Councillors fear precedent set after homes plan approved on protected coastline

Fears of a precedent that will encourage more homes along the coastline have been voiced after plans for a dwelling were approved. At its May planning committee, Torridge District Council approved an application from Mrs Susan McEldon for the erection of a detached dwelling and garage at her property, Koversada, off Diddywell Road in Appledore.

Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com

The applicant’s son, James McEldon, spoke at the meeting: “My wife and I are a local couple with a vision to build our forever home. Both myself and my wife were born and bred in the local area. My wife is from the lovely village of Hartland, and I was raised in the picturesque village of Appledore. We’re both very much in full support of the local community.

“I have worked as a branch manager for a builder’s merchant for the past five years, and my wife is a police community support officer serving local communities for the past 14 years.

“This build would be our forever home to raise a family and be in the catchment area of local education and facilities that we like to support, such as shops, pubs, and restaurants, all within walking distance of the property.

“This would be a sustainable build that is aesthetically pleasing to the local area with thought put in through my building knowledge put towards the build energy efficiency where possible, such as solar panels and electric car charging points.

“The plot is easily an adequate size to accommodate both the existing property of Koversada and this new build.”

He said the new home would allow them to assist in caring for their elderly parents as they grow older and avoid having to send them to a care home.

“We are struggling to find a property nearby,” he said. “We looked at the new builds recently at Pitt Lane in Appledore and were informed by the site agent that all of the first phase has already been snapped up within just one week. So many houses in this area are sadly bought for holiday accommodation.”

Agent Shorne Tilbey added: “This application, if approved, could be controlled by suitable conditions, so, therefore, the new dwelling would not be considered an open market dwelling, therefore removing problems such.”

However, some councillors were against the scheme. Councillor Peter Hames (Appledore, Green Party) said: “It’s very important to stress that you have an application here for a dwelling in an area of undeveloped coast which is protected from development under strategic policies.

“The position is that development which detracts from the unspoiled character, appearance and tranquillity in the area should not be permitted. I should emphasise that reference to the area includes the proposed development site and the countryside surrounding it.”

Cllr Hames said the proposal would introduce a new dwelling in the area with no justifiable function or requirement.

“A perusal of the site and the plan for the application confirms the findings of your officer and policies would not be satisfied by the proposed development,” he said.

“The proposed house would be built next to a Victorian building, in a different and contemporary style and with different materials. Therefore, it would strongly detract visually from the present scene. It would occupy much of the garden space and would encroach on the amenity of Koversada, and the occupants would generate more vehicular traffic on a narrow lane which enters a blind junction just yards from the site.

“The new dwelling, built in a different style to the present one, would also adversely impact on the wider, undeveloped coast as well as the AONB and SSI, an impact exacerbated by the dwelling in close proximity to the present house.”

He continued: “I gather that the house is necessary so son and wife can look after her and her husband in their old age. I certainly sympathise; however, the planning officer has shown their provisions do not apply to this application.

“Approval of this would set a precedent encouraging more applicants of similar or other special family circumstances to apply for houses in the undeveloped coastal and open countryside. In addition, of course, the suggested purpose and justification for the dwelling can only be a temporary situation as, unfortunately, it is inevitable that occupants of Koversada will not always be there.”

Councillor Peter Christie (Bideford North, Green Party) agreed: “This is an open market house, and no local need being specified. If they want to put a house in for local needs, I have no problem, but as it stands at the moment, this doesn’t agree with any of our policies. Once the current owners pass on, you have two houses, and for locals, you’ll end up with two houses you have to buy at once. It would be unaffordable to anyone locally.”

However, the majority of councillors backed the scheme.

Councillor Len Ford (Appledore, Non-Aligned), who called in the application for debate, following a recommendation from the office to refuse, stated: “I believe there is a balance to be struck reference social gain and to provide a family support network. Surely me/or the committee could impose conditions or ties (new house and existing must go together should future use or sale happen).

Councillor Dermot McGeough (Bideford North, Conservative) agreed: “I propose we accept this application. The benefit for the family is paramount to local people. We have locals not being able to come to the village and being moved out of the area, but I believe it is a sustainable development which doesn’t impact the amenity of neighbours. I don’t know the family, but I believe that we should not refuse this.”

Councillor Chris Leather (Northam, Independent) added: “This is one of the difficult ones, where you want to help house local families, but do we think that the tilted balance is in favour of this development because there’s no huge detrimental impact on the area because this is already within the curtilage of a dwelling.

“I don’t think another modern dwelling close by will have any detraction.

“To me, if this was a field where a small plot of land off the lane, I would have a different view about it but because it is within the curtilage of an existing dwelling and unless there are any benefits in not doing this.”

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