Clinton Devon Estates, East Budleigh: bats not welcome here?

A correspondent informs Owl:

“I have been interested to see your website and in particular reference to the barn in East Budleigh where bats are present.

I drove past the barn recently and found that the barn door, which was previously ill fitting, which would have allowed easy entry and exit for the bats from the barn, has now been sealed with large sheets of plywood. [picture above]

This may have been to replace an unsafe door….but my fear is that it may have been done to prevent the flight of bats from and to their roost.

If the obstruction of the flight of bats is successful the bats will die and there will be no bats to protect.. Thereby allowing CDE to demolish the barn….

This is similar to the practice of netting trees and hedges, to prevent birds nesting, which then allows developers to cut down trees and hedges they would otherwise be unable to do if nests were present.”

“Property developers who deliberately demolished a house containing protected bats have been fined £18,000”

Owl says: Good news for East Budleigh, fighting to keep a barn which harbours rare bats which Clinton Devon Estates want to pull down. But then again, a fine of a few thousand pounds will just mean them recouping the cost in even higher property prices! BUT take nore of the last sentence!

“Jenna Kara, 29, and Tina Kara, 34, directors of Landrose Developments Ltd, started tearing down the bungalow in Stanmore, north-west London, in 2016.
The company pleaded guilty at Willesden Magistrates’ Court to damaging or destroying the breeding site.

District Judge Denis Brennan said the punishment for ignoring environmental law would “always outweigh” gain.

The court heard the developers had pressed ahead with the demolition despite an expert reporting the site was home to soprano pipistrelle bats – a protected species in the UK and Europe.

Surveys at the site also indicated the presence of common pipistrelle bats, which are another protected species.

Passing sentence, District Judge Brennan said: “In my judgment, the act of demolition was clearly deliberate and flew in the face of advice and knowledge of the existence of the bat roost.

“The most obvious effect is local but it also has national implications because these bats are an endangered species by the very fact of being protected.” …

The offence is contrary to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and means the company will be barred from bidding to do certain projects.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-47811545

Clinton Devon Estates: Director with too many fingers in too many public body pies?

Owl has been pondering the potential for conflicts of interest between some of Clinton Devon Estates’ (CDEs’) more environmentally sensitive development plans and the activities of its Estates Director, John Varley.

On the CDE website, at the time of going to press, Estates’ Director, John Varley is described as follows:

“John’s current non-executive positions include Board Member of the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England (NE).”

Clearly he is a very influential man.

Owl remembers him being appointed to the Environment Agency Board in 2012 (£21,002 per annum). [This coincided with CDE’s their first planning to extend their cow sheds in the Otter flood plain at the bottom of Colaton Raleigh – something we will return to]. Owl finds John is still on EA’s Board.

But he seems to be a bit confused about his role with Natural England. Owl doesn’t see his name listed as a current Natural England Board member. So Owl has had to call in the Ferrets.

They report that John Varley, whilst on the Environment Agency Board, was also welcomed onto board of Natural England on 29 April 2015 (remuneration £10K-£15K). They also have discovered that he was reported as being “sad to depart before the end of his term” at the meeting of 22 March 2017.

They also note that he has popped up again as chair of the review which will consider all aspects of Network Rail’s approach to vegetation management 12 July 2018.

There is no suggestion whatsoever that John Varley has ever failed to declare an interest. Indeed, the Ferrets find that, quite properly, he had to leave the room during discussion of the agenda item on the reintroduction of beavers on the River Otter at the Natural England Board in September 2015.

What worries Owl is the conflicts, real or imagined, this might pose to the local staff of the Environment Agency and Natural England as they comment on CDE planning applications “without fear or favour”. Owl is also concerned about how it looks in the daylight.

In the old fashioned world Owl was brought up in any potential conflict would have been avoided. Those in a position to wield influence would do the “honourable” thing of either resigning or at least ensuring any applications they could be associated with were made in exemplary fashion.

Owl is not convinced that CDE’s recent planning applications could be described in this way. For example, consider the controversial 2012 applications to extend the cow sheds at Otter Farm, Church Road, Colaton Raleigh (application 12/0400 superseded by 12/2660).

