also to be protected from development, with measures to improve and extend the existing network of public rights of way supported, so long as their value as wildlife corridors is recognised and protected, and efforts are made to enhance biodiversity as part of the ‘development’ work wherever appropriate.

The plan adds: “The area is a popular walking area. The countryside and its footpaths attract visitors to the Parish. Many people take advantage of the tram to visit the area and use the established footpath network. There are over 40 public rights of way (footpaths and bridleways) around Colyford and Colyton. In addition, and importantly, the East Devon Way passes through the Parish including touching the edge of Colyton.”

DEVELOPMENT

The plan says that development within the Built-Up Area Boundary will generally be supported provided it makes an appropriate use of a brownfield site, is infill and predominantly surrounded by existing development; and there is no harmful impact on the Conservation Area and/or listed buildings.

For all developments in the neighbourhood area, including extensions and alterations to existing properties that require planning permission, buildings should be designed to a high level of energy efficiency aiming towards zero carbon, should be appropriate to its setting in terms of scale, height and massing and choice of materials, and opportunities should be encouraged to integrate bee bricks, bat and swift boxes in a suitable position within the development.

Colyton - Town Centre
Colyton – Town Centre (Image: Colin Smith/Geograph)

Proposals for housing development outside the built-up area boundary will only be supported if it is demonstrated that it is a small development of up to 15 dwellings, to provide affordable housing for local need, that is evidenced, and it will not have a harmful visual impact on its setting or the landscape.

Where relevant, proposals to bring redundant or vacant historic buildings back into beneficial re-use may be supported, and a small number of market homes may be permitted where this is essential to enable the delivery of affordable units.

ECONOMY

The local economy benefits from being a tourist destination, with visitors drawn because of the area’s natural beauty, its heritage, and its unique reputation, the plan says, such as the Colyford Goose Fayre and the Beating of the Bounds, as well as the Seaton Tramway, which in the summer months, travels between Seaton, Colyford and Colyton and is one of Devon’s major tourist attractions, carrying over 100,000 passengers a year.

Colyton Station - The northern terminus of the Seaton Tramway.
Colyton Station – The northern terminus of the Seaton Tramway. (Image: Colin Smith/Geograph)

The plan seeks to develop the Parish’s tourism offer further through sustainable development that takes advantage of the existing assets of the area, and adds that proposals for the change of use of existing business premises away from employment activity will be resisted, unless it can be demonstrated that its existing use is no longer economically viable, and all reasonable steps have been taken to let or sell the site or building for employment purposes for a period of at least 12 months.

Support is also given for measures to improve pedestrian links between the tramway stations and the centre of the settlement areas of Colyford and Colyton. The Terminus in Colyton is located on the edge of the town and, although the town centre is signposted, it involves using lanes without footpaths and is seen as ‘a walk too far’ for many visitors, the plan says.

It adds: “There has long-been a desire to create a dedicated and more direct footpath to and from the Tramway Terminus, which we have been reminded about in recent community consultations. At Colyford too, the tram station is on the edge of the village, which also has inadequate safe footpath links alongside the A3052.

“Development proposals specifically to maintain and enhance existing public transport provision within the area will be supported provided the proposals would not have significant harmful effects on the amenity of residents and other neighbouring uses and the local landscape, including environmental features and assets.

“We support the more general use of alternative transport modes to the private motor car. We are planning for an ageing and growing population and so public transport should remain an important service to the Parish. It will only be so if it is well frequented by local people and suitable public transport services are provided which go to places that residents want to go or need to visit.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Colyton Parish Council has submitted its Neighbourhood Plan to East Devon District Council and residents will now be able to share comments and views on the document for a consultation until June 22, 2021.

After the consultation the plan will go before an independent examiner, who will inspect the plan against a series of ‘basic conditions’ that the plan must meet.

If the examiner is happy the plan meets the requirements then it will proceed to a local community referendum.

If more than half of the electors vote in favour of the plan it will then be adopted and will become part of the statutory development plan for East Devon.

Once adopted, the plan will be used to help inform future decisions about development and planning applications in the Colyton area.

The plan and all the supporting documents are now on the EDDC website, along with a comments form for residents to share their views, while hard copies of the plan will be available on request and to view at Colyton Library.

Anyone wishing to comment should send their comments by email to planningpolicy@eastdevon.gov.uk, or by post to Angela King, Planning Policy Section, East Devon District Council, Blackdown House, Border Road, Honiton, EX14 1EJ.


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