Hundreds in uproar over major homes plan

Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling on Devon County Council not to sell-off farmland near Exeter for housing.

Paul Greaves

Markhams Farm, which lies between Ide and Alphington, has been earmarked in the Teignbridge Draft Local Plan as a huge housing plot where a total of 727 houses could be built.

The site is currently a working farm and part of the county council’s tenant farm estate.

A petition – organised by district ward councillor Alison Foden – to ‘Save Markhams Farm from being sold off and keep farming local’ has so far attracted 523 signatures.

The petition states: “At this time of emergency, we call on Devon County Council to drop the planned sell-off of our local farms for housing development, and to continue to support local farming and sustainable agriculture.

“We call on Devon County Council to keep Markhams Farm and to drop their proposed sell-off for housing development as mentioned in Teignbridge District Council’s Local Plan Review 2020 – 2040.

“We say Keep Devon County’s Farms Farming.”

Markhams Farm Exeter

Markhams Farm Exeter (Image: Teignbridge District Council)

Markhams Farm is one of more than 100 sites across Teignbridge identified as places where future housing could be provided.

A public consultation run by the district council has already ended.

The petitioners hope that by putting pressure on the county council the land will be withdrawn as a potential location for housing.

The site falls within the parish of Ide. Neighbouring Shillingford St George Parish Council says it is in ‘total opposition’ to the proposal.

The minutes from its most recent meeting state: “The site is totally rural in character and consists of high quality agricultural land which is being actively farmed.

“The proposed site being set on a hillside would be highly visible from large parts of Exeter and would further erode the unique rural setting of the city.

“The proposed site is currently high quality productive agricultural land which would be destroyed if it was to be developed for housing.

Markhams Farm overlooking Exeter

Markhams Farm overlooking Exeter

“A large part of the site is occupied by a County Farm, owned by Devon County Council and leased to a tenant farm holder.”

The parish council says the working farm is a success and building would destroy it ‘at a time when agriculture nationally and locally needs to be supported and encouraged’.

The Draft Local Plan (Part 2) sets out options for where different types of development might be located over a 20-year period.

It includes a number of controversial ‘Edge of Exeter’ proposals, including 933 houses on a large swathe of land at nearby Peamore and between 200-250 at Atwell Farm in Whitestone.

As part of the process, landowners submit their land as potential building sites. Markhams Farm has been submitted by the county council’s agents.

The 80-acre plot sits beside a traditional country lane linking Alphington and Ide and is currently little used by vehicles. It is bordered on three sides by fields and also by the A30.

In the Local Plan, Teignbridge District Council says: “The site is large enough to provide local public open spaces to support wildlife and provide landscaping, tree planting and on-site play areas.

“The site is more than 800m from an area of major open space, but is close to public footpaths and cycle paths that connect to this and other areas of local public open space.”

It acknowledges a number of ‘sensitivities’ should the proposals succeed.

“The landscape contains known archaeological sites – prehistoric or Roman settlements,” the plan says.

“Therefore a comprehensive programme of archaeological work should be undertaken to enable the significance of the heritage assets to be understood as well as the impact of any development upon any such assets.”

It also says roads and footpaths would have to be improved and a new primary school built.

The district council says about the Local Plan: “It is important to note that no decisions have been taken at this stage as to where development might take place.”

The petition will be emailed to Cllr John Hart, the Leader of Devon County Council, and a formal in-person presentation at County Hall.

A copy will also be emailed to the Planning Department at Teignbridge District Council.

DevonLive has contacted Devon County Council for comment.