The Welbeck site for 300 houses on land west of Hayne Lane on the edge of Honiton was narrowly approved this morning at EDDC’s Planning Inspections Committee.
The site was a reserve site under the draft Local Plan, meaning that it should only be considered if not enough sites came forward to meet Honiton’s allocation of 450 houses over the plan period.
Full details of this extraordinarily contentious site can be found here: https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/third-attempt-to-decide-on-300-homes-for-gittisham/
David Fallows, chairman of Gittisham Parish Council, spoke against the application and alluded to the complex history of the site. He expressed the views of the many residents in Gittisham who are appalled that development should take place so close to the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Residents David Valentine, Richard Pratt and Maureen Philips also spoke strongly against development on this site.
The practice manager for Honiton GP surgery spoke at the behest of the doctors in Honiton who have grave concerns about being able to provide medical services to the new residents when the surgeries are already well over-capacity and any new patients added to the list would require substantial new build to accommodate their needs.
County Councillor and adjacent ward member, Claire Wright, spoke about the many reasons why the application should be turned down. She felt there were defendable reasons for refusing which would stand up at appeal.
There were no members of the public speaking in support of the site.
The representative for Welbeck who is seeking permission to build, was John Steele QC.
This was the first time I had ever seen a developer be represented by a barrister at an EDDC planning meeting. It amply demonstrates just how contentious this application is and given that Gittisham Parish Council had already engaged the services of Planning and Environmental Consultant, Charlie Hopkins, we appeared to be more than half way to be being at appeal already.
As ward member, I spoke about the landscape value of the site, my concerns about the traffic accessing the estate under a very narrow bridge and the fact that the site was quite clearly unsustainable in planning terms. There is also a far better site within the built-up area boundary of Honiton where planning permission is currently sought for 150 homes. If this site, at Ottery Moor Lane, had come forwarded earlier, we might not now be faced with 300 homes on a totally unsuitable site.
The debate waged for some considerable time with councillors on the committee asking planning officers for clarification on various points and the legal officer stepping in to ensure that any reasons for refusal would stand up at appeal.
The application is for 300 houses, 40% of which would be affordable. However, given that contributions are now being sought for medical provision and education, over and above the contributions already being offered towards road junction improvements at Turks Head, I fear the developer will be looking to reduce the number of affordable homes.
The final vote was 4–3 in favour of the application: Cllrs Parr, Williamson, Gammell and Sullivan voting in favour and Cllrs Pook, Key and Atkins voting against.
The decision will now be reviewed by Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.