Controversial homes plan gets green light

By Phil Stoneham   |   Reporter   |
Thursday 16th December 2021 7:00 am
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CONTROVERSIAL plans to build 44 new homes and an ‘extra care facility’ in Tavistock have been given the green light despite furious opposition from town councillors.

West Devon Borough council development management and licensing committee gave the project a conditional nod over objections the plan was not delivering affordable housing for local people and it was depriving the town of badly-needed employment land.

Newton Abbot-based Baker Estates submitted two applications — one without the care facility and the other with. The first, which included an offer from the council for Baker Estates to buy the care home site for a £1 in the hope the developer would sell it and split the proceeds to fund affordable housing, was rejected.

But the version with the care facility, on the southern side of Plymouth Road near the Lidl supermarket, was given conditional permission despite a personal plea from Cllr Paul Ward, chairman of the town council’s development management and licensing committee and colleague Cllr Mandy Ewings, who also represents Tavistock on the borough council.

They were joined by Cllr Adam Bridgewater, who represents the borough council ward the scheme will be built in, said he had been told by residents that they were worried not just about the loss of employment land, but also its lack of affordable housing.

He said: ‘Many Tavistock people and residents have argued that employment is a priority and the (council) officers have dismissed that.’

Cllr Bridgewater said it had been argued that people could commute to places such as Totnes, Kingsbridge and Plymouth to work, which would mean a journey of up to 130 kilometres for some of them.

He added: ‘It is a massive breach of faith for people in Tavistock’ and argued that more than 1,200 new homes had been allocated for West Devon and there was no urgent need for any more.

Cllr Bridgewater said that because of a lack of parking attached to the scheme, the people who would suffer would be those in nearby Bishopsmead.

The proposal is made up of 34 two and three-bed bungalows and 10 houses with four and five bedrooms, plus the care facility, which objectors say will dominate one of the gateways to a World Heritage Site. The care facility will contain up to 60 units. Objections to were made to both applications by Tavistock Town Council who said that it “deplores the lack of affordable housing.”

The town council said the joint local plan required such developments to also provide employment land, or an area that can be used to support businesses or create jobs, but that this criteria had not been met.

In a formal objection, they said: ‘The employment is required not only to meet current needs but also provide for the town’s future needs and resilience. People are worried about the expansion of housing with accompanying employment opportunities.’

Nine further objections were received, with a number of issues raised including lack of parking, failure to provide the required employment provision, lack of affordable homes and a failure to provide housing for local young people and first time buyers.

Objectors were also worried that the proposal would generate more traffic and would make the situation on an already traffic-clogged A386 worse.

In support of the application, one letter pointed out that bungalows were much needed in the area and other developments did not appear to provide them and they catered for people who may have mobility issues and disabilities were multi-level housing can be restrictive.

It added that given that the population was tending to live longer, they believed that all new developments should also cater for an ageing population by providing housing for this group.

A majority of councillors on the committee agreed to the 44 home development with the proposed 60 unit extra care unit, subject to conditions.

These included financial contributions to the restoration of the Bere Alston to Tavistock rail link and to local doctors’ surgeries.

The move sparked a backlash among local residents on social media platforms, with one describing it as ‘shameful’ and others worried that their children would not be able to afford to live in the town they grew up in.

And one resident, former town councillor and planning consultant Graham Parker, said: ‘Yesterday we had a local plan that promised Tavistock that, if they accepted 1,200 new houses over the next 10 years, we would get a new school, extended public transport, affordable housing and 500 new jobs. Local people supported that as a sustainable package.

‘Today, as a result of the second worst planning decision that I’ve seen in 55 years of being a professional planner, that Local Plan has been torn up.

‘There will be no new jobs, no new school and West Devon have given up on affordable housing.

‘They voted 6-4 to abandon all of that in exchange for 44 posh houses and a block of flats, on the very site that the Local Plan identified for jobs and small business premises.’

Mr Parker asked where will the 3,000 new residents go to work.

He said ‘planners say that they can go to Okehampton or Salcombe, Totnes or Dartington or Tavistock can finally become a suburb of Plymouth.

‘The fact that many of those jobs involve a 50 km commute, there is no public transport, there will be no new rail connection and the A386 is already jammed solid at times doesn’t matter to them.’

Following the committee’s decision, however, borough council leader Neil Jory said: ‘I know that the decisions our planning committee had to make today were incredibly tough, but I believe that our committee arrived at the right outcome on a difficult site.

‘I am pleased to see that overall the whole development that was approved will provide a good mix of housing, ranging from one bedroom self-contained flats, to five-bedroom detached houses.

‘The application will provide 104 homes, 60 of which will be affordable socially rented, that equates to 58 per cent affordable homes in total.’

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