Public consultation aims to protect the countryside in East Devon from ‘green wedge’ development

Concerns over green wedge development and urban sprawl taking over the East Devon countryside will be addressed later this month when residents are invited to take part in a public consultation to address the pressure the district is under to supply development land.

People in East Devon will be asked their views on whether to protect land that prevents separate conurbations, writes local democracy reporter Bradley Gerrard.

The consultation is set to start this month and last for six weeks.

A public consultation on so-called green wedges will be issued shortly by the district council to gauge view about areas that include potential for new houses, because of the pressures the district is under to provide homes for people.

Across the 12 parcels of land, including between Beer and Seaton, Budleigh Salterton and Knowle, Colyford and Colyton, and Exmouth and Lympstone, a total of 1,100 potential new homes could fall into what are currently green wedges.

Any development would ideally be small-scale, and not unduly impact the purpose of the wedge.

Ed Freeman, assistant director of planning strategy and development for East Devon, noted the potential jeopardy of the consultation because of the lack of obvious support for green wedges by the Government.

“I do have some concerns about the approach given the lack of government guidance, as fundamentally there isn’t any,” he said.

“They are a historical thing that we have had, and other local authorities, and some have maintained them in their plans.

“While one can see the merit in retaining them, we will be challenged on them in a way we haven’t previously.”

Mr Freeman noted that property developers, in particular, would “challenge our position” and that the council would “need to respond and defend our decision”.

Indeed, the council’s strategic development committee heard that some development had already taken place within the green wedge boundaries as they were previously drawn, and that it was proposed that new boundaries exclude these recently built homes.

Mr Freeman also highlighted the challenge the council would face if Councillors decided that development shouldn’t take place in a green wedge.

“Representations from developers reflect the pressure to release land within a green wedge for development, and the pressures in trying to meet housing needs will be quite challenging,” he said.

“There are 1,100 homes proposed in first or second choice sites for allocation in green wedges, and if those are removed, then that would cause us significant challenges in terms of where to build those properties, and developers are picking up on that and putting pressure on us to release green wedge land.”

Cllr Ben Ingham (Conservative, Woodbury and Lympstone) said the council should not have found itself in this position.

“This is why ages ago we should have been debating green wedges, so we don’t have this ridiculous compromise where there are potential allocations [of houses]and we’re wondering how we can draw green wedges around them,” he said.

“We started this process a few years ago in the wrong place as we never had an overview of what we were trying to achieve or any strategic thinking.

“We should have put the green wedges in place before housing allocations, and so this is so unfortunate, so please could officers take note not to do this again in 10 years’ time.”

However, Cllr Mike Howe (Independent, Clyst Valley) said the approach the council had taken with the consultation was correct.

“Previously, we showed the green wedges without the housing allocations in, then we allocated [the houses]and then removed the green wedge boundary around them,” he said.

“This way is honest, as we are saying these are the green wedges, and there are pressures on them which might mean we have to allocate houses on some or all of them, or possibly none.

“In the previous way, we showed these lovely green wedges with no threats to them and I think the only way we can do this is to be honest and upfront, by saying there are allocations in them, and that might change, but either way the allocations are not determined and can be debated at a later date.”

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