Developments in AONBs must have environmental impact assessments taken into account and documented

… Lord Carnwath said special duties arose under the EIA Regulations where an application (as in this case) involved a development which was “likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue of factors such as its nature, size or location” (an “EIA development”).

Regulation 3(4) provides that decision-makers shall not grant planning permission, where the application involves an EIA development, without first taking the environmental information into consideration, and that they must state in their decision that they have done so.

The judge also noted that article 6.9 of the Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), to which the United Kingdom is a party, also required each party to make accessible to the public the text of certain decisions involving an EIA, along with reasons and the considerations on which it is based.

Lord Carnwath said that “where there is a legal requirement to give reasons, what is needed is an adequate explanation of the ultimate decision”.
He added: “The content of that duty should not in principle turn on differences in the procedures by which the decision is arrived at. Local planning authorities are under an unqualified statutory duty to give reasons for refusing permission. There is no reason in principle why the duty to give reasons for grant of permission should become any more onerous.”
The essence of the duty, and the central issue for the court, was whether the information so provided by the authority leaves room for genuine doubt as to what it has decided and why.

The Supreme Court rejected Dover’s argument that a breach of the EIA duty alone should be remedied by a mere declaration of the breach.

Dover had sought to rely on R (Richardson) v North Yorkshire County Council [2004] 1 WLR 1920 in which the Court of Appeal remedied a failure to provide a statement of reasons without quashing the decision, by ordering only that the statement be provided.

However, Lord Carnwath said in that case it was possible to take the planning committee as adopting the reasoning in the officer’s report which had recommended granting permission.

The Supreme Court judge said that in view of the specific duty to give reasons under the EIA regulations, it was strictly unnecessary to decide what common law duty there may be on a local planning authority to give reasons for grant of a planning permission. “However, since it has been a matter of some controversy in planning circles, and since we have heard full argument, it is right that we should consider it.”

Lord Carnwath said the particular circumstances of the Dover case would, if necessary, have justified the imposition of a common law duty to provide reasons for the grant of permission.”

“Beauty spots spoilt by rise in new homes”

“Scenic areas are being blighted by new housing, with the number of homes approved in protected landscapes doubling in five years, a study has found.

The Cotswolds and High Weald areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) are facing the greatest threat. Developers target the areas because new homes within them sell at a 30 per cent premium to homes outside.

The number of homes given planning permission in England’s 34 AONBs has risen by 82 per cent in five years, from 2,396 in 2012-13 to 4,369 in 2016-17, says research commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Applications for 12,741 homes in AONBs are pending.

The CPRE said the threat was not just from new homes on greenfield sites but the conversion of existing farm buildings into what it described as “mega-houses” for the very wealthy, who install high fences, CCTV, warning signs and automatic gates. The report said: “These urbanising elements can reduce public enjoyment and make the countryside much less welcoming.”

The CPRE said developers were “exploiting poorly defined and conflicting national planning policy” in order to build in AONBs.

The government’s planning guidelines state that “great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty” in AONBs. This year’s Conservative manifesto vowed to build more homes but also to maintain the AONBs’ “existing strong protections”.

But guidelines state that major development can be permitted in the areas in “exceptional circumstances” and where it would be in the public interest. These terms are not clearly defined, creating loopholes for developers to exploit.

The CPRE said local councils were under pressure to find land for housing “irrespective of any constraints imposed by protected landscape policies”.

The report said there had been “a shift in the emphasis of planning practice from landscape protection to addressing the housing shortage”.

The CPRE urged the government to amend planning policy to include an explicit presumption against proposals for large housing developments in AONBs. It called for targets to be set in the long-promised 25-year environment plan to ensure that development did not damage landscape quality.

The Department for Communities and Local Government declined to respond directly to the CPRE’s recommendations.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Claire Wright: “Director of Ladram Bay Holiday Park attempts intimidation at public meeting”

Carter family (Ladram Bay, Greendale Business Park and other businesses) prefer absent Hugo Swire MP to present DCC councillor Claire Wright. Surprise, surprise!

“A director of Ladram Bay Holiday Park ordered me to be silent and leave a public meeting last night, which was called to discuss traffic concerns associated with his business.

