Backlash over move to turn Devon farms into homes

A long-running campaign to save two farms in Teigbridge from being turned into new housing developments is continuing to be fought.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

In 2018, both Manor Farm and Markhams Farm were submitted by Devon County Council’s (DCC) land agent as possible sites for housing development, to the local authority Teignbridge District Council.

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.

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

Manor Farm at Holcombe, near Dawlish, is also listed as a site that has been submitted as an option for development by the landowner, DCC. It is also a successful working farm.

A campaign led by town and district councillor Alison Foden has been launched to save them for future generations of farmers.

An online petition calling for both farms to be withdrawn as sites for housing development has now been signed by more than 1,500 people.

Markhams Farm overlooking Exeter

Markhams Farm overlooking Exeter

Cllr Foden said: “How can Devon County Council justify throwing away the equivalent acreage of farmland to that which it purchased in 2009 in order to make Markhams Farm more viable?

“Arable and agricultural quality land should not ‘be disposed of’ in a piecemeal fashion, in order to ‘generate capital receipts’ for investment by the council in the capital programme, and ‘enable land to be replenished.

“Farms cannot be established like jigsaw pieces. Moving 80 acres of land from Markhams Farm to generate income to buy more land elsewhere will remove the viability from Markhams Farm which DCC sought to benefit in 2009 when it purchased an additional 85 acres of land there.

“How can DCC declare a climate and ecological emergency, and yet pay no regard farming sustainability, nor care for the current and next generations of farmers in our Devon, by selling off county farmland here and there?

“Why is DCC planning and working to sell off county farmland in order to generate capital receipts, when that county farmland can generate capital receipts for the council?

“Has DCC not considered the effects that the selling off parcels of county farmland must have on the mental health and wellbeing of the county farm tenants and the effects that the threatened sale must have on tenant farmers, their feelings for the farm security, and their farm work plans for the future?

“It is worrying that both sites at Markham Farm and at Manor Farm are proposed for house building at a time when the need for sustainable farming and encouragement for local farming is crucial at this time of climate and biodiversity emergency.”

Markhams Farm Exeter

Markhams Farm Exeter (Image: Teignbridge District Council)

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.

Devon County Council were approached for a comment.