Burlands Mead planning application, Open meeting

Just to clarify in case there is still any confusion over the Burlands Mead planning application (Reference number 20/2247/FUL).

The application was on the Parish Council’s agenda on 16 December and councillors decided to invite the developer to an open Zoom meeting so that residents of Feniton could put questions about the application to the developer. Several years ago, the Parish Council hosted a similar open meeting in the case of the proposed development at Acland Park, and this proved a valuable opportunity for the public to ask questions of the developer.

A mutually convenient date was agreed as 23 December. The agenda for the meeting and the following extraordinary meeting of the Parish Council, along with Zoom joining instructions can be found here.

The closing date for submission of the parish council’s comments to EDDC’s website is 4 January, so any meeting had to be held before Christmas. The developer agreed to a Zoom meeting on 23 December, starting at 7 pm. Under normal circumstances, a development on a site of such importance to the village would have been discussed in public, either as part of the Parish Council’s usual monthly meeting, or in a public meeting as has been done numerous times before.

However, we are not living in normal times and this is the only way the Parish Council could open up discussion to the whole village. If the Parish Council had delayed a meeting into the New Year, the deadline for submission of comments to EDDC would have passed and the PC response would not have been informed by residents’ views.

Questions for the developer need to be sent to Alison Marshall, our parish clerk, on fenitonpc@gmail.com by 6 p.m. tonight, so that questions can be collated to make sure that the meeting runs as smoothly as possible. Even if you are unable to attend the Zoom meeting, feel free to send in questions anyway.

At the end of the meeting, the parish councillors will discuss the application as part of an Extraordinary meeting, taking your views into consideration and then formulate a response which will be posted on EDDC’s website along with the responses of all statutory consultees (these are Devon Highways, the Ottery St Mary district councillors, Ottery St Mary Town Council, EDDC’s Environmental Health department, South West Water, EDDC’s arboricultural officers).

If you miss the meeting on 23 December, you can still comment on the application on EDDC’s website, by email or letter (postal address: East Devon District Council, Blackdown House, Border Road, Heathpark Industrial Estate, Honiton, EX14 1EJ. For clarity, EDDC will only look at ‘planning considerations’ and they list these as examples:

  • The impact of a proposal on your property
  • The proposed design and materials
  • Issues relating to vehicular access and parking
  • Impact on trees
  • Noise issues
  • Concerns about flooding

Comments covering non-planning issues will not be considered. These are listed as examples:

  • Loss of value to your property
  • Loss of a view
  • Boundary and neighbour disputes
  • The impact of a proposal on private drainage systems

Planning Policy

The planning application must adhere to the following planning policies:

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

EDDC’s Local Plan

Feniton’s Neighbourhood Plan

This last document is arguably the most important and is worth reading in full, particularly as it has to comply with national and local planning policy. The Neighbourhood Plan was formulated over several years and residents were consulted throughout. The amount of work involved by a team of dedicated residents and parish councillors was considerable. A referendum was held on 17 May 2018. All those over the age of 18, who were resident in the parish of Feniton were eligible to vote against a simple Yes/No to the question:

Do you want East Devon District Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Feniton to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?

The result was a resounding 462 in favour and 30 against. EDDC acclaimed the Neighbourhood Plan as a model for others and members of the NP committee were commended for the amount of consultation undertaken. The turnout of just over 32% was one of the highest in the District.

The Role of Facebook

The role of Feniton Focus within the village is as a communication tool. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Parish Council and it is not monitored by the parish clerk. Any comments posted on Feniton Focus won’t reach the Parish Council.

Posting notification of Parish Council meetings on Feniton Focus is simply a means of using Facebook to reach as many people as possible. The formal way for the PC to communicate is via their village notice board and on the PC website.

And finally … There will be some who are unable to attend the Zoom meeting, but I’m always happy to hear from residents by phone (0771 222 7434) or email (sbond@eastdevon.gov.uk).

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The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan. What will it mean for Feniton?

Keen followers of planning within East Devon will know that four councils (East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council, Teignbridge District Council and Mid-Devon District Council) have been working closely for some years to produce an integrated plan for housing development within the area around Exeter.

The purpose of working together on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) has been to speak as one voice at Westminster to achieve the levels of funding required for infrastructure, mostly notably on the rail and road networks.

Government policy calls for ever increasing numbers of houses (full market and affordable housing) and employment land. Housing numbers are ‘handed down’ to districts from national Government and it is impossible to argue against the numbers in an effort to reduce them.

Planners working on GESP issued a ‘call for sites’ (basically by contacting landowners to see if they were willing to put their land forward for development) for sites of 500 homes or more.

Within East Devon, development is constrained by two-thirds of the district being protected landscapes (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty of the Blackdown Hills and East Devon AONB), which inevitably means that the ‘northwest quadrant’ of the district is the most suitable place for development.

In addition, transport corridors are a factor – in particular communities benefitting from a railway station were identified, the thinking being that people travelling to work can use the most sustainable means of transport possible. (Obviously within the hierarchy of sustainability working from home is the most sustainable, then walking, then cycling, then train or bus and finally the car.)

GESP will be discussed at length at Strategic Planning Committee on Thursday, 23 July. Members of the public are welcome to attend via Zoom and there is a 15-minute period at the start of the meeting to address the committee. The meeting will also be aired on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/eastdevoncouncil1).

