Date set for planning inquiry into controversial 1,210 Newton Abbot new homes plan

A date has been set for a planning inquiry into controversial plans to build more than 1,000 new homes on the edge of Newton Abbot.

The outline scheme, submitted by PCL Planning on behalf of the Rew family, would see 1,210 new homes built on the rolling green hills of Wolborough Barton.

They also involved a new primary school, employment land, community facilities, including a day nursery and a health centre, a local shopping centre, play area, allotments and a multi-use games area, as well as a link road connecting the A380 and the A381.

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Also included in the plans is a new boutique hotel in place of the Wolborough Farmstead,  for which full planning permission is asked for.

Teignbridge District Council’s planning committee in February unanimously rejected the plans over concerns over how the scheme would impact of the South Hams Special Area of Conservation, the lack of early delivery of the link road, and the inadequate protection for the Wolborough Fen.

 

But the rejected application was a duplicate application of a 1,275 homes scheme – subsequently revised to 1,210 homes – that PCL Planning had appealed against the non-determination by the council of.

Aerial view of the NA3 Wolborough Masterplan
Aerial view of the NA3 Wolborough Masterplan

A planning inquiry, held by the Planning Inspectorate, to determine the fate of the original application will take place from Tuesday, March 26, at the Forde House HQ of Teignbridge.

The inquiry is set to last for four days, although no evidence will be heard on Friday, March 29, and must finish no later than Tuesday, April 2, to accommodate the inspector.

 

Teignbridge District Council, the Rew Family, and the Wolborough Residents’ Association and Abbotskerswell Parish Council, who have been granted ‘Rule 6 status’, have also provided summary proofs of their evidence for the inquiry.

David Seaton, on behalf of PCL Planning, will tell the hearing that their scheme does accord with the Local Plan, in which the site is allocated for development in.

In grey, the land that will be built on as part of the plans for Wolborough
In grey, the land that will be built on as part of the plans for Wolborough

Mr Seaton said: “Economically, the proposed development would bring short-term advantages in respect of construction jobs and, in the longer-term, through the direct delivery of employment land. The proposed development would also be of wider benefit in terms of support for local shops, services and facilities. The appeal proposals will not produce a detrimental impact upon integrity of the South Hams SAC, nor the Wolborough Fen SSSI.

“Socially the appeal proposal will deliver significant benefits. These include a primary school, mixed use local centre, community facilities, public open space.

 

“While there will be a limited localised impact, but this was known when the allocation of the appeal site was made and this is not sufficient to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the substantive benefits. This proposal is in accordance with the development plan when read as a whole and this is a sustainable development that would cause no significant harm, let alone harm of such an extent that it significantly.”

But Chris Watts, acting on behalf of the Rule 6 party, said that the inspector should refuse the appeal, saying there is a need to assess the adverse impact on biodiversity, there is a need for an effective evaluation of air, noise and light pollution and that the proposal fails to comply with local and national planning policy.

The Wolborough Masterplan
The Wolborough Masterplan

He also added the concern that the application was premature and made before the relevant planning policy allocations for NA3 had been completed and the ‘masterplan’ prepared by the developer.

 

Ian Perry, principal planning officer for Teignbridge, will tell the inspector the plans should be dismissed, due to environmental concerns and that the link road would be delivered after 500 homes are occupied, rather than 300.

He said: “There remain concerns in relation to the impact of the development upon the Greater Horseshoe Bat population, in that the necessary assessments under the Habitat Regulations are not able to be completed due to the lack of comprehensive and up to date data. It would not be appropriate to allow the appeal on this basis.

“The timing for the delivery of the link road remains too late in the development programme if the appellant’s preference is taken. This has the effect of the allocation being developed in smaller areas which may not be properly connected for some time. This prevents the site being able to be properly serviced by a bus service at the crucial early stages of the development when habits by those first residents can form.

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“Notwithstanding the benefits of the development, it is considered the late delivery of the link road and the uncertainty over the protection of the Greater Horseshoe Bats are reasons for the development not to be successful at this stage. There are no material considerations to suggest that the appeal should succeed in spite of these issues.”

Aerial view of Wolborough Barton, Newton Abbot
Aerial view of Wolborough Barton, Newton Abbot

He added that even if the NA3 site is taken out of site allocated for development, the council can still demonstrate a five year land supply and so development at Wolborough is not required to meet housing targets.

