Committee Meetings

The Society's committee normally meets at 2.30pm on the first Monday of each month except August, in Quay House, Kingsbridge.   If you would like any matter raised please speak to any of the committee members.   Even better, if you would like to attend yourself, to speak or just to listen, you will be most welcome, but please let one of the committee know you will be coming.    (Note that the December 2012 meeting will be on Tuesday 4th, not Monday 3rd)

Below are notes from recent meetings (latest first).

3 September 2012

Our thanks to everybody who came to the Society's stand at Kingsbridge Show.  It seemed to us that it was a very successful event, and that our stand (not too big, and not in a corner this year) worked well.  We thought there was greater and more constructive contact with the public than in 2011.  

Natural England will shortly be publishing new criteria for the designation of National Parks, AONBs, Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, Ramsar sites, Marine Conservation Zones and SSSIs. It will then be opportune for the Society to decide whether to put forward the concept of a South Devon National Park to bring together the many such sites in the area and to address the need for connectivity highlighted in the 2010 Making Space for Nature report and the Government's recent Natural Environment White Paper.

Work is about to start on a new management plan for the AONB.  Careful thought must be given to where support is based and to the relevance of the plan to the public.  Members should feel free to contribute.  

The GIS map of the AONB still hasn't appeared.

SHDC received some 56 comments on its draft supplementary planning document on masterplanning, many of them echoing the Society's request for a more explicit requirement for the public to be able to comment at an early stage.  SHDC staff are working on a revised document which it is hoped will be before the Executive for adoption on 8 November.  

As set out by the Planning Inspectorate, the rules for communities wishing to write their own neighbourhood plans are less forbidding than the SHDC planners implied in their 11 June meeting with the committee.  Although the LPA would have to agree and make the appointment, the community may choose the independent examiner.  And, very importantly, the neighbourhood plan does not have to cover the full range of topics in the local plan - the community can choose the ones on which it wishes to express a view.  The South Hams LDF, and Salcombe's experience of trying to write a neighbourhood plan,  have sharpened the view that the district council is still trying to impose its will on communities.  In the current housing market, the policy of piggybacking affordable houses on open market ones is just not delivering.

Of the two LDF sites in Kingsbridge, K1 is not causing too much concern.  Though Pegasus Planning has done a good job on K5, there are many important issues still to be resolved and there is a feeling that it may not succeed as a planning application.

There is a constant need for new material for the website.  Members are asked particularly to make known any recent developments or other works that they feel have improved the environment in the South Hams, if possible with photographs.

The Society's funds stand at £3459.


2 July 2012

The Society has become very concerned at the lack of protection that the South Devon AONB is in practice given, whatever the rules and policies may say. With the National Trust owning an increasing amount of land along our coastline, and the resulting recognition of the area's potential for recreation, this may be a good time to promote the idea of conversion of the AONB to a national park. Many people have expressed interest in this and, because of the link through the Avon valley to Dartmoor, it would fit with the Natural Choices concept of joining protected areas up.

SHDC has recently published a Draft Supplementary Planning Document on Masterplans and Development Briefs. This is important because it is going to control the procedure for approving most of the big developments in the district. The document, which can be read here, seems to suggest that masterplans and development briefs would require a level of information similar to that for a planning application, so that most matters would be settled before any resulting application was published. The Society feels that they ought therefore to be conducted with the same transparency and public participation as the Localism Act and the NPPF now require in any planning process. But in SHDC's draft there is no provision for those outside the steering group to have access to pre-application discussions or to comment or participate in the decision to approve a masterplan. Section 3 specifically excludes it: the Head of Planning, Economy and Community alone makes the decision, and even councillors appear to have no rights to refer a masterplan to the full council. Comments from the public are due by 30 July.

There is a widespread perception that the research and other work involved in the preparation of neighbourhood plans, to a standard acceptable to the Planning Inspectorate, would be beyond the capabilities of most towns and almost all rural parishes, and that it would therefore be better to encourage really effective participation in the district local plan. This is a pity, since neighbourhood plans might have avoided much of the unhappiness that has been caused in the district by recent top-down planning. Views of members would be welcome, particularly from those who have experience of neighbourhood planning under the current rules.

It appears that the footpath in front of the Crabshell in Kingsbridge will be confirmed, subject to some modifications and clarifications which are now out for consultation

The Society will contribute £50 toward a projected Jubilee memorial tree on Batson Green, any money unused to go to the renewal of the black poplars on the same site. The district needs more trees generally, and members should look out for opportunities for the Society to plant them.

Still on trees, the Society is seeking clarification on the new procedures by which a member of the public can get a TPO placed. In the past they have been refused on the grounds that the tree is not under threat. Under new regulations a council no longer has to make an order if requested, and there is clearly a question of whether protection can be effected quickly enough when a tree is threatened.

We're going to introduce to the website a page containing photographs of good and bad developments in the South Hams. We start with the firm intention of keeping the numbers of good and bad roughly in balance! Members are asked to let us know of any particular likes and dislikes, preferably with a photograph.

Having examined 42 applications since the last meeting, the planning committee objected to four SHDC applications:

a. Field at SX767 568, Foales Leigh Farm, Harberton - 50kW (36.4m to hub, 46m to tip) wind turbine (23/1142/12/F)

b. Higher Farm, Little Modbury - 50kw x 24.6m high (hub) wind turbine and widening of existing access (35/0919/12/F)

c. Homefield House, Sherford - single storey side extension (43/0937/12/F)

d. Cob Cottage, 14 Buckley Street, Salcombe - alterations and extension to existing dwelling (41/1026/12/F)

and supported one:

East Soar Farm, Malborough - retrospective change of use of land and barns for camping purposes and use of barn as walkers hut (33/1298/12/F)

The Society's funds stand at £3459.

We are very grateful to Ray Long for agreeing to act as treasurer to the Society, and we take this opportunity to thank Clara Hayes for doing the job so well and so cheerfully over the past four years. We are pleased that she will now have more time to write poetry.

Note:  After the meeting the Chairman submitted the following comment on SHDC's Draft Supplementary Planning Document on Masterplans and Development Briefs:


Dear Sirs
I have thought it necessary to expand the comments made in my earlier email on the draft of the Masterplanning SPD to include the reasons why public involvement in master planning is necessary outside the steering group.

The SPD makes no provision for the public, ie those outside the steering group, to have access to pre-application discussions or to comment or participate in the decision to approve a Masterplan. Section 3 of the SPD specifically excludes both. The Head of Planning, Economy and Community alone makes the decision. Even Councillors have no rights to refer approval of a masterplan to the Development Management Committee or the full Council. 

But the description of a masterplan is so comprehensive that it covers much of what is required for a final planning application. The SPD states that it is a material consideration that a planning application conforms to the approved masterplan. 

In the case of a planning application the public have rights of access to pre-application discussions and to comment on the application before a decision is made and to speak before the Development Management Committee. These rights are there to ensure that the process of considering an application is transparent. Because of the overlap between master plans and planning applications and to avoid cronyism in masterplan steering groups which could shut out community views it is equally necessary for the public to have access to pre-application discussions and to be able to comment on submitted masterplans before approval. 

But it will be argued that the draft SPD lays emphasis on public consultation and requires that the Masterplan should contain 'clear evidence of community engagement' and 'how the community has influenced the plan'. 

However what is clear evidence for some may not be so clear for others. It is increasingly clear that the process of consultation for the Site Allocations DPD has not functioned for some despite the planning inspectors considering it as adequate. The production of the Kingsbridge master plan for K5 will not be satisfactory without acknowledging the views of the Westville residents however tardy and misinformed. There was no representative of them on the steering group as originally formed. Clear evidence on consultation is therefore a matter of judgement. 

But the rights to have access to pre-masterplanning advice, to comment on masterplans before approval and for councillors to bring the masterplan before the Council are absolutes, not a judgement, and therefore secure. They are the best safeguards that can be devised to ensure public consultation on masterplans will be adequate.

