VERY IMPORTANT update on Sidmouth Business Park appeal

NOTE: a planning inquiry is much more formal than a hearing and usually involves lawywers, examination of evidence and cross-examination:

Public Inquiries & Hearings

We have now been advised by the District Council that the Planning Inspector has determined that instead of holding a Hearing into the planning appeal as we previously had been told, the Inspector has now decided to hold an Inquiry which could last up to three days. The first of these days is due to start on 16 July. We are assuming that the Inspector will therefore have penciled in the Inquiry to be held on

16, 17 and 18 July

The Inquiry will be held in public and will be held locally. If you have any interest in attending then put these dates in your diary now!

In our last Update we asked you to consider submitting additional evidence to the Planning Inspector and we know that a number have done so, and thank you to those who have.

The District Council’s latest communication advises that the Inspector has put back the date by which additional submissions can be made. The new deadline by which any additional comments have to be received by the Inspector is now

17 May 2019

We again would encourage as many of you as possible who wish to, to submit comments even at this late stage. As the District Council refused planning permission solely on grounds related to highways matters you should only submit highways related comments. In doing so you might want to address matters that include –

Evidence or statements regarding the effect of noise, vibration, damage and pollution on your properties (and vehicles) due to HGV or other traffic

Effect on the health of residents attributable to air quality

Effect of pollution on children walking to school and in the playground of the primary school

Road safety issues – lack of pavements or narrow pavements, plus no lollipop lady, crossing nor traffic lights to help you cross safely with your children

Traffic delays due to congestion at the various pinch points on the A375 in both Sidford and Sidbury

Evidence of vehicles mounting and/or diving on pavements

Where possible your comments should be supported by photographic evidence.

We believe that it is important for as many photographs and/or videos are submitted to the Planning Inspector showing images of traffic congestion/difficulties along the A375 at any point between Sidford and Cotford in Sidbury.

Attached, once again, is a brief guide as to how to present any submission that you make.

Best wishes

Campaign Team

GUIDE TO PRESENTATION OF SUBMISSIONS:

Guidance on submitting additional evidence to the Planning Inspector

All comments and evidence must –

• be received by the Planning Inspector by no later than 22 April 2019. Anything received after this date will not be considered by the Inspector.

• quote the planning appeal reference for in order for it to be considered by the Inspector. The reference is – APP/U1105/W/19/3221978.

• quote the address of the appeal site i.e. the Business Park. The address to be quoted is – Land East of Two Bridges, Two Bridges Road, Sidford.

• your name and address

• state “I am against the appeal proposals” and explain whether it is for the same reasons as given by the District Council or, if not, explain your own reasons

The reasons given by the District Council in refusing the planning application were –

“1. The proposed development, by virtue of the proposed B8 uses, would result in an increase of HGV traffic on the surrounding road network, both in the vicinity of the site and through Sidbury which both suffer from inadequate road widths and a lack of footways. As such increased HGV movements within this area will result in conflicts between vehicles, and between vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, to the detriment of highway safety. The proposed development is therefore considered contrary to paragraph 32 of the National Planning Policy Framework and Strategies 26 (Development at Sidmouth), and Policies TC7 (Adequacy of Road Network and Site Access) of the adopted East Devon Local Plan 2013 – 2031.”

The Planning Inspector asks that any additional submissions are –

• in a font such as Arial or Verdana in a size of 11 point or larger

• use A4 paper wherever possible

• number the pages of the documents

• make sure photocopied and scanned documents are clear and legible

• use black and white for documents unless colour is essential

• put any photographs (both originals and photocopies should be in colour),
maps, plans, etc, in a separate appendix and cross reference them within the main body of the document

• print documents on both sides of a page. You should use paper of good enough quality that something printed on one side of the page does not show through to the other side

• do not send original documents

• if possible, send 3 copies

You should send your written submission and/or photographs/videos –
By post to:

The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3/C Eagle Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol BS1 6PN

By email to: west2@pins.gsi.gov.uk
Planning Portal: https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk

Remember all evidence must be received by the Planning Inspector by no later than

17 May 2019

Today’s promise of 30,000 housing association dwellings put into perspective

Owl says note that the “affordable” hoysing will still be 80% of market value … making these homes still unaffordable for those on low incomes.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has today committed £3billion in extra borrowing to deliver 30,000 new affordable homes in England.

