Act now to save the Green Wedge!

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The deadline for comments on the planning application for land between Harepath Road and Colyford Road, which will almost destroy the Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford, is 27 October, although objections are sometimes accepted after the date (apologies for wrong date in earlier version of this post). Seaton Town Council has resolved to object and is currently preparing a full objection, but everyone who cares about the future of the town and its environment should object as soon as possible. Here is a guide for objectors:

To object: go on EDDC’s Planning Portal to view the application and then submit your comment online, or email your objection to planningeast@eastdevon.gov.ukor write to Planning (East), EDDC, The Knowle, Sidmouth EX10 8HL

Quote application no. 15/2188/MOUT – Land East Of Harepath Road Seaton. Write your objection in your own words about the issues that are most important to you – don’t just cut and paste from these suggestions. 

THE PROPOSAL

The application proposes a combination of up to 130 or 150 houses (both figures are given!) with some employment and business facilities. However the latter will only be built if there is a demand – so maybe only houses will actually happen. 

The application is described as containing 75 affordable dwellings (50%) but the application form specifies 38 (25%). Apparently council officers persuaded the developer to increase the percentage because the site is outside the Built Up Area Boundary.

  • In Seaton we’re used to affordable housing disappearing during the development process, but to lose them at the turn of a page must be an all-time record!
  • It’s difficult to have any confidence that any affordable housing would actually be built.

THE SITE ACCORDING TO THE LOCAL PLAN

  1. In the Local Plan, the main part of the site (labeled LSE2) is not designated for housing, but only for employment and recreation facilities. At least 45% of this site must be for recreational use – we need additional playing fields in Seaton – but the application proposes no recreational facilities.
  2. The other part is currently a reserve site (labelled E315) which may be used for mixed use development – BUT only in the case of shortages of land elsewhere, which are NOT proved. However the new version of the Local Plan (which now has ‘substantial weight’ in planning decisions and is likely to be approved very soon) removes this reserve site. The developer is working against the clock trying to get it before the new Plan comes in.

GREEN WEDGE 

The Local Plan protects Green Wedges between settlements. This is the 3rd application by this developer to build in the Green Wedge.

  • EDDC refused the previous applications, but they were only defeated after an appeal inspector ruled that concerns about housing were not sufficient to override the protection of the Wedge. 

He said: ‘the housing shortfall although significant is – arguably – relatively short term, whereas the erosion of separation between Colyford and Seaton would be permanent, and should not be acceded to lightly.’ 

The gap left between Seaton and Colyford in this application – 250 metres – is a little bit larger than than previously. However it is still less than the 450 metres that another inspector found insufficient to separate Lympstone from Exmouth in 2011.

HOUSING 

The alleged ‘housing shortfall’ in East Devon has been addressed. The applicants are trying to take advantage of the residual uncertainty (about whether East Devon has a 5-year housing land supply) because the new Local Plan has still not yet been finally approved. 

  • However EDDC has shown that it has a 5-year supply, and this is not one of the issues remaining to be resolved with the new Local Plan.
  • Seaton is already meeting its target for new houses in the Local Plan within the town, as the Plan stipulates. Large numbers of extra houses are already being built in or are approved for Seaton, at Harbour Road and elsewhere.

ENVIRONMENT

The Green Wedge is crucial for the environment of Seaton and Colyford. The new Local Plan says that ‘Seaton’s outstanding natural environment especially its Wetlands is its most precious and defining asset’. Building houses across this site will damage:

  1. The landscape, views across Axe estuary and the setting of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  2. The setting of the Seaton Wetlands, the jewel in Seaton’s crown. (This development will bring housing right up to the main entrance to the Wetlands, at the Cemetery, replacing the rural setting of the Wetlands with an urban environment.)
  3. The environment of bats which live on the site and other wildlife on the site and in the Wetlands.

TRANSPORT

Colyford Road is a narrow country lane with no pavement. Extra traffic into this road from the development will cause congestion – and threaten cyclists on the new national cycle route, the Stop Line Way (the section between Colyford and the cemetery has just opened) which passes along it.

TOURISM

In the Local Plan, Seaton’s economic future is based largely on a ‘green tourism’ strategy – if all the tourist sees is urban sprawl, they’re not going to be attracted into Seaton. The Wetlands and the cycle route are crucial to this strategy.

SERVICES

Seaton has grown hugely in recent years. The new Local Plan says that its ‘community facilities, school, health, social and cultural, are seen as borderline or inadequate with no capacity to serve additional residents.’ So extra housing will place unacceptable strains on the primary school, GP practices, etc.

WHAT’S AT STAKE 

  • Preserving the green setting of Seaton and Colyford
  • Protecting our environmental assets
  • The right balance between development and community services
  • Making sure areas designated for recreation are actually used for recreation
  • Stopping the developer riding roughshod over local opinion and the Local Plan.

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