To consider the report of the Liveable Exeter Programme Director and Interim City Development Lead.
Councillor Bialyk declared a disclosable pecuniary interest and left the meeting during consideration of this item.
The Principal Project Manager (Development) (PJ) presented the application for outline planning permission for up to 80 dwellings and associated infrastructure (All matters reserved except for access).
The following key issues were referred to:-
· the principle of development;
· affordable housing;
· access and impact on local highways;
· scale, design, impact on character and appearance; ecological issues/habitats mitigation;
· Sustainable Construction and Energy Conservation; and
· Economic benefits and CIL.
The Principal Project Manager (Development) provided the following additional detail:-
· the relationship to the surrounding urban and rural areas and the nature and extent of its boundaries, the site being located beyond the built up urban area of Exwick with steep sloping open fields to the north within Teignbridge District Council, also a source of development interest;
· highway improvements including a vehicular access to the site, new and improved footpaths including the steep footpath from Exwick Lane through to Cheltenham Close and Gloucester Road;
· the development to comprise of mainly semi-detached and detached properties with some small rows of terraced properties with a total of 35% affordable housing providing 52 market houses and 28 affordable units, a central main road, play areas and a storm attenuation basin; and
· the receipt of 378 objections and 102 letters of support, together with a late letter from the Devon and Cornwall Health Authority seeking a financial contribution if the development was approved.
In balancing the impact of the development on the landscape character of the site against the need for housing to meet the five year housing supply the Principal Project Manager (Development) advised of the following:-
· the Council’s current lack of a five year housing supply and advice contained within the National Planning Policy Framework;
· the provision of 28 affordable homes on the site at a policy compliant level of 35% in accordance with Core Strategy Policy CP7;
· the applicant confirming contributions towards highway improvement to footpaths and green travel, education in respect of secondary school provision and GP provision for the area;
· the location of the proposed development in an area designated as landscape setting in the Core Strategy as well as nature conservation development being contrary to the statutory development plan and the Core Strategy. The impact of 80 dwellings and associated infrastructure would result in a significant change to the landscape character of this site; and
· the ridgeline forms an important element on the green setting of Exeter and the approach from Redhills is important as the rural ‘back-door’ exit from that side of the City and is an attractive rural boundary to the high density development around Kinnerton Way and Farm Hill.
Mr Jewson spoke in support of the application. He raised the following points:-
· an outline application for up to 80 dwellings up to two storeys high and the layout and design will not be fixed until the reserved matters stage;
· landscape character is a much broader concept than the loss of a site. In this case the landscape impact has been assessed by local experts using industry recognised methods of analysis concluding that there would be limited impact on the landscape setting;
· the report does not explain what weight should be applied to landscape harm, nor does it assess the weight to be applied to new housing. It also fails to mention the economic benefits of new housing;
· failure to meet the housing requirement results in more young people living with their parents and businesses finding it difficult to recruit and increased levels of homelessness. Increasing the supply of housing is essential to facilitate economic growth and meeting the needs and aspirations of residents;
· April 2021 data from Devon Home choice shows 2,766 people registered for Bands A-D in Exeter;
· lack of housing in Exeter is forcing people to move out of the City resulting in increased commuting, greater car use and more unsustainable live/work patterns;
· significant number of letters of support;
· a previous appeal at Clyst Road, Topsham referencing landscape policies and contribution to the supply of housing; and
· the benefits of these proposals are significant.
Councillor Pearson, having given notice under Standing Order No. 44, spoke on the item. He raised the following points:-
· number of objections from residents exceeds those supporting;
· proposal is contrary to Policy LS1;
· objections raised include adverse impact on the character of a landscape protection area, detrimental to the skyline and loss of valuable green space, hedgerows and habitats;
· transport mitigation measures will have a negligible impact;
· the Net Zero Exeter 2030 ambitions as well as the Local Plan encourage housing on brownfield sites in the city; and
· oppose the application and recommend upholding the recommendations.
Members made the following comments:-
· the development will have an adverse impact on the ridgeline and is visually intrusive, including views from the opposite end of the city as far as Duryard and St David’s;
· brownfield sites are more appropriate for development as evidenced by the two recent housing developments on the former Exwick Schools site which are also closer to local facilities than this development would be;
· notwithstanding proposed improvements to the footpath to Gloucester Road, it would remain steep and hazardous;
· the development would be some distance from bus stops and the bus service itself would be put on further strain by the development which also places an emphasis on car ownership;
· mitigation measures within the ecological study are inadequate, particularly in relation to bat and dormice species;
· development is some distance from the local secondary School of West Exe;
· access issues remain a concern and proposed highway improvements are insufficient given the narrowness of the surrounding road network including the footpath ramp proposed for Exwick Lane;
· additional impact on the St Thomas and Foxhayes surgeries and local school capacity;
· Police concerns regarding the site design in terms of protecting against crime; and
· development will be the thin end of the wedge and increase urban sprawl within and outside the Exeter boundary on to Higher Redhills and Whitestone.
The recommendation was for refusal for the reasons set out in the report. Members supported the inclusion of an insufficiently robust ecological report as an additional reason for refusal.
The recommendation was moved, seconded and agreed, as amended with an additional refusal reason.
RESOLVED that the application for outline planning permission for up to 80 dwellings and associated infrastructure (All matters reserved except for access) be REFUSED for the following reasons:-
1) the development would have a significant impact on the rural character of the area and landscape setting of the city by developing and urbanising a prominent ridgeline that will be visible from surrounding parts of the city. It will have a significant impact on the rural character of Redhills through the creation of an access road and necessary visibility splays, which will detract from the rural approach to the city from the west. The development is therefore contrary to the adopted development plan policies CP16 of the Exeter Core Strategy and saved Policy LS1 of the Exeter Local Plan First Review, and paragraphs 127c) and 170 of the NPPF (2019). In regard to the presumption of sustainable development in the NPPF, it’s considered that the adverse impacts of the development on the rural character and distinctiveness of the area and landscape setting of the city would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of housing delivery on this site when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole;
2) In the absence of a completed planning obligation (Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) in terms that are satisfactory to the Local Planning Authority which makes provision for the following matters Affordable housing, Open space provision – play equipment, maintenance arrangements and public access in perpetuity; Off-site play provision contribution; Education contributions; GP facilities contribution; Footway Improvement contribution; Sustainable Travel Planning contribution the proposal is contrary to Exeter Local Development Framework Core Strategy 2012 Objectives 3, 5, 6 and 10, policies CP7, CP9, CP10, CP11, CP18, Exeter Local Plan First Review 1995-2011 saved policies AP1, T1, T3 and DG5, and Exeter City Council Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document 2014; and
3) insufficient ecological mitigation justification has been submitted to outweigh the significant harm to the wildlife and biodiversity as a result of the loss of a substantial section of hedge bank fronting onto Redhills and Exwick Lane and the trees and hedgerows within and along the boundaries located within a Site of Local interest for Nature Conservation and consequently the development conflicts with Policies LS4 of the Exeter Local Plan First Review, CP16 of the Exeter Core Strategy and paragraph 175a) of the NPPF (2019).