In the Spring Statement, the Chancellor announced that the Government will guarantee the extra borrowing by housing associations to support the delivery of the homes, but did not supply a timetable for delivery.

The Chancellor also announced that £717million from the £5.5billion Housing Infrastructure Fund will be used to help ‘unlock’ up to 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire. …”

BUT IN THE SAME ARTICLE:

“In November This is Money revealed that local councils have fallen over six years behind their own house building targets.

Councils’ own figures revealed that development across the UK is moving at such a glacial pace that 316 sites will have fallen short of targets by 889,803 homes within the next eight years. …”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-6804561/Spring-Statement-Housing-associations-borrow-3bn-build-new-affordable-homes.html

“The ‘absurd’ planning loophole that could end up blighting your home”

And remember, this can be done to new houses too … And when you read below what can be done to agricultural buildings, certain local landowners must be champing at the bit … Use your vote wisely in the forthcoming local elections on 2 May …

It was by accident that Damien Flannagan discovered the new neighbour who had bought the bungalow behind his house had sought planning permission for a loft conversion with two dormer windows. The proposals would mean that the occupant could gaze across his garden and through his back windows from five metres away.

To his relief, the council planning officer ruled that the windows would compromise Flannagan’s privacy and the plans were withdrawn.

But, five months later, Flannagan arrived home to find work had started on a bigger dormer extension. After being thwarted by council planners, the neighbour had expanded the proposals and gone ahead under permitted-development rules. These allow homeowners to extend their property without planning permission and there’s not a thing Flannagan or Leeds city council can do about it.

“Our house is now unsaleable,” says Flannagan. “The entire back of our property faces these huge windows and new staircase, and there’s not one room in our house that isn’t filled with this structure. We can’t understand why this is being allowed. Anyone with an ounce of common sense who stands in our house or garden can see this is completely wrong from a planning, legal and moral perspective.”

The Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order 2015 (GPDO) was designed to free homeowners and councils from expensive red tape when “uncontentious” modifications to properties are planned. The rules allow both homeowners and developers to extend accommodation by up to 75% without planning permission.

Opinions differ, however, on what counts as “uncontentious”. Single and double-storey side and rear extensions of up to eight metres in length are permitted under the order, as well as loft conversions and large outbuildings covering up to 50% of a property’s land.

Some residents have found their detached houses turned into semis by encroaching side extensions. Others have had their homes blighted by large outbuildings under their windows or, as in Flannagan’s case, looming roof extensions invading their private space. Worse, commercial buildings can be redeveloped into residential accommodation, allowing developers to bypass building regulations and quality control.

The government is proposing to relax the rules still further to stimulate housing capacity when the current order expires in May, including allowing homeowners and developers to extend upwards without planning permission.

However, critics warn that the policy has been badly drawn, allowing eyesores to blight residential areas and substandard accommodation to creep beneath the official radar. It has pitted neighbours against each other as the rules have left councils and homeowners powerless.

Back in 2014 when the draft proposals were announced, Birmingham city council urged the government to drop the “absurd” new rules. Its planning committee described permitted development as a planning disaster which had blighted suburbs with “monstrosities” and caused conflict between neighbours.

The government went ahead regardless, and since then the regulations have also forced the hand of councils to grant planning permission for unsuitable developments for fear, if they refused, that a landowner would come up with something worse under GPDO.

A year ago the court of appeal upheld a high court ruling that a council was justified in granting permission to a landowner to replace an agricultural building and bungalow with four houses, even though the plan was in conflict with the local development plan, because otherwise the landowner might develop the land piecemeal under permitted-development rules.

The plan was bitterly opposed by neighbours but the appeal court decided that, since the landowner was determined to maximise the value of the site, it would be better for the council to sanction a proposal over which it could retain some control.

