Major decisions for Honiton taken at Planning Committee

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.

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Centre of the stunningly beautiful village of Gittisham

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.

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Style of Premier Inn envisaged for the old Honiton Motel site

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.

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9 Responses to Major decisions for Honiton taken at Planning Committee

  1. John Withrington says:

    Spot on. DCC Highways showed a similarly cavalier attitude to their responsibilities in respect of the recent Feniton Public Inquiry. The village was set to grow by 42%, car ownership and usage is extraordinarily high, and the developers put forward a traffic impact assessment … that looked only at the likely impact on the widest road in the area, which wasn’t even in the village, and which assumed that ALL new traffic would choose that single route to get in/out of Feniton. Highways swallowed this hook, line and sinker.

    As with the Hayne Lane development, Highways took no recognition of the fact that car users will opt for the quickest and most direct routes. 300 houses generating 130 vehicle movements? What were they thinking?!

  2. Val Jones says:

    Sad day for democracy and localism. Worrying too that the plan may include sending the sewage to the Feniton/Buckerell works as the rest of the sewage from Gittisham does. No-one seemed able to clarify this at application stage but we know Feniton can’t cope. Over the weekend the pipe in Green Lane has blocked – it blocked last week too. Could it be the silt that was pumped into the system from the Wainhomes site that is now blocking everything up?
    Worrying too that the plan may include sending the children to Feniton School (Gittisham children go to Feniton School).

    • susiebond says:

      I’ve checked with planning officers and foul water will discharge to the Honiton treatment works. Also children from this site will go to school in Honiton, although there is very limited capacity.

      But, yes, a sad day.

  3. Sandra Semple says:

    So, one parent in just over one-third of the homes will leave by car to go to work and return later. And what about the parent who has to drive a child to primary school and maybe a child to secondary school or nursery or who has to drive to the shops or to their part-time job or has to go to a dentist or doctor. Or takes same children to their sports or out of school activity.

    May I suggest that once all houses are occupied a small group should do a traffic survey in shifts. By then it will be too late for Gittisham though.

  4. Benedict says:

    Maybe I’ve missed the point but if Honiton already has sufficient housing stock and if brown-field sites for potential development are also available, why does the EDDC feel they need to desecrate the countryside around the town and blight the lives of current and future residents with terrible planning decisions? Once it has gone we can never get it back. Are there any routes to fight on? Judicial review maybe of EDDC decisions or something more realistic? It’s such a shame.

  5. Sandra Semple says:

    Because it has no 5 year land supply – a problem identified as early as 2007, and in all subsequent years but about which nothing was done.

  6. Pingback: Gittisham residents voice concerns over approval of 300 homes at public meeting | Susie Bond

  7. Pingback: For the third time of asking … land west of Hayne Lane | Susie Bond

  8. Pingback: Decision deferred on land west of Hayne Lane, Gittisham | Susie Bond

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