From a correspondent:
On paper there is little doubt that development planning in East Devon has been well documented.
The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) recommends decision-making should be genuinely plan-led, to achieve high quality designs, conserve and enhance the natural environment, reduce pollution to support a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy, whilst taking account of the diverse character of different areas, by providing a framework within which local people and their accountable councils can produce their own distinctive local and neighbourhood plans which reflect the needs and priorities of their communities.
The role of the Local Plan is to help set out what we want East Devon to be like in the years to come, the type of development we want to see and where development should occur and what benefits it will bring to our communities based on local insight.
Moreover, the Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan represents the community’s vision and priorities for how we would like to see our neighbourhood area evolve. It puts us, as a community, in the driving seat when it comes to having a say over what, how and where development should take place.
Sadly, after the production of all these copious documents, containing a myriad of protective policies and advice in both our East Devon Local and Neighbourhood Plans – alongside the colossal amounts of time and public money expended in their preparation and approval – these policies were completely ignored by East Devon Planners in their decision on 20/1001/MOUT at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary! So the reality is that Clyst St Mary’s vision and ideology for the future growth of their valued, special village were crushed, pulverised and brushed aside by politicians and officials exclusively for unproven, economic benefits for East Devon.
There is anxiety that any future changes to our community will now be entirely developer-led and contain incalculable numbers of lucrative housing – but the promised sports, leisure, economic, social and environmental benefits to the community will be scaled down significantly. Will our primary school children learn to swim in the pledged indoor swimming pool, before they reach adulthood? Only, perhaps, with the loss of additional sports fields or agricultural land to more housing? The tried and tested developers’ mantra will be that without additional housing – the financial viability of the whole masterplan will be at risk!
Meanwhile, the local residents watch as the directors of the development company fly-in regularly and land their private helicopter on the pledged community sports fields; they listen to the deep-throbbing engines of the directors’ Porsches parking in the car park adjacent to their homes, whilst these entrepreneurs banquet at the high cost, high-end Winslade Manor restaurant and bars!
However, this is expected behaviour from directors of development companies – so we can’t blame them for reaping the benefits and taking advantage while they can? So who is to blame?
Burringtons’ proposals for 39 homes on a protected green field, together with their horrendous designs for 40 four-storey flats (that resemble 1960s urban car park designs) in this rural village, opposite a Grade II* Listed Manor House, are accelerating at speed through the local planning processes with two Reserved Matters applications submitted (21/2217/MRES and 21/2235/MRES) under consultation.
Can those responsible for the flawed recommendations and decision-making at the outline planning stage, now ‘claw back’ some credibility within this neighbourhood, to ensure that the Reserved Matters plans represent the wishes of those people who actually live in this community? Can we not secure housing designs that will be judged with pride, that are sustainable and will not detrimentally affect many existing homes in this community? Can EDDC Planners build back better and more beautiful or has the damage already been done to gain economic benefits for East Devon that are unlikely to be achievable – so now there is no way back? Or can the decision-makers now condition the Reserved Matters to ensure that the benefits to the community are provided alongside the housing provision in a staged process? Otherwise the developers will give precedence to the development of the 79 homes by ‘cherry- picking’ the lucrative 39 on a green field and 40 inappropriate, four-storey flats in a village with no local housing need – but the much-valued community facilities will be relegated and banished!
Will the economic benefits that were so lauded by EDDC’s professional and elected planners and resulted in them ignoring protective planning policies in the NPPF and the Local and Neighbourhood Plans, ever be realised post-pandemic with innumerable business employees now electing to ‘work from home’ in future and not requiring the 2,000 predicted jobs offered at Winslade Park to East Devon?
Clyst St Mary wonders if these plans will follow the example of Cranbrook with thousands of houses but no town centre – or Axminster with a profusion of housing but with no ring road – or Newton Poppleford with increased housing but no doctors’ surgery or health centre – or more locally – 80 homes at Greenspires with no footpath provided for children to walk to the primary school?
Are we to forget the dream and the vision of aesthetically-pleasing growth proposals that will stand the test of time and be admired in the future? Is the reality likely to be that Clyst St Mary will be sacrificed to become a giant housing estate of urban sprawl with none of the pledged infrastructure, resulting in it losing its special characteristics as a valued rural, historic village?
The decision is in the hands of a few elected members of the Planning Committee on recommendations from EDDC’s planning officials – is this a lottery governed only by chance – or does the local authority actually have jurisdiction to control the future development of our communities? For the answers . . . . . Watch This Space!