The court rulings and Flannagan’s predicament show that permitted-development rights, while intended to benefit ordinary people who want to improve their homes, have given commercial developers a weapon with which to subdue councils.

After Leeds city council declared it would not permit the dormers proposed by Flannagan’s neighbour, the neighbour applied for a certificate of lawful development for an even more unsuitable plan.

The council tells the Observer it had to approve it, even though it had concerns about the impact, as the work qualified as a permitted development. A loophole in these rules means that although rear extensions have to be at least seven metres from the rear boundary, there is no restriction on rear dormers, which could be close enough for occupants to see neighbours in their homes.

Property lawyer Thomas Pertaia at DAS Law says those in Flannagan’s situation have little recourse, as permitted developers have essentially been given advance parliamentary approval over the heads of local planning authorities. “Unfortunately, there may be cases where easing of development rules results in a grave inconvenience to neighbours – as in this case,” he says.

Even more concerning is the fact that developers can exploit permitted-development rights to convert commercial buildings into homes without council oversight and without having to conform to minimum space, safety and living standards.

A report by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors called the policy a “fiscal giveaway” from the state to private developers, and it has resulted in some appalling housing.

This month the Guardian reported on the creation of bedsits of just 18 sq metres, some lacking outside windows, in London. A few miles away, an office block on a six-lane carriageway has been converted into 60 rental units as small as 13 square metres. The government space standard requires newbuild homes for one person to be at least 37 square metres.

The Royal Town Planning Institute says government proposals to ease the rules still further and bypass local scrutiny to increase housing stock “fly in the face of democracy”.

Kit Malthouse, the minister of state for housing, said: “Increasing the availability of affordable housing is vital and, under permitted-development rules, 32,000 homes have been delivered in the past two years, providing flexibility, reducing bureaucracy, and helping us provide more properties that suit a range of needs … we are currently considering responses to our proposals to extend permitted-development rights, and a decision will be made in due course.”

It’s a vision that may look progressive on paper, but Flannagan and many others are paying a punitive price. “The government claimed the necessary checks and balances would be included to prevent the nightmare that my family now finds itself in, but clearly the rules are a set-up to benefit developers with total disregard for the environment and neighbouring properties,” he says.

His neighbour did not respond to requests for comment.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/10/planning-rules-loophole-home-permitted-development

How many Retrospective Applications can one company do at once? Answer 9! Where? Greendale Business Park!

In 2017 FWS Carter and Sons, the owners of Greendale Business Park, appealed against an “Enforcement Notice” against the removal of various industrial compounds and buildings at their Business Park, which they had built prior to obtaining planning permission.

They lost their appeal with the Planning Inspector, who stated in his report that FWS Carter and Sons had misinterpreted the East Devon Local Plan and that their interpretation was “patently wrong”.

But undaunted the company challenged the Inspectors decision in the High Court. Early last year the company lost the appeal in the High Court. The Judge’s decision also restricted the owners any further opportunity to appeal and them to pay all costs arising from the case.

The Company was required to return the area back to agricultural use, but it transpires that they imported soil and laid this over the concrete yards and simply reseeded it.

It remains to be seen if the covering the concrete is enough to satisfy the Planning Inspectors requirement that the land must return to agricultural use.

Lessons learnt?

So once bitten, twice shy you would have thought with substantial losses, large court fees and professional fees involved!!

Unfortunately, it would seem not, for this family run business. Now there are 9 applications which are known to have been or are in the process of building work before the Planning Applications were submitted.

18/2866/FUL. A retrospective planning application for a rear roller shutter door and concrete pad on the rear of an industrial building onto agricultural land at Unit 11 Hogsbrook Farm. This application is before East Devon’s Planning Committee on Tuesday 4 March.

19/0034/COU. A Retrospective Application at Hogsbrook East 6. A retrospective change of use from agricultural use to industrial. An interesting history to this one! Originally built for a gas pipeline contractors’ compound that had to be returned to agricultural use when the pipeline was completed. However, FWS Carter and Sons applied for planning permission to retain the secure compound for fruit farming. Instead of fruit-growing, Woodbury Carbreakers as tenants stored scrapped vehicles there instead! After 3 years and a court case they were eventually evicted by the Environment Agency, but the owners then used it for commercial storage. Their application for industrial use failed 3 years ago, but just before an Enforcement Notice was served in late 2018 they submitted a further application. But they withdraw it and submitted this latest application.