The meeting, which was held in the restaurant of Ladram Bay, was arranged at the behest of myself and Otterton Parish Council, following widespread concern over the level of traffic and size of vehicles travelling to and from the caravan park.

It was attended by around 70 Otterton residents, who were largely exasperated and angry about the problems caused by the continually expanding caravan park.

At the end of the meeting I outlined three key concerns that I had heard in the meeting, in order to seek assurances from the management team. They were on:

• frequent use of retrospective planning applications
• continual expansion (a huge increase in the number of lodges and caravans)
• level of traffic and size of vehicles travelling to and from the park and funding potential mitigating road improvements

But before I could get more than a sentence out, Robin Carter approached me and asked me to stop talking. He added that I wasn’t welcome and that I should leave.

His co-director, Zoe House, added that the members of the public were there at their invitation (I had just mentioned my letter that was delivered to every house in the village).

The room sort of erupted at this point and there were shouts of:

“Let her speak!” “She’s our representative!” “Leave her alone!”

Robin Carter, whose family also own the controversial Greendale Business Park at Woodbury Salterton, told residents that I wasn’t their representative. Hugo Swire was. He added that I was not going to “canvass for votes” on their property.

I replied that I was Otterton’s Devon County Councillor and was entitled to speak at a public meeting.

I said I would like to finish my points. But after almost every sentence, Mr Carter interjected with similar remarks – and to more shouting from outraged residents.

One of my points was that if highways officers identified any road improvements whether Ladram Bay might consider contributing funding. Seeing as Robin Carter was standing right in front of me, I directed this question at him.

He then moved so close it felt as though he was actually squaring up to me. Someone called out: “That’s intimidation!” I asked him to move back, which he did but only slightly. He glared angrily and carried on addressing me in a low menacing voice.

Mr Carter said that if I had these points to make I should raise them in a private meeting, not in public and that I should hurry up and finish what I was saying.

I replied that I had already attended a private meeting with his co-director, Zoe House and the parish council in August. That many of these points were already made and surely now was the time, with residents present, to provide these assurances.

Cue further glaring and, no answers.

Many residents came up to me afterwards to thank me for standing up for them, and to Mr Carter.
The meeting started with a PR video set to music, which struck me as entirely the wrong note. It was the sort of video that would have been more appropriate for investors. Then the Ladram representatives read out a list of accolades awarded to the company.

Management team Steven Harper-Smith and Will Tottle who ran the presentation and fielded questions seemed out of their depth at times and as a new member of staff, Mr Harper-Smith was unaware of the continual retrospective planning applications.

People complained they couldn’t hear. It wasn’t helped by the loud thumping music coming from downstairs, which I asked to be turned down. It wasn’t.

Some of the management team’s points, such as the new £10 fee (increased from £5) for parking on site, which they claimed reduced congestion in the village and was “not a money making scheme” was met with understandable derision. How can this improve traffic and parking in the village?!

They said that their letters to visitors included a line about driving carefully through the village. That this was “a journey” and the start of a positive relationship with the parish council.

A traffic survey carried out in August by a group associated with the parish council found that around 35 per cent of traffic travelling through Otterton is generated by Ladram Bay. Another survey is imminent.

The incredible claim by the management team that traffic hadn’t increased much over the years and that all roads were busier, was met with loud and understandable frustration. The park has expanded massively over the years, with hundreds of pitches – and the traffic has increased with it!

I should add here that on my visits to Otterton I have observed a genuine and real problem with the level of traffic on the road and the absolutely enormous caravans and lodges that make their way through the village and residents tell me, knock walls down, erode banks and damage trees and hedges.

There was acknowledgement of this damage and a promise to repair it. How further damage is prevented is another issue, when the road is simply too narrow for the size of the loads.

Someone asked for a commitment for a maximum number of lodges so the village could have peace of mind on further development. This was supported by clapping.

The management team did not commit to this.

Someone else suggested that the lodges should be brought in by barge instead.

One resident said the number of cars increasing in the village was not related to Ladram Bay. It was due to people having more cars. It was clear that this view was not shared by the vast majority of residents.

