Ottery farm’s café, children’s play area and learning zone bid rejected over fears for town centre

Proposals for a café, children’s play area, covered outdoor seating space and car park at an Ottery St Mary farm have been rejected.

District council planning chiefs turned down the Knightstone Farm project over fears it could ‘undermine’ and draw people away from the town centre.

The blueprints for a wedge of the 500-acre holding, off Sidmouth Road, also included a learning zone for youngsters and adults.

Plans stated the bid would ‘protect and enhance the business for generations to come’ and create two full-time and two part-time jobs.

Applicant David Lawrence, whose family has farmed the land for more than 30 years, has asked for permission to build a wooden lodge to house the coffee shop.

It would have served home-cooked food, ice cream and featured a fresh milk vending machine.

A covered outside seating area – which will double as a learning zone with talks and activities for both adults and children – was also proposed.

The go-ahead was also sought for a ‘natural and farm-themed’ children’s play area aimed at youngsters up to the age of 12.

A car park for 12 vehicles and an access track featured in the application.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) ruled the scheme fell foul of rules stipulated in both its Local Plan and the Ottery Neighbourhood Plan.

Refusing the scheme under delegated powers, an EDDC officer said: “The Local and Neighbourhood Plans are generally supportive of farm diversification schemes, but this should be read in the context of general restraint in terms of development in the countryside.

“To satisfy the policy, the diversification activity needs to build on the agricultural activity or output of the farm, or make use of assets such as buildings.

“In this case the café would neither reuse existing buildings nor add value to farm produce to a meaningful degree.

“Furthermore, it would draw people away from the town centre where the Local and Neighbourhood Plans encourage such development to take place.

“In the absence of a direct and substantive link to the farm there is no justification for the development taking place in the countryside and undermining the function of the town centre.

“Further concern arises because the development would result in the loss of Grade 2 agricultural land and would adversely affect the character and appearance of the area, introducing buildings and activity into an attractive and exposed part of the landscape where there is little opportunity for mitigation of the visual impacts.”

Café, children’s play area and learning zone plan for Ottery farm

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