19/0035/COU. A Retrospective Application next to Hogsbrook East 6. Very similar to the previous application which was used for the gas pipeline company. FWS Carter and Sons submitted, what is called a “Certificate of Lawfulness” which in planning terms means that after 10 years of illegal use they would not require planning permission, to allow to continue operations. However, their own documents clearly stated that gas pipeline contractors had been tenants until July 2009. As this was classified at permitted lawful use the submission was refused. Just as the previous application prior to an “Enforcement Notice” was served as the previous site in late 2018 they submitted a further planning application. They again withdraw it, a submitted this further application.

19/0332/CPE. This was a submission of a “Certificate of Lawfulness” at Greendale unit 33A. Following the publication of the East Devon Villages Plan it was realised that this unit was outside the permitted “Employment Zone” for Greendale Business Park. This was because in its 15 years of operations, planning permission had never been applied for! Therefore, the Local Authority asked the company to summit the paperwork to legalise the operation.

19/043/FUL. A Retrospective Application for 3 Freezer storage pods at Compound 31. The compound is used by DHL Logistics for parcel distribution, but early last year after winning a distribution contract with Kentucky Fried Chicken they started frozen food distribution as well. Several residents living close by the noisy freezer units and hearing the loading and unloading during the night reported the problem to Environmental Health at East Devon. They suggested to the Planning Department that a retrospective application should be submitted.

19/0288/FUL. A Retrospective Application for an extension to Unit 10 at Hogsbrook Farm to extend an Industrial Building which sits on the Employment Boundary of Greendale Business Park. This would mean that the extended building would straddle the boundary between Industrial/Agricultural use.

18/2867/FUL. A Retrospective Application to extend Compound 62 beyond the Employment Boundary into agricultural and landscaping area. The area has been built up over recent years with inert waste material under an Environment Agency permit but it would seem the Company has gone beyond the permitted landfill area.

There are 2 further Retrospective Planning Applications due for extensions to Agricultural units that have been reported to the Enforcement Officer at East Devon District Council.

That’s nine Retrospective Applications in a row. Is that a record!!

And the Government still insist that Planning Authorities treat Retrospective Applications the same as any other Application!

Planning troubles in Torbay ….

“Interesting news from Torbay – a private investigator has been hired to look into the planning decisions of Torbay Council. A fat file of evidence has been passed to the investigator based on dozens of interviews of local residents, existing and former council employees.

The investigator who has taken charge is a journalist with twenty plus years of experience with national newspapers, including the Daily Mail. She has a passion for local history and has thwarted numerous campaigns in the past relating to listed buildings and parks. Her connections across Westminster and the media are extensive.

The plan – sponsored by local residents and not by any particular organisation or body – is to publish all the evidence that is collected in a safe place online. Mainstream media outlets are already interested in documentary production and stories emanating from this body of evidence. The investigation is not solely directed against Torbay Council, as other entities have been found wanting, notably the local press.

An email address to send evidence to the investigator has been published. It is thetorbayinvestigation@gmail.com If you have information that you think might help them then please feel free to email it across to them.

So far £900 has been raised privately to help pay for the investigator who has travelled down to Torbay from London. A GoFundMe campaign was launched yesterday and can be accessed at the following URL:

https://www.gofundme.com/torbay-investigation

An independent investigation by this respected and renowned investigator and journalist must surely be welcomed.”

The Torbay Investigation

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan – where are we? In trouble!

All change on the Planning Front for East Devon.

Ever since David Cameron’s coalition government’s efforts to provide local communities with a say in local planning decisions with the “Localism Act” in 2011 (giving communities the power to draft “Neighbourhood Plans,” designed to provide a degree of self-determination to how local communities could be developed in the future) the powerful developers and landowners lobby has been active to reclaim their powerful grip on developing our communities.