It is for these reasons that the South Hams Society regards the process described in the document as being in breach of the community involvement required by the Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework. To summarise the changes required:
pre-masterplanning advice must be recorded and available to the public as it is given,

the public must have a means of commenting in writing on the masterplan before approval,

councillors must have the right to refer masterplans for sites in their ward to the    Development Management Committee or full Council before approval,

community representatives must have the right to speak on master plans which are referred to the Committee or the Council. 

A final comment of lesser importance - the document was clearly written in haste, the use of language is clumsy and there are omissions. For example, it refers to masterplans and development briefs but there is no reference to a definition of a development brief.

Yours

 
John Chalmers

11 June 2012

The June meeting was almost entirely devoted to a discussion with Cllr. John Carter (SHDC Lead Councillor for Planning), Marion Playle (Head of Planning, Economy & Community) and Malcolm Elliott (Head of Development Management), who kindly came to discuss planning matters.  The record of the meeting reads as follows:

1. The chairman welcomed JC, MP and ME to the meeting.

2. In April SHDC published a statement of community involvement which touched on neighbourhood plans, and West Devon Council is running a pilot toolkit to help communities with them. It is being refined with experience. Salcombe Town Council is also testing it out. It is a statutory requirement that any plan is led by the community. SHDC cannot write it for the community but can help to ensure it is sufficiently robust to be passed by the Planning Inspectorate. Neighbourhood plans are not an easy option: they require enormous research, they have to be in conformity with SHDC's strategic policies, and they have to be written to the same standards as local council plans. Where there is no local initiative, planning for the neighbourhood will continue to be an SHDC responsibility.

3. 'The community' would normally be a town or parish. It could also be a group of parishes, but in practice it would be whatever area made sense. There is provision for stakeholders, which should include groups like the SHS.

4. Although they should be sharing the same evidence base, neighbourhood plans might, while making equal provision, recommend different development sites to those in the DPD. The current documents will be revisited and the DPDs could change if better solutions are found. SHDC stressed that neighbourhood plans are tools for growth, not for limiting development, and that they will have to operate within the overarching DPD.

5. SHDC will fund and organise any referendum that is required. Details of the necessary majority and turnout are still to be clarified.

6. After a referendum on a neighbourhood plan, SHDC would be willing to discuss the transfer of any assets that it holds to the community involved. More guidance on this is awaited

7. SHS said that it was difficult to access detailed geographical information on the SHDC website, and one had to keep changing scales to find the detail required. The AONB atlas had been scheduled to be available in autumn 2011 but was still not accessible. Up-to-date and accurate information of this sort is very important to the local community in order for it to take an active part in planning. SHDC is conscious that its whole website is poor and is working hard to improve it.

8. SHS suggested that the new development forums were a good innovation but their staging appeared to take up a lot of time for council members and officers. SHDC said they were for major applications at the pre-application enquiry stage, and there were likely to be more as more projects came through. The object is to provide more information and detail, and to make the planning process more open. They are proving useful and informative for all sides. It is too early to say whether there will be a development forum for the K1 and K5 development sites in Kingsbridge. SHS referred to the recent petitions and public disquiet about these sites but agreed that SHDC had done everything possible to advertise the plans.

9. SHDC is currently running a new housing market and needs assessment. Growth in the region as a whole has to be taken into account, and the housing allocations for this area are the minimum possible. Viability & deliverability of plans tends to favour greenfield sites, although there has to be a balance between local needs and protecting the environment. Plans have to be firmly evidence-based - planning inspectors do not allow speculation.

10. SHS expressed concern at the proportion of affordable houses being delivered in new developments, citing in particular Helmer's Field in Chillington. SHDC said that this was more difficult in rural than in urban areas as there was no cross-subsidy. SHDC cannot prevent the open market element being advertised in the national press.

11. The recent development at Malborough (Charnwood) provided some social rented housing, for which SHS feels there is still a very great need. SHDC pointed out that the land in this case had belonged to the district council and so the development was achievable. There is a public subsidy per house, but there are new Government guidelines on affordable housing which will lead to higher rents. There are also new tenure agreements for affordable housing.

12. SHS expressed serious concern at the rate of development in the AONB. There was a perception that it had become much easier to obtain permission for building in the designated area. It seemed that Structure Plan Policy CO3 was not being observed, and in particular that the test of benefit to the community, as opposed to the applicant alone, was not being applied. The council's recent decision to approve very prominent barns at Higher Hatch Farm, Loddiswell, against the advice of both its own landscape officer and the AONB Unit, was quoted as an example.

13. SHDC felt that it was taking care of the AONB, which it acknowledged is a national rather than a local resource. It does abide by Policy CO3, but it has to achieve a balance between the conservation of the AONB and the maintenance of a working landscape. All development has an impact but the council's practice of validation should ensure a consistency of approach across the area. In the Higher Hatch Farm case, officers had recommended refusal but councillors had disagreed.

14. SHS asked that officer reports should show more logically how recommendations flowed from the policies. SHDC replied that officers would always give an opinion, otherwise they would be regarded as unhelpful. However they will always have the landscape in mind. Procedures have changed, and applications are now always discussed at group meetings and are not the responsibility of any single officer.

15, SHS questioned whether landscape planners are trained by the AONB, and have professional qualifications. SHDC confirmed that they are trained and qualified, but the intended officer training sessions on AONB characteristics have not taken place. SHS feels that planning officers giving initial advice often do not properly understand landscape implications, so applications with clear landscape problems are launched and then supported.

16. SHS quoted another specific case, of an isolated barn on the Malborough/Salcombe road. The landscape officer had strongly objected to the application throughout, but the planning officer had concluded that there was not a landscape problem and had supported it. Cllr Carter, who had approved it, said he had not been exactly happy with it, but there had been no outstanding reason to refuse and the local parish council had supported it.

17. Questioning the working of the new planning protocol, SHS presented a list of recent applications in the AONB on which no AONB Unit input was apparent. SHDC gave an assurance that it is abiding by the protocol. Two officers assess applications daily to check AONB implications and to decide whether the AONB Unit should be consulted, and Robin Toogood (AONB Manager) scans the weekly list of applications. However the AONB unit does not have the resources to be involved constantly - it is not resourced in the same way as some other AONBs. The chairman said that the AONB Partnership Committee was concerned about Robin Toogood's workload and the AONB's resources, but also about adverse comments because of the number of applications and an apparent lack of control.

18. The chairman said that the change of status for the South Downs AONB and New Forest AONB to National Park provided food for thought as to a way forward in South Devon given the public unease as to how well our AONB was being protected.

19. It is difficult for councillors to be given full training in all the roles they have to fulfil, but they do receive strict training in planning matters. The job is not easyand some decisions are bound to be unpopular. Planning law is very complicated and councillors do not deal with some details - it is the officers' job to advise and support them. Councillors can and do put forward the views of their local parish even if they know they are likely to be struck down from a planning perspective, and this is a recurring problem.

20. As a result of new regulations coming into force in April this year, tree preservation orders have now changed and provisions have been relaxed. An application for a TPO from a member of the public no longer creates a stop order without the attendant delay of awaiting SHDC approval. This provides open house to cowboy felling of trees valuable to the landscape.

21. SHDC's difficulties with planning enforcement, acknowledged by Cllr Howarth in January 2011, persist. Extra short term resources are being made available to deal with a backlog of work. Progress is constantly being examined and reviewed, but despite regular team meetings the workload continues to increase and the backlog is getting bigger.

22. As SHS requested, SHDC has taken steps to make pre-application discussions more open. Records of enquiries received and advice given are public documents, and they should be kept for the sake of everyone's reputations. They are produced on completion of the discussions, not during, as there is an element of confidentiality in the process. It will normally be stated on any subsequent planning application form that the information is available.

23. The chairman warmly thanked JC, MP, and ME for attending and hoped that there would be similar meetings in the future.


