To receive any questions relating to items on the Agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
Note: A maximum of 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
Referring to item one on the Plans List Tidcombe Hall, Barbara Downs asked………what are the councillors doing to redress the very real risk of flooding that increased rain fall and the building of 179 new dwellings will pose. This major concern should cause this application to be rejected. The area around the canal is vulnerable to flooding as has been seen in recent times.
The pictures in front of you should show severe and prolonged damage caused by the collapse of the canal bed when heavy rainfall and raging torrents led to the canal bursting its banks on 22nd November 2012 with water falls cascading into nearby fields. Devon County Council said the sheer volume of rain water meant the breach could not be avoided. The Canal did not re-open until the 19th March 2014 costing in excess of £1m. This was not an isolated incident, in November last year, heavy rainfall caused above ankle deep flooding, down Newts Hill, Tidcombe Lane and Lime Tree Mead. The three pictures show you water and debris everywhere
And as recently as last month the water reached dangerously high levels. Building 179 dwellings, with much of the field disappearing under concrete, the water will find its way down into the canal, a huge concern. With climate change, rainfall has increased 100% over the last 12 months and flooding is a real worry to residents whose properties back onto the canal. Insurance premiums would significantly increase. Many bungalows whose back gardens adjoin the towpath have been and are up for sale. New owners might struggle to get insured as not all underwriters insure property where there has been flooding. For underwriters who would insure, the cost would be much higher. The vendors could be in a position where they cannot sell their property because the buyer cannot get insurance.
LVA cannot give complete re-assurance because they cannot control climate change. If another flood occurs up this end of the canal it could put Mr Brind with the horse drawn barge out of business.
Everything is wrong about this application. Closure of Tidcombe Bridge, which has been in use to traffic for over a century, and alternative rabbit warren routes clogging up other residential areas and diverting traffic down The Avenue makes me wonder if LVA have ever tried to get on to Canal Hill from The Avenue? It’s very dangerous now. With extra traffic it’s an accident waiting to happen.
All of this just for some greedy developer to ruin our canal and countryside. For all these reasons I recommend the Council to reject this proposal. Thank you.
David Randell speaking in relation to the same application stated…..my point relates to the comment ‘ultra low carbon homes’….is the committee aware that the applicant’s claim is based on Government guidance for standards proposed to be reached by 2010 and not the Government proposed target with the legislation delayed by the pandemic that by 2020 all new housing should achieve code level 6? This Council has proposed that Mid Devon be carbon neutral by 2030 but developments of this nature can bypass that target as they are being built below the required standards to achieve it. Due to the pandemic the changes to the Building Regulations to enforce this have been delayed but that doesn’t stop this Council from requiring a policy to achieve carbon neutrality. With the emphasis on increasing the energy efficiency of housing the largest difficulty is in improving the existing housing stock.
When practicing as an architect my practice was working to code level 4 in 2008. By 2010 we were designing to code level 5 and aiming for code level 6 by 2012. In fact some of my last designs before retiring were code level 6 achievable. Here we have developers still proposing to build houses that will add to the problem which this application proposes.
Again the Government has proposed that all petrol and diesel cars be phased out by 2030 so why is the applicant only proposing 6 electrical vehicle charging points, 12% of the need to satisfy the development as designed when in reality it is closer to 45%. If not provided to meet the 2030 deadline which is only 8.5 years away then who will pay for the additional charging points? Again we have a development proposed that will require the occupants to spend to improve their homes within 10 years. So back to the question, why is the applicant asking Mid Devon District Council to accept the development that will add to the issue of global warming to the detriment of all and especially the young who will suffer from climate change and which severely breaches local and national policy?
Victoria Pugh again referring to the Tidcombe Hall application
stated that ….I’d like to ask a
question about road safety and to ask the members of the Planning
Committee to consider road safety as the principal reason for refusing planning permission.
In order to be able to build 179 new homes, the developer’s latest plans include a proposal to close Tidcombe Bridge to vehicles and divert traffic through the Wilcombe estate. Not only would this split the thriving community of Tidcombe in half. It would also pose a significant danger to pedestrians, most notably children.
As a school inspector for 20 years, I’ve been used to assessing and mitigating the risk to children arriving and leaving school because councils have a statutory obligation to keep these areas as safe as possible.
With 4 schools within half a mile of Tidcombe Lane, road safety is at the very heart of this proposal. Any decision regarding this application will directly impact on Tidcombe Primary, Wilcombe Primary, Blundells Junior and Blundells Senior Schools.