First was the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012 which threw out the old planning regulations and provided a “developer-driven” new planning policy, with just a “nod” to the Localism Act, Neighboured Plans and District wide plans.

The new NPPF introduced a policy that if the District or Neighbourhood Plan was not “up to date” then there would be a presumption of allowing any proposed development from a developer. Therefore, Councils and local communities quickly set about drawing up their Neighbourhood Plans and District Plans to plug the gap created by the new 2012 NPPF policies.

East Devon District Council who had been dragging their feet for years to complete their Local Plan, finally managed to obtain the approval of the Planning Inspectorate in January 2016 to cover the period up to 2031. Lympstone had got its Neighbourhood Plan approved in 2015 and since then over 30 Neighbourhood Plans are either approved or in the process of being drafted by community groups within East Devon.

It was therefore thought that East Devon and its communities had substantial protection from greedy landowners and developers up to 2031 and with the extra protection of the East Devon Villages Plan, approved in July 2018 (which gave further defined policies for larger Villages and some large Business Parks) residents and developers appeared to understand where development would or would not be allowed.

However, in late 2016 Exeter City Council, whose Chief Executive Karime Hassan (previously East Devon’s District Council officer who created and developed the concept of the new town of Cranbrook) proposed a joint “Strategic Plan”, along with neighbouring councils East Devon, Teignbridge, and Mid Devon.

The four councils then started a joint over-riding masterplan for Exeter and the surrounding area known as the GESP (the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan).

It was clear that Exeter was almost completely built-out and the infrastructure in roads and transport required for further city centre and commercial growth was urgently required if the continued success known as the “Exeter Growth Point” was to continue. Without a joint plan for infrastructure, the commute into the City would become intolerable and hinder the targeted housebuilding requirements set by the Government for each of the 4 separate councils.

In October 2018 the Government draw up yet another updated version of the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) very much on the lines of the 2012 Policies, but with various tweaks to assist in the over-riding government strategy of encouraging developers to build many more dwellings.

The new 2018 NPPF provided clearer guidance that if an individual Council was unable to provide enough development land for extra dwellings required by the government’s growth targets, neighbouring councils may be allowed to build out extra housing for their partner and other neighbouring authorities.

According to East Devon District Councils Strategic Planning Committees agenda item 12 for discussion on the 29th January 2019:

“Timetable for production of a new East Devon Local Plan”

Within the introduction to the agenda item it states:

…given changing circumstances and other factors, that a “light touch” review of the currently adopted local plan is unlikely to be a practical option for a new local plan.”

What the changing circumstances and other factors are, is not explained but it is clear from the report it is clearly in relation to GESP.

Because the GESP Strategic Plan policies will over-ride the East Devon Local Plan policies, the report seems to suggests that the “changing circumstances and other factors” relate to the new GESP policies which override the Local Plan, Village Plan and probably most Neighbourhood Plans – affecting a large area of East Devon! So much so that, rather than the GESP plan dovetailing into the 3-year-old approved East Devon Local Plan and 1-year-old Villages Plan with all the years of public consulting, Council debate and literally years of work by the planning team, it will be jettisoned for a brand-new Local Plan to dovetail into the strategies of the GESP plan!

Although the GESP plan has been in preparation for 2 years, no formal discussion or meeting has been held at any Council Chamber at any of the four Councils involved. Meetings have taken place to consider the 700 plus sites throughout the Greater Exeter area submitted for assessment by what is known as the “Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) panel” The Panel is made up of “key stakeholders”, with a recognised interest in the development of land for housing and employment, and housing and economic development sector, including housebuilders, social landlords, local property agents and other related professionals together with local community representatives and other agencies. The membership of these meeting has been confidential and there has there been no publication of their deliberations or recommendations.

To be clear: meetings between two lead councillors from each Authority, plus officers have kept the draft policies and site options totally under lock and key – with none of the meetings been reported or minuted.

However, all is to be revealed AFTER the local council elections in May 2019 – consultation has always been scheduled to begin no earlier than June 2019.

