Jackie Hook

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Newton Abbot North, District Councillor Bushell Ward Learn more

Berry Knowles Planning Decision Explained

by Jackie Hook on 12 July, 2020

Berry Knowles  Planning Committee July 7th 2020

Berry Knowles Planning Application for 135 houses and public open space was considered and approved at Planning Committee last week.

Given that the site is not an allocated housing site in the current Local Plan, the decision made has been questioned and I hope the following information serves as an explanation for the decision.

Firstly it needs to be understood that the national planning and housing system provides the legislation and rules under which all District Councils must make decisions. The legislation of the national planning system is described in the National Planning and Policy Framework (NPPF).

All District Councils must prepare a Local Plan which allocate sites for a variety of uses including housing. These Local Plans must be review every 5 years.

In terms of the number of houses that are built, the key fact to understand is that the government imposes a housing needs formula on us as a District, as it does on every District. The current target Teignbridge has been given by government is to build 760 houses per year. If we as a Council do not enable the building of that number of houses there are various levels of penalties that are imposed on us and the people of our District. One of those would be the requirement to allocate even more sites for housing. There is no sign that this government requirement is going to change in any realistic timeframe, in fact the language coming out of government is moving in the other direction currently. I think the phrase is “build, build, build”. Gordon Hook , TDC Leader, has challenged both Theresa May and Boris Johnson, with a detailed explanation of why we feel Teignbridge cannot take that number of houses, but our plea was unsuccessful. Therefore, we can safely assume that we need to carry on finding further sites for housing development in our District, whether we want to or not. Those sites will come forward in the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, and the Local Plan Part 2.

We need to get away from the notion that we aren’t going to require more sites, not only do we have the government demanding that we do this, but even Devon CPRE in their assessment of housing need (ORS/CPRE Devon Housing Needs Report Sept 2019) came up with an annual needs figure of 573 houses per annum for our District. This is ongoing year on year, therefore we do need to plan ahead.

As a Council it makes sense to ensure those sites that we are required to provide are near existing facilities, and public transport, so that we can encourage use of sustainable travel.

This largely means near our existing towns. The Berry Knowles site is not in our current Local Plan, but was put forward during the search for sites for the Local Plan, and is highly likely therefore to be an allocated housing site in our next Local Plan, if national housing demands are the same. A refusal of permission for housing on this site on the basis of this site not being in the Local Plan, therefore merely delays the site coming forward rather than stopping it. The Local Plan is currently in its 5 year review period and new sites will come forward in this review.

What we then needed to look at, is are there any pluses, to it coming forward now rather than later, given the inevitability of that.

Top of that list to me is facilitating the delivery of the Jetty Marsh 2 Link. This is the road and accompanying cycle/footway that will link the current A382, through to the hospital site and West Golds Rbt. This link is a crucial link not just for any development here but for houses already occupied at Whitehill and future development at NA2 Whitehill, and NA1 Houghton Barton. And when I say a crucial link I’m referring predominantly to its role as a sustainable travel link. The distance from Berry Knowles and Whitehill to the hospital and town centre is shorter than it is for much of the existing housing in Newton Abbot, and on a completely flat route. With the Jetty Marsh Link in place, this and Whitehill are very sustainable sites.

We as Cllrs often hear the public ask why can’t we get the infrastructure in first. Well, we may not have got the Jetty Marsh 2 Link Rd in before the first part of Whitehill, but here we have an opportunity to facilitate that to happen before the rest of NA2 and NA1 are built. The S106 agreement requires Sibelco to hand this land to DCC at nil cost and to assist as outlined with the earthworks necessary. The road already has planning permission and is I am told second on a list for LEP funding at this current moment in time. A more shovel ready scheme it is difficult to imagine.

In addition, Sibelco have offered to hand over land to enable a link from the site to the National Cycle way 28, otherwise known as Stover Way, and through to Kingsteignton and schools there. This is secured through planning condition.

2/3rd’s of the site will become landscaped public open space which will be within easy walking distance for many that live in the town centre.

Looking at this from a sustainability/climate change point of view, it is important , in my view to remember that the biggest contributor to our carbon emissions as a District is from transport use, second is the energy we use in our homes, and predominantly within that how we heat our homes. As mentioned already, not building houses, is not an option, we are required to build houses. The act of building houses itself is of less significance to our overall carbon emission than the lives of the residents of those houses, then lead, what travel needs they have and how they undertake those journeys. What we must do is ensure we build those houses where people can travel to facilities they need by foot, cycle and public transport. With the Jetty Marsh 2 Link Rd and cycle/footway in place, this is one of the most sustainable sites I can think of on those criteria. We must also ensure that the houses are built ideally in a carbon neutral manner.

The list of benefits that this application brings forwards, for residents and future residents,  go well beyond what we would be likely to achieve if the application had been refused and we wait for it to come forward through the Local Plan process. Boiled down to the essentials this decision was between 2 simple alternatives , take the housing now, with a number of benefits and early delivery of the Jetty Marsh Link, or take the houses later with no guarantee of the same benefits. Those were the only 2 options available. I hope that provides a context and explanation for the decision made

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