Samantha Taylor, from Jacobs UK Limited, representing Devon County Council as a witness on highways matters, added: “It is my view that the occupation of the whole development without the link road in place would have a severe detrimental impact on the local road network and limit the travel options available to residents resulting in an unsustainable development.

“If the link road and bus service was provided at 300 homes, I consider the development to have an acceptable short term adverse impact on the local road network and transport options, providing that a condition can be agreed to secure delivery of the link road at this point.

 

“But at 500 dwellings, I consider that the adverse impacts of the development would be unacceptable even if the link road was provided at 500 dwellings. Occupation of 500 dwellings would result in the Halcyon Road / Highweek Street signalised junction operation reaching theoretical capacity, which I consider to be a severe impact. The traffic flow on Wolborough Street towards Newton Abbot in the AM peak would increase by 15 per cent, which would result in an increase in queue length and length of time queues are present through an area of (currently) poor air quality.

“If a suitable condition cannot be agreed for the early delivery of the link road then planning permission should be refused.”

Newton Says No campaigners outside the council offices prior to the meeting
Newton Says No campaigners outside the council offices prior to the meeting

Cheers rung out from the public gallery when the duplicate application was rejected by the planning committee in February, and the Newton Says No campaigners, who say they will never stop fighting against controversial proposals to turn the rolling green hills of Wolborough into a “concrete jungle”, say their main ‘raison d’être’ is to get the NA3 site removed from the Local Plan.

 

But the Wolborough site remains a part of the Local Plan, and from May, Teignbridge will have to deliver 777 new homes a year.

Teignbridge District Council’s Leader Cllr Jeremy Christophers said: “The aim is to provide a robust and resilient Local Plan which takes all this into account. The countryside is at risk of a development-free-for-all if we don’t have a Local Plan with a supply of deliverable sites to meet housing supply targets. We do not want this to happen.

“In the case of Wolborough, the site was put forward by the landowner as a potential development opportunity through the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment in 2012. The ecology of the Wolborough area – and other areas allocated for development – were considered as part of a rigorous assessment process in the Local Plan preparation and this work continues.

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“Plan-making is a balancing act that evolves constantly. We know people have concerns about development at Wolborough and we have been meeting with Wolborough Residents’ Association and Abbotskerswell Parish Council throughout. We would welcome a representative of Newton Says No coming to those meetings so we can have a meaningful conversation with them too.”

Artist impression of Wolborough Barton hotel plans
Artist impression of Wolborough Barton hotel plans

A council spokesman added that Teignbridge’s varied geography, ranging from coastal resorts along 22 miles of coast, two river estuaries, market towns, rural countryside and moorland, in planning terms naturally constrains where and how the district can be developed.

Areas where there are mineral rights for ball clay, a world resource which is mined from the Bovey Basin and exported from Teignmouth, flooding risks posed by the rivers, estuaries and coast, internationally protected coast and countryside sites such as the Exe Estuary and Dawlish Warren, a network of caves which are home to a significant proportion of the British population of Greater Horseshoe Bats, a European protected species and Dartmoor National Park receive the highest level of protection.

 

A spokesman added: “Laws exist to ensure any development affecting these sites must be subject to appropriate assessments before planning permission can be granted. It is also important to note that 162 sq miles of the district is within the Local Plan area and the rest falls within Dartmoor National Park, a separate planning authority with its own Local Plan.

Wolborough masterplan
Wolborough masterplan

“The Local Plan’s strategy and policies including the principle of the Wolborough allocation were examined in detail by councillors and the plan was the focus of what was then Teignbridge’s biggest-ever public consultation.

“The Local Plan was examined and approved by an independent Planning Inspector before being adopted by Full Council on May 6, 2014.

“The principle of development at Wolborough was scrutinised again in the High Court that same year when the Plan was subject to a Judicial Review brought by Abbotskerswell Parish Council. The claim was dismissed.”

 

The planning inquiry into the 1,210 homes plan takes place from Tuesday, March 26.

If the appeal is allowed, then a reserved matters application looking at the detail of the proposal would still need to be granting planning permission could begin on the 1,210 homes scheme.

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