This suggests that the draft policies and site options affecting East Devon will be so radical and so totally at variance to the East Devon Local Plan and Villages Plan that they will all require total re-writing, with a brand-new Local Plan (subsidiary to GESP) and all the costs and uncertainties this will bring.

Why have these Councils been so secretive on the GESP proposed development site considerations for proposed strategies for commercial and housing development for this part of Devon? Could it be that Tory controlled East Devon, Teignbridge, and Mid Devon Councils have elections on May 2nd this year (Labour Exeter elects only one-third of its council this year) and a brand new super-growth plan – superseding their Local Plans – will not be considered much of vote-grabber?

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

“Say NO to Sidford Business Park” campaign newsletter and fundraising event

“We hope that you had a good Christmas and wish you a very Happy New Year!

In this newsletter –
v Approaching any potential planning appeal
v A fundraising event on 23 February
v Opening a Campaign bank account

Approaching any potential planning appeal
We still don’t know whether the applicants who submitted the planning application to build the Business Park in Sidford intend to appeal against the District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for this site, the second application in as many years. Should the applicants want to appeal they have up to 6 months from when the District Council made its decision to do so.

The applicants therefore have until 18 April to lodge any appeal. Should the applicants decide not to appeal it would be nice to think that they would announce this so that local residents can be put out of their misery as otherwise this matter sits uneasily over us all.

We have had to assume that without any evidence to the contrary, the applicants will at some point submit an appeal. We are therefore preparing ourselves should an appeal happen.

At an appeal the District Council will have to defend its decision to refuse the planning application. As its grounds for refusing planning permission were restricted to the narrow issue of the highway not being suitable for the anticipated size and volume of traffic that the Business Park could be expected to generate, we have decided that we would want the Campaign to be a party to the appeal process.

The Campaign, and many of you who have supported it, have cited broader reasons, than those put forward by the District Council, for opposing the proposed Business Park. Therefore, the Campaign would want to become a formally registered party which could fully participate at an appeal. We believe that the District Council was wrong to only rely upon highways arguments for its refusal, hence the reason why we feel the need to be a party to any appeal hearing.

However, if the Campaign is going to do all of this effectively, we believe that we are going to have to employ a planning professional to make the arguments and to cross examine the applicants’ representatives and witnesses for us. As you can imagine to do this won’t come cheaply. Potentially, we would need to raise several tens of thousands of pounds to be professionally represented. We are in the process of contacting various people with the intention of identifying such a professional and a likely cost.

It is also our hope that other organisations who submitted objections to the planning application would also want to be a party to any appeal process. In particular, we would encourage the Town Council, which submitted a broad set of objections, would make its arguments at any appeal hearing. Indeed, there is no reason why other organisations such as the County Council couldn’t do likewise.

As we say, we are having to assume that we will need to be professionally represented at an appeal if one is held. That means that we have to think about how we might raise many thousands of pounds. One way will be to seek pledges of funds from our supporters. This is something that we will return to in a future newsletter.

A fundraising event on 23 February
In the meantime we are holding a fundraising ceilidh on the evening of Saturday 23 February in Sidford Hall. Tickets will be £5.00 and you will be able to bring your own drink. We will be holding a raffle and inviting donations of prizes for it. Further information about this event will be circulated soon and, in the meantime, we are approaching several businesses in Sidford and Sidbury to see whether they would agree to sell tickets.

If you are willing to donate a prize for the raffle please let us know! Please put this date in your diary!

Opening a Campaign bank account
So far, we have managed to run this Campaign on the basis of raising cash from you, our supporters. At our last public meeting we explained how much we had raised and what we had spent it on. On several occasions we have been asked whether we have a bank account to allow supporters to give donations by cheque. We have resisted opening a bank account as frankly it’s a time-consuming process.

But as we may now have to possibly raise a significant amount of money to pay for professional representation at an appeal, we have started the process of opening a Lloyds Bank account. Once this process has been finalised, we will circulate its details.

As we said at the beginning of this newsletter, we wish you a Happy New Year. Let’s hope that our wishes for this matter to come to a quick conclusion come to fruition.

Best wishes

Campaign Team”