In what turned out to be an excellent and keen debate, EDDC’s Planning Committee discussed two controversial planning applications today … and after nearly three hours, both were turned down.
Feniton is the ward of former Councillor Graham Brown, who resigned following revelations in the Daily Telegraph that he could get planning permission for anyone for a price … but he wouldn’t do it for ‘peanuts’. EDDC has referred the case to the police under the Bribery Act. Villagers have long been concerned that they have been targeted by developers to a quite extraordinary extent.
Under the draft Local Plan, Feniton is scheduled to receive 35 houses and residents agreed, following considerable public consultation, where these houses should be built. However, following an appeal by Wainhomes on a site behind Louvigny Close, 50 houses were imposed on the village and the same developer has returned with an application for a further 83.
Today (2 April), the first application heard was for 32 houses at the back of Acland Park. Concerns were raised about flooding which is a continuing problem in the village, the school is at capacity, and the medical centre is already over-capacity. However, the main argument centred on over-development of the village, which has been a cause for concern to many. The committee voted to reject the application by 8 votes to 3.
The second application was an outline planning application for 59 houses on the land west of Ottery Road. Vice-chair of Feniton Parish Council, Pete Privett, made a very strong case for rejection of the application. Residents of Feniton (including members of Fight for Feniton, Susie Bond, John Withrington, Jayne Blackmore and George Sweeney), and the tenant farmer of the field, Christine Gibbins, argued that the field is outside the built-up area boundary, is set in stunning landscape which forms the backdrop to the village and is used for the local Sidmouth Junction ploughing match. The field is currently used for the Gibbins’ outdoor pig unit. There was a moment of levity when former Feniton resident and university lecturer in sustainability, Claire Horrocks, addressed the committee. She explained that Feniton does not fulfil the Government’s own requirement for building to be sited in sustainable locations. Councillor Twiss asked her to elaborate, as ‘sustainability’ is a word often bandied around with no real explanation of what it actually means. Claire readily accepted the challenge and explained the many reasons why Feniton cannot be considered a sustainable location. Dr Margaret Hall of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) also made an impassioned speech indicating that Feniton did not meet any of the criteria for sustainability.
Neighbouring farmer, Francis Pyle, argued in support of both applications stating that the village should work with developers to provide the infrastructure to extend the village. One DMC Councillor argued that Feniton should not be turned into an urban sprawl, that development should be planned and that Feniton risked being turned into something akin to Milton Keynes. Interim District Councillor, Peter Halse and District Councillor Claire Wright for Ottery Rural ward into whose ward half of the site falls, both made impassioned representation to the committee for rejection.
After a lengthy debate, chaired by Councillor Mark Williamson, and to the obvious delight of the many Feniton residents who packed the council chambers, councillors unanimously rejected the planning application.