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South Hams Society, Olde Stones, West Alvington, Kingsbridge, South Devon, TQ7 3PN
Retrospective plans provoking criticism
The retrospective planning application comes after a previous planning application to construct the main dwelling on the property, which was highly contested back in 2011 because of its size and sensitive location.
Planning officers approved the application for the home in 2012 after some scaling back of the original plans.
The applicants then acquired an adjoining strip of agricultural land upon which they proceeded to build the tennis court, skate park and garage, which was finished in 2016.
The RPA was finally submitted in January this year, described as a retrospective application for change of use of land to domestic use with carport and storage building.
The South Hams Society, a charitable organisation which aims to promote the conservation of the South Hams and encourage high standards of planning, said the application has “little merit”.
In its objection letter, SHS said the application would clearly fail its test as to whether the highest standards of planning have been followed, and said it is “clearly much more than a retrospective application to correct a minor technical planning issue”.
The society says the buildings have been built on what is classified as agricultural land without any of the normal ecological surveys or environmental checks being carried out, including drainage and the impact on wildlife.
Cathy Koo, vice chair of SHS, said: “The South Hams Society has campaigned for many years to ensure that the South Devon AONB and Heritage Coast are protected for the benefit of present and future generations.
“We are extremely concerned about what has happened at Gerston Point. A beautiful and highly sensitive site has been damaged by an unlawful and intrusive development.
“Along with others, we have lodged a strong objection to the retrospective application which was submitted to SHDC this January. We don’t know what action has been taken by the council since 2016 when the work was done; we do know that its enforcement resources are limited.
“But seeking planning approval via the back door – as we see in this case – must not be allowed to become the ‘new normal’ in the South Hams.
“The South Hams Society wants to see the council making full use of its enforcement powers to right this wrong and demonstrate that it can’t be walked over. This area is already under huge pressure from developers of all types and it is high time that a clear message went out that no one is above the law.”
West Alvington Parish Council has also made its view clear, and highlighted the same objections as the SHS, along with other points.
Among these, the parish council said the new carport and storage on the land is visible from neighbouring fields, surrounding hills and roads, and the roof of the carport and storage unit is “significantly higher” than the home.
WAPC also claims the documents contain misleading and/or wrongful statements in at least six important areas, and that it is misleading when considering the Section 106 agreements the applicants originally signed when the house was approved and built back in 2012.
The council also noted there is no mention of the impact of the solar panels on the roof of the garage which increase the overall visibility of the building.
WAPC said in view of those agreements, the applicants “cannot reasonably say they were unaware of either the need to obtain planning permission to carry out any works on this highly sensitive site, or the obligation to undertake environmental and ecological surveys”.
The Section 106 agreement was redacted in 2017.
SHDC has been contacted, but said it cannot comment at this stage as the application in question is currently being considered in accordance with the council’s planning policies and procedures.
The agent, Stopher Design Partnership Ltd, has also been contacted, but no comment was received at the time of going to press.
KINGSBRIDGE GAZETTE – FRONT PAGE – WINSLADE SLURRY STORE
Manure store plan sparks water fears
Parish council states it no longer backs scheme – by Kristen Bounds
An application for a proposed extension of a manure store has raised concern among nearby residents about the effect it could have on their clean water supply. Alan Smith, a resident- of North Pool near Frogmore, argues that the location is too close to the local aquifer, which provides clean drinking water to 12 homes in the hamlet.
The application for the 6500 square metre site was submitted to South Hams District Council by Perraton Partners, of Wmslade Farm, Frogmore. The proposed location of the slurry lagoon is positioned directly above the aquifer where the water is extracted less than 300 metres from the site, Mr Smith said. The site is on one of the highest geographic fields in the area, while North Pool sits at bottom of the hill in a valley. Mr Smith said there are five houses just over 300 metres from the proposed site, with a further seven homes nearby, and argued that the site could provide a health hazard to the young primary school children and elderly that live in them. Other residents have objected on the same grounds, stating that slurry pits can and emit potentially dangerous gases such as ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and methane.
