Village wants to become down-sizing haven for elderly residents

A plan that aims to preserve one of East Devon’s most rural parishes as a special place to live, work and visit has been unveiled.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com.

The parish of Dalwood, which lies entirely within the southern boundary of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is approximately midway between the market towns of Axminster and Honiton.

Home to around 380 residents in 196 households, the parish is very rural, with predominant activities being arable and livestock farming, while the character of the village is a mixture of old and new with several modern residences either side of the road that runs through the village, with a historic core formed by a church, adjacent cottages and a public house on the opposite side of the road.

The Corry Brook runs to the east of these buildings providing an attractive green corridor through the heart of the village and greatly enhancing the settlement’s rural character.

Residents of the parish have come together to put forward a Neighbourhood Plan which aims to protect, preserve and enhance the qualities of the community and this part of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The plan sets out 17 aims as to how it aims to achieve the vision statement which is that Dalwood is a vibrant, active and friendly community that is a special place to live, work and visit.

The aims are:

  • Protect and enhance the natural environment, including the distinctive landscape and ecology.
  • Protect the tranquillity of the environment and maintain the dark skies.
  • Ensure that all new development is sympathetic to the traditional character, materials and style to retain the distinctive character of the village.
  • Protect the area’s heritage sites and locations. Housing and Population Aim
  • Support new local housing development which respects the characteristics and constraints of Dalwood’s built and natural environment, yet allows continual evolution of the Parish.
  • Preserve the overall character of the Parish’s settlements within the AONB.
  • Encourage retail and/or hospitality development that meets local and visitors’ needs.
  • Resist the loss of local facilities and amenities (including St Peter’s Church, Methodist Chapel, Community Shop and Post Office, Village Hall, Pavilion, Jubilee Field, Pub and protect Assets of Community Value (ACV’s).
  • Seek ways to minimise parking problems in the village when development is proposed. Improve parking provision.
  • Maintain and enhance a network of public rights of way and bridleways.
  • Help create, support and sustain local businesses
  • Improve broadband connectivity. Any future developments aim to improve connectivity.
  • Ensure new builds provide sustainable broadband connectivity.
  • Help to sustain arable and livestock farming life-styles
  • Support small scale, unobtrusive renewable or low carbon energy schemes providing they are sensitively sited and screened, i.e. appropriately landscaped.
  • Support a provider or village initiative to come forward with card access electric vehicle charging points.
  • Increase recycling levels via a generic supporting policy.
Dalwood community shop and post office

Dalwood community shop and post office (Image: Roger Cornfoot/Geograph)

The plan says: “Dalwood is a rural parish nestled in the Blackdown Hills AONB. The parish itself has little through traffic. It is an example of a tranquil, beautiful and special rural Devon landscape rich with wildlife. The distinctive quality of the parish is a characteristic highly valued by the residents and it is one of the reasons people chose to live here.

“This applies to those who have moved into the village and those who have grown up here and stayed or moved away and returned, and the aims and objectives reflect the desire to protect the valuable and high-quality natural environment of the parish.

“Dalwood village is characterised by an historic core. Roads to the village are narrow, often single track and flanked by traditional Devon banks or hedges. While there is no public transport available, anyone without a car is reliant on community transport such as ‘Ring and Ride’, Trips Community Transport Association, or lifts from others to access facilities not available in the village.

“The village benefits from a Village Hall, children’s nursery, two churches, a community shop and the Jubilee Pavilion and Field with children’s playing area. Much of the local employment in the parish is naturally based on farming activity, and it is important to understand the characteristics of the village as they inform the suitability or not of locating new development there, and to what scale and type. The Local Plan does not consider Dalwood as suitable to sustain further development due to its limited range of services and facilities.”

The community questionnaire identified a preference for housing developments to take place only if local need is established and for them to come forward within a ‘settlement boundary’, but it also highlighted a need for smaller homes for existing residents to downsize and remain in the village.

The plan looks favourably upon new housing developments which meet parish needs and/or support the ageing population as well as young families, as well as supporting the provision of housing through the demonstration of small-scale local needs on exception sites in Dalwood

It says: “There is a preference for appropriate development to fit within the landscape, without having adverse impacts on its surrounding landscape and the natural and built character of the area within which the proposal is located.

“However, in some cases, it may be acceptable for appropriate landscaping to play a role as part of the solution to ensure that there is no adverse impact on the setting of the proposal. Where the use of planting is an appropriate part of that solution, native local species of plants should be used, such as hawthorn, blackthorn, ash, oak or beech

“Development proposals will only be supported where the development does not result in adverse impacts on the natural environment (landscape and biodiversity), and they enhance the natural environment, where there is the opportunity to do so.

“To ensure that new housing development is of high-quality design and sympathetic to the traditional built character of the parish, proposals will be supported where they take fully into account the Blackdown Hills AONB Design Guide for Houses, and ensure that the size, scale and location of the development is appropriate to the form, scale and setting of the existing built environment.

“Housing development will be supported within the settlement boundary where development is of a scale and appearance in keeping with surrounding properties and the character of the village, local amenity is not impacted and there is provision for sufficient off-street parking, meeting current adopted parking standards and exceeding them where feasible.”

The plan also adds that the aim for the village is to maintain and increase, not decrease, the range of facilities that serve the local community, and that the community will oppose any proposal that results in a loss of such facilities.

The plan aims to support applications for retail or hospitality businesses that are in keeping with the character of the area, although any development would need to demonstrate that it would not have any significant adverse impact on the existing state of the natural environment and support the sensitive and necessary maintenance and improvement of local facilities and amenities.

Fields at Dalwood lane - View south across the steep pasture fields towards the village of Dalwood whose houses are just visible in the early morning sun

Fields at Dalwood lane – View south across the steep pasture fields towards the village of Dalwood whose houses are just visible in the early morning sun (Image: Nigel Mykura/Geograph)

And as Dalwood Parish is served by a network of narrow lanes typical of rural East Devon and the Blackdown Hills, and that residents are very car-dependent with there being no bus service – the nearest public bus service a 35-minute walk from the village – the improvement and enhancement of public rights of way will be supported.

Schemes will be supported where they promote, protect, maintain and enhance the existing local footpath and bridleway network for use on foot, bicycle or horseback, they improve and enhance the existing network through the provision of new or extended routes, and they prevent motorised vehicles illegally using designated footpaths, bridleways and cycleways.

The parish council also aims to work with the local community in the development of a recycling collection area, which is properly screened and managed providing there is no significant adverse impact on the area.

Dalwood Parish Council has now submitted their Neighbourhood Plan to East Devon District Council, and residents can now have their say in a consultation on the plan, which runs until Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

The plan sets out policies for the future of Dalwood parish, which will be used to help inform future decisions about development and planning applications in the area for the next ten years and beyond.

The Dalwood Neighbourhood Plan has been in production since 2016 and covers a variety of topics including the natural, built and historic environment, housing, economy and employment, transport and access, community facilities and services, and energy/low carbon, waste and plastic.

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 can proceed to a local community referendum. If more than half of the electors vote in favour of the plan it will 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 Dalwood area.

The plan and all supporting documents are now on the EDDC website at https://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/3722605/dalwood-np-submission-version-05-03-21.pdf, along with a comments form for residents and interested parties to share their views.

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

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