I have long argued, and will continue to do so, that Feniton (and indeed Whimple) are not the most sustainable locations because the train service is infrequent. Plans are being formulated to build the ‘Whimple passing loop’ which would theoretically increase the number of trains using the Exeter to Waterloo line and provide a half-hourly service.

However, there are two significant issues with the passing loop, and until these are resolved I cannot see that Feniton can be considered a sustainable location. Firstly, the cost. This is absolutely crippling. Despite this project having been on the drawing board for well over a decade, with questions having been asked in the House of Commons, sources of funding have not been identified, and given the huge amount the Government has committed during the Covid crisis, it is to be wondered if it’ll be a priority. Secondly, the current proposal envisages that trains would not necessarily stop at all stations … in other words, Feniton is unlikely to benefit to any considerable extent from the new passing loop.

However, despite all of the above, Feniton is vulnerable. The sustainability of the village has already been tested at the super inquiry of 2014 and was not deemed a suitable location for large-scale development. However, there will inevitably have to be some development in Feniton, probably through the Local Plan process, rather than GESP. The GESP plan (www.gesp.org.uk/) runs to 2040 so can be considered to be a high-level, long-term plan. Running alongside GESP, each of the four Councils has a Local Plan. The current one for East Devon runs to 2031.

Meanwhile, the four councils, with their new administrations in place, are seeking agreement of Councillors to progress the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan by putting the plan out for consultation in September. If this is agreed, it will be another opportunity to make views known.

The following press release is being sent out this afternoon by East Devon District Council.

Councils to consider Greater Exeter Plan proposals

East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning committee will meet on Thursday 23 July to discuss plan

East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge councils are all considering whether to begin the next round of consultation on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP).  Exeter City Council is the first of the authorities to discuss the proposals at a meeting next Tuesday 7 July and they published the GESP document today. (Monday June 29)

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first opportunity for East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning committee to meet and view the proposals is on Thursday 23 July. The council has committed to nothing more than deciding whether to take part in the consultations on the plan which would take place from September.

The GESP proposals include draft planning policies and large scale development options across all four council areas for the next twenty years up to 2040. It will tackle big planning issues affecting the Greater Exeter area, of which East Devon is part. The GESP will also identify possible development sites across the area, including large regeneration sites in Exeter.

Cllr Paul Arnott, East Devon District Council’s Leader, said: “The last councils of 2015-19, and 2019-20, took part in an internal discussion with other councils about co-operating as a joint planning entity.

“With a new administration for 2020-21, this is to be considered at the Strategic Planning committee on 23rd July in the emerging post-Covid-19 context and we will need to assess it anew in light of the possible changed shape of housing need and the economy.

“Our friends at Exeter have begun to discuss the GESP document analysing the call for sites, but of course, until our own Strategic Planning committee discusses the next steps the district council’s position on going out to consultation is not yet decided.”

Teignbridge District Council will discuss the proposals on Tuesday 21 July, and Mid Devon District Council on Thursday 6 August.

The councils have been asked to carry out the consultation from September, which was originally planned for June, following Government advice that planning authorities should continue despite Covid-19.  The consultation would ask for the public to have their say on the draft policies and site options, which would influence the next stage.

Further information about the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan is available on the GESP website which is www.gesp.org.uk/

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Feniton flood scheme falls foul of Covid-19

It will come as no surprise, but still the news will be hard to hear.

Very sadly, Feniton flood scheme will not be going ahead at the beginning of May. See press release below from East Devon District Council which explains the background to the decision:

Feniton undertrack rail crossing temporarily on hold due to Coronavirus health risk

East Devon District Council has made the tough but correct decision to postpone the Feniton undertrack rail crossing (Phase 3), which was due to be completed in early May 2020.

Given the current and forecast Corona Virus situation, the council has taken the proactive step to postpone non-essential construction work to reduce health risks to workers, local healthcare staff, and local residents.

East Devon appreciates all the hard work that the Network Rail team has put in to reach the current stage of the project, and looks forward to working with them to make sure everything is in place for the next possession window.

Although clearly a delay for phase 3, the fourth and final phase was not due to begin until March 2021, so the overall delay to the scheme completion is minimal.

The council’s project team will be working hard to ensure that both phase 3 and 4 can be delivered as soon as practically possible

Commenting on the delay, Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for the environment, said:

“I totally understand that we have to make this decision to delay phase 3 of the Feniton scheme, during the Covid 19 Emergency.

“I would stress that this is a temporary delay and that we are totally committed to completing the Feniton Flood scheme as well all the other flood and sea defence schemes that we have currently in hand.

Cllr Ben Ingham, the Leader of East Devon District Council, said:

“It is a tremendous shame that we have to postpone this vital project for Feniton, especially in light of the hard work to get us this far. However, we cannot take high risks so there must be a delay. But we will be back.”

Cllr Peter Faithfull, Deputy Portfolio Holder for the Environment, said:

“While it is extremely frustrating to have to make the decision to delay this work, the risk of flooding has to be placed second to the risk of Covid-19 for both the workers and the residents.”

Feniton ward member, Cllr Susie Bond, said:

“This is hugely disappointing, but not unexpected, news given the national emergency in which we find ourselves. We shall look forward to hearing more positive news once the crisis is over and we can work with Network Rail in finding a new possession window.”

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