An industrial development will be built on green fields in Kingskerswell after plans were approved by the narrowest of margins at the second time of asking.
The casting vote of the chairman was required to approve the plans for a new employment development to be built on land off Old Newton Road, that once was the Galliford Try offices during the construction of the new South Devon Highway.
But the chairman of Teignbridge District Council’s planning committee, Cllr Mike Haines, chose to pass his deciding vote over to the vice-chairman of the committee Cllr Lin Goodman-Bradbury.
He had declared at the start of the meeting that he was not going to vote on the application due to the conflict of interest between his role on the district council and his chairmanship of the parish council.
Tuesday meeting had seen the committee initially vote 8-7 against approving the application. But with councillors struggling to find a reason for refusal that the planning officers felt was justified or could be defended at appeal, a second bid to approve the application was put forwarded and seconded.
With the vote tied at 7-7, it was eventually approved on Cllr Goodman-Bradbury’s casting vote.
(Image: Daniel Clark)
Councillors though were left confused by the convoluted process, asking at the end of the meeting for clarification on what exactly happened.
Cllr Adrian Patch said: “We made a clear decision where a motion to approve the scheme had not received a majority. We had a reason for refusal but then we voted again for approval.”
Cllr Haines said that the motion for approval was lost but no motion for refusal was taken. He said that while there was a proposal for refusal on the table, it hadn’t been seconded by any councillor.
The second proposal for approval had been put forward and seconded before the refusal motion was seconded, and as the refusal was a direct contradiction to motion for approval, procedure means that the approval motion would have been voted on first.
He added: “There was never a vote with a postive majority for refusal.”
(Image: Daniel Clark)
The scheme, for land which is not allocated for development in the Local Plans, would consist of one office building and seven light industrial units, and officers had recommended it for approval on the grounds that significant weight should be given to the delivery of employment units in the face of significant under-delivery in the district.
Andy Palmer, speaking in favour of the scheme, added: “It was recently revealed that not a single job has been created in the allocated sites in the Local Plan. This is not in the Local Plan but in a location in the heart of Teignbridge which is strategically important. This scheme is spade ready with no infrastructure problems which have prevented so many of the Local Plan sites from coming forward.
“It has superb access to the strategic highway network. I appreciate the representations from the local parish but some of them are not viable. We have tried to keep the density low and landscaping high and the village can only gain from the use that this development would bring.”
However, Cllr Alex Huntley from Kingskerswell parish council said that they were objecting to this for numerous reasons including that the Local Plan allocates land for employment nearby and there are already empty units in the area, ‘so if you need a unit of this type, can go and get one’.
He added: “Residents were told there were no plans for development and none were likely at the time of when the South Devon Highway was being built and we understood it would be returned to the former green field site, as it has been. The Local Plan says there should be a strategic green route between Newton Abbot and Torquay and there is no mentioned of industrial development and office blocks. Once taken away, the green space won’t be returned.”
(Image: Daniel Clark)
Rosalyn Eastman, planning officer, said that the application was in breach of the KK4 policy in the Local Plan, but that plan also supported rural employment opportunities and that the economic development teams were supporting the scheme as the development will enable those seeking workspace to move into new units in a sought-after location between Newton Abbot and Torbay.
She added that while it may be true that there are some vacant units already, it doesn’t mean that they are suitable for all businesses.
Cllr Patch said that the council should think long and hard before allocating green fields for development when we already have land set aside for development.
He added: “What is the point of the Local Plan if we put our hands up and say as things have not come forward, we will allow people to build anywhere they like. What kind of message are we making about what we do to the land for something that is a carbon sink and putting down industrial units on green farmland.”
Cllr Janet Bradford said: “We shouldn’t be concreting over fields,” while Cllr Huw Cox added that he didn’t want to see fields built on unless there was a need for it.
Cllr Avril Kerswell added: “The main question is, is the land really necessary for industrial use? Heathfield had vacant land, Decoy has some vacant, and when we build housing developments we allocate industrial land which is never taken up. I agree with most of the parish council comments and my overriding view is, is this really necessary?”
However Mrs Eastman told councillors that assessment of need is not a valid planning consideration and the council cannot refuse an application on the grounds that councillors don’t think it is needed.
Cllr Jackie Hook said it was finely balanced, saying: “We have been criticised and I have joined in that criticism about our residents having to commute to Exeter as industrial sites don’t come forward, but this is allocated not just as countryside but a country park. But it is an island site as it is surrounded by a road, a railway and a property that is not in the country park.”
Cllr Richard Keeling proposed the scheme should be approved as the officers recommended, but councillors voted by eight votes to seven, with one abstention, against the proposal.
Cllr Patch then proposed refusal as it would be contrary to the Local Plan, there is already sufficient capacity in Teignbridge, and it would be losing a potential green field carbon sink for development, but council officers questioned whether those reasons were valid.
Mrs Eastman added: “We don’t think there are any sustainable reasons for refusal to be taken forward. If you want to take a different balance on the economic benefit then that is for you. It is not for me to tell you why you should refuse it.”
Cllr Haines added: “The problem seems to be that there are very few, if any, reasons for refusal that may stand up on appeal. We can refuse it and try and defend at appeal but as we have heard, those grounds are not very strong.”
Before a seconder for refusal had been found, Cllr Colin Parker proposed that the committee votes again on approval on the grounds that there are limited reasons for refusal that would stand up and be a success, a motion that Cllr Keeling quickly seconded.
On the second vote, seven councillors again voted for approval, but this time, with seven against, one abstention, and one councillor not voting.
With a tie, the casting vote falls to the chairman, but Cllr Haines gave the casting vote to the vice-chairman as he reiterated that he had abstained due to his conflict of interest with his various roles.
Cllr Goodman-Bradbury said that on balance she would vote as she did to approve the application.