The planning application for three houses behind Sunnylea in Green Lane, Feniton was passed by just 6 votes to 5 this afternoon.
The meeting was frustrating, not least because the result was so close.
Cllr Spence from Feniton Parish Council and two members of the public spoke eloquently about their concerns should the application be approved. The second speaker (Val Jones) was speaking on behalf of her neighbours as well as herself, as only two objectors are allowed to speak on minor applications under the new public-speaking rules.
The reason it was passed was very simple … it was because there is no Local Plan and EDDC is unable to demonstrate a 6-year land supply.
And where there is no Local Plan, decisions have to be made with one eye firmly on the NPPF (current planning law) which has a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
The authorities who were consulted on drainage (South West Water) and traffic (Devon County Council Highways) seemed to be happy with the proposal.
The drainage strategy relies on a private attenuation tank which will collect surface water and release it slowly into the combined sewer. The sewer pipes run down through Feniton Village to Buckerell Cross treatment plant. These pipes are in need of substantial upgrade and SWW are about to embark on a study to see how this could be achieved. However, any upgrade is not budgeted for nor is it currently in SWW’s forward plan. The additional flows from three new houses can only make the situation worse. And indeed, the system is reliant on the occupants of the new houses maintaining the tanks to keep them free of silt.
Highways seem content that access on to Green Lane is along a very narrow driveway on to a narrow country lane with a visibility splay which doesn’t exist and a comment on the plans to ‘clip the hedge’.
Councillors on the committee raised their concerns about Feniton having been the focus of so much developer attention.
But it was Cllr Sullivan, a planning committee member, who voiced what so many of us in the room had been thinking. Why, he wondered, are so many applications being considered with the Council’s failure to have an adopted Local Plan as the main criterion on which to base the decision.
It makes an utter mockery of having elected members, thoroughly trained in all aspects of planning, debate a planning application when the overriding consideration is land supply … not the wishes of the local people, not the wishes of the Parish Council, not the infrastructure in the village, not the flooding situation, not the capacity of the local schools, not the capacity at the medical centre …
And that equally makes a mockery of the Localism agenda.