Save Our Field! Planning application threatens environmentally important Seaton field and prime views from the SW Coastal Path

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A new planning application on the EDDC portal proposes to build a 4-bedroom house in the field at the top of Beer Road which offers the best views of the coast from the SW Coastal Path between Seaton Hole and the centre of Seaton, views hundreds of local people and visitors stop to admire every day. The house would be to the left of the picture above (and clearly visible especially when walking into Seaton), and the driveway would be in the middle of this picture.

The field – according to the applicants’ own survey – is used by at least 13 species of bat, 4 of which are rare, and would have a negative effect on the Beer Caves Site of Special Scientific Interest where three of the rare species are located. More than that, the field is a prime example of the increasingly rare unimproved grassland which is listed as a priority habitat type of principal importance under environmental legislation.

It is vital that local residents and visitors alike show how much they value this field. You can comment on the application by logging into the EDDC portal or by emailing planningeast@eastdevon.gov.uk, giving the reference 20/1775/OUT, before 16th September. You should say in your own words why the field is important to you, but also refer to some of the reasons why the application should be refused from the point of view of planning law. The list compiled by the West Seaton and Seaton Hole Association is at the foot of this post, but don’t just copy out the list!

It is inconceivable that EDDC will give permission for this development since it has refused similar proposals for the garden of Pembroke House adjacent to this field, and two planning inspectors have confirmed these refusals on the grounds that the field represents a crucial ‘visual break’ on the edge of Seaton.

However the field applicants say the inspectors have got it wrong and the applicants in the Pembroke House case are currently on their third appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. Both may be hoping that the Government’s policies of making things easier for developers and revisiting some EU environmental rules will eventually enable them to get permission.

REASONS FOR OBJECTING:

  1. The site is in the countryside, outside the Built Up Area Boundary for Seaton, and would result in significant harm to the countryside contrary to Strategy 7 of the East Devon Local Plan. No good reason has been given why the planning authority should exceptionally allow development in this case (EDDC’s housing supply is adequate and Seaton needs more affordable housing, not more 4-bedroomed houses) -permitting this development would set a dangerous precedent.
  2. Planning Inspectors in case 15/2395/FUL stated the field represents an important ‘visual break’ and in 17/1177/FUL that it constitutes a valuable ‘green buffer’. The applicants’ reason for disagreeing with them appears to be that the settlement of Seaton only ends to the west of Pembroke House, but in reality that house is an outlier. It is significant that the highways authority maintains the national speed limit (60 mph) on the road past the field, clearly indicating that the settlement ends to its east.
  3. The site is part of the Coastal Preservation Area, which is defined on the basis of visual openness and views to and from the sea, and both the house and its driveway would damage the undeveloped/open status of the designated area, contrary to Strategy 44.
  4. The site is unimproved paddock, which is an increasingly rare type of habitat, listed as a habitat of principal importance under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. As the applicants’ survey shows, the field is used by at least 13 species of bats, including 4 rare species, of which 3 are based in Beer Caves. Therefore loss of part of the field as well as lighting from the development would negatively impact on these species and the Beer SSSI, contrary to Strategy 47, Landscape Conservation and Enhancement. The applicants’ claim that mitigation could make the impact neutral or even positive is speculative. The only significant proposal, to add substantial hedging around the property, could increase the harm to the visual value of the field, contrary to Strategy 44.
  5. Because development on the site will harm a key coastal site adjacent to the SW Coastal Path, it will be contrary to the Local Plan’s vision for Seaton as a tourist destination, which states that the East Devon Coast World Heritage Site (Jurassic Coast) – 100 metres away – and ‘surrounding exceptional coastline’ will be ‘key environmental assets that will be integral to the future success of the town’, and contrary to Strategy 25 (Seaton) which states that the town’s ‘outstanding natural environment’ is ‘its most precious and defining asset’.
  6. Additional traffic from the site on to Beer Road is undesirable from a highway safety point of view, since this is busy road used by nearly 200 vehicles per hour in March, according to the applicants’ survey, and many more in summer, with vehicles legally travelling at up to 60 mph and a recorded average of 35 mph.
  7. No development should be permitted without an assessment of how a new vehicle access could be created, in a way that complies with Strategy 44, for the Lyme Bay View care home, which could lose its current access in the coming decades, since the mudstone cliff is now only 5 metres away from Old Beer Road opposite its existing entrance.
  8. No development should be permitted without an archaeological survey, in accordance with Policy EN7, in view of the finding of paleolithic tools during the construction of Beer Road, which the Historic Environment Map links to the site, as well as the early Bronze Age to late Iron Age site barely 100 metres away on the other side of Beer Road.
  9. Residents in neighbouring properties should raise any concerns they have in the light of Policy D1 of the Local Plan, which says that development will not be permitted where it harms neighbours’ amenity. Bear in mind, though, that there is no individual right to a view.

[Disclosure: I have an indirect interest in this case, since my back garden borders the other side of the field, furthest from the proposed development, but I am not directly affected.]

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