Leading questions in developers’ ‘consultation’ about Green Wedge housing scheme

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On Wednesday, I attended Baker Estates’ exhibition about their proposed scheme for a housing development in the Seaton-Colyton Green Wedge. Following the exhibition, a Facebook group OPPOSE Baker Estates Building on the green wedge between Seaton & Colyford has been set up and already has over 250 members.

Exhibition stand showing sports pitch to west of Harepath Road, possible commercial area (in grey) to east, and housing between Harepath Road and Colyford Road (photo from OPPOSE Baker Estates Building on the green wedge between Seaton & Colyford)

Baker Estates has acquired an interest in the land shown on their map and proposes to build up to 130 homes, a large proportion of them bungalows with a possible 25 per cent ‘affordable housing’. The majority of the houses are proposed to be built outside the Seaton Built Up Area Boundary and inside the protected Green Wedge, as defined by the current East Devon Local Plan (go to the interactive map to compare the plan to the Baker Estates proposals).

Baker Estates were giving out a questionnaire for a ‘consultation’, which is also available on their site. As a social scientist who knows something about questionnaire design, I can confirm that it is so poorly designed and and misleading as to be worthless as an expression of public opinion (but which Baker Estates will doubtless seek to use if they get ‘results’ helpful to their cause):

  1. The first question asks about the proposal to build bungalows, ‘addressing an unmet need and providing downsizing opportunities that free up family home elsewhere’. Giving the alleged benefits of this in the question, but with no mention of the downsides (e.g. a massive increase in Seaton’s already huge pensioner population with all the knock-on effects for local services) makes this a leading question.
  2. The second asks about whether there should be a through link for pedestrians/cyclists/buses only between Harepath Road and Colyford Road, or a road connection, but then says ‘do you agree, yes or no?’, rather than providing boxes for the two alternatives. So this question is so poorly designed as to be meaningless.
  3. The third asks if people support the provision of a new sports pitch ‘to enhance local facilities’. This is like asking people if they like sunny weather, but there is no indication that the scheme will not actually construct this pitch and its associated facilities.
  4. The fourth asks if people support the provision of 25% ‘affordable homes’. No mention of the fact that a scheme that overrides the local plan would normally be expected to have a much higher proportion (as much as 66%). Why no alternative percentages – 50, 66, 75 – for people to tick?
  5. The fifth question asks if housing similar in style to their other Seaton developments would be suitable.
  6. The sixth is the most outrageously leading question: ‘Given that the emerging local plan identifies a need for more homes at Seaton and a need for sports facilities, do you support the proposals? (1) The ’emerging’ plan is not in force yet and will not be when Baker Estates submit their application later this year; it is the existing Local Plan which matters. (2) Both the existing and emerging plans include a policy on Green Wedges, as well as other policies which this proposal will violate. (3) Just because extra homes are needed does not mean that this is the right place to build them – there are other options, as people are pointing out on Facebook.

I will be writing about the wider context of this in a forthcoming column in the Midweek Herald. Sign up for updates to this blog to get notified of this and other comments on these issues.

One thought on “Leading questions in developers’ ‘consultation’ about Green Wedge housing scheme

    Sally said:
    July 15, 2022 at 7:47 pm

    There are so many more suitable places for building new houses , not our green belt . Places that have been derelict for so long like the old st John’s, the site beside tower services


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