Agenda item

UPDATE REPORT: Site selection for the emerging East Devon Local Plan 2020 to 2040 - interim findings at Tier 1 and Tier 2 settlements

This report follows on from Members consideration of the site assessment work at the Tier 1 and Tier 2 settlements.


The Committee considered the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management’s report updating on the role of any proposed new community and redevelopment of Exmouth to help address the shortfall in housing sites that some Members had queried at the previous meeting.


The report outlined that consultants had been appointed to consider options for a new community and their findings would be reported back to Members at a future meeting.  The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management addressed a number of leading challenges for a new community including the timescale which could be in the region of 10 years before homes could start to be delivered.


In terms of development within Exmouth Town Centre the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised this area had significant constraints to delivering new homes including substantial flood zones.  He referred Members to the detailed flood zone map in paragraph 3.4 advising government policy would suggest housing development would not be a viable option in these areas as it would put property and lives at risk.  He also referred to the redevelopment options of Exmouth Town Centre advising the potential number of houses within Exmouth Town Centre would be relatively small and therefore not a realistic approach.


Members noted an additional update for Seat_03.  The numbers cited in the report were different to those detailed in the site assessments in the appendices.


In response to questions raised by public speakers the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management clarified the following points:


Ø  Officer assessments of sites were based on absolute constraints (AONBs, ecological and heritage impacts) and continuing with existing policy framework would not make sense when the council was trying to establish a new policy framework.  Communities will however have an opportunity to provide their views, concerns and issues through the consultation stage of the draft Local Plan.


Ø  Ottery St Mary had higher number of proposed sites as it had fewer constraints than Exmouth, Sidmouth or Seaton.  The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management acknowledged there would be significant impacts on infrastructure and advised this would need to be factored into future work and reminded Members, in the meantime, the purpose for this meeting was to seek views on their preferred approach sites and their second choice sites to frame the consultation and to enable infrastructure providers to understand the implications and to enable them to comment on the proposed growth.


Ø  In response to Mr Morgan’s concerns about the impact on ancient woodlands around Exmouth he highlighted that essentially all sites had some kind of constraint/s which we would prefer to avoid.  He emphasised that difficult choices needed to be made which would impact on something that was important, whether that be ancient woodland or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Ø  Finally in response to Mr Cross’s comments about smaller sites the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that government policy states that 20% of our housing supply must be delivered on smaller sites of less than half hectare in area.


The Chair sought clarification on whether developers would perceive the outcome of this meeting as a green or amber light for their sites.  The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised he could not stop developers thinking that but in his mind at this stage it was clearly an initial assessment and further work would be required and developers need to be aware that the emerging Local Plan cannot carry any significant weight at this stage.


The Chair sought clarification on the outcome if Members struggled to identify 2nd best sites into the preferred allocation sites.  The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that the draft Local Plan could go out to consultation with the sites as shown but emphasised that in order to meet the shortfall in housing sites there was a need to allocate all the preferred sites and the 2nd choice sites.


Comments during discussion included:

·         Coastal Protection Zones was queried and whether Members understood the purpose of a coastal protection area.  It was advised these were policies in the current Local Plan and would need to be reviewed and recommendations made in terms of what happens to the coastal preservation areas in the new Local Plan;

·         Would like to see more refined assessments of the sites to enable Members to score and prioritise each site.  In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised officers would need a steer from Members on the assessment work and scoring process and urged it would significantly delay the timetable to review the work.  He further advised if Members were minded and sought to provide officers a steer about priorities there would be an opportunity towards the end of the consultation stage and before the publication draft of the plan to do further assessment work on the sites which could feed into the final assessment work.  The Chair, who supported this becoming a fifth recommendation sought Councillor Bailey’s views.  In response Councillor Bailey confirmed she was in favour of this and supported officers proactively seeking development opportunities within brownfield sites in a bid to avoid the sprawl on the edge of our towns. 

·         Disappointed to see the focus was on urban intensification and not redevelopment of town centres;

·         A suggestion was made to receive a comprehensive report detailing the opportunities and intensification of use for all of the sites including brownfield sites.  The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that a lot of information had been brought to committee in the past and referred to the Urban Capacity Study and the Brownfield Register.  Evidence showed that East Devon did not have many brownfield sites and that landowners/developers were not putting these sites forward.  He suggested, if Members wished, a proactive approach could be taken through compulsory purchase powers but emphasised numbers would be relatively low.


The Chair addressed the Committee about their direction of travel for the meeting and advised in his view it was to hear about the sincere concerns about the sites for each town.  To assist the Committee he proposed the following amendment to the first recommendation which was seconded by Councillor Eleanor Rylance:

That Strategic Planning Committee recommend endorsement of the sites of the preferred allocations and 2nd choice sites proposed as suitable for allocation.