AGM April 2012 - Chairman's Report

As you will know this is our 51st AGM. After the business of the AGM our speaker, David Ford, is from the National Trust who are as concerned as we are about the effect of development on the countryside and the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. At a time when the National Planning Policy Framework has just been launched this subject is particularly appropriate.

First I must announce with regret that Ken Reed lately of the committee died last week. For many years he and John Watling traveled to Follaton House every week to examine planning applications. He was almost the last of the generation that ran the Society when I joined and there will be an obituary in the next Bulletin.

At the same time I must mention that John Watling has decided to resign from the committee due to illness. He had been a member of the committee since 1997 and chairman for some years. He will however stay on the sidelines to give us the benefit of his long experience.

I would like to start by outlining quickly some of the areas where we have been active in the past year and then move on to what may be the major challenges facing us in the future.

Planning has as usual been our major concern. The District Council's Development Plan was completed with the adoption of the Site Allocations DPD in January last year so this year has been largely taken up with planning applications.

We have examined about 450 planning applications and written 37 letters of representation, 35 of them objecting or suggesting changes and two in support where we felt there could be unreasonable objections. Prominent among the letters were comments on applications for 3 hotel extentions and 4 wind turbines.

We have continued our objections to Viridor's proposals to use the quarry at Lee Mill for waste.

We are represented in the steering group producing a masterplan for the first two housing sites in Kingsbridge.

Discussions between a developer and the planners prior to the applications may have an important effect on the decision and we have asked the District Council to make records of them public and, as an example, made a Freedom of Information request in one application.

The protection of the AONB has always been high on our agenda. John Peters, a member of our committee also sits on the the AONB Partnership Committee. In 2007 research showed that of the 35 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty the South Devon AONB had the highest loss of greenfield land to development.

We believe that too much development is permitted, that it is often poorly sited and mitigation measures are often inadequate. Agricultural buildings and horse related activities have been a particular concern.

After helping with setting up a Protocol for consultation between the AONB Unit and the planners in 2010 we have been monitoring its use. The Unit is now consulted more regularly on applications within the AONB but not enough yet for our liking.

We have also been active in a number of other local issues including DEFRA's consultation about turning S Efford salt grazing into salt marsh, the registration of Batson Village Green and the Crabshell footpath enquiry.

Last year was our 50th anniversary and we had a number of successful events to celebrate it. They started with a showing of Message in the Waves, a powerful film made by local farmer, Rebecca Hoskins when she was of the BBC's Natural History Unit about the horrific effect of marine litter on wild life. This has strengthened our resolve to continue whatever the weather our programme of monthly beach cleans which rotates around Gara, South Milton, Soar Mill Cove, Batson and West Charleton.

The Society had a stand at the Kingsbridge Show which attracted many visitors including some whose planning applications we had objected to. A Jazz Evening here in the Kings Arms was a lively celebration of our 50th anniversary. A new years day walk around took place in decidedly poor weather but was saved by the warmth of the soup and our welcome at East Soar farm.

Our President, Jonathan Dimbleby, chaired an 'Any Questions' session on renewable energy in November which attracted a large audience. The panel consisted of two experts supporting renewables, one researcher who believed that the money spent on them could be better used elsewhere to reduce carbon emissions. A lively discussion took place and many came out with a better understanding of the issues.

A list of events and monthly beach cleans was included with your March Bulletins and I would like to draw your attention to the two renewable energy visits to Langage Farm Anaerobic Digestion plant and the Mary Tavy Hydro Power Station.

Our wonderful website is updated regularly by our indefatigable secretary, John Graham continues to be a most important source of information on our activities and I recommend it to you all. Our Bulletin has become required reading for many due to the range and stature of its contributors and we have at last become regular contributors to the Gazette. All these activities have gradually increased our membership.

Lastly I would like to suggest what I see of the next year. Planning has always been one of our most important concerns and the Government has introduced three major changes in policy in the past year which effect it.

The Localism Bill. now law - funds and supports neighbourhood plans prepared by communities and removes major constraints from local planning authorities. We still have to find out what effects this will have in practice but work on the first neigbourhood plans is starting, for example, in Salcombe.

The National Planning Policy Framework is also now implemented. The draft document attracted much criticism from many including our Society for its lack of protection of the countryside. The final document, now implemented was much improved. It replaces 1,500 pages of planning guidance with 65 pages of general advice. Again the effects are as yet unknown, for example, how neighbourhood plans interface with the adopted LDF. But it appears to leave more room both for local interpretation by communities, local planning authorities and developers alike.

The White Paper, Space for Nature and the Lawton Report which call for wildlife corridors between designated nature reserves to increase biodiversity. A number of studies for making proposals for corridors have been set up but we have yet to see any actions on the ground.

All these changes suggest the growing importance of Societies such as ours. We are needed to bring community pressure to protect the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to ensure that development serves all the community not just those of developers who see the South Hams as an opportunity to make money.


2 April 2012

The final version of the National Planning Policy Framework, published on 27 March, is a great improvement on the draft document. It recognises the intrinsic value of the countryside, and the qualified right to develop where a council has no local plan has been removed. The government believes that the NPPF will encourage growth in house building and give more scope for local opinion. But it is much looser than the many documents that it replaces and there will inevitably be many legal test cases.

The effect of the Localism Act on the making of planning decisions is not at all clear. There is a widespread feeling that SHDC pays too little attention to local views, but those expressed are often based on non-planning grounds so cannot be taken into account anyway.

Salcombe Town Council have a grant of £20k develop a neighbourhood plan which would genuinely reflect the wishes of residents. It is not clear if this plan must be within the DPD which specifies development of RA3, Batson Cross, or can displace it. There is strong opposition in the town to the Batson Cross development but SHDC are unlikely to agree to change the DPD and may not be able to do so legally.

Having looked at nine applications since the last meeting, the planning committee has objected to 32/0291, 0292 & 0293/12/F, each for an agricultural building at Higher Hatch Farm, Loddiswell, on grounds of serious intrusion into the AONB (the Society's letter can be seen at Planning Applications). It has also asked for better plans to be published for 53/0651/12/F - extensions at a very prominent site at Golden Meadow, Widewell, Stokenham. Application 40/0259/12/F, for the installation of an 11kw wind turbine at Marwell Barn, Ringmore, has been withdrawn.

The Steering `Group for masterplanning Kingsbridge DPD development sites K1 and K5 has decided to run consultation sessions to coincide with Kingsbridge Farmers' Market. The first will ask for open comments on the sites using forms obtained from the Tamar Housing Society. Pegasus Planning who are developing the masterplan doubt whether 75 houses and the planned employment area can be fitted into K5.

The decision of the public inquiry into the footpath in front of the Crabshell in Kingsbridge is still awaited. The evidence for it to be recorded as a public path seemed very strong.

The Society's request to SHDC for the record of certain pre-application planning discussions has been referred back to the Information Commissioner's Office.

There is urgent need not only for a new treasurer but also for new committee and planning committee members. A strong appeal will be made at the AGM on 17 April but in advance of that a note will be e-mailed to all members. Please do give serious consideration to whether you can help.

The Society's funds stand at £4162.

Next meeting: Monday 14th May.


5 March 2012

The planning committee has looked at 28 applications since the last meeting and will object to four: 40/0259/12/F for the installation of an 11kw wind turbine at Marwell Barn, Ringmore, and 32/0291 to 0293/12/F, each for an agricultural building at Higher Hatch Farm, Loddiswell.

The Chivelstone and Coleridge wind turbine applications (10/2824/11/F and 53/2994/11/F respectively) have been approved. An appeal has been lodged in the Galmpton case (46/2662/11/F). There are new applications for 11KW turbines at Sherford (43/0434/12/F, single turbine, height to tip 25m, outside the AONB) and Ringmore (40/0259/12/F, single turbine, height to tip 19m, in the AONB). Both are to produce power for domestic rather than agricultural use, which may colour SHDC's view of their acceptability. AONB Unit representations on turbines appear weak.