Ed Perraton of Perraton Partners said that there is already a manure store in that same location which was there for almost 30 years and has never caused concern. They added North Pool has never had any water issues that they have been aware of.
Store ‘will comply with rules’
However, Mr Smith said that the existing store is currently dried up and appears to not have used for quite some time. Perraton Partners stated: “The reason we need to enlarge it is because we need to store the manure for longer through the winter because of new Nitrate Vulnerable Zones rules for our area. “The store is more 400m metres from the nearest North Pool property. Obviously, the extended store would have to comply with rules set by the Environment Agency.
South Pool Parish Council, which includes the hamlet of North Pool approved the application at first but then revisited it once it was made aware of the possible hazards. The council’s clerk, Janet Green, said: “South Pool Parish Council has met and revisited the above application, having received new facts and evidence re the private water supply to the houses at North Pool. “The site is situated within metres of the water supply to a group of houses, all within our parish at North Pool – “Had this information regarding the water supply available with the application at our council meeting last week, this parish council would definitely not have supported the application- “SPPC wishes to withdraw its support for application 4039/18/FUL and recommend the site moved towards Frogmore away from the dwellings, the water supply and the main road. “The parish council is also concerned re the ammonia fumes and air pollution close to dwellings and the main “South Pool PC has already stated on its original reply concerns re the lack of information with this application.”
Other residents from around the area objected on the grounds of it affecting the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as being above a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Mr Smith noted that many people stop outside the proposed slurry site as it is geographically one of the highest points overlooking the Kingsbridge and Ria- He said it is often used by the public to view the unique landscape. A decision for the application is expected to be made with the target date of February 4 having passed already. A spokesperson for South Hams District Council said: “The application in question, 4039/18/FUL, is currently being considered in accordance with the council’s planning applications policies and procedures, and no recommendation has been made. “As part of the process, both the council’s Environmental Health team and the Environment Agency have been consulted. “We are unable to comment on live applications-“
PLANNING APPEAL – REFUSED
Productive farm land East of Lyte Lane West Charleton
The controversial proposal to build 24. houses on productive agricultural land in the nationally protected South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has finally been turned down by the Planning Inspectorate. The proposed development was strongly opposed by the members of South Hams Society and South Hams District Councillors.
After representations from the South Hams Society and local residents and the expert professional advice of the SHDC Planning Officers, the original planning application was refused by South Hams Councillors in March 2018. The landowner/developer did not accept the Council’s decision and Appealed to the Planning Inspectorate for approval.
During the Appeal, the landowner had argued that the visual harm that would have been caused to the farmland and highly protected countryside could be reduced by sympathetic design and that planting schemes would ‘improve’ the landscape. The South Hams Society and District Council disputed these claims. The Planning Inspector has supported their views.
The Appellant also argued that the development would not be a ‘major development’ within the protected area of the AONB and that even if it were that there were ‘exceptional circumstances’ which supported the proposal. Both the South Hams Society and Local planners argued against the landowner’s claims. Again, the Society and SHDC arguments have been supported by the Inspector’s decision. His decision was that “whilst the provision of up to 24 dwellings on the site would serve a general need, and therefore provide a general public benefit, this would not in itself demonstrate the existence of “exceptional circumstances.” Consequently, he gives only limited weight to the scheme’s general provision of housing.
The South Hams Society and the Council have also provided evidence for the recent approval of housing schemes within the district, on sites outside the AONB, indicating that scope for such development exists within less sensitive locations. There is no particular reason to consider that the costs of developing in these locations would significantly differ from that of the appeal site. The appellant did not challenge the evidence and so the Inspector decided there is no pressing need to develop the site for housing.
Contrary to the developer’s claims, the Inspector found no evidence to show that the development is necessary to provide support for existing services and agreed with the South Hams Society that there would not be any adverse consequences to the local services in the absence of the development.
