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Councillor Alasdair Bruce read out the following statement on behalf of Feniton Parish Council in relation to Minute 87 Working draft of the proposed East Devon Local Plan 2020 to 2040:
You will today be considering a strategy for the distribution of new development in the draft local plan. Most importantly for local communities, you will be identifying the specific sites where it is proposed development should be located. I am aware that the initial draft of the local plan does not meet the government’s housing target for East Devon by some 900 houses and that the committee faces a potentially difficult task in bridging the gap.
I have noted that among the potential options to achieve this, the village of Feniton is identified in at least two. This seems to be partly because the “call for sites” produced a number of superficially suitable sites and partly because of its identification as a larger “Service Village”.
I would like to remind the Committee that four of the sites at Feniton have already been tested at the consolidated Planning Inquiry of 2014 when all but the smallest site were rejected. The Planning Inspector concluded unequivocally that Feniton is not a sustainable location for new large scale housing.
The developers of these sites and the new sites now proposed at Feniton cannot claim with any authority or credibility that Feniton has become a more sustainable place for large scale housing. Indeed, I and the Parish Council would contend that if anything the situation is now worse.
Relative to the population the number of jobs easily accessible to the village is tiny. As a consequence the working population has to drive to its employment and car ownership in the village is way above the national average. While it is tempting to conclude that the presence of a railway station in the village makes it suitable as a commuter village for Exeter or Honiton, the reality is that trains only stop every two hours. The prospect of providing a service in the peak period that is sufficiently frequent to attract commuters from their cars is zero. The single track line will not allow it. Bus services are equally uninviting or inconvenient.
The Primary School is at capacity and on a constrained site. Consequently, the parents of new families coming to the village are already often required to transport their children to other villages by car. None of these parents is then going to return, park up and seek public transport to get to their jobs.
The village shop provides a good service but very few could rely on it for their total weekly shop. Most travel by car to supermarkets in nearby towns. While the draft plan identifies Feniton as a “Service Village”, leisure facilities and other services in the village are limited, there is no doctor, so again more car journeys are needed to meet the needs of the village population.
So, typical of many East Devon villages, the pattern in Feniton is one of already very high car usage on completely unsuitable village lanes. The “main roads” into the village all have places where two cars cannot pass, are dangerously narrow and none have a footpath. This is already completely unsustainable. More housing at the scale proposed by developers is simply not acceptable in this location.
In addition, Feniton is already well known for its propensity to flood. Housing on open fields around the village will only add to this problem. I have reason to believe that the one small development approved at the Inquiry in 2014 - Acland Park - failed to implement flood mitigation measures. Moreover the site is incomplete, abandoned and a health hazard. The experience in Feniton is that more hard surfaces always add to the existing flooding problems for the rest of the village.
Developers have put forward land around Feniton that in theory could provide 650 new homes. While the Committee might be tempted to include some of this in the draft local plan to meet the 900 home shortfall, I would urge you to consider this very, very carefully.
The HELAA assessment has not been published for these sites. No sustainability assessment has been made of the sites individually or more importantly, collectively. I believe that the categorisation of the majority of the sites as 4 or 5 (i.e. potentially suitable for development) is not supported by the facts and is in direct conflict with the 2014 Decision of the Planning Inspector.
The village’s Neighbourhood Plan of 2018 is clear about the implications of mass development and the problems facing Feniton. In supporting the plan, East Devon District Council noted that it was made with “considerable community engagement” and congratulated the Parish working group on “all its hard work”.
Members will be aware that a Planning Inquiry is a quasi-judicial process. The Planning Inspector was very clear in her judgement in 2014. Feniton is not a sustainable location for new mass housing. Nothing has changed.
Councillor Roger Giles spoke on behalf of Ottery St Mary Town Council and residents in relation to Minute 87 Working draft of the proposed East Devon Local Plan 2020 to 2040. He referred to the current Local Plan and how Ottery St Mary had seen a 25% growth which was more than any other town in the district other than Cranbrook. He raised concerns that in the draft Local Plan there was a possibility that Ottery St Mary could see an astonishing further 1,300 houses which would be in excess of a further 50% growth. This proposal would make Ottery St Mary unsustainable as the town had no railway station, a poor bus service, the secondary school and primary school already at capacity and an overstretched medical centre.
He also raised concerns about the proposed additional 470 houses proposed for West Hill highlighting that residents in West Hill also use the secondary school and medical centre in Ottery St Mary. He advised that Ottery St Mary Town Council and West Hill Parish Council were working together to address these issues and sought clarification whether the email sent to the Council on 9 February 2022 addressing the Local Plan proposals had been brought to Strategic Planning Committee Members’ attention. In response the Chair acknowledged receipt of the email but could not confirm if it had been shared with Committee Members and would follow this up after the meeting. He addressed Councillor Giles concerns about the proposed additional housing for Ottery St Mary and advised that all the sites put forward in the district were to be reassessed in light of the policies discussed since December 2021. He advised the Council would be taking a policy led approach to the sites proposed and that some sites would no longer eligible.