Sorry I have given out incorrect information on the closing date – it remains officially 27 October! Often comments are accepted after that, but to be sure please submit today, even if briefly, on the portal or by email to planning firstname.lastname@example.org
Independent County Councillor, Claire Wright (Ottery St Mary), has typically forthright comments on the police cuts:
To object: go on EDDC’s Planning Portal to view the application and then submit your comment online, or email your objection to email@example.com, or 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 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
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
- The landscape, views across Axe estuary and the setting of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- 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.)
- The environment of bats which live on the site and other wildlife on the site and in the Wetlands.
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.
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.
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.
The Seaton Town Council Planning meeting which will consider the Green Wedge application will now be in the United Reform Church, Cross Street, at 7 on Monday 19th October, as the council anticipates a large public turnout.
The developer whose previous application was turned down by EDDC, a refusal confirmed by an Inspector on appeal, has put in a new bid to build on land between Harepath Road and Colyford Road, in the Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford. This will be discussed at Seaton Town Council Planning Committee on Monday (19 October, 7 pm). You can view the application here:
I have been co-opted to the Council to fill a vacancy, and I took my seat last night. Many thanks to the members who voted me on and to friends who came to support me at the meeting. I look forward to an interesting four years.
The battle for Pendeen, the modest but attractive seafront bungalow on Castle Hill which its owner wants to replace by a block of 3 flats, was lost at East Devon’s Development Management Committee yesterday. The DMC had refused a very similar application in April (by 7-6), but the same committee has now approved the replacement (6-4, with three Independent members unfortunately absent).
Seaton’s voice was once more unanimous: Marcus Hartnell for the town council, his fellow district councillor Jim Knight, Pendeen neighbour Jean Hoskin, and myself for the many individual objectors, backed up by Peter Burrows on the committee, all opposed the application, but we were overridden by Tory councillors from other areas.
Planning officers’ distortions
How could local opinion be so ignored, and the committee’s own recent decision be set aside? The simple answer is that planning officers, who supported the original application but were overruled by the majority of members, provided ammunition for councillors supporting the bid to overturn the first decision.
Two disturbing distortions in the officers’ case were highlighted by councillors who opposed the application. First, they quoted the National Planning Policy Framework’s paragraph 60 to the effect that we ‘should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative’. However Councillor Mike Allen (Conservative, Honiton) objected that they had omitted the conclusion to the NPPF paragraph: ‘It is, however, proper to seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness.’ Allen said that he did not appreciate officers quoting selectively to buttress a particular case.
Secondly, the officer in charge repeatedly displayed a photo, originally produced by the applicant, labelled to show the proposed flat-roofed block together with two other flat roofs in the view from Seafield Gardens. Peter Burrows twice pointed out that there were no photos provided at all from the public viewpoints (Coastal Path, Cliff Gardens) that would be damaged by the building. (Moreover the photo that was highlighted by the officer had cut out the row of red-roofed houses on Castle Hill of which Pendeen forms part.)
Councillors’ failure to carefully consider the objections
How did the committee come to its decision despite these failings in the pro-application case being pointed out? The majority of members simply did not respond to either Allen’s or Burrows’ points, they did not respond to most of the objections made by the Seaton representatives, and they did not address point by point the 3 good reasons for refusal that their own committee had given as recently as April.
Mostly these councillors thought it sufficient to give their opinions: Councillor Alan Dent, the former Design and Heritage Champion, ‘liked’ the proposed building, his successor, Christopher Pepper, agreed with him without expanding his own view, and other members chipped in briefly before voting the proposal through.
The bias of the planning system
Why do councillors act like this? They are not simply biased against Seaton, as the same thing happens to applications from other areas. They are not necessarily corrupt (in the sense highlighted by the Graham Brown case). The key, probably, is that they don’t want the trouble of appeals, highlighted as a danger by the officers in this case. Group-think does the rest: the Tories are happy to let individual councillors like Jim and Marcus speak for their constituents, and more independent minds like Mike Allen have their say, as long as the rest of them can vote us down.
We have no real redress against the Committee’s failure to consider the matter carefully or fairly. The applicant, if he had lost, could have appealed. Objectors can only seek judicial review – a right the Tory Government is trying to curtail – which would cost probably tens of thousands of pounds if EDDC spent taxpayers’ money to cover their own failings.
Unemployment on the rise across East Devon, with the biggest increase (19%) recorded in Seaton.
A controversial application to build two houses in the rear garden of the Lyme Bay View Residential Home, Old Beer Road (seen in the picture from the SW Coastal Path to Beer) has been withdrawn. This follows the withdrawal of a similar proposal to build three houses in the garden of Pembroke House, Beer Road, earlier in the year.
These proposals both involved overdevelopment of the sites and affected views of the coast and White Cliff (both adjoin the open field at the top of Beer Road which affords the best views on the west side of Seaton). Neither was environmentally sustainable, as distances from the town centre meant that occupants would inevitably rely on their cars.
Both also had access problems – the threat from coastal erosion to Old Beer Road at the Lyme Bay View entrance, and the ‘dangerous’ bend at the entrance to Pembroke House (as a previous EDDC decision described it).
Despite these withdrawals, West Seaton residents remain concerned at the pressure for inappropriate new development, also seen in the application for a block of flats at Pendeen, Castle Hill, which has been submitted in a revised form (the first application was rejected by EDDC after widespread opposition). The two ‘garden-grabbing’ applications could also return.
There is speculation that developers are planning to submit a new application to build on the ‘green wedge’ between Seaton and Colyford. Twice in recent weeks, residents have spotted people who appeared to carrying out preliminary surveys for such a proposal. The last application was defeated at the beginning of 2014 after a major campaign.