In earlier notes we said that we had been pressing SHDC to keep records of pre-application planning discussions, available to the public upon request, and that we had now taken up a particular case with the Information Commissioner's Office. We have heard no more from SHDC on this but will continue to make the case.

There seems to be so much evidence of regular public use of the footpath in front of the Crabshell in Kingsbridge that the public inquiry to be held on 6 March may prove a formality. We hope so.

No progress appears to have been made on the GIS map of the South Devon and East Devon AONBs.

The committee expressed support for a proposal by Bill Blanch and others to plant a tree on Batson Green to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

When the Society supports, objects to or otherwise comments on a planning application the text of the representation appears on the website under Planning Applications. From now on the status of the applications on which it has commented will also be shown.

Much thought has been given to improving the appearance and readability of the bulletin. The next issue, due at the end of March, will look different. Please say what you think of it.

The AGM will be held at the King's Arms Hotel, Kingsbridge, at 7pm on Tuesday 17th April. The guest speaker will be David Ford of the National Trust, on the theme of the Trust's influence on planning policy. This is of course particularly relevant in the light of the Trust's campaign on the draft National Planning Policy Framework.  There is more about this on Events.

The Society's funds stand at £4162. We are still in need of a treasurer.

Next meeting: Monday, 2nd April 2012.

 

6 February 2012

Last month's notes dwelt upon wind turbines and change of use of agricultural land to equestrian purposes. Since then the turbine at Chivelstone, to which the Society and very many others objected on grounds of harm to the AONB, has been approved. And an application for change of use of land at North Huish to equestrian (with quite extensive buildings) has also been approved with seemingly minimal consideration of the AONB landscape in which it sits. The Society remains very concerned that, at several levels within SHDC, the AONB designation is not really understood. Our AONB desperately needs friends and supporters, and members are asked to make their views known to their councillors whenever they have an opportunity.

In the same notes we said that for almost a year the Society had been pressing SHDC to keep records of pre-application planning discussions, available to the public upon request, and that we had now taken up a particular case with the Information Commissioner's Office. No clear answer has yet been received from SHDC but there have been indications that it may agree that records of pre-application discussions should be held, so that they would in most cases be available if asked for. This would bring the council into line with national guidance and is very much to be welcomed.

We also said that future changes to the position of residents' pontoons might prevent the Rivermaid using its current landing point on the Kingsbridge embankment. We have now learned that additional pontoons have indeed been proposed, and that part of the reason was actually to make it easier for Rivermaid to berth. The proposal is part of a five-year plan which will shortly be discussed by the Harbour Board and then by SHDC before being opened for public consultation in May/June. At that stage there will be options for the public to consider. There is obviously a risk that the appearance of the Kingsbridge basin might be harmed. Please watch out for developments and make your views known.

The Society will submit a representation to, and will attend, the 6 March public inquiry on the footpath in front of the Crabshell in Kingsbridge. We feel that the developer's offer of a permissive footpath is not sufficient.

Last year's Natural Choices White Paper proposed, among other measures, the creation of natural corridors for wildlife. Sadly, a bid recently submitted by a group headed by the South Devon AONB for funding for such a corridor in the South Hams and Plymouth area was not successful. We hope to obtain a copy of the bid document and place it on this website.

The joint project between the South Devon and East Devon AONBs for the GIS map has been delayed by illness in the latter. SD AONB staff are hoping to complete it by the end of the current financial year, when funding will cease.

The Society has looked at fifteen planning applications since the last meeting. It supported application 0017/12 for the conversion to commercial office/studio use of a redundant 17th century agricultural stone and cob barn at Gratton Farm, Loddiswell. It objected to a retrospective application for a mobile field shelter, hardstanding and new hedging south east of Mill Farm, Frogmore (0038/12). Renewal of approval for new garage and accommodation at Tidewave Hope Cove appeared to be out of time. It is considering objecting to a resubmission of an application for a first floor extension at 11 Edwards Close, Thurlestone (0092/12) which contravenes the informal conditions of the original approval for the development. As an interesting example of the sort of application approved for coastal development members should look at 0376/09 (Silver Cloud, Stoke Fleming).

Kingsbridge DPD development sites K1 and K5. The last meeting on 1st February was not very productive due to misunderstandings of the process of masterplanning. K5 is proving too small for the number of houses and employment sites required, and for both sites there are access and road crossing problems. The next meeting is in March when the first stage of public consultation will be discussed. John Chalmers has promised to make a proposal.

A visit to Langage Farm anaerobic digestion plant has been confirmed for Thursday 17 May. This technology is of particular interest because it seems to have the potential to make a real contribution to carbon reduction without blighting the landscape. Details of the visit, for which places must be booked, are here.

We are still in need of a treasurer to take over from Clara Hayes. The treasurer is a member of the committee so has an input to all aspects of the running of the Society.

The Society's funds stand at £4162.

Next meeting: Monday, 5th March 2012

 

9 January 2012

Change of use of land - agricultural to equestrian

The Society has recently objected to a number of planning applications for change of use of agricultural land to equestrian purposes and for the erection of stables, tack rooms, hay stores and other buildings. In common with many national parks and other designated landscape areas, the South Devon AONB aims to ensure that such change does not have a detrimental effect, and the Society strongly supports it in that. Agriculture is clearly defined in planning law and it does not include the keeping of horses for recreation or sport. We can all see how some paddocks stand out because of the buildings, fencing and/or tape, or simply because the land is not well kept, and the Society believes that for planning purposes a clear distinction between agricultural and equestrian use should particularly be maintained in the AONB.

Wind turbines

SHDC has received another four planning applications for wind turbines:

2994/11 Coleridge Farm Cottage, Chillington, - 2 turbines, 25m tip height

                        2996/11  Wagland Farm, Halwell,15m

3012/11 Borough Farm, Prawle, 24m

3232/11 Hillhead Farm, Brixham, 20m

The Society has objected to the Chillington and Prawle applications and has queried the lack of information in the Brixham one. It did not write about the Halwell application as the site is outside the AONB.

SHDC has also received a request for a screening opinion for two turbines of unknown height at Higher House Farm, East Prawle (0032/12).

It appears that to date the AONB Unit has not commented on any of these applications.

Pre-application discussions

Because the Society believes that it would help to make the planning process more transparent, it has for almost a year been pressing SHDC to make records of pre-application discussions available to the public. We think they should be available either upon request or, preferably, by their routine inclusion within the documents published for any subsequent planning application. We accept that there are occasional grounds for withholding commercially sensitive information, but they are rare and temporary.

SHDC has said in reply that planning staff are involved in many pre-application discussions and unless full minutes of all meetings and phone conversations were taken, short summary points that were published without an awareness of the overall context of the discussions might lead to public confusion. It has also said that full recording of all discussions is not feasible with current staff levels. It believes engaging the community prior to the submission of an application, primarily though Town and Parish Councils, is a more effective way of making the planning process more open.

Nevertheless, the Planning Advisory Service document 'Pre-Application Guidance' states that planning authorities should keep records of pre-application discussions and make them publicly available to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. It lays down strict conditions for making discussions commercial-in-confidence and insists that they be confirmed in writing and be removed as soon as possible and always by the date of the application. Good Practice Note 2 of the National Planning Forum also states the need to keep records of discussions. The Planning Officer's Society Advice Note 8 gives examples of best practice for involving the community in pre-application discussions. Many planning authorities, including several in the South West, have implemented this and record pre-application discussions and make them available under the Freedom of Information Act.

In June of last year the Society requested details of a particular pre-application discussion. They were not provided, so we have asked for the help of the Information Commissioner's Office, which has now asked SHDC to provide the information if held.

Other matters

It is understood that changes to the position of residents' pontoons, and the collapse of part of the harbour wall, may prevent the Rivermaid using its current landing point on the Kingsbridge embankment. If this does happen it would be a very great pity and we hope it can be avoided.

