Controversial plans for 93 hill-top homes on edge of Exeter are rejected over fears for landscape

Controversial plans for up to 93 new homes on a greenfield site on the edge of Exeter have been rejected due to concerns over their impact on the landscape.

Hundreds of objections were made against the application from Salter Property for land off Spruce Close and Celia Crescent on the northern edge of the city near Beacon Heath.

Proposals were originally for up to 105 dwellings but, following initial complaints earlier this year, this was revised downwards and adjoining fields were allocated for a 22-acre ‘New Valley Park.’

Members of the city council’s planning committee last month deferred making a decision over the scheme so they could visit the site.

They voted unanimously to reject the plans last night (Monday, October 11), writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

Exeter From the planning application - a revised indicative masterplan showing New Valley Park.

From the planning application – a revised indicative masterplan showing New Valley Park.

Speaking against the proposals, Mincinglake and Whipton representative Councillor Naima Allcock told members: “The proposal before you this evening is for a car-led development, cut off from community amenities and built on the very land that our vision says will be safeguarded from development.

“As members saw on their site visit, the proposed site has steep hills in both directions, which would make walking and cycling for anything other than recreation quite difficult.

“The nearest train station is a 22-minute walk away and the current bus route is extremely limited. This development would therefore increase car dependency and worsen environmental impacts.”

Council leader and Exwick ward member Phil Bialyk said: “I am totally committed to saving the hills around Exeter, as I have said.

“They are so important to us. It is an important amenity space. We have to protect it for the residents of Exeter.”

Council officers had recommended the scheme be approved and told members in a report that the ten hectares of public open space on offer was  ‘far more than a typical residential development of this scale’.

A report to the committee added: “This land will be secured in perpetuity, benefitting not just current, but future generations as well.

“It will effectively stop any further development encroachment into the countryside in this part of the city.”

Exeter One of the proposed routes into the mooted new development in Celia Crescent. Image: Google Maps

One of the proposed routes into the mooted new development in Celia Crescent. Image: Google Maps

In a letter to address previous concerns, director of the development company Peter Salter said: “A major concern for residents is loss of open space.

“This to me is not a sustainable argument as currently residents walk around private land, without permission. At any point in the future the landowner could decide to close off his land.

“For example, to enable him to place cattle in the fields, which would mean an end to public access. Whereas if the application is approved, it will provide a far greater area as new valley park in perpetuity.

“This guarantees the exact thing that is a major concern of local residents, public open space.”

Stagecoach also wrote to the council to support the scheme, with plans including £90,000 to extend the F1 bus route.

The operator suggested the development would also improve access to buses for other people living in the immediate area.

The application contained provision for 32 ‘affordable homes’.

Councillors ruled that the development went against the authority’s policy to move development away from hills described as ‘strategically important to the setting of our city’.

They added that, unlike before, the council was now able to demonstrate a five-year housing supply.

Decision over controversial plan for 93 new homes in Exeter is delayed so councillors can visit site with ‘absolutely stunning’ views