Report finds the impact of a new development proposed for an East Devon village ‘so harmful’ it would ‘significantly’ outweigh its benefits

The impact of a new development proposed for East Devon has been deemed ‘so harmful’ to the area it would ‘significantly’ outweigh its benefits, a new report has found.  

Plans to build houses on a field just outside a village near Ottery St Mary received just one letter of support – and that turned out to be a sarcastic note of ‘approval’ from an objector, writes local democracy reporter Guy Henderson.

Now East Devon District Council (EDDC) has underlined its opposition to the plan and has called for an inquiry into the scheme to be held in public.

Members of the council’s planning committee met last Friday (July 28) to consider the proposal for 23 homes off Oak Road at West Hill. They heard that because the council had not ruled on the application by a legal deadline, it would have to be decided by a planning inspector at an appeal.

However, they decided to send a clear message to the inspector that the Morrish Homes scheme should not be allowed, and that any inquiry should be heard in public rather than being decided in private by the inspector reading written submissions.

Planning officers said any future residents wouldn’t find it easy to access local facilities and services, meaning the development would be ‘car-dependent’. A number of ‘significant protected trees’ would also be at risk.

The applicants say that because the site will be expensive to develop, the amount of affordable housing they could provide would be diminished. Officers disagreed.

Their report summed up: “Taking all of the evidence into account, the adverse impacts of the proposed development are so harmful as to significantly and demonstrably outweigh its benefits.”

But members were warned that because the district can’t meet its government targets for a five-year supply of land for housing, it is vulnerable on housing developments.

Neighbours Richard Green and Peter Shrubsole spoke against the proposal, with Mr Shrubsole saying: “Not a single supportive submission has been made, with the exception of one very sarcastic one which was, in fact, an objection.”

Villager Robert George said the development was not sustainable, and Alan Cook described it as ‘dense and unsympathetic’.

West Hill Parish Council chair Alison Carr said local schools and GP surgeries were already over-stretched, and Cllr Jessica Bailey (Independent, West Hill and Aylesbeare) said there were ‘very compelling grounds’ to throw out the plans.

Cllr Brian Bailey (Con, Exmouth Littleham) told the committee: “There are so many things that this scheme goes against, and there is no provision for affordable homes.

“As far as I am concerned it is not going to fly at all.”

The committee agreed unanimously to tell the secretary of state that the council would have refused the application, and to urge the planning inspector to decide the issue at an informal hearing rather than through written submissions.

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