This report seeks Members consideration on the engagement undertaken to the settlement hierarchy in the emerging local plan.
The Chair invited the two public speakers to speak.
Mr Paul Gamble raised a question on the Role and Function of Settlements – final draft and sought clarification as to why All Saints was not recognised as having a public transport service. He referred to the response he had received from this council on 13 September 2021 which stated ‘we didn’t include the bus service running from All Saints Cross bus stop as, although it may be a reasonable walking distance, it is detached from the existing built form of the settlement, and along country lanes which would not be attractive to walk along, particularly after dark’.
Mr Gamble advised that All Saints Cross bus stop was approximately 100m from All Saints and was used regularly by people of all ages and provided a valuable, regular link from the village to Axminster. He considered the lane was safe to walk along and referred to the All Saints Sports Playing Pitch, which was included in the list of services, being located in the same lane as the bus stop.
He referred to Members comments from the Strategic Planning Committee held on 20 July detailed on page 14 and quoted ‘the proximity of services should be taken into account, even if outside the actual village’ and referred to Ebford being in proximity to the St George and Dragon pub and Dart’s Farm and Exton and Westclyst being identified in tier 4 as they were close to a range of facilities elsewhere.
In response the Service Lead - Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that the bus service was discounted due to the distance from the main village and that it was located down an unsafe and unlit country lane. He acknowledged that the sports pitches had now been included at Members request but considered these pitches would be used during the day which was less of an issue. He acknowledged Mr Gambles concerns and advised the decision was subject to judgment about whether Members wanted to give consideration to facilities and services that are outside of settlement boundaries and welcomed Members views during debate.
Mr Bruce Hartley-Raven spoke on behalf of the owners of Darts Farm who advised that as part of the Call for Sites Consultation in March 2021 land had been submitted to the north east of Darts Farm to enable the expansion of Darts Farm and for the opportunity of much needed housing. He raised concerns that Clyst St George had not been defined as a village even though it had a number of community facilities and was close to other hubs including Darts Farm, the adjacent business park and the Devon and Somerset Fire Rescue HQ and that it would not be able to benefit from any planned or designated growth through the emerging local plan.
He urged Members to reconsider and amend the draft document.
The Service Lead - Planning Strategy and Development Management presented the report that updated Members on the engagement undertaken to develop an evidence document that detailed the settlement hierarchy in the emerging local plan.
He drew attention to the comments by Mr Hartley-Raven and acknowledged that Members had submitted comments that identified that the proximity of services should be taken into account, even if outside the village. He asked Members to be mindful of how these services are particularly given the age profile of many of our rural communities and the mobility issues residents may have. He also highlighted the roads to Darts Farm and the George and Dragon Pub are busy main roads that do not have any crossing points.
One comments was raised by a Non-Committee Member:
The Portfolio Holder Coast, Country and Environment advised there was a need to identify and protect our natural areas first before considering building in a town. He agreed with the comments about the narrow footpath at Clyst St George and advised that a cycleway across the road was refused by Devon County Council Highways.
Comments raised by Committee Members included:
· Concerns raised about the inaccuracy of the population figures and not producing the services that are actually needed especially in terms of medical services. In response the Service Lead, Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that the most up-to-date data had been used and if new population data came through while preparing the local plan that would be taken into account.
· Clarification sought about whether there was another mechanism to produce accurate population figures.
· Concerns raised that certain assumptions are being made about where things are actually located.
· There are a lot of inaccuracies in the document that may lead to wrong decision being made.
· There is a need to build services in parallel to the number of houses being built.
· Westclyst is not a settlement it is part of Broadclyst.
· The need to draft a local plan that is flexible to allow for changing circumstances;
· Concerns that there are limitations on the growth that we are allowing in settlements especially in those settlements that want growth;
· There is a need to consider the demographics as many of our villages have older people in them;
· It is crucial to consider how we are classing the open countryside and the settlements and whether we are going to allow growth. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised this was significant for Clyst St George and advised that if Darts Farm and the George and Dragon and other facilities were included, that were on the edge of the settlement and within walking distance of the settlement this would bring Clyst St George into tier four of the settlement hierarchy;
· A fundamental issue with Clyst St George is that it has an extremely hazardous road with a narrow footpath;
· There is a need to resolve the issue that too many communities are not being allowed to grow. We must be more pragmatic, more open and more flexible to allow small growth in our smallest communities. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised there were mechanisms in place to allow small growth but advised Members to be mindful of consistency of planning merits rather than whether communities want growth or not;
· The way forward to allow rural villages to prosper is to look at smaller organic growth through community led housing;
· Concerns raised about economic development and the key balance between jobs and housing which is changing due to the pandemic and the need for an economic plan to minimise the amount of travelling by cars and to maximise the connectivity. There is a need to think holistically about jobs, infrastructure and housing. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised about the close work with the Economic Development Team to develop evidence for employment needs within the district and how to deliver jobs through the local plan;
· Concerns raised that Lympstone Commando Centre should not be included with Exton as it is misleading. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised the Committee that it had not influenced the consideration of Exton in the hierarchy.
That Strategic Planning Committee endorsed the findings of the Role and Function Settlements – Final Draft and endorsed its use as evidence which will be updated as further data and evidence comes forward.