Further comments during discussion included:

·         It was suggested that the council lobby Central Government with a concerted effort from local MPs to address the unsustainable  and inappropriate way housing numbers were calculated;

·         It was suggested that any sites brought forward on the edge of villages should be allocated as social housing with a local restriction to enable young people to stay within their communities;

·         Infrastructure needs to proceed in parallel with any development;

·         What are we going to do with the Magnolia Centre?

·         A query was raised about compulsory purchase powers and whether additional resources could be provided to instigate this so that empty shops could be turned into affordable housing for young people rather than building on the outskirts of towns?

·         Reference was made to the recent AONB report that showed East  Devon had contributed to more than its fair share of housing numbers and how the AONB would be swallowed by with housing sprawl;

·         Reference was made to the amendment to site assessment Seat_07 and Seat_12 since the working draft Local Plan and clarification sought on how many other sites had amendments and why these had been amended.  The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised it was the result of further assessment work and emphasised if Members wished for an additional report on this it would take valuable resources away from progressing with the consultation;

·         A query was raised about why the sites assessments had not been done on a scoring basis as had previously been done on the Working draft Local Plan.  The scoring system had made it a lot easier.  It would be helpful for Members to understand how sites were graded when considering the shortfall.  In response it was confirmed further work could be done but emphasised the ‘no’s’ would remain definite ‘no’s’ due to the significant constraints identified and every other site  identified as preferred and 2nd choice sites had been put forward to meet the shortfall of housing numbers.

·         There was a need to look at the Magnolia Centre as there was a potential for a minimum of 500 homes which would add vitality back into the town and a suggestion was made for a further recommendation to read ‘this committee asks that the redevelopment of the Magnolia Centre in Exmouth be brought to this Committee at the next available meeting for agreement on the way forward to get this started’.  The Chair acknowledged the importance of the recommendation and suggested that it be brought forward for consideration before the end of the year;


The Chair drew Members’ attention to the recommendations on page 18 of the report.  He reminded Members of his amendment to the first recommendation that Strategic Planning Committee ‘recommend endorsement of the preferred sites and 2nd choice sites as suitable for consultation’ and said this would enable the consultation to go ahead in the autumn. A discussion took place on the remaining recommendations where it was agreed that recommendation 2 would remain the same; recommendation 3 would be removed as this was reflected in recommendation 1 and a further recommendation be added to read ‘that a report be brought to a future meeting of Strategic Planning Committee to set out options for the weighting of site constraints and assessments to inform future assessment work, post consultation of the draft Local Plan.  Following advice from the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management on recommendation 4 the Chair advised recommendation 4 would be deferred for later consideration with the site assessment work on the tier 3 and tier 4 settlements.


Before taking the meeting to a brief adjournment the Chair invited Committee Members to vote on the following recommendations separately:




That Strategic Planning Committee:

1.    Recommend endorsement of the preferred sites and 2nd choice sites as suitable for consultation;

2.    Note the likely shortfall in housing sites identified within this committee report’

3.    That a report be brought to a future meeting of Strategic Planning Committee to set out options for the weighting of site constraints and assessments to inform future assessment work, post consultation on the draft Local Plan.


Committee Members were in support of the three recommendations.


The Chair paused the meeting for a brief adjournment and advised Members that on their return he would be inviting them to discuss each of the settlements in tier 1 and tier 2.


The meeting was adjourned at 12.08pm and reconvened at 12.45pm.


Members considered each of the settlements in Tier 1 and 2 as follows:


Members’ concerns for site selections for Axminster included:

·         Axminster Ward Members were very supportive of a relief road;

·         The area needs investment to sustain the high level of growth;

·         Supportive of numbers coming forward but with the support of infrastructure.


Members’ concerns for site selections for Exmouth included:

·         Exmo_06 – Douglas Gardens.  Concerns for the Maer Valley Park; mature trees and hedgerows should be preserved and access is extremely poor.  Maer Lane is too narrow for development and the site is too steep;

·         Exmo_08 & Exmo_16 - Similar concerns as Exmo_06.  All three sites will need access to Douglas Avenue and Littleham Cross;

·         Exmo_17 – The original proposal for the new road was down Castle Lane, before the bridge.  This needs to go beyond Rodney Close to have a real benefit;

·         Do not agree with any development within the Lympstone/Exmouth gap and should remain green to protect the pebblebed heaths;

·         The existing infrastructure cannot support any more development;

·         Lymp_14, Lymp_13, Lymp_10 & Lymp_09 will have a significant impact on the residents;

·         The Dinan Way extension is desperately needed for the northern side of the town;

·         Lymp_10 & Lymp_15 – The top end of Hulham Road is a fast, dangerous narrow road and unsustainable as it is too far away from facilities;

·         Would prefer not to build all around the periphery of Exmouth

·         Concerns about further development in Exmo_20, Exmo_07, Lymp_08, Lymp_10 and Lymp_9 as this will affect the Green Wedge


Members’ raised no concerns for Honiton.


