Last-ditch attempt in Clyst St Mary’s Winslade Park battle

From a Correspondent:

THE LAST-DITCH ATTEMPT FOR CLYST ST MARY’S WINSLADE PARK BATTLE!

Calling all East Devon oracles and wise feathered friends for much-needed advice in answering, seemingly, irresolvable questions!

Residents have had to overcome continual, stumbling blocks, submissions of erroneous information, widespread lack of empathy and immeasurable anxiety, leaving innumerable questions still unanswered – but, now, (quite rightly) the Planning Committee on 25th October 2022, recommended a site meeting to allow attendees to make a final decision on these controversial 40 four-storey towering blocks in this East Devon village (Planning Application 21/2217/MRES). However, planning protocol only allows for the elected planning attendees at the site meeting having a decision-making vote on this application – so those unable to attend the site meeting are unable to vote on the ultimate resolution!

After umpteen local objections (including from the Parish Council and District Councillor),with a recommendation of refusal from a revered planning barrister, with submissions of verifiable, explanatory documentation to create balance and defend against the Developer’s slanted opinions – is it not disrespectful that the site meeting is being planned whilst the elected Clyst Valley Ward representative is absent on a brief holiday – since he is the sole Councillor who knows the problems, solutions and Clyst St Mary village inside out? However, crucially he has objected to the flats being too tall and too near to the protected woodland, which goes against the planning officer’s recommendation of approval?

Is it reasonable to expect (even with staff shortages!) that correct, balanced information is given to a decision-making Committee? The Officer’s Report published the wrong Location Plan (instead erroneously displaying the approved Zone A site for 38 homes on a green field, that was recently granted permission for viability purposes to finance the entire Winslade Park masterplan); there were out-dated photographs, apartment heights measured without proposed increased ground levels, omissions in distances from the flats, elevated road and parking spaces to the nearest receptors’ boundaries, (preferring to exclusively provide discriminatory Developers’ data, which had been selected to compliment an approval recommendation to Committee)?

Councillors’ legitimate concerns were ‘batted away’ by the Lead Planner at the meeting, who seemed to ‘not be aware’ of proven, detrimental issues that might risk and affect the officer’s approval recommendation– we are all aware that EDDC needs to ‘bolster’ the lapsed 5-year housing quotas – but are decisions being guided at any cost to existing residents?

Do members of the public have to tolerate being in a forum of political battles, sarcasm and inappropriate comments between elected Planning Committee Members from opposing political spectrums, during their discussions on such major contentious applications, when important decisions are so critical to so many East Devon residents’ lives?

Is the planning authority concerned about staff shortages and the costs of an Appeal if they refuse this application? An Inspector’s decision may not be as ‘cut and dried’ as the Committee may be led to believe?

Should a complaint be registered for allowing a highly irregular planning committee procedure, that permitted supplementary, but unverified, new images from the Developers to be viewed by Committee, (after the Developer had already exhausted his allocated time, which gave him advantage for strengthening bias by assessing the mood of the meeting, when public objectors were only allowed an initial 3-minutes maximum restrictive ‘influential window’?

Such breaking with planning protocol, resulted in the Lead Planning Officer being subjected to the onerous task of warning Councillors that such images should not be given any credence or decision-making weight?

Will such justifiable complaints result in worsening an already bad situation for residents by ‘fuelling the fire’ of undisciplined party differences, resulting in displeasing some impartial elected attendees who might agree with the residents call for a refusal?

EDDC appears to be a local authority that does not allow members of the public to contribute at a Planning Committee site visit (even if their gardens are required for access for such visits)? On the other hand, will the Developers be present, giving them (yet another) opportunity to further promote their development alongside the planning officer’s recommendation – but without being challenged – so virtually this would be an inequitable tribunal – a one-sided argument?

Without any severe frosts, our treasured, deciduous woodland has retained its foliage! Consequently, to date, Committee attendees will be unable to view the sparse winter screening evident for 6 months of the year – but, fortunately, they have received residents’ winter photos that were lacking in the Officer Report images?

We take little comfort from an elected member’s patronising suggestions at 25th October planning meeting, that existing residents can all plant fruit trees in our gardens to screen the Developers’ 40 x four-storey development from our homes! So far, we have failed to yield any positive results when searching for tree suppliers who can provide approximately 15-metre fruit tree specimens that are capable of screening these towering flats within the limits of most of our lifetimes – and we may also require the use of an extendable cherry-picker for harvesting any fruit from such insurmountable heights!

If site attendees recommend an approval, many Clyst Valley Road homes will require the complete re-arrangement of their entire gardens, their al fresco dining, their outdoor leisure activities and, quite honestly, their entire lives – because we spend as much time outside in the gardens as indoors and (like others) our outdoor spaces are intrinsically important to us.

All we ask for is a fair, impartial planning system that is balanced and works for everyone – developers and residents alike – but we don’t see this happening with this application- and so we must continue to make our voices heard – whether we will succeed in improving this inappropriate design or fail in our final last-ditch attempt – remains to be seen!

3 thoughts on “Last-ditch attempt in Clyst St Mary’s Winslade Park battle

  1. If half of what your Correspondant has posted here is true (and judging by past decisions, why should it not be? ), the EDDC planning department really should be put into Special Measures and those officers responsible held to account. I am also really quite tired of the EDDC Planning Committee being used as a plyaground for local coucillors to play party politics. It is a complete disgrace. Apparently the EDDC Leader is on record as saying “Clyst St Mary is like a planning War Zone(!)”

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    • Surely, the only way for East Devon planners to have any credibility on this application and to reach a satisfactory resolution to this dire state of affairs, which seems to display so many irregularities, is for an independent body outside of this local authority (e.g., ombudsman/planning inspectorate?) to adjudicate.

      Is there no mechanism for EDDC to hand this application over for arbitration and judgment because this Council cannot be allowed to make a decision in these circumstances?

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    • The antiquated planning process is just not fit for purpose in current times. The will of government is implemented by the NPPF, the National Planning Policy Framework. Over the years successive governments have kept moving the NPPF goalposts mainly to benefit their friends, the owners / shareholders of large developers.

      Come to your own conclusions as to why EDDC approves every application, as in this case. To be charitable, you could say they are trying to save EDDC the risks / costs of fighting rich developers over planning appeals (with so much money involved, it is also not difficult to come up with an even simpler, less charitable, explanation).

      What is apparent is that EDDC Planning does not work, either for the residents of Clyst St Mary, or in the interests of the ratepayers of East Devon.. It is under-resourced; many trained staff (including quite senior staff such as group leaders, planning solicitor and monitoring officer) have recently left the council’s employ.

      To answer “Wise Old Bird”. Unfortunately, the local government ombudsman arbitration is not truly independent as its income is provided by annual subscriptions paid by those very local councils on which it is asked to deliberate(!) You will probably also need to be either as rich as a developer, or need to crowdfund in order to pay the costs of preparing a legal planning case against the council .
      Probably the initial answer is for public spirited and knowledgeable members of the general public to make specific written complaints regarding the large number of planning process abuses made by EDDC officers in this case.

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