300 homes approved on the edge of Honiton
At EDDC’s planning committee on Friday, members voted 5–3 in favour of approval of a site to the west of Hayne Lane for 300 houses.
The site has a number of issues which cumulatively should weigh against its development:
• It juts out on the western edge of Honiton and is therefore some considerable walking distance from the centre of social activity in the town.
• The developer is not offering any kind of community building, which means the new estate will have no focus for social activity with obvious detrimental impact on social cohesion.
• The site pushes Honiton along the route of ribbon development as it runs parallel with the A30 and the railway line, stretching some 600 m into productive agricultural land.
• The doctors’ surgery is at capacity in Honiton.
• The feeble bus service which runs through Heathpark Industrial Estate and which could take commuters to the railway station doesn’t link up with the train timetable, and is thus a positive disincentive for commuter use on a regular basis.
The committee meeting followed a site visit during which a Devon County Council Highways Officer explained that Hayne Lane would be widened to accommodate the additional flows of traffic on what is currently only little more than a single-track rural road, opening out under an extremely narrow bridge.
We were further told that residents of this new estate wouldn’t turn right on to Hayne Lane to travel to Sidmouth (through the beautiful village of Gittisham) as the road is too narrow with few passing places.
In my experience (and doesn’t common sense dictate this?), commuters will take the fastest and most convenient route to work.
However, we are expected to believe that a resident with a job in Sidmouth will sit in his car in the queue to get off his estate and under the narrow railway bridge, attempt to negotiate Heathpark Industrial Estate with its mass of parked cars and artic lorries making deliveries, will be happy to sit pondering the Meaning of Life at the Turks Head junction while traffic tries to work its way through a junction which is already well beyond capacity, before hanging a right up Sidmouth Road past Tesco. It just isn’t going to happen … the commuter travelling to Sidmouth will take the rat run through Gittisham and that is a monstrous cause for concern.
The Highways Officer explained that the pinch-point on the road – a very narrow bridge under which all the traffic entering and leaving the estate will have to pass – would act as a traffic-calming measure.
I was confused by the methodology used to calculate traffic movements which to my mind grossly underestimates the numbers of journeys taken by residents of the estate. The Highways Officer explained that 300 houses would generate 130 vehicle movements in the morning rush hour. What I would like to know is:
• What are the occupants of the remaining 170 houses doing first thing in the morning?
• Are they all retired and therefore are not encumbered by the daily commute?
• Do any of them have primary school-age children who will be expected to walk the entire length of Honiton to reach Clapper Lane to attend the only primary school which has any spare capacity?
• Or will they choose instead to get the car out and drive to school which knocks the sustainability credentials of the site firmly on the head?
Well, we don’t know who will be living in the 300 houses stuck out on the edge of the town, but common sense dictates that more than 130 will be trying to leave the estate during the morning rush hour under an extremely narrow railway bridge.
I wish them luck.
In my view, the decision spoke volumes as to what is wrong with our current planning policy.
Before the advent of the NPPF (current planning rules brought in by the Coalition Government), building on this stunning field on the western edge of Honiton would never have been countenanced. As one member of the Planning Committee said, this site was precluded from development in the 1980s because of the access road. Nowadays, under the Government’s rush to build anywhere and everywhere, it seems to have suddenly become a sustainable option for development.
The site was originally earmarked as a ‘reserve site’ under the draft Local Plan meaning that it would only come forward if sufficient sites were not found during the plan period, currently up to 2026.
However, as EDDC have failed to build sufficient houses over the plan period, there is a significant shortfall in housing numbers which have to be made up within the next 5 years. The District is in an extraordinarily vulnerable position with developers calling the shots and local democracy hurled out of the window.
Where ‘Localism’ now?
Premier Inn at Turks Head
At the same planning meeting, permission was granted for a mausoleum of a building purporting to be a 66-bed, four-storey Premier Inn. The old abandoned Honiton Motel site has been bought for redevelopment and permission granted for possibly the most hideous monstrosity ever to grace the Honiton skyline.
The hotel will sit at the back of the site in what is currently the car park of the Honiton Motel and the existing building will be razed to the ground to make space for a car park.
The only saving grace … and it was hard to find a redeeming feature in this application … was that land at Turks Head will be handed over to Devon County Council for much-needed improvements to the junction.