Black is white and white is black, Super inquiry, Day 5, afternoon

Black is white

The afternoon session started with David Valentine, who spoke on behalf of Gittisham Parish Council. He said that Gittisham was in the catchment area for Feniton primary school and the King’s School at Ottery St Mary. Feniton was currently four children short of capacity and the King’s School was full.

He expressed concern that the consequences of further development would mean redefining the school catchment boundaries, resulting in a postcode lottery. The outlying villages would suffer and there would be a detrimental effect on family life. He said it was unsustainable to taxi children to other schools and that his Parish Council did not think it was logical to allow the developments without understanding the wider impact on surrounding villages.

He said he did not want to labour the point, but that there were wider implications than just Feniton itself.

A resident of Feniton, Danny Beaven, talked eloquently about sustaining the cultural and social identity of place and community. His work in the village would be seriously affected by the scale of the developments. Although Feniton is not a ‘chocolate box’ village, but everyone worked hard to develop a sense of community, in both old and new Feniton. He felt that sustainability means that the characteristics of village should be retained, giving it an identity and purpose.

He said that in Devon it takes seven years to be accepted, 21 years to become part of the community, and three generations to become a local!

Resident, Val Jones, whose house adjoins the appeal site spoke about flooding. She had organised a thorough paper with maps and photographs showing the extent of flooding in the field beside her house. She and her neighbours have very real concerns about the flood risk assessment for the Wainhomes site, which, they said, was designed to increase flooding near their houses.

Having tried to reassure Val about the efficacy of their proposed system, they said they needed the author of their report to explain it to her. Val said that doubling the amount of water in a lake beside my house does not reassure me.

Val was followed by Gill Ewings of Metcombe Cottage. She spoke about the traffic at the pinch-point on Ottery Road which is right beside her windows. Traffic has increased because of timber being sent to Cranbrook from the timber yard and also building materials being transported to the Wainhomes site currently under construction.

She spoke about the problem of foul water entering the ditch behind her house with all that that entailed.

We also heard from Sue Collins, a neighbour of Mrs Ewings, who said that Feniton had been built up with no thought to the existing water courses or sewers. She pleaded for no more houses in the village until the flood scheme was finished.

Anthony Harper, a resident of the village for the last 12 years, read out a letter he had recently sent to David Cameron. He covered the problems of flooding in UK, where was localism in the NPPF (planning policy), the need for more joined-up thinking with infrastructure needed first.

White is black
The landscape and visual impact specialist for Strategic Land Partnerships then followed. He presented his evidence and came to the conclusion that both appeals on the land west of Ottery Road (for 59 or 120) should be allowed and permission granted. The Council had raised no concerns.

He described the bowl-like setting of Feniton and said that their development would result in change but no harm to the landscape. The importance of the landscape was on Long Park Hill (Tower Hill to residents of the village). He said that obviously building on an agricultural field would change it, but will that change result in significant harm? No. SLP site is not on Long Park Hill. The character of the site is that it is mainly on lowland plain, i.e. flat or slightly sloping. Beyond the site there is a more significant area of landfall, but the site is not the hill. Most of Feniton was built up to the 80 m contour line and this was a good starting point for development. Ottery Road should not be the edge of the village, but the village should be balanced out over the 80m contour line.

He actually said that Camp Field would look better with houses!

Planting would soften the field rather than hiding it and houses would be more in keeping with the rest of the village.

He then told us at length that the landscape setting of Camp Field was unimportant. He asked (repeatedly) how many drivers driving along Ottery Road would look perpendicular to the line of traffic to admire the view?

The development site is part of the landform, but it is in the base of it. Strategic Land Partnerships woud change the composition of the view, but in mitigation they will provide a circular view around the site. Although they are losing a few views, they are recreating those views further up the site.

Feniton is mainly modern housing, so we are simply adding to it with more modern housing.

Of the houses on Ottery Road, he said it felt as if the houses were turning away from the countryside (inwards towards the existing settlement). No-one was walking along the footpaths this morning, but that will improve with more houses.

He said that houses at the bottom of Ottery Road towards Toolgates Corner are oriented to look at Long Park Hill not the land in front of it.

He was asked about the Wainhomes site from a landscape perspective and he said it wasn’t nearly as good as Camp Field as it didn’t have a hill behind it … or in his parlance … it doesn’t have the elevational differences. It has already grown up out of the bowl.