1,309 children currently attend these schools from age 3. Many walk to and from school. Many more are dropped off by car and a few arrive by bus. All do so at peak times.
The closure of Tidcombe Bridge will push extra traffic through the school routes including onto narrow and hazardous roads where parked cars and other dangers impede visibility.
Highways conservatively estimates an extra 60 vehicles per hour at peak times travelling through the Wilcombe Estate alone. The proposed diversion involves Ford Road, Branscombe Road and Temple Crescent. These streets were built in the 1960s and not as wide as modern equivalents. Most residents have no drives or garages, so cars are routinely parked on both sides of the road, sometimes partially blocking pavements and impeding visibility. Children walking to school or playing on skateboards and bikes in these streets as they frequently do, with the expected increased traffic, would be put at an unacceptably high risk given the characteristics of these streets.
The proposal also involves extra traffic being diverted onto the junction of Tidcombe Lane and Blundells Road. Students moving about Blundells School campus regularly cross the single track lane from concealed crossing points with extremely limited visibility and there are no pavements here. Highways initially highlighted this as a significant concern and recommended refusal.
There are a number of possible ways of making these school routes safer. However, in my view, none of them involves building 179 homes on Tidcombe Lane and diverting the traffic as proposed, pushing more vehicles in the direction of the four schools
My question to the officers is....Has a traffic survey been undertaken to assess the suitability of the roads, in particular Ford Road, Temple Crescent and Branscombe Road, to cope with the extra traffic?
Has Devon County Council carried out a full risk assessment of the likely increased risk to children arriving at and leaving their schools resulting from the diversion should this planning proposal be accepted and have the four schools been consulted as part of that process?
Ray Rice, again referring to the Tidcombe Hall application and in particular to the preservation of Tidcombe as a conservation area, stated that…..with regard to the unique Grand Western Canal and the heritage asset, having spent the last 30 years living on the banks of the Grand Western Canal I am perhaps more aware of the amenity value of this priceless heritage asset than many local people are. Daily I see the use made of the canal towpath where walkers, families, runners, cyclists, fishermen, charity fund raisers, canoeists, paddle boarders, house boat users plus of course the irreplaceable horse drawn barge facility. The latter is undervalued by many locals I fear. During the normal operating season, of course this is not operating at the moment because of Covid, it normally brings in on a weekly basis several hundred coach, car and cycle tourists for trips on the Grand Western Canal. The value of this to the town is huge and probably underestimated. The current support of local authorities of the canal helps but if this proposal is allowed to proceed it will negate much of the value of that support. It is the amenity value of this heritage asset which is threatened by the proposal being considered here today.
Members will be aware of the statutory duties regarding applications which include a conservation area, listed building or significant heritage assets. The Listed Building and Conservation Areas Act of 1990 requires that ‘Special attention is paid in the exercise of the planning function to the desirability of preserving and enhancing the character or appearance of the conservation area’. The Court of Appeal has made it absolutely clear that this is not a mere material consideration. The law requires that when an authority finds, as Mid Devon has, that a development would indeed harm such a setting there is “A strong presumption against planning permission being granted.” This obligation is also stated in policy DM25 of Mid Devon’s Local Plan review hence Mid Devon’s planning officers have correctly recommended refusal. Nonetheless the developers have already stated they will appeal.
To safeguard the countryside at Tidcombe it is very important that this committee unanimously agrees with the officers recommendations regarding harm to the Grand Western Canal conservation area itself and stresses the need to protect the landscape for the future of Tiverton.
Historic England states that this development would “…obliterate a large portion of the rural scene as seen from the canal”. Mid Devon District Council concludes that the development would be a visually intrusive feature within the rural area. This is because much of the proposed site is elevated and highly visible from the Grand Western Canal towpath. The land here rises by 27 metres up to the Devon hills beyond which are themselves identified as important to preserve. Given the conclusions drawn by Historic England this development would be harmful to the area so do you not agree that this proposal must be rejected?
Dermot Elworthy spoke again in relation to the Tidcombe Hall application…….my question to the Committee is to ask if it is aware that at least until week or a couple of days ago, the Mid Devon Council had received 412 formal letters of objections submitted by nearly 400 members of the public profoundly unhappy about the implications made by LVA in respect of the proposed Tidcombe Hall development. Also is the committee aware that this is the largest numerical reaction to any proposal made for development in our area and that includes the Eastern Urban Extension and J27?
