East Devon: Planners reject new homes for being ‘too small’ – months after approving same-sized properties

New homes for East Devon considered too small by council planners have been rejected – even though they approved same-sized properties earlier this year.

East Devon District Councillors have turned down a development scheme at Clyst Honiton because the homes were “too small” and it would encourage people to drive, writes local democracy reporter Alison Stephenson.

Planners were not prepared to accept proposals 10 square metres below standards recommended in national planning guidelines despite approving houses of the same size earlier this year.

The plans for four commercial units and nine two-bed homes by Eagle One MMIII Ltd for land next to Old Tithebarn, Clyst Honiton were also rejected by East Devon District Council’s planning committee on the grounds that the 53 car parking spaces – 35 for commercial parking – were excessive when the council is promoting sustainable transport.

The land falls within the wider Tithebarn Green development which includes more than 1,500 homes, a community centre, employment provision and allotments and open space which have all received planning permission.

While officers said this new proposal was acceptable in principle, they recommended it for refusal and are not keen on the development’s layout and appearance which they say needs more soft landscaping. They also want the homes to face the cycle path for what they call ‘natural surveillance’ and crime prevention.

They said cycling was a “real focal point of development in this area” as the cycle route stretches to Exeter, Exeter Airport, the Science Park and Skypark.

Development manager Wendy Ormsby said while there was no size standard for housing in the council’s local plan, the Government was giving more weight to national planning policy guidelines of 79 square metres for two-bed properties, but the proposals are for 69 and 72 square meters.

Cllr Ian Barlow (Ind, Sidmouth) said it seemed a little unfair that this scheme should be refused when the houses are exactly the same size as those passed in January.

“This is in fact an improvement on what we passed this year as the houses have solar panels,” he said. “There is a good separation between the homes and the commerce side of the development.

“I think we are being unreasonable to people who are trying to build houses that we desperately need. We should be working more with these people to get it right.”

Cllr Brian Bailey (Con, Exmouth) said: “It seems grossly unfair that one month you can build these houses and the next you can’t. If this came to appeal I can’t see it standing up.”

But Cllr Simon Smith (Ind, Axminster) said the major difference between then and now was a new administration: “As a planning authority, we are mostly made up of new faces and I think we can be proud that we set the bar today of holding on to this standard as a precedent for future applications.

“We can say ”hey we are going to protect the welfare of people who want to buy or rent in this area and that is a good way to start this administration’.”

Cllr David Wilson (Lab, Exmouth Halsdon) agreed: “I do not see why we have to make the same decisions as those that were made in the past. As a relatively new committee, if we show we are happy to have no consideration to how small a property is that could affect future proposals that come to us which could be smaller and smaller.”

Speaking for the applicant, Paul Withers said the level of car parking was critical to the scheme’s viability. He said the proposal had the same amount of parking as a commercial scheme granted planning permission earlier this year which was just 20 metres away from the site.

He said that at no time through the application process had officers raised the issue of house sizes and the plans did not conflict with planning policies.

The applicants would have been amenable to revising the hard and soft landscaping scheme, he added.

Affordable homes are among 180 new properties agreed for land between an East Devon village and Cranbrook