AN Okehampton family’s application to build a home on a smallholding it has owned for three generations has been turned down by a planning committee despite local support.

Members of West Devon Borough Council’s development management and licensing committee voted six for to four against to back a planning officer’s recommendation for refusal of Paul Newberry’s application.

Mr Newberry, who lives in Okehampton, wanted to demolish derelict buildings at the smallholding at Vicarage Gardens off Broadmoor Lane and build a house in its place.

Planning officer Oliver Gibbins recommended refusing the application on the grounds that it was out of keeping with its countryside setting outside the built up area of the town and relatively close to the Grade II listed Okehampton parish church of All Saints and the neighbouring historic former vicarage.

However, it was supported by Okehampton borough councillors Tony Leech and Mike Davies as providing a way for a local family to be able to afford to build their own home.

The two councillors asked that the application be brought before the committee at its most recent meeting on June 30.

Cllr Leech said: ‘West Devon has a self-build policy and to date we have not had one single self-build property in the Okehampton area.

‘This development is on land owned by the family who need a home.

‘Among the reasons given for suggesting refusal is that this would damage the intrinsic beauty of the countryside, which I find a little ironic especially when you look to the east of Okehampton where developments have already been built completely obliterating the intrinsic beauty of the countryside, so I can’t see that this one property, if conditions are put on the approval, would do any harm at all.’

Okehampton town councillor Jan Goffey also spoke out in support of the application at the committee, saying: ‘The new house would be for the owner of the land to live in and makes it affordable. A new building would actually enhance the site.’

Planning agent Rob Constant, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said: ‘The site of the proposed single dwelling sits well down low in a hollow largely set out of view that is mixed with the wider existing smallholding activity taking place on the site.

‘As the report states, the unit has been placed sensitively within the site close to the natural boundaries and removes two unsightly poor quality agricultural buildings, this being in favour of providing a local man with an affordable route to home ownership in a town where he has lived his entire life.

‘Our client Paul Newberry would particularly like me to stress how passionate he is about Okehampton and smallholding on the site, along with his ardent wish to build his own home there. This site has been in his family for three generations, since 1955.’

The application received several letters of support from local people.

Okehampton resident Chris Turner, of Hillside Drive, wrote: ‘I am in favour of this application as this is a single dwelling for an existing resident of Okehampton on a brownfield site that has been in their family for generations.

‘Given the vast quantity of residential dwellings that have been allowed to be built on the east side of Okehampton on greenfield sites this application has my full backing and I hope common sense prevails.’

Okehampton borough councillor Julie Yelland, chair of the development management and licensing committee, asked planning officers whether a condition could be attached to the application, should it be approved, to prevent it being sold on to owners from outside the area.

She was advised that this would need a Section 106 agreement to be drawn up, which could insist that occupants had a local connection. However, they said there was nothing to stop the site being owned by people outside the area.

The application was duly refused by the committee.