Members’ concerns for site selections for Ottery St Mary included:


The following statement was read out on behalf of Councillor Vicky Johns:

I am writing as one of the East Devon District Councillors for Ottery St Mary and I am horrified by the draft proposal that looks to offset a large amount of housing in the Ottery Parish. Ottery is the smallest of the Parishes that is being looked at by East Devon for the housing allocation and yet it is being looked at for one of the largest allocations in comparison to its size. Over the last few years Ottery has grown more than any other East Devon town without any growth in its infrastructure, including no banks at all, resulting in schools that are at capacity, as pointed out by your own inspections. A doctor’s surgery that is struggling under the sheer volume of patients, not to mention the fact that the buses, which have been mentioned in this report have been significantly reduced as of the end of July 2022.


The sites that have been put forward state that there are issues with the roads in Ottery due to their narrowness


Otry_01 - states that the lack of infrastructure would require a new roundabout and primary and secondary school provision. The report states that there is medium sensitivity with regards to the landscape of this site and that a roundabout, which would be necessary, would be a visually dominant feature. As a resident of Ottery I can state that the sensitivity of changes to this landscape would actually be high, this is one of the main approaches to Ottery and is mentioned in the Neighbourhood plan for the Parishes of Ottery and West Hill 2017-2031 page 2 ‘The countryside around the parish is its crowning glory and the plan has made it clear that this should be protected for future generations’. To build houses on this site would have a detrimental effect on Ottery as a whole, as it would change the approaches to Ottery. The survey states itself that if this site was used within allocation then there would be a requirement for archaeological assessment as historic use suggests there is potential subterranean archaeology. The land itself is Grade 3 agricultural land and as a council we have declared a climate emergency so how is removing agricultural land complying with our climate emergency or assisting in anyway? The road itself is quite narrow and there are no paths from this site down into Ottery itself.


East Devon have stated themselves in the report that ‘the scale of development on this site would help deliver the district-wide housing requirement in a manner that is consistent with the spatial strategy.’ So it is not good for Ottery but good for East Devon District Council as it helps them this is not a good enough reason to put even more housing in a parish that is already at capacity.


Otry_09 - Land at Thorne Farm Way - This site is identified in the Neighbourhood plan for education and community use not for housing, this site has recently had a planning application put forward which has already been turned down by EDDC. To put the site forward again makes a mockery of the whole system, not to mention the issues that have been mentioned above also stand for this site.


Otry_10 Lane at North and South Salston Barton - This site is on a narrow road with no path leading to Ottery itself, the report mentions the possibility of connecting with the new Bovis site but there is no path on that side of the Bovis site and a busy road would need to be crossed to get to the Bovis site. There is mention of a cycle/footpath along strawberry lane but the road is not wide enough to facilitate this. The site itself is prone to flooding and would leave the house below it open to more risk of flooding as they are situated at a lower level to this site.


GH/ED/27 - Strawberry Lane - This site is also along the narrow Strawberry Lane road there is mention in the report of the impact of j29 on the M5 during busy periods. It is unclear why that is on this particular allocation when it does not impact Ottery. This site has the same issues as the above site Otry_10 and should not be considered within the sites allocations.


All of the sites put forward for Ottery above mention the issues with the infrastructure but are basically ignored in favour of assisting EDDC with the housing allocations needed by the Government. Ottery is the smallest town being put forward with very limited infrastructure it is also the town that has seen the most growth, percentage wise, over the last few years and cannot sustain any more housing of a significant size.  The committee was asked to take this point of view into account.

·         The historic layout of the town centre and network of narrow lanes makes traffic and pedestrian and cycle access to facilities more difficult;

·         Otry_01 – A new roundabout would be required by Devon County Council Highways.  The site would impact on the AONB and there is also a lack of available spaces at the secondary and primary schools.  The site is outside the BUAB with the loss the Grade III agricultural land

·         Otry_09 – A new roundabout would be required and the development would be visible;

·         Strawberry Lane/Slade Road has highway issues as it is a dangerous road;

·         Green wedges should be upheld


Members’ concerns for site selections for Seaton included:

·         Seat_05 – Strong wish to retain the employment allocation for this site.


Members’ concerns for site selections for Sidmouth included:

·         There are no high ranking sites in the Sid Valley;

·         Sidm_06 – Risk of coalescence and should only be acceptable if it does not impact on the visual and physical separation of Sidford and Sidbury.  It is within the AONB and has a high landscape sensitivity to new development;

·         Sidm_06 – Would add to traffic in the already narrow roads;

·         Sidm_24 – Same concerns raised as Sidm_06;

·         Sidm_13 - Close to AONB and would change the entrance to Sidford and Sidmouth

·         Sidm_14 – Same concerns as Sidm_13.

Supporting documents: