Alienation fears as Devon village set to grow

Plans for a big increase in the size of a Devon village which one local claimed would cause “division and alienation” have been approved. Developer Baker Estates has won its appeal to build 60 homes on farmland in Chudleigh Knighton.

The scale of local development used to be set by local councils (remember the “old guard” EDDC “jobs on high growth scenario”), now it’s dictated by the government’s 300,000 houses a year. – Owl

Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com

Hennock Parish Council objected to the original outline planning application, arguing that the scheme was too big and would increase the size of village by 12 per cent. The developer appealed after Teignbridge District Council failed to make a decision by a deadline set out in planning law. And the inspector has decided after a hearing that the development can go ahead.

The developer has offered 30 per cent of the homes to be classed as “affordable”, including homes for rent and shared ownership, and self-build plots. An agreement sets out financial contributions to public services, and the site will include public open spaces and a play area. Neighbouring farmland will be set aside for biodiversity, and there will be a series of measures to protect rare greater horseshoe bats and improve their habitat.

The outline application submitted in September 2020 is for 10 acres of two fields at Tollgate Farm, alongside the B3344 Plymouth Road at the north-eastern edge of the village. It includes the access onto the main road, a drainage pond and open space.

The planning application illustrates the tensions involved in finding acceptable sites for new housing, including affordable homes, to help solve the housing crisis. Thousands of families in Devon are on the waiting list for social housing as a shortage of accommodation drives up private rents, and the stock is further squeezed by second home buyers and owners switching to short-term holiday lets. Yet many people are concerned about the impact of greenfield housing developments on the landscape and wildlife, and the increased pressure on already stretched local services like health and education.

According to the 2017 census, the village of Chudleigh Knighton had a population of 1,155. Objectors said the site was outside the settlement and not zoned for housing in the Local Plan, and they raised concerns about the impact of the extra residents on village services. One local said: “I worry that this development will drive current residents out of our village if the school can’t cope with the extra influx.”

One Teign Valley resident said: “It is utterly ridiculous to countenance that number of houses in one small village. You’d be doubling the size of somewhere like Hennock and experience shows such actions cause division and alienation within a community as the incoming population take time to assimilate.”

Another local resident commented: “We need to nurture and protect our countryside. Too many of these soulless community devoid developments are being built in Devon, especially around Newton Abbot and Exeter.” Action on Climate in Teignbridge’s Ecology Group objected to the potential impact on greater horseshoe bats, which have special protection.

Responding to the comments, planning inspector Hollie Nicholls said she considered that conditions on the development would allow it to go ahead without harming the South Hams Special Area of Conservation, which gives protection to the greater horseshoe bats in the area.

Illustrative masterplan for around 60 homes on land at Tollgate Farm, Chudleigh Knighton

Illustrative masterplan for around 60 homes on land at Tollgate Farm, Chudleigh Knighton (Image: Focus on Design/Baker Estates)

On the size of the scheme, she said she did not consider around 60 homes “should be considered out of scale or excessive.” On school places, she said she noted the comments from Devon County Council education department that the local schools had enough capacity to cope with the expected extra pupils.

The inspector said the benefits of the development included affordable housing in an area of housing need and an increase in demand for goods and services in the village. The benefits were not outweighed by significant harm, even though the scheme was outside the development plan. Given a shortfall of identified housing sites in the district, there was a titled balance in favour of development, so she allowed the appeal.

The next stage will be a “reserved matters” planning application to Teignbridge Council, including detailed designs of the homes and covering the layout and landscaping of the development.