Fear and anger at plans which could leave towns unrecognisable

One Devon Tory MP says he will oppose the Planning Bill. No, not Simon Jupp or Neil Parish. – Owl

Frankie Mills www.devonlive.com

Dramatic proposals to reform the UK’s planning system were unveiled in the Queen’s Speech. If passed, the changes have the potential to create a housing boom that could give developers more free rein developing large swathes of rural areas.

Some residents in Totnes and Dartington fear it could permanently change the face of the town and destroy the green spaces that they have been fighting to protect, while others are concerned it would permit the development of expensive second homes in an area that locals have been priced out of in recent years.

If passed, South Hams, along with each council district in the U.K, will be divided into three categories: ‘growth’, ‘protection’ and ‘renewal.’ Growth areas will have current planning restrictions largely removed while development in ‘protection’ and ‘renewal’ zones will continue to be restricted.

The Planning Bill was announced at a time when Totnes has just been listed as the most searched for countryside market town on property website Rightmove. At the time of writing, there are currently zero properties available to rent in Totnes and 52 properties available to buy.

Anthony Mangall MP for Totnes said he firmly opposed the bill and would vote against it.

“My concern is that we’re going to get houses in the wrong places, we are not going to ensure we’ve got the proper infrastructure to deal with the increase of houses and people, and that we aren’t going to build affordable houses, which is what people need,” said Mr Mangall.

“One of the issues that we’ve had in the last 13, 14, 15 months, has been people being very quickly priced out of the area in which they were born and raised,”

“It’s great that we are an attractive place for people to come and live and work, but I’m also very conscious that… we need to make sure that we are not just building second homes,” he said.

“We’re in a perfect storm,” said Georgina Allen, chair Of planning for Totnes Town Council.

“What’s needed is one bedroom houses for the youth… and smaller family homes. These big executive homes with very little garden are the ones that are the cheapest to build and the most expensive to buy,” she said.

Allen fears that more homes will increase poverty in South Devon, an area where jobs are already restricted to two main industries.

“You’re asking for really severe levels of poverty, we’re not rich. We are totally dependent on the tourist trade and farming. There’s almost no other jobs,” she said.

Allen has been part of the campaign ‘Save Dartington’ for the past several years and has seen green spaces being sold off for development first hand as a means to pay for the estate’s debts.

She is concerned that new housing in an area like Dartington would mean selling off more green spaces and creating additional strain on the few existing facilities.

“Dartington has almost nothing,” said Allen. “All these new houses will have one garage and one shop,” said Allen.

“We will lose the countryside just when we need it most,” she said.

Manhall said that there was a significant number of Conservative MP’s who were working to reform the bill in a way that would be suitable for areas like Totnes and Dartington.

Manhall was one of the many Conservative MP’s who fought against the ‘housing algorithm’, an algorithm that predicted the amount of new homes needed to be built in different zones.

The algorithm predicted that South Hams would need a 117% increase in new homes. The scheme was scrapped after it was found to be based on incorrect data.

“The reason that we asked people to put in neighbourhood plans was because we recognise that every local community has its own views and own interests and own needs,” said Manhall.

“People in South Devon have been very clear about developing their own local neighbourhood plans. These neighbourhood plans matter, they need to be listened to,” he said.

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