A controversial plan for homes in Lamerton, which has split the community over three years has finally been given the go ahead, writes Alison Stephenson.

The land off Green Hill has been the subject of several planning applications and was once the favoured site of West Devon Borough Council to boost its own council housing stock.

That application for a development of 18 ‘homes for locals’ divided opinion so much that parish councillors resigned and the village neighbourhood plan process was stalled. A large amount of letters for and against development proposals for this land have been submitted to the planning authority over the last three years.

The application was then scrapped by the borough council on the grounds of cost, but another application was then put forward by developer Southern Properties.

At a meeting of the borough council’s development management committee this week former parish councillors and present ones spoke for and against the new proposal by Southern Properties for 19 homes on the greenfield site which is currently used for grazing cattle and horses.

With rural exception sites in the open countryside like this one developers have to provide 60 per cent of affordable housing.

Southern Properties had proposed ten affordable units, comprising seven homes for social rent and three for shared ownership, plus five open market homes, and four self build properties, two of which would be discounted by 20 per cent to below market value.

House types varied from one bed to four beds.

But Lamerton Parish Council vice chairman Sam Deeks told the committee that the affordable housing on offer was not what the community needed.

He said surveys carried out on behalf of the council showed that seven affordable homes of a specific type were needed in the parish but only three of the 19 properties being proposed met this need.

He said the applicant was offering less than 60 per cent of affordable homes and “attempting to close the gap” with the self build properties.

He said if approved the application would bring 13 more three and four bed houses to Lamerton. It was the planning officer’s view when rejecting a recent scheme, he said, that the village was already oversubscribed with this type of housing.

A former Lamerton parish council chairman John Edgar said he supported the plan as the homes were needed to prevent young people moving away and to sustain local facilities like the church, school, and village hall.

He said officers had advised the committee to approve the proposal as they were clear that it met the policies in the joint local plan and this was after two and half years of thorough investigation and negotiation.

Cllr Neil Jory (Con, Milton Ford) said he was encouraged by the developer’s landscape strategy ]and biodiversity net gain offer on site.

But he added that ten of the 20 homes earmarked for Lamerton in the joint local plan had already been built and the development proposed far exceeded this requirement.

He also said the self build homes which took the affordable homes element to the required level was “was a fudge” and “set a dangerous precedent”.

Cllr Paul Vachon (Ind, Okehampton South) said despite the divide over these homes, he thought it was a good scheme in a lively and vibrant village and should be supported.