Our New Year's Day walk from Overbecks to East Soar Farm went well, despite some appalling weather. For 2012 we have a good programme of monthly beach cleans, some canoeing, and various visits. The committee would welcome suggestions for more visits, particularly to local places or organisations that are not normally open to the public but might be prepared to show a group round by arrangement.

We need a new treasurer!  Would anybody like to volunteer?

The Society's funds stand at £4307.

 Next meeting: Monday, 6th February 2012

 

 

5 December 2011

As expected, there have been further planning applications for wind turbines on farms in the AONB. None have yet been decided. If any or all of them are approved there will no doubt be many more.

As a general rule, the Society will oppose such applications on grounds of damage to the landscape.  At a time when relations between farmers and the public are in some places a little strained, it needs to be constructive. Obviously, it should speak for the environment rather than against any group, and it must propose realistic alternative methods of carbon abatement from a position of knowledge. It will not concern itself over turbines of less than 5kW nominal output.

The Society must support the use of renewables where appropriate, and the diversification of energy sources. It needs to know more about technologies such as anaerobic digestion. Debate on this difficult subject will continue, and all members are asked to contribute if they can.

One of the problems for renewables is that they are being promoted while we can see all around us an appalling waste of the energy that we've generated. Why, for instance, should the landscape be blighted in order to generate a very small amount of electricity while so much public and private lighting is left on all night, or while we make so many unnecessary journeys in our cars? So the saving of energy, to which we can all make an immediate contribution at no financial cost, seems a better thing to be getting on with.

To date, all the planning applications for turbines have been based on misleadingly optimistic output figures. The load factor is the percentage of its nominal output that a turbine actually achieves in use, so a 2MWh turbine that averages 400KWh output is said to have a load factor of 20%. It varies according to the wind in the place where the turbine has been installed. The national average, taking into account Shetland and offshore production, is about 27%, but onshore in the south of England it is much lower. The expected load factors quoted in the recent applications in the South Hams have ranged from 34% to 62%. They are clearly unachievable. While this should be a concern for those who are thinking of spending money to install turbines, it is also of wider interest because the saving of a given amount of carbon is often cited in support of planning applications. The Society has questioned the carbon abatement figure in one of the current applications in the South Hams, which it calculates is overstated by a factor of almost eight, but has had no reply from the developer.

If any members have information on the actual outputs and cost-effectiveness of any working renewable generation schemes in the South Hams the committee would very much like to hear from them.



14 November 2011


Wind Turbines

Two applications for wind turbines in the AONB have made headlines in the local press.   One is for a single turbine on Chivelstone Barton Farm (no 2824/11, tip height 26m,) and the other is for two turbines on Burton Farm, Galmpton (no 2662/11, tip height 25m).   It is inevitable that more such applications will be made, and the committee debated the approach that the Society should take to them.  Turbines in this size range could be considered as comparatively small, and it is argued that they would help the viability of farms and thereby keep land in agricultural production.  The abatement of carbon emissions is a global necessity that is becoming ever more urgent, so no site should be ruled out. Conditions could help to make the appearance of the turbines more acceptable and ensure reinstatement of the land when their life is over.

On the other hand, the installations would have to be prominently sited and in most cases they would have a markedly detrimental effect on the natural landscape.  They would be in clear contravention of current planning policies for the protection of the AONB.  While the Society is committed to supporting the area as a living, working environment, it is also a conservation body.   Agricultural and commercial interests are well represented in the planning process, but the Society is virtually the only voluntary organisation working for the protection of local landscape and environment.

It was agreed that the Society should in general oppose such applications on grounds of damage to the landscape.  The Society should particularly question whether other less obtrusive carbon abatement technologies, such as biomass and anaerobic digestion, have been fully considered.   It should also look for the public benefit (as opposed to the benefit of the applicant) that the planning policies require if development in the AONB is to be allowed.


Other Matters

About 150 attended the Any Questions on Renewable Energy? event on 12 November, and many people said they felt better informed as a result of it.  An account can be read here.

Consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework ended on 17 October.  The framework was and continues to be under very sustained attack and it is to be hoped that the criticism will result in changes.  Nevertheless a simpler and more transparent system than the present one is needed.

Pegasus Planning Group, acting on behalf of landowners, held a public Planning Forum on 15 November to progress plans for two Kingsbridge sites identified in the DPD.  They are K1 (north west of the town) and K5 (West Alvington Hill).  Those who have an interest in the development of Kingsbridge should try to attend the next meeting on 8 December.

The Society's funds stand at £3136.

The next meeting of the committee will be on 5 December.


 

3 October 2011

South Devon AONB

Robin Toogood, South Devon AONB Manager, joined the committee to discuss conservation and planning issues.

The AONB is under enormous pressure for development. A 2007 study by the University of Sheffield showed that of the 35 AONBs in England, South Devon AONB had the highest rate of loss of greenfield land to development. SHS is concerned that quite obtrusive developments are being permitted, and that siting and mitigation are often poorly thought through.

RT believes that a recent increase in applications for larger developments, as well as pressure from SHS, has brought AONB management much more closely into SHDC's planning 'loop' than it was before. Many more applications are being referred to the AONB office for comment. Over the last year the AONB Unit has commented on about 50 of the 1000 or so planning applications in the AONB. About a third of those comments were objections and in those cases most of the applications were refused. Other changes at SHDC mean that applications are being better scrutinised before registration - they are now returned if, for instance, wildlife and landscape issues have not been properly addressed in the application documents. The consequently higher quality of the applications is saving time.

SHS produced a list of some 40 applications for substantial developments within or very close to the AONB on which the Unit did not comment. Many of the them were for large agricultural buildings, and some were part of a process of creeping development - where one building is allowed because officers consider it to be acceptable, and then applications for other buildings which have to be in the same place swiftly follow. RT agreed to look through SHS's list.

RT was surprised by the number of applications for large agricultural buildings that SHS had listed. Many farmers are wanting them so that they can overwinter cattle indoors, which they see as being necessary if they are to compete with producers in other parts of the country. Though such buildings can be very obtrusive, particularly if poorly sited and/or finished, the AONB Partnership has no position statement on them. SHS believes it should. RT will raise the question at a forthcoming regional meeting of AONB managers. Some of these buildings come about through 'creep' and others under permitted development, but SHS feels that SHDC should nevertheless try to exercise better control of siting and appearance.

There would be advantage in looking at a random sample of recently-approved large rural buildings to check whether planning conditions are being observed, particularly on landscaping. This would need to be the subject of a separate study.

Some AONBs have a Conservation Board or are able to employ a professional planning officer, which increases their influence in planning matters. These are usually the richer ones, often those which have to relate to many different Local Planning Authorities. RT feels this is unlikely to happen in South Devon. The councils have gone part of the way with the new planning protocol, but there is a strong case for the AONB Unit becoming a statutory consultee in planning matters. SDAONB's income is likely to be reduced in the future, so there is little prospect of being able to employ anybody to help with planning applications. RT believes he can cope with the current level of referrals, but would not be able to take on more as the AONB Unit is also working on a wide range of other projects and activities.

SHS feels that it might help if the AONB Unit could offer a training session or sessions to to help SHDC officers understand the special characteristics of the AONB - landscape as opposed to amenity.

SHDC Development Policy 18 (horse related uses and structures) is not yet well observed, especially section 1 c, which requires a proper scheme of management for ancillary development.

RT shares SHS's concern at the seemingly inevitable collision between the provisions of the draft National Planning Policy Framework, the Localism Bill and the Natural Choices white paper. He confirmed that, under a recent ministerial statement, wildlife habitats are to be regarded as forming part of "natural beauty".

SHS believes that the planning process in the AONB and associated decision-making would be greatly helped by the introduction of the GIS Atlas. It is regretted that progress on the Atlas has been impeded by the widening of its scope to include other AONBs and this decision needs to be reviewed in order to gain the benefits in the near future

SHS thanks RT for the meeting and feels the discussion was very useful. The Society acknowledges that good progress is being made in securing better planning protection for the AONB, but considers that more could be made in particular with agricultural buildings. It suggests that similar meetings between SHS and AONB Management should be repeated at regular intervals in the future.