Given the general level of empathy following consultation that must signify a record number of very upset people. The Council officers have received no indication of public support for the LVA scheme, not one. It is common practice in matters such as this for developers to come back with changes and amendments to the rejected proposition hoping that a revised application would find increased favour with the planners. I submit that in this case no amount of fine tuning will disguise what must be obvious. The problem lies not in the detail, although there are plenty of problems that can be found in the detail, but in the fundamental unsuitability of this scheme in this place.
Therefore, Madam Chairman, may I respectfully ask that rather than side with a land speculator having no ties to this community and offering nothing of any value to the community that the Planning Committee should heed the considered advice given by the Council and refuse this application. Given the obvious strength of public resistance and official rejection of this scheme there can be no justification for accepting this proposal.
I very hope that those elected to represent us will do exactly that and throw out this meritless application preferably unanimously and also to add significant weight to the argument in the event of an appeal. For the Committee to do otherwise would be a shameful rejection of local democracy. Thank you Madam Chairman.
Mr Adam Pilgrim spoke also in relation to the Tidcombe Hall application…….I have been asked by the Grand Western Canal Joint Advisory Committee to speak about its Objection to the Tidcombe Hall Application.
Other speakers have already covered the points about the potential damage to the Conservation Area and the risk of flooding to the canal and properties below the canal.
I am very worried by surface water from the developed site carrying silt down to block the only culvert under the canal. If the culvert is blocked there is a risk of flooding on the site spilling into the canal, polluting the canal and risking its level rising to threaten another breach anywhere along the eleven miles.
At present, I suspect that the grass in the existing pasture may trap silt far better than the hard surfaces of the proposed housing, so reducing the risk of the culvert's being blocked. If the siphon culvert is blocked by run-off silt, clearing it is very expensive and dangerous for those working on it.
The Joint Advisory Committee is also worried about the Developer's proposed public access to canal side parkland. The canal owns a three metre wide strip along the offside of the whole canal which is a nature buffer zone. The parkland proposal creates the risk of the public disturbing this wildlife strip.
Returning to the issue of visual damage to the Conservation Area, I note that the applicant has omitted critical viewpoints from his assessment.
Speaking as a representative from the Devon CPRE, Mr Sanderson spoke with regard to the same application…….as many of you know CPRE was founded by Government planner Abercrombie in 1926 to control ribbon development such as that between Tiverton and Halberton. The Tidcombe Hall application is one of the worse cases of manipulation of planning that I have ever seen.
My question is twofold, on what basis was this application ever allowed to go forward when the Tidcombe Hall site was a contingency site in the Local Plan 2013 – 2033 which was only adopted on 29th July 2020? The planning department had already stated that there was no need as the 5 year land supply had already been satisfied.
My second question is very simply where and from whom did the pressure come from on the planning department to pursue this application from the LVA. Madam Chairman, thank you very much.
Mr Elstone….stated that he had three questions to ask in respect of the wording that appears in the draft minutes of the Planning meeting on 16th June 2021. Draft minutes to be signed off by committee members as per item 5 on the agenda. Question one, the draft minutes quote word for word two important questions I asked at the meeting of 16th June, questions I asked of the planning officers in regard of the Redrow Homes Tiverton Reserve Matters application 21/00374 that’s for the Tiverton EUE. I received no response to either of these two questions at the Planning Committee meeting. Similarly no written reply to my questions is recorded in the minutes of that meeting, therefore these questions remain unanswered. Madam Chair, for good order could I please ask that written answers to my questions be provided by the planning officers and promptly? That the answers will be made available to Members as well as myself?
Question two, at the same meeting I made the case that I be allowed a further 15 questions but was prevented from doing so. I have since provided the full details of the further 15 questions to be answered. This is to every Planning Committee member including yourself, it is in clear form. As will be seen from these questions several relate to the very real road safety concerns I have plus related planning questions. Safety concerns and planning issues warrant full examination by the committee members, all again related to the Redrow Homes Tiverton EUE Reserve Matters application. Madam Chair could I please ask that you ensure written answers to these questions be made available to committee members as well as myself.
Question three, the Mid Devon District Council Complaints and Feedback Policy dated September 2018 states, section 6, titled ‘Confidentiality’ that all complaints would be dealt with in the strictest confidence. Therefore it was with a real disbelief that the MDDC Operations Manager for Legal and Monitoring very publically stated in your meeting that not only had I raised complaints but also that I’d asked for a deferral of the Redrow Homes planning application. I consider that the MDDC legal officer stating this in the meeting had no basis for doing so.
