Dear Readers of Country Squire Magazine, we rarely publish letters from members of the public but this one below from Dr Helen Boyles fits in well with our campaign related to Torbay Council, which can be read about here.
In short, we’re involved with this issue as we see this council, among many, ignoring local wishes and ploughing up the Great British Countryside.
We are now receiving daily reports about the Council and its planners and working with the authorities on some of the evidence we have dug up.
March 28th, 2018
In 1997, the Secretary of State for the Environment rejected a proposal for a large-scale development between Galmpton and Whiterock in Devon for what he judged would be the destructive environmental and visual impact of such a development on the River Dart Area of Special Conservation bordering an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). With the ugly sprawl of Whiterock