The Appellants had claimed that 24 houses would represent a small percentage increase in the overall number of dwellings within West Charleton. The Society disputed the Appellants claim. The Inspector has now ruled that the Appellants claim was “of no particular significance.” because it has little bearing on the negative impact that the development would have upon the landscape.
The Society drew the Inspectors attention to appeal APP/K1128/W/16/3156062 (Garden Mill Kingsbridge) within which it was considered that a scheme of 32 houses would not constitute major development in the AONB, and another case (Selworthy Court) in which the Council accepted that a development of 18 houses would not constitute major development in the AONB. Whilst both cases illustrate a differing approach to identification of major development, he noted that the specific circumstances of each of these cases differed from that of the current appeal scheme. In particular, Society pointed out that the appeal scheme referenced was considered to have a minimal impact on the landscape, and as such, the cases have affected the Inspectors assessment of the proposed development.
The South Hams Society had also pointed out that the cases cited by the developer in support of their proposal were in fact so dissimilar to the proposed site in the open countryside that they did not support their case. The Inspector has agreed with the Society’s views on that point.
The South Hams Society had questioned the Applicants claims that surrounding the heritage assets on the proposed site with housing did not deliver any significant heritage benefits to weigh against the harm that the development would otherwise cause. The Inspector has, again, agreed with our view.
The Society argued that some ecological enhancements proposed by the Appellants to reduce the effect of the harms the development would cause could be achieved simply by the provision of more varied planting and that the ecological enhancements could however equally be achieved within the context of the site in its current use. The Inspector agreed.
The Society had also made the point that most of the ‘so-called’ benefits of the development claimed by the appellants would have been the products of required mitigation, and therefore not benefits at all. The Inspector has agreed.
The Inspector has concluded that whilst the provision of affordable housing and market housing would each provide some public benefits, including to the economy, no exceptional circumstances exist which would outweigh the harm that would be caused to the AONB. As such the development would not be in the public interest. Consequently, paragraph 172 of the National Planning Policy Framework indicates that planning permission should be refused.
The Inspector has agreed with the Societies arguments and he concludes that the development would have an unacceptably adverse effect on the character and appearance of the area, including the landscape and scenic beauty of the AONB. It would therefore conflict with Policies CS9 of the South Hams Local Development Framework Core Strategy 2006 (the CS) which states that development will not be permitted where it would damage the natural beauty, character or special quality of the AONB, Policy DP2 of the South Hams Local Development Framework Development Policies Development Plan Document 2010 (the DPD), which seeks to conserve landscape character, including by avoiding unsympathetic intrusion into the wider landscape; and part (e) of Policy DP1 of DPD, which seeks to secure development that enhances views conflict with Policies Lan/P1 and Lan/P5 of the South Devon AONB Management Plan 2014-2019 which seek to conserve and enhance the landscape, and protect views. In its decision, the Council also referenced Policies SPT11, DEV24, DEV27 within the emerging South West Devon Joint Local Plan 20142034 (the JLP), which is now at an advanced stage of preparation and so carries moderate weight. Insofar as each seeks to support the conservation of landscape and scenic beauty, the development would conflict with these emerging policies.
In the matter of costs, the Inspector has concluded that the Council did not act unreasonably on the grounds claimed by the applicants. As such, no unnecessary or wasted expense was incurred by the applicants in making the appeal. The Appellants application for costs was therefore dismissed.
The aims of the planning system
One of the key aims of the planning system is to balance private interests in the development of land against the wider public interest. In performing this role, planning necessarily affects land and property interests, particularly the financial value of and holdings and the quality of their settings. Opposing views are often strongly held by those involved. Whilst councillors must take account of these views, they should not favour any person, company, group or locality, nor put themselves in a position where they may appear to be doing so. It is important, therefore, that planning authorities make planning decisions affecting these interests openly, impartially, with sound judgment and for justifiable reasons. The process should leave no grounds for suggesting that those participating in the decision were biased or that the decision itself was unlawful, irrational or procedurally improper.