Someone else described the traffic situation as “horrendous.”

Then the thorny subject of planning was raised. Ladram Bay is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in a coastal preservation zone. The landscape is highly protected under a number of strong policies. Yet planning consent keeps being given for expansion. And many of these planning applications are submitted after the building has taken place.

One resident spoke on this in a very informed way about this. He asked why the dog walking area was now a car park and said there was no point in objecting to the planning application as the trees had already been removed. The team were vague on this but the new general manager did say that in future what they did would comply with planning consent.

Parish council chairman, John Fudge told the meeting that the parish council had objected to the application but it was approved by East Devon District Council’s planning committee.

This started a bit of a debate in the room and how people are not notified about planning applications. And why there is one rule for them and another for Ladram Bay.

An attendee asked the Ladram Bay owners to liaise with the village and said that the park should “have the decency to talk to the village” over planning applications and it was no surprise that there was “distrust and a complete lack of confidence” in the business by residents.

A resident of Ladram Road said she had been hit twice by vehicles and there needed to be speed deterrents. The management team agreed.

A resident of Fore Street said that she takes her life in her hands every time she leaves her house and that traffic is travelling too fast.

Someone replied that community speedwatch found few cars travelling over 30mph but that was too fast anyway. That the village needed a 20mph zone.

(This is something I have been investigating and will continue to do so).

John Fudge, parish council chairman spoke at the end of the meeting to thank people for coming. He said the parish council would work with Ladram Bay to improve the situation. He said he believed there was a genuine desire on the part of the caravan park to improve things.

Directors, Robin Carter and Zoe House remained silent throughout the meeting. Until I spoke at the end.

What do I think of Robin Carter’s behaviour? I think it was aggressive and an (unsuccessful) attempt at intimidation. It was totally inappropriate and completely unnecessary. I am a key representative of Otterton people and I am entitled to attend and speak at a public meeting.

A thriving business on the edge of Otterton is a positive thing. Otterton Mill is also a successful local business. Yet I haven’t heard a single complaint about Otterton Mill. All the complaints I have heard have been about the attitude of the senior management team at Ladram Bay, their lack of consideration and the effect that their continual expansion plans have on the village.

I am hoping that this will be the start of a more positive and considerate relationship between residents and Ladram Bay. Local people deserve better.”

“Supreme Court to consider legal standard on adequacy of reasons in planning”

A rather technical article but basically the Supreme Court is to rule on how much information and how much detail y must be provided when an applicant wants to build in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Clinton Devon Estates to take over work of Jurassic Coast Trust

Oh dear sweet Lord – clifftop holiday homes and Disneyland here we come – and definitely no National Park!

An East Devon landowner is set to play a significant part in the future of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

Clinton Devon Estates, which owns and manages 25,000 acres of land across Devon, has pledged its support to the Jurassic Coast Trust which is taking over the management of the 95-mile stretch of world heritage coastline, from Devon and Dorset county councils this July.

The landowner is joining the Trust as one of four Lead Business Partners, currently the only partner in Devon alongside three based in Dorset, and will pledge £3,000 per year to the charity, helping to safeguard its future.

The Trust’s link with businesses and landowners is essential in ensuring it can carry out its work looking after the world class coastline, which stretches between Exmouth in Devon and Studland Bay in Dorset, on behalf of UNESCO for the “benefit of the whole of mankind”.

A large part of the Estate’s East Devon acreage is made up of the Pebblebed Heaths, which are named after the Budleigh Salterton pebblebeds and are a designated conservation area.

The Trust is poised to support the landowner’s existing educational outreach, which focuses on the ecology and management of the heaths by the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust.

Kate Ponting, countryside learning officer at Clinton Devon Estates, said: “We have had an informal, mutually supportive relationship for a long time as our paths have crossed over the years.

“The Estate owns land very close to, or on the Jurassic Coast, and the Trust is keen to extend its work in East Devon, so the partnership should afford more opportunities for collaborative working.

“We have a lot in common with the Trust whose work is based on geology; the geological story of the Pebblebed Heaths is part of our shared heritage which we’re passionate about.

“We hope to celebrate this heritage further, through extended community engagement and we’re hoping the Trust’s expertise will enhance what we already do.”