The Chairman stated that the questions Mr Elstone was asking were beyond the scope of this committee and suggested that if he had complaints they be made direct either to the Chief Executive or to the Head of the Legal Department This afternoons meeting was about determining the applications which were on the agenda for today. Mr Elstone responded by saying that he was asking questions in relation to the agenda item to do with the minutes from the previous meeting, however, if the questions raised today are not accepted then could she please accept his request to get a response to the 17 questions I have already asked and in writing and made available to the Planning Committee. They were very straight forward questions and at least two of them should have been answered last time but were not. The Chairman stated that if they were questions relating directly to the planning application they would be answered probably by the case officer and they could certainly be made available to all members of the committee.
Mr David Barnes speaking in relation to the Tidcombe Hall application stated that…….we have a Local Plan. We have an excellent Local Plan. It is our Local Plan. The product of years of hard work from Mid Devon Officers, Councillors and local residents. It is a plan we can be proud of you. It has cost tens of thousands of Mid Devon tax payers’ money to produce. Today’s meeting will determine whether all the years of deliberation, consultation and money invested in the Plan was worth it.
Our Local Plan was deemed sound by a Government Inspector in July last year and was subsequently adopted by Mid Devon. At the same time the planning application being considered today for a housing estate beside the Grand Western Canal was submitted. This planning application flies in the face of our Local Plan. The majority of the land in question has not been identified for development in our Local Plan Review. The rest is identified as contingency. This contingency land is to be considered for housing if future targets are not being met. It is an important strategic element of our Local Plan. A safety net. Not something that can be moved from one category to another to suit a developer.
The Local Government Association/Planning Advisory Service publication ‘Probity in Planning’ for councillors and officers states on page 14: ‘All applications that are clearly contrary to the development plan must be advertised as such, and are known as ‘departure’ applications.’
I was reassured when, in response to a query I made dated 28th August 2020 to Mrs Clifford, Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration, she confirmed that, ‘the application is notin accordance with the Local Plan Review’. It goes on to state that councils must have clear justification for agreeing any departure application.
This planning application is a direct challenge to our Local Plan Review. It was submitted within days of the Local Plan Review being endorsed by the Government’s representative and adopted by our Local Council. Polite circles might refer to it as ‘a bit of a nerve’. I can think of less generous descriptions.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine on what grounds such a brazen deviation could be justified. Our Local Plan is our vision for Mid Devon up to 2033. Are we to abandon it at the first challenge by a speculative developer?
My questions to the committee are: ‘Was all that effort and expense involved in delivering our Local Plan Review for nothing? Have we the courage of our convictions? Will you as a committee back our Local Plan Review?
Regarding the Tidcombe Hall application Mr Jeremy Salter stated that……my question relates to the protection of Tidcombe as a Conservation Area, the unique Grand Western Canal and the heritage assets.
The members will be aware of the statutory duties regarding applications which include a Conservation Area, Listed Buildings and significant Heritage assets.
The Listed Building and Conservation Areas Act of 1990 requires that “special attention is paid in the exercise of Planning Functions to the desirability of Preserving and Enhancing the character or appearance of a Conservation Area”.
The Court of Appeal has made it absolutely clear that this is not a mere material consideration. The law requires that when an authority finds, as Mid Devon has, that a development would indeed harm such a setting there is, to quote, “a strong presumption against planning permission being granted”.
This obligation is also stated in policy DM25 of Mid Devon’s Local Plan Review.
Hence, Mid Devon planning officers have correctly recommended refusal.
Nonetheless, the developer has already stated they will appeal To safeguard the countryside at Tidcombe it is very important that this committee unanimously agrees with the officers’ recommendations regarding harm to the Grand Western Canal Conservation Area itself and stresses the need to protect the landscape for the future of Tiverton.
states that this development, to quote,
“would obliterate a large
proportion of the rural scene, as seen from the canal”. And
Mid Devon concludes that the development would be
“a visually intrusive feature within the rural
This is because much of the proposed site is elevated and highly visible from the Grand Western Canal towpath. The land here rises by 27 metres up to the Devon hills beyond which are themselves identified, in the Local Plan, as important to preserve.
Given this, do you agree that the elevated rural landscape south of the Grand Western Canal should be protected from future development which, it has been agreed, would be significantly harmful to the Conservation Area?’