One aspect of the controversy concerns whether or not either of these applications should have had a flood risk assessment. The fact is that Otter Farm is in flood zone 3, but it was claimed that the adjacent cow shed site, literally only yards away, would only lie in Zone 1 (1 in a 1,000 years risk). This was confirmed by EA on 6 February 2013:

“We have had a look at this one and feel, due to the nature of the development that a Flood risk Assessment would not be necessary. Of course we would still expect the applicant to demonstrate a commitment to SUDs in the design of their surface management for the site.”
[SUD – Sustainable drainage system]

However, this was queried by many on the basis of local knowledge including the Parish council, which, in February 2013, asked “for a better assessment in view of recent flooding incidents in the area”. The details were spelled out rather more graphically by one resident who expressed concern that “recently slurry was allowed to escape into the river (Otter) and into Railway Cottages”.

EA wrote again later in February: “Regarding the above, we have been advised that the site is over 1ha, if the new access road is included. If this is the case we are happy to review the application if accompanied by a Flood Risk Assessment”.

Eventually a detailed Environmental Management and Waste Management plan was submitted in April along with a Sustainable Drainage System Design of 66 pages. In May the Environment Agency recorded its thanks to: “you and your colleagues for meeting on site with [ ] to consider measures that could reduce flooding risks for the nearby Railway Cottage.”

Owl now flies forward to a more recent, even more controversial, case that of CDE’s application 17/3022 to extend the Blackhill Engineering works on Woodbury Common, submitted in December 2017.

It is clear from NE’s first comments that the Visual and Environmental Impact Assessments accompanying the application were still not up to scratch. NE’s comments 6 February 2018 read: “As it stands, we have significant concerns regarding the potential impacts of these proposals. We will provide more detailed advice once we have reviewed the additional information.”

Clinton Devon Estates and Taylor Wimpey forced to halt construction at Plumb Park Exmouth due to foundation problem

“Construction work has been halted in one area of a new homes development site after foundation issues were discovered.

Work began on the Clinton Devon Estates and Taylor Wimpey’s Plumb Park development in Exmouth back in November 2017 with planning permission granted for 264 new homes. Work is expected to finish by the end of 2022.

However, it has emerged one plot – which is currently unoccupied – has foundation issues, but it has not been confirmed what they are.

Taylor Wimpey have stated the plot will not be sold until investigations are complete, or until any subsequent remedial work is carried out to the foundation.

The developer is currently is working closely with consultant engineers to carry out ongoing ground investigation works in the vicinity of affected plot.

It means construction work has been postponed in the area while those investigations take place.

Taylor Wimpey confirmed there are no issues in any occupied homes.

A Taylor Wimpey spokesperson said: “We are investigating a foundation issue that relates to one unoccupied plot at our Plumb Park development.

“This issue was identified as part of our ‘pre-construction testing of ground conditions’ on subsequent plots, and as part of our stringent quality checks. We can confirm that no occupied houses nor any public areas are affected.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/work-stopped-taylor-wimpey-homes-2573195

Clinton Devon Estates strikes again

News from the East Budleigh Parish Conservation and Wildlife Protection Group:

Leaving for the development management committee on Tuesday the 12th Feb, where the fate of our rare bats was to be decided, members of our group (East Budleigh Parish Conservation and Wildlife Protection Group) were appalled and deeply saddened to see little left of ‘Frank’s patch’ in High Street, East Budleigh.

East Budleigh born and bred Frank Farr had run this patch of land on the High Street as plant nursery and smallholding for growing fruit and veg for 49 years until his death in 2011 in his late nineties.


Frank Farr with his ferrets Jim Lad & Ada at his veg stall (photo Simon Horn, Archant)

The site, as was, Frank himself, a much loved part of the village. Although Frank was a bit of a rogue, with a twinkle in his eye, you always knew you would never get ripped off as he sold his produce at the roadside. The weight of your purchase was always over not under, it was always quality, and you always got a wink, smile and wave as he saw you off.

Sadly after Frank passed away, it soon became overgrown. Cordoned off from sight, it was left to its own devices.

Recently, apparently, there has been one or two complaints about its appearance,

CDE’s answer, flatten it.

This ‘patch’, contained many rare trees and plants, including a rare walnut and a black oak to name but two.

There was no warning of this action, no survey carried out to see what wildlife was present, just an order to ‘clear it’.

