Congratulations must go to those members of the Save the Green Wedge Action Group. Howard West and the team worked hard to help first, persuade East Devon District Council planning committee to turn down the application, and to help fight the appeal. Seaton Town Council deserve credit by supporting the appeal fund with the largest donation.
I personally proposed the refusal at the DMC meeting and was supported by almost all Councillors. I attended the inquiry along with fellow Cllr Steph Jones and some Town Cllrs.
The East Devon District Press Release :-
Green Wedge gives EDDC the edge in planning battle
Tuesday 21 January
There was good news for Seaton and Colyford this week as a Planning Inspector upheld East Devon District Council’s refusal of permission for 170 homes to be built on part of the “green wedge” between the two settlements.
EDDC’s Development Management Committee had turned down an application from Seaton Park (Devon) Ltd. for a mixed use development that would have included housing, a business development unit, offices, workshops, a play area and sports field with two football pitches and a multi-use games area (MUGA).
The developers appealed against the decision at a planning inquiry held in December 2013. The Inspector, Mr Geoffrey Hill, announced his decision on Monday (20 January). He dismissed the appeal, primarily on the grounds that the green wedge shown in both the existing and new Local Plans should be preserved. He also dismissed a claim from the developers for costs to be awarded against EDDC.
The appeal site is an area of open countryside between the northern edges of Seaton and Colyford. The land is gently undulating, and is crossed by a small stream – Stafford Brook. There is a small area of woodland to the south of the stream, roughly in the centre of the site. The site has no strong physical boundaries, but ridges or crests in the land provide visual breaks and maintain a sense of separation between the two settlements.
Referring to the emerging East Devon Local Plan (eEDLP) that is shortly to be examined by a colleague in the Planning Inspectorate, Mr Hill said in his report: “I appreciate that eEDLP is at an early stage in its adoption and its policies and proposals are yet to be examined.
“It is possible that its polices could be revised or even deleted as a consequence of the examination, but the Green Wedge policy is not a new policy; it has simply been carried forward from the EDLP, and the decision to retain the Green Wedge has been made by democratically elected locally Members. Its general strategic or structural purpose – if not the precise extent and boundaries – therefore continue to carry weight in this appeal.
“This [development] would introduce a form of urbanised, or semi-urban (non-rural) development into the narrowest part of the current gap between Colyford and Seaton… This would markedly erode the present rural or undeveloped nature of this part of the Green Wedge, reducing the extent of truly undeveloped area to a single field adjacent to Stafford Brook, which itself could be overlooked to some degree by the earthworks of the football pitches”.
EDDC had accepted the developers’ contention that it did not have in place a full five-year land supply. But it was the likely impact on the Green Wedge that persuaded the Inspector to uphold the Council’s decision.
Mr Hill continued: “The housing shortfall although significant is – arguably – relatively short-term, whereas the erosion of separation between Colyford and Seaton would be permanent, and should not be acceded to lightly.
Later he added: “It [the Green Wedge] is not just a housing or development restraint policy; it has a strategic aim which has been originally agreed by the Secretary of State, subsequently identified as a ‘saved’ policy, and its continuation has been democratically endorsed and maintained by the Council – albeit that the eEDLP has yet to be examined and its policies adopted”.
EDDC had included in its emerging Local Plan the possibility of part of the appeal site being a reserve site for development. The Inspector’s reliance on the Green Wedge as a strong reason for dismissing the appeal means that EDDC may have to review this element of the emerging Local Plan when this is examined by a Planning Inspector, starting in February.
Mr Hill recognised that the proposed development had some merits. He said: “The proposed scheme would clearly fulfil an economic role in that it would bring forward employment land. It would also fulfil a social role in that it would add to the supply of housing – both open market and affordable housing – as well as recreational provision in the form of sports pitches and the MUGA.
“However, as discussed under the first main issue, there are justified concerns over the environmental impact of the scheme in terms of its effect on the character and appearance of the area. I consider that this indicates that the proposed scheme cannot be regarded as fully meeting all three of The Framework’s (NPPF’s) roles for sustainable development, and that the shortfall in housing land supply is not so severe as to justify overriding these concerns at this stage.
And he concluded: “On balance I consider that the housing land supply situation locally is not so acute that it represents a compelling justification to set aside the well-established Green Wedge policy. A change of this kind should only be taken once the policy has been formally reviewed through examination”.
Commenting on EDDC’s successful defence of the refusal to allow this development, Councillor Mrs Helen Parr, Chairman of the Council’s Development Management Committee (DMC), said: “This latest success in a planning matter shows that our determination to protect the landscape of East Devon against the wrong kind of development is both real and stoutly defended. We will continue to weight each application on its merits and we will stand up to developers when we are confident that our case is strong”.
Among the other arguments put forward against the Harepath Road development was that it could prove damaging for a colony of bats and for wildlife using the Axe Estuary Wetlands. However the Inspector ruled out these arguments, pointing out that Natural England believed there would be no unacceptable adverse effect on protected species subject to appropriate mitigation being put in place.
East Devon District Council recently refused planning permission for a hotel development at Seaton Heights (app number 13/2237/MFUL). This was because of an objection from Natural England that a survey into the movement of protected bats had not been carried out effectively by the applicants and as a result the impact of the development on the bats could not be fully assessed and appropriate mitigation suggested. The development had support from Seaton Town Council and much of the community and would have significantly enhanced a run-down site and provided quality tourist accommodation in the town.
Despite this, the Council has a statutory obligation under the Habitat Regulations to protect the habitats of protected species and so in the absence of the survey required by Natural England it had no choice but to refuse permission. The developers were given the opportunity to undertake the surveys in the spring when the bats emerge but requested a quick decision instead.
Mrs Parr added: “The Seaton Heights site is in desperate need of redevelopment and we want to see something happen there. But we will grant permission only when we are satisfied that the proposal isacceptable– and that includes ensuring the wellbeing of protected species, as well as the interests of the local community”.