The Trust also plans to provide downloadable audio guides about East Devon’s geology for the Clinton Devon Estates’ website.

Guy Kerr, Programme Manager for the Jurassic Coast Trust, said: “We are delighted to have Clinton Devon Estates on board as one of our Lead Business Partners. The East Devon pebblebeds are a crucial part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and we look forward to working closely with Clinton Devon Estates to preserve this landscape and enthuse people with its incredible stories.”

Councils ‘ignore powers to limit building on green belt’

Communities face a postcode lottery over how much of their countryside is blighted by new homes because some councils fail to use powers to protect it, research has found.

Some local authorities choose to protect their green belts but others accept much higher housing targets and allow developers to build on environmentally valuable land.

The different approaches mean some areas are being earmarked to have thousands more homes than necessary, according to research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Councils are planning more than 360,000 homes on England’s 14 green belts, which are rings of protected land designed to prevent urban sprawl.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced in 2012, requires all councils to determine their “objectively assessed need” (OAN) for housing, which is the number of new homes required to meet market demand and social need.

Councils do not have to accept the targets produced by the assessment if they have large amounts of green belt or other protected land, such as national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and nature sites.
Brighton and Hove council has set a target of 13,200 homes by 2030, less than half the 30,120 determined by its OAN. In its local plan it said it cut the number “to respect the historic, built and natural environment of the city”.

Watford, Hastings and Crawley have also set housing targets of only half their assessed need.

By contrast, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which includes the prime minister’s constituency, is planning to meet its full OAN of 14,200 homes by 2033 despite 83 per cent of the borough being green belt.
Simon Dudley, the leader of Windsor and Maidenhead council, is strongly supporting housebuilding in the borough, including 6,000 homes in the green belt. He has been accused of sacking a fellow Conservative councillor who questioned the plans.

Mr Dudley has previously said that his plans would only reduce his borough’s green-belt land by 1.7 per cent.

Christchurch and East Dorset is also planning to meet its full OAN of 8,490 houses over 15 years, despite 84 per cent of the area being green belt, an area of natural beauty or other protected land.

Paul Miner, the CPRE’s planning campaign manager, said that there was a postcode lottery on housing targets.

He said: “Councils have got scope to reduce their housing numbers but some are not doing so. Reasons include pressure from developers and also the political leadership of the council seeing an opportunity to make quick money from the new homes bonus.”

The government has promised to pay councils a new homes bonus, typically worth £9,000, for each home they build.

The planning framework states that there needs to be “exceptional circumstances” to amend green-belt boundaries. Elmbridge borough council, in Surrey, wrote to Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, asking him to define exceptional circumstances.

In his reply, seen by The Times, dated March 20, Mr Javid said that green-belt losses would have to be offset by improvements to remaining green-belt land, but added: “We would be disinclined to go even further into listing what might be considered an exceptional circumstance.”

Source: The Times (paywall)

Election irony

Does anyone else find it ironic that Tory candidates are saying that they will “fight for” local hospitals, fairer funding for schools and our precious environment when it is THEIR party that brought the CCG’s that are already cutting beds by stealth, the unfair school funding and which wants to loosen environmental regulations as soon as possible to enable more building on green fields and who are trying to stop frightening air pollution figures being published?

The Tory battle cry seems to be:

“What do we want?”
“No bed cuts, fairer funding for schools and a healthy environment!”
“When do we want it?”
“Er, whenever Mrs May says we can have it, pretty please?”
“When will it be?
“Brexit means Brexit!”

Have fun with that one – and if you vote for the Tories in Devon just hope you, your children and grandchildren can afford a private education and health care and never need to go to an NHS A and E or GP – or breathe the air in our towns, cities and countryside – tall order!

We need a credible opposition at DCC to fight for us. Claire Wright has done a magnificent job fighting for our schools, our hospitals and our environment at DCC – but could do even more with an army of like-minded councillors alongside her whose battle cry would be:

“What do we want?”
“Our fair share in a clean, green Devon”
“When do we want it?”
“When our voters empower us to get it”
“When will it be”?
“When you vote Independent on 4 May!”