Residents are very upset, one stating she can’t live here anymore because she can’t bear to see what CDE is doing to the village, even threatening to tie herself to the one remaining rare tree on Thursday morning before the workers resume the destruction.

This space has been earmarked for future building of a couple of hoses, but is outside the Parish built-up area boundary, so cannot be built on. So why was it flattened, why not sympathetically pruned and turned in to a memorial community garden in memory of a loveable rogue?

Why done on the day the group wouldn’t be present or have time to stop it?
Why within days of the group stopping the activity at the barn, only yards away? Coincidence?

You have to wonder if Lord Clinton himself, realises that his family name is getting a bad reputation.

For character sketch of this colourful old Devonian see:
https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/exmouth-life/tributes-2-20434/frank-farr-part-of-east-budleigh-s-heart-and-history-1-1006219

Newton Poppleford GP surgery: lost, never to be regained

This means that, should the NHS ever regain the funding and doctors it needs, and should the local surgery then be in a position to open a secondary surgery in Newton Poppleford, it can never happen.

Anyone buying a new Clinton Devon Estates house at Newton Poppleford (particularly if they have children, or a chronic health condition or are elderly) might want to think twice if this is a suitable location for them.

And EVERYONE should beware “promises” from developers.

A Devon development site once earmarked for a “much needed” GP surgery is being turned into housing instead – much to the disappointment of residents.

People living in Newton Poppleford have to travel miles for medical care.

It comes as a report from the government watchdog, the National Audit Office, has criticised how community infrastructure projects for healthcare, education, and transport are often abandoned once planning permission’s been granted.

In a statement, the developers Clinton Devon Estates said the withdrawal of the surgery plans was understandably very disappointing, but the decision was made by a local medical practice due to circumstances beyond their control with unexpected changes to NHS policy.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-47170553

Bats (and Batmen and Batwomen) in East Budleigh – today’s development

Owl hears that, somewhat surprisingly, EDDC’s Development Management Committee voted to defer the bat habitat decision.

It also appears that yesterday’s activity in and around the barn, reported by Owl here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/02/11/bats-in-east-budleigh-barn-cleared-24-hours-before-eddc-planning-committee-meets-to-decide-their-fate/

has been reported to the Police who have allocated a crime number to it.

Here is how it has bedn reported in the local newspaper:

“Campaigners fighting the proposed demolition of a known bat habitat in East Budleigh have been given ‘breathing space’.


Image: Archant, Daniel Wilkins

More than 20 members of a conservation group gathered outside Exmouth Town Hall this morning (Tuesday, February 12) ahead of a crucial meeting to decide the fate of an East Budleigh barn known to be home to rare and protected bats.

East Devon District Council’s development management committee decided to defer their decision pending additional information from Natural England about wildlife mitigation on the site.

Landowner Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) is looking to knock down the barn and build a new dwelling on the site and has offered to build a separate ‘bat barn’ on the plot as mitigation.

Speaking after the meeting, Karen Alexander-Clarke, secretary of the East Budleigh Parish Conservation Group told The Journal this decision gives them ‘breathing space’ in their fight to protect the bats’ home.

The Pound, in East Budleigh, which is subject to a planning application to demolish a barn which is thought to be home to species of rare bats.

She also said they would be writing to Natural England to lobby them and ‘emphasise that there are councillors that feel as strongly as we do’.

Speaking at the meeting, councillor Brian Bailey also raised concerns over whether the bats would take to their new home.
He said: “The bats, I feel, have been served poorly because there is no guarantee what so ever that the bats will survive the demolition or would accept their new home.”

Cllr Geoff Jung said: “This is one house and one family that is going to benefit and how many bats and other wildlife are going to benefit?”

An independent ecology report commissioned by the council recommended that the mitigation being offered by CDE be accepted.

Cllr Mark Williamson said he did not feel confident that, if they refused the application and CDE appealed, the Planning Inspectorate would back their original decision.

He said: “As we do frequently, we would look to our statutory consultees to guide us.

“Natural England is giving quite detailed guidance and they recommend the planning authority follow advice from the ecologist.”

Councillors voted in favour of deferring the application pending information from Natural England on the suitability of the proposed ‘bat barn’.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/east-budleigh-bat-barn-demolition-plan-deferred-1-5889261