They had all been poring over photographs of the various aspects of the site. Ms Graham asked, “Is the animal in the corner of the photo a dog or a pig?” … At last, a little levity.

The barrister for EDDC then cross-examined the Expert Witness for SLP on landscape.

To say this was a spirited attack on the landscape specialist would be an understatement. We were all inwardly cheering him on from the public seating. He tore through the report exposing fatal flaws in his arguments.

EDDC: You are changing a landscape from a view to a housing estate. You must acknowledge that that is a harmful change to the landscape.

Inspector: It was a reasonable question. Do you accept that putting houses on that field will spoil the view?

EDDC: It is recognised that views towards Long Park will be obscured. It is obviously harmful.

SLP: Only for the odd driver who turned his head perpendicular to the road!

(I’m looking forward to meeting this man … I suspect he has a stiff neck by now!)

And so it went on. EDDC won point after point after point.

The cross-examination restarts at 9.30 in the morning.

I can’t wait.

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3 Responses to Black is white and white is black, Super inquiry, Day 5, afternoon

  1. Chris Wakefield says:

    Can I please flag up my perpendicular-to-the-road interest from Ottery Road towards Camp Field in Feniton. The “landscape” expert is clearly no such thing, unless you consider landscape simply a matter of hills and valleys, contours and circular views; that’s geography in my view, not landscape. If you want to discover the true value of a landscape, you need a far deeper appreciation than that afforded by a short stroll and a trawl through ordnance survey maps. The ‘expert view’ here is meagre in most respects and offensive in others – offering the local landscape a subsidiary role as a suitable ‘backdrop’ to be improved by modern housing. This alone marks SLP’s ‘landscape’ contribution as the work of a simple-minded Philistine and cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.

    Where in this arid concoction of tick-box topographical boloney is the sense of landscape as a community asset. Locals do not just ‘see’ the landscape, they have a more profound relationship with it which echoes its familiarity through living and working close to it: how it looks in different weather conditions and at different times of year and under different agricultural regimes; how it features in the local imagination for the traditions that it supports, and how it has survived for millennia through all the thousands of generations whose lives have touched it and been touched by it.

    It is easy enough to remember the ploughing matches that it hosted, but Camp Field is thick with history, and its loss will mean a loss to our historic imagination too.The summit of the hill here is a key feature of a local boundary, described in a charter of 1061AD, which divided (and still divides) the lands of Ottery St Mary from Feniton. This division had almost certainly been in existence long before it was described in the late Anglo Saxon period. From the summit of Camp Field the boundary runs to ‘Heathfield Mere’ – the old name for a wetland area towards the corner of Ottery Road and Green Lane, which itself is not far from a Bronze age funerary monuments lost during an earlier development. These markers would have guided the footsteps of rogation processioners for hundreds, or more likely a thousand or more years – to remind the community of its resources and those of its neighbour. These people would have engaged with the landscape in and around Camp Field far more intimately than SLP’s ‘expert’ will ever comprehend. Future Fenitonians deserve to opportunity to engage in the same way if they choose.

    The value of landscape lies in more than just its suitability for housing. SLP’s landscape assessment tells us nothing. It assesses little other than the extent to which you can get someone to say what you want if you’ve got the funds to pay for it.

  2. Caroline Cousens says:

    I read with interest the comments – that you have to turn your head left if you are travelling to wards the station to appreciate the view of Camp Field – I have lived in number 4 Bridge Cottages since 1976 and part of this house has always been the lovely view of the Long Park Farm – and Camp Field -(without having to turn my head either way) which of course will be blighted, if not obliterated, by this proposed monstrosity of housing.
    Also – has anyone thought about the impact on this site by the Beautiful Days Music Festival which is held at Escot once a year? I understand this is a very popular gathering – growing in attendance and what will new owners of of these properties think when the nearby music starts going. (Mind you – they could be inside having a jolly good time – free – or making a fortune hiring out their drives to other attendees!!)
    Another thought has struck me – has anyone thought to check that the company who are building opposite the primary school – had actually obtained the many and complex permissions attached to removal of hedges??? Expect someone has!!! I found these rules whilst browsing about something else and was astonished how many conditions there were.—–

    Caroline C

  3. Sandra Semple says:

    Re removal of hedges: developers just pay the fines and build the cost into house prices. What we need are the prison sentances that are already an alternative to the fines but not utilised – once one director of a property company has been put in the slammer for 6 months, things might change!

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