Seaton-Colyford green wedge
EDDC response to new Government planning targets could threaten Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford
A new EDDC strategy document, Principles For Accommodating The Future Growth Needs Of East Devon, does not propose the Seaton area as an area of large-scale growth, but still raises the spectre of developing the Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford and bringing the reserve site near the Wetlands (removed from the Local Plan) back into play for housing:
8.11 Seaton – The town is constrained by topography particularly to the east and west but there is some limited scope for growth to the north of the town. The capacity to the north of the town would depend on the extent to which developing in the existing green wedge separating the town from Colyford would be accepted. The local plan had included a reserve site which still has potential while the allocated site for employment and community purposes has not come forward and may need looking at again. Clearly there are sensitivities to the north of the town in terms of the landscape given that it is rising land but also with the green wedge designation between Seaton and Colyford.
Background The Government is setting targets for each district which in East Devon will mean around 844 extra homes per year. The document also says that to ‘also achieve Members aspiration to deliver one job per home we will also need to deliver enough employment space to accommodate at least 844 jobs per year.’
EDDC welcomes this growth as a way of offsetting the effects of austerity; ‘The continued growth of the district and the future incentives form a vital element in the mitigation of the future financial pressures anticipated from 2020/21 as detailed in the financial plan.’ It even claims that ‘Continued growth is required to finance the councils Habitat Mitigation Strategy as well as other local infrastructure investment.’ (Growth is required to mitigate the effects of growth!)
Problems Neither this paper nor the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan consultation document included in the same papers (which EDDC was unhappy with and is now being revisited) faces up to the fact that – except close to Exeter where they believe new estates should be concentrated – demand for housing is mainly from incoming retirees. This is why the projected need for employment land could be exaggerated.
In recent years, East Devon has had the highest rate of net domestic migration, well over 1 per cent p.a., of any district in England. Demand also includes a sizeable proportion of second homes: this may help explain why the report says, ‘East Devon is one of the few places in the south west where housing delivery has exceeded population growth by more than 0.5%’.
Certainly little of the housing is for local young people, not surprising as ‘the ratio between average earnings and average house prices is in the region of 11.42’.
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty The report says: ‘As custodians of these areas it is considered inappropriate to put significant growth in these areas although some authorities are doing this due to a lack of alternatives. That is not to say that there should be a moratorium on growth in the AONB’s. Any growth in AONB’sunder our own policies and government policies must conserve or enhance the landscape character of the area and major development should only be accommodated where it cannot be accommodated elsewhere.’ However we know from the recent Woodbury decision that this still means significant intrusion.
Poor infrastructure One of the reasons our area isn’t proposed for growth is probably that, as the report recognises, ‘Smaller towns and villages are losing services and facilities due to austerity measures and economic change and residents are becoming increasingly dependent on travelling to larger service centres and are often doing this by car due to poor access to public transport, convenience etc.’
EDDC has refused the application for a development including 150 houses on land east of Harepath Road, in the Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford. This was a delegated decision, which did not go to the Development Management Committee, because planners, councillors, Seaton Town Council and Colyton Parish Council all agreed. The full reasons can be found here.
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 email@example.com
To object: go on EDDC’s Planning Portal to view the application and then submit your comment online, or email your objection to firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 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:
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.