Other matters

 Members and others are reminded of the Society's Any Questions on Renewable Energy? event, to be held on 12 November in the King's Arms Hotel in Kingsbridge. A strong panel has been assembled under the chairmanship of Jonathan Dimbleby, who is personally very interested in the subject, so it should be a good discussion. Entry will be free to all.

The Society's funds stand at £3686.

The next meeting of the committee will be on 7 November. Please contact a committee member if you have any points to raise.

 

5 September 2011

Our stand at what appeared to be a very successful Kingsbridge Show attracted plenty of people who were interested in the Society's aims and objectives. We are planning to do it again next year.

Viridor's application for an EfW incineration plant at New England Quarry, Lee Mill, seems no nearer to determination. It was removed from the agenda of the 20 July meeting of the county council's planning committee at the request of Viridor, who said they wanted to provide more information. That information has still not been submitted and when it is there may be a need for further consultation.

Planning application 1494/11, relating to stables and horse-related activities south of Chillington, has been approved, albeit with conditions for mitigating visual impact. Application 1031/11, for the same use and in the same area, has been refused. Application 1313/11, for the same use but between Malborough and Salcombe, has also been refused. All are in the AONB and the Society objected to all three.

We were expecting the GIS Atlas of the South Devon AONB this month but are told that it is delayed, partly because it has become a joint project with other bodies. It grows in complexity and becomes more difficult to execute, ominously like the NHS computer system.

The Government White Paper Natural Choice is still available to read here. We understand that the South Devon AONB is considered too small to be considered as a Nature Improvement Area (page 21), but that there may be a possibility of combining with other territory.

There is some more important reading in the Draft National Planning Policy Framework, which is here. Everybody who is interested in the environment should look at it and if so inclined should comment. Obviously the 'presumption' is important. To quote, it 'is a new policy designed to ensure that the planning system as a whole focuses on opportunities. The presumption means that where local plans are not up-to-date, or not a clear basis for decisions, development should be allowed. But the development should not be allowed if it would undermine the key principles for sustainability in the Framework (such as protecting the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The presumption also means that where development is in line with the local plan, it should be allowed without delay.  The presumption will encourage plan-making by councils and communities, giving them a greater say in how they meet their development needs. It will also give communities, developers and investors more certainty about the types of applications that are likely to be approved. This will help to speed up the planning process.'  We hope that the protection granted to AONBs will be stronger than in practice it now is. The consultation period ends on 17 October.

There is of course an obvious incompatibility between the Natural Choice white paper which emphasises the need to protect the ordinary countryside, so that highways and stepping stones can be formed between protected wildlife sites, and the Planning Policy Framework which permits development anywhere outside the greenbelts and AONBs.

Renewable energy in the South Hams is becoming an ever hotter topic. On 12 November we are holding 'Any Questions on Renewable Energy?' in the King's Arms, Kingsbridge. Experts on the various options will be gathered under the chairmanship of Jonathan Dimbleby.  For more information please go to Events.

Sadly Clara Hayes, our treasurer, needs to step down from the job so we are seeking somebody else to take on the accounts.  If you think you might be able to help please call Clara on 01548-843894. She will explain what is involved.

The Society's funds stand at £4456.

The next meeting of the committee will be on 3 October, when the focus will be on the protection, in planning terms, of the AONB.   Please contact a committee member if you have any points to raise.


 

 

4 July 2011

Viridor's application for an EfW incineration plant at New England Quarry, Lee Mill, is still not decided. We were pleased that DCC planners recommended refusal, largely on environmental grounds, but then we heard that the council had received new information, presumably from Viridor, so did not make the decision on 20 July as expected. The basis of the Society's objection was that now MVV Umwelt's Devonport site has been chosen by the South West Devon Waste Partnership, the incinerator at New England Quarry would have to seek feedstock from outside SW Devon and is badly located for the purpose.

In her foreword to the current Government White Paper Natural Choice, Caroline Spelman (Secretary of State for Environment,Food and Rural Affairs) says "As the Government sets about repairing the damage to the economy, we are launching this White Paper to mend the inherited damage in our natural environment. Thousands responded to our recent consultation and told us that they want to safeguard the inheritance of future generations. Valuing nature properly holds the key to a green and growing economy, one which invests in nature - not just for us but for our children's children."  This is a message that is very much in line with the Society's objectives and it intends to contribute as best it can. The white paper offers many ideas for local implementation and initiative. Please do read it if you haven't already. Then feel free to tell the committee what you think should be done in the South Hams and how you can help.

A member of the Society, the AONB Manager and SHDC's landscape officer have raised concerns about parcels of land south of Chillington being sold off for horse-related use, which for planning purposes the district council rightly regards as something different from agriculture. The Society feels that in the AONB in particular such use should be controlled because it leads to fields becoming neglected and cluttered, and to requirements for stables, tack rooms and stores. It has objected to two applications for stables (1013/11 and 1494/11) and has asked SHDC about enforcement action on another site. In a different place, it is also pressing SHDC on the history of application 1313/11 (stable at Horsecombe, near Salcombe).

We're still looking for photographs of unspoiled South Hams countryside for the website. Please email them to churchhouse@gmail.com   We also have a new page for poems and a page which for want of a better name is called Discoveries,  where we hope that members who've found something good in the South Hams will share it.

In this our 50thyear we are going to have a presence at the Kingsbridge Show on 3rd September. Please
come and see us in the craft marquee.   And on 14thOctober we shall be holding a jazz evening and buffet supper at the King's Arms in Kingsbridge. Please put it in your diary now.

The Society's funds stand at £4412.

The next meeting of the committee will be on 5 September.

 

(The committee meeting scheduled for 6 June was cancelled.)

 

 9 May 2011

Those who watched the Society's recent showing of Rebecca Hosking's film Message in the Waves, or have seen it elsewhere, will need no persuading that plastic bags, plastic lighters and all other kinds of disposable plastic are best avoided altogether, but at least must be kept out of rivers and the sea. Their effect on wildlife is disgusting and has to be seen to be believed. In the South Hams the problem may not be on the scale of that in the Hawaiian Islands, but those who've been on local beach cleans will know that it's real enough. (Our next beach clean, incidentally, is on 18 June - all welcome - see Events )

But we obviously need to work harder to tackle the problem at source. In conjunction with Agenda 21, we want drastically to reduce the use of plastic bags in Kingsbridge and Salcombe. Thanks to Rebecca Hoskings, Modbury is famously already there, of course. Our campaign is mainly directed toward working with shopkeepers and supermarkets, but the real impetus will come from the choices that shoppers make for themselves. Please help, and if you're interested do come to Freedom from Plastic Group's meeting at the King's Arms Hotel at 6.30pm on Tuesday 31 May.

Not so very long after the redevelopment of the Gara Rock Hotel, in a very prominent position within the AONB, planning applications have now been submitted or are expected for the redevelopment of three other hotels on our coast (the Sun Bay Hotel in Hope Cove, the Port Light on Bolberry Down, and Soar Mill Cove Hotel). If approved, any of these proposals may produce an increase in jobs for local people, a greater inflow of money to the South Hams, and possibly a better designed building, but they all include apartments and they are all significantly larger than the building they are to replace. With their car parks and other facilities they will become more prominent and will undeniably move our coast one more step toward the over-development that has blighted Torbay and parts of Cornwall.

The Society is watching the progress of the localism bill with interest. The central idea is that planning will be bottom upwards rather than top down. Plans for development could be brought forward by local people, and developers would have to consult local people before putting forward plans for large developments. We are in correspondence with our Totnes MP Dr Wollaston on the bill, trying in particular to support an amendment which would in certain defined circumstances give a community the right to appeal against a planning decision.  The correspondence is at Other Documents.

We are looking forward to the publication in mid-September of an Atlas of the South Devon AONB in GIS form. It is to be published by the AONB partnership and it will be very comprehensive. It will include point locations of listed buildings and entries on the Historic Environment Register, as well as the location and extent of scheduled ancient monuments, registered parks and gardens, and conservation areas.

The Society's funds stand at £4429 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

Next meeting: 6 June


4 April 2011

As was expected and despite over 150 letters of objection, Midas Homes' application for 43 houses at Rowes Farm, Stoke Gabriel was approved by SHDC's Development Management Committee. We regret that so many Stoke Gabriel residents will be angered for the gain of so few affordable houses and the loss of so much greenfield land.

There will be more applications for estate-type developments in the sites approved in the DPD. We hope

that members of the Society will join us in pressing for the best possible environmental mitigation and the highest possible proportion of affordable homes. That the site is in the approved DPD obviously works in favour of an application, but it doesn't guarantee approval or exempt the design and environmental provisions from close scrutiny.

One way in which local communities might bring about the affordable housing they want, where they want it and under their control after it is built, is through a community land trust. CLTs are organisations set up by local people to improve or protect their village or neighbourhood. They do it by owning, managing and developing land and/or buildings. For more information please click here.

We are still awaiting the new AONB planning protocol. The hope is that it will enable and encourage theAONB Partnership to provide earlier and more effective input to planning matters. SHDC, as the council most involved, has said that the new protocol will be reviewed after six months. So in about October we shall be saying whether we think it's working. The views of members are and will be sought. There is more here.

Please mark your diaries now with the 'Message in the Waves' evening on 19 May. See Events.

The Society's funds stand at £4584 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

Next meeting: 6 June



7 March 2011

The Society's funds stand at £4485 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

Any members who have not done so are encouraged to look at Midas' application for 43 houses at
Rowes Farm, Stoke Gabriel (SHDC 0008/11), which runs counter to most local feeling and many current planning policies. It is not too late to make your views known. The 17 houses being built by a housing trust near Charnwood in Malborough (0034/10) demonstrate a far better way of providing affordable homes.

Correspondence with SHDC on both the new planning protocol for the AONB and on pre-application discussions has continued. The protocol should be published within the next month or so. SHDC has turned down our suggestion that records of pre-application discussions be made available on request, but it is acknowledged good practice that they should be and we shall continue to press our case. The correspondence can be seen here.

As many members will have observed, the recent dredging of the Kingsbridge basin and other parts of the Kingsbridge estuary was by agitation only. We are in some doubt as to whether this method is either effective or totally benign to marine organisms. If you have knowledge of this subject please make yourself known.

For a display on local organisations with significant anniversaries in 2011, Kingsbridge museum needs photos or artefacts relating to the early days of the Society. If you have anything, particularly photographs of events, please get in touch with Nicola Fox (nicola_fox1001@tiscali.co.uk) as soon as possible.

The officers and committee of the Society will come up for election/re-election at the AGM on 12 April. Please come along to express your views. Even better, if you would like to stand for the committee or one of the posts, please let John Chalmers know in advance (john@croftroad.eclipse.co.uk).

Next meeting: 4 April

 

7 February 2011

The Society's funds stand at £4352 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

The inspectors' report on SHDC's site allocation DPD has been published - click here to see it.  Mixed use allocations at Borough Park, Totnes, Marldon and Stokenham, and housing allocations at Thurlestone and Ugborough were deleted because delivery could not be assured. The Leigh Cross (Kingsbridge) employment site was also deleted and the size of the housing allocation at Paignton Road in Stoke Gabriel was reduced, both because of impact on the AONB.

This still leaves 93% of the Rural Areas housing in large greenfield sites, often in the AONB. The Society is thinking very carefully how it should continue to try to protect these AONB/greenfield sites from the applications that will now be submitted by developers, who will propose lower densities and press for a reduction in the proportion of houses that must be affordable - in both cases increasing the land required to meet SHDC targets.

As an early example of this, members might like to look at Midas' current application for 43 houses at Rowes Farm, Stoke Gabriel (SHDC 52/008/11/F, comments until 2 March). An application for Loddiswell (very low density and in the AONB) is due in the spring.

Where a village is opposed to a large developer-led scheme one possibility may be to bring forward in its place a community housing project over which it will have much more control. This is something the Society will investigate further.

There has been a further exchange of letters with SHDC on the draft AONB Planning Protocol. SHDC's intention is that its own landscape officers should sift through planning applications and draw the attention of the AONB Unit to any that they think it should examine. The Society feels that the AONB Unit should be seen to be working independently and should carry out its own checks, and that the judgement of SHDC's landscape officers has anyway proved unreliable in the recent past. An early draft of the protocol and subsequent correspondence can be seen here. In relation to planning throughout the district, the Society has also asked that records of pre-application discussions should invariably be kept and made available for public inspection.


Next meeting: 7 March

 

10 January 2011

The Society's funds stand at £3238 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

Most of this meeting was devoted to a discussion with District Councillor Mike Howarth, who is SHDC's lead member on planning, about the Society's concerns over the council's treatment of the AONB.

The Society regretted that formal consultation with the AONB Unit had taken place only very late in SHDC's recent LDF site allocation exercise. It appeared that the council had found it easiest to concentrate on large sites adjoining towns and villages, with the result that 93% of the housing identified would be on greenfield sites, much of it within the AONB.

Cllr Howarth agreed that the process was imperfect. But SHDC had had to identify sites on which housing could be delivered by 2016. Brownfield sites were by their nature more difficult to bring forward in a short period of time because they were often complex (for reasons of multiple ownership, contamination, etc.), and smaller sites were obviously financially less attractive to developers. With the resources at its disposal the council had to some extent had to go for the more straightforward options. It had provided much more opportunity for consultation than it was required to provide. The AONB unit could have involved itself at a much earlier stage if it had wished. SHDC should receive a draft of the inspectors' report on site allocations by the end of January.

The Society questioned the quality of landscape assessment in the handling of applications, citing some recent cases, and it felt that officer reports needed to argue more closely in relation to policies. Where structure plan policy CO3 (AONBs) was concerned the economic and/or social benefit to the area, rather than to the applicant, was rarely if ever discussed. It might be better if more applications faced examination by the planning committee - over 95% are delegated at the moment.

It was agreed that the AONB unit should be consulted more and landscape assessments should be to higher standards. It was important that the revised AONB planning protocol now being negotiated should give the AONB an effective voice. The council encourages delegation because it speeds up the decision process. Enforcement remains a problem for SHDC.

Next meeting: 7 February

 

6 December 2010

The Society's funds stand at £3631 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

The Society has written to the county council, asking that it delay a decision on Viridor's planning application for an 'Energy from Waste' (i.e. incineration) plant at New England Farm, Lee Mill. The alternative proposal known as Option 7 appears to be preferable from both a financial and an environmental point of view. Under it waste would initially be processed in one of a number of local materials recovery facilities, with only the residue going for disposal by pyrolysis/gasification. This approach would greatly reduce trucking, and would provide more local employment and economic benefit. More waste would be recycled and less would have to go for landfill. We hope members will write to DCC to express their views.

The Society's chairman took part in the Salcombe session of the Inspector's Hearing of SHDC's Site Allocation DPDs. The inspectors put forward four issues for discussion. Firstly, whether development of Site 1 (fields at Batson Cross, Bonfire Hill) would have a detrimental impact on the AONB. The Society and the National Trust maintained it would. Secondly, what were the council's intentions for extending the park and ride and the cemetery. The council said they would be accommodated in Site 1, and the Society suggested part of Site 5. Thirdly, whether the Shadycombe Creek employment site would detrimentally impact the AONB. It was generally agreed it would not. Lastly the inspectors allowed discussion of an alternative site and the Society put forward a scheme for housing over the Shadycombe car park. The council agreed this was the most attractive site.

SHDC's new Village Housing Initiative, whereby a person owning land in a village in which there is a proven housing need for local people may propose it for a development of up to about fifteen affordable homes, is in line with the Society's desire to see affordable housing provided by local initiative within communities. It is much better than the top-down imposition of large developer-led estates on greenfield sites that has featured so strongly in SHDC's recent site allocation DPD.

A new AONB planning protocol is currently being negotiated. It sets out the rules under which theplanning authorities must involve the AONB management and under which the AONB management can comment on planning applications. The latest draft that we have seen appears to place the AONB management in too weak a position and the Society will press for it to be allowed a stronger role.

The Environment Agency's plan to allow tidal flooding of part of South Efford Marsh is going ahead. The science seems doubtful, Aveton Gifford parish council's EGM showed opinion very much against it, and many still think it a waste of money. But local ornithological expertise is in favour and Devon Wildlife Trust, as managers, will benefit financially.

Next meeting: 10 January.

  

8 November 2010

The Society's funds stand at £3702 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

The debate on future methods of waste disposal in south west Devon continues. New and different figures for the authorities' recycling rates have become available and it now seems that Viridor's operation might be made slightly more efficient by some preliminary sorting. Recovery operations such as TQ Recycling's have a very much smaller capacity than Viridor's, but the latter would not come on stream for two years so there is time for TQ's and other recovery facilities to close the gap.

The planning inspectors are currently holding hearings on SHDC's site allocation DPDs. Together with about a dozen other objectors, the Society's chairman took part in the session on district-wide "matters and issues" on 2 November. He spoke mainly about the exercise as it affected rural areas, where SHDC's dependence on developers to provide affordable housing would mean disproportionately large estates on greenfield sites adjoining many of the 18 villages which have schools and shops. SHDC did not seek sites in villages without schools or shops, but there are many which would welcome a small number of affordable houses and could accommodate them on brownfield sites.

It seems that there may be an opportunity to object to DCC's plan to place parking meters in Kingsbridge Fore Street, but it will be a limited one. The society believes the move would be bad for local traders.

We need members' e-mail addresses. If you haven't already done so, please send yours to Nicola Fox: nicola_fox1001@tiscali.co.uk

Next meeting: 6 December


 4 October 2010
The Society's funds stand at £4230 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

Waste management is very much a current topic. We have tried to compare TQ Recycling's new materials recovery facility in Torr Quarry Industrial Estate with Viridor's proposal for a waste incineration plant at Lea Mill. TQ's locally owned operation can separate glass, paper, cardboard, aluminium, steel and plastic, and then sort plastic by polymer. There is a market for all these recycling streams. Viridor's plant would generate some electricity, but incineration has the disadvantages that the burnt material (particularly plastic) is lost as a resource, expensive filters are needed to take out the dioxins, a 90m chimney is required to get rid of the fly ash, and some ash still needs to go to landfill. There is opposition from people living near the site. We think we should support recovery over incineration.

Batson Green has been registered as a village green, giving it permanent protection. We hope other towns and villages will follow suit.

The Planning Inspectorate has received some 4,500 representations on SHDC's Site Allocations DPD. The society will attend and speak at the hearings next month. It feels that SHDC was overambitious in trying to be one of the first councils to attempt an LDF - its resources were too small, and the time too short, for genuine consultation with all the communities and interests in the district. Several towns and villages entered the consultation process late, and there was a proliferation of action groups when people realised what was happening. And the regional spatial strategy which was the founding block of the process has now been abolished.

Over a period of three years SHDC has given planning permission for thirteen large buildings in the AONB at Hendham View Farm, Woodleigh, without the involvement of its planning committee. The buildings cover 5,760 sq m., making the development about the same size as Churchstow Industrial Estate. We are concerned that the AONB has had so little protection and various representations have been made. More next month.

DCC's plan for parking meters in Kingsbridge Fore Street represents yet another blow for local traders and should be opposed. If there is any opportunity for public consultation we will object.

Next meeting: 8 November.


6 September 2010
The Society's funds stand at £4290 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

SHDC's intention to buy and operate a crane for lifting boats in and out of the water at Salcombe appears to be irreversible.

SHDC has confirmed that it will continue with its Site Allocation DPDs despite the scrapping of the Regional Spatial Strategy. It said the new DPDs had always been based on local wishes. The public examination will take place in November.

To comply with the EC directive on landfill, the South West Waste Consortium (formed of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay councils) is seeking to deal with waste by incineration (Energy from Waste) and has been negotiating with two companies, of which Viridor is the front runner with a proposal for a plant at Lea Mill. This means that Torbay and Plymouth, which recycle only 35% and 31% of their waste respectively, against 52% for Devon, will be trucking large quantities into the South Hams. To achieve the temperatures required the process involves burning plastic that would otherwise be recyclable, and the electricity produced is very costly. The plant requires a 90m chimney to distribute the fly ash and also produces a residual ash that must be tipped into landfill. There are other ways of dealing with waste that are better for the environment. Viridor has nevertheless applied to DEFRA for the necessary licence for the plant. The Society will be represented at a conference on the project on 1 October.

The Society has complained to SHDC about apparent disregard for its own core policies on the AONB, with particular reference to barns at Hendham View Farm, Woodleigh.

On 17 September there will be a public meeting in Aveton Gifford on the Environment Agency's revised proposal for South Efford Marshes. It now involves the flooding of only 7ha. Many uncertainties remain and the EA has admitted that the existing freshwater marsh has become more diverse in recent years. In terms of SHS's aims there appear to be no benefits and possibly some disadvantages.

Next meeting: 4 October


5 July 2010
The Society's funds stand at £4677 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

There has been concern in Salcombe over SHDC's plan to buy a crane for lifting boats in and out of the water. SHDC will operate it as a monopoly, which some see as part of a trend for the council to maximise revenue from the harbour for itself at the expense of the boatmen, craftsmen and small businesses trying to make a living there. This is clearly bad for the town and the society will make representations through the Salcombe and Kingsbridge Estuary Association.

SHDC's Site Allocation DPD process appears to be continuing, despite the new government having scrapped the Regional Spatial Strategy on which it was based. Now that housing requirements are the responsibility of Local Planning Authorities, SHDC could if it so wished drop the site allocation documents and rethink the whole problem of affordable housing.

SHDC has approved an amended planning application for the house at Gerston Point. The decision to allow a new dwelling with five times the footprint of the one it replaced is difficult to understand.

To the regret of many people in Kingsbridge, work has started on the Tesco site. The new car park in the Western Power site will not be opened until well after the Cookworthy one is closed, which will cause a problem, and the promise of improved access to Fore Street has been lost.

The South Hams Society will be 50 years old next year.

Next meeting: 6 September.

 

7 June 2010
The Society's funds stand at £4725 (total of current, reserve and NS&I accounts).

2 July is the deadline for the public to comment on the process by which SHDC produced its Site Allocation Development Plan Document. To help those who want to comment a short explanation will be placed on the website. A letter of 9 February to SHDC, already on the website, may also help. SHS's chief concern must be the effect on the AONB of the Kingsbridge Leigh Cross and other proposals. The site selection process was defective in many ways, notably in its failure to take account of landscape and wildlife designations, and in its 50% affordable housing rule having already been broken. There has to be some doubt about the future of the DPD anyway: the new government has said that regional strategies will be abolished, so the RSS and its housing requirement for the district, both of which were founding blocks of the DPD, are effectively dead.

The society has objected to an application for a domestic wind turbine at Broadley, Diptford. The committee feels that such turbines should not be permitted in the AONB. It has also written to the Environment Agency about Viridor's application for a waste incinerator at Lee Mill. Viridor has not yet been chosen as a contractor, and better processes than theirs are now becoming available, so the application is premature.

There is concern that the Environment Agency has bought fields at South Efford, in Aveton Gifford, with the intention of flooding them to form salt marsh in order to comply with an EU directive aimed at increasing habitat for migrating birds. There was no local consultation and there are worries: it might mean 25-50 years of sterile mud before the new vegetation is established, and the overall effect on birds on the Avon might not be a positive one.

Next meeting: 5 July.