THE redevelopment of Hatherleigh Market was this week given the thumbs up, paving the way for construction of a major new housing scheme.
West Devon Borough Council's planning and licensing committee this week gave permission for an outline application on the site. It would allow for the demolition of existing market buildings and development of 106 new houses, retail and employment buildings, a multi-use building to accommodate the fur and feathers auction, and a pavilion and open space for the weekly Tuesday pannier market.
The committee's ten members voted unanimously to grant the application, subject to the completion of Section 106 agreements.
A full public gallery at West Devon's offices listened to the deliberations on Tuesday morning.
Borough Councillor Christine Hall is on the planning committee and the member for Hatherleigh Ward. She said: 'This has been a long and complicated application process, and I am aware the application now has the full support of Hatherleigh Town Council.
'As the local member, it is my job to reflect on the views and opinions of the people I represent, as well as considering the long term future of Hatherleigh. Whichever way I approach this, I come back to the thought process that the landowner is perfectly entitled to do whatever they choose with the land.
'If a viable scheme is not found, they could close the site, and leave it to go derelict. That would be disastrous for Hatherleigh.
'The owner has made a number of compromises throughout the application process, and this is now a viable scheme.'
In the weeks running up to the decision, the applicant and agent have changed the outline plans to bring them more in line with the Hatherleigh Community Plan, published last year. After initial objections from Hatherleigh Town Council, members have now pledged their support for the application and wish to be involved in all future negotiations between the borough council and developers.
Cllr Dennis Bater, representing the town council, said: 'The town council welcomes the changes made by the applicant and agent, albeit at a very late stage of the application, those relating to extra parking and the fur and feathers buildings.
'The town council and the community worked long and hard to produce the community plan and are pleased to see that this document is acknowledged throughout the committee report.
'The town council has had many long discussions over this planning application, knowing that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Hatherleigh to shape its future – and therefore we can not stress enough the importance of being heavily involved in the reserved matters application.'
Though the scheme has now received the backing of the town council, there have been plenty of objections from the community – the borough council received a total 89 letters of objection and 15 letters of comment, covering a range of topics from the retention of the Tuesday market to the placement of housing near the abattoir building.
Hatherleigh resident Cindy Squire spoke at the meeting.
She said: 'Two flexible use purpose-built buildings on this development may mean Hatherleigh could continue to function as it does now, with events like the Tuesday market, and our carnival.
'The proposal gives priority to new housing, not jobs. Jobs will certainly be lost from the market. You have to think of the positive social and economic benefits the market brings to Hatherleigh. We need to preserve the soul of our town.'
The final details of the development's exact layout are yet to be finalised, and will be confirmed in a reserved matters application to the council.
When this is completed and building work starts, it will take place in two phases, and the Tuesday market will be kept open throughout construction.
The scheme will provide a minimum of eleven affordable houses on site. The developer will either give a contribution of £200,000 to off-site affordable housing provision, or provide an additional ten affordable units.
This will bring up the number of affordable houses to 20% of the total — still well below the council's usual request of 40%. However, this was allowed, due to there being affordable housing already available in the town, and the viability of the scheme being 'on a knife edge', according to planning officer Anna Henderson-Smith.
Cllr Bill Cann said: 'This has been talked about at length for a long time. I don't think that eleven affordable houses out of 106 is very much at all.
'When we are in this climate of young people struggling to get on the market, struggling to get deposits for houses, we need to do what we can to help them.
'I hope and expect it to be increased.'
Cllr Terry Pearce said: 'This is a very important site, and no situation is ideal. The applicant has made a number of changes to the plans. If the applicant walks away from the site, a new developer could walk in and not give half of what is being given now.
'We don't have a perfect world where every application is perfect for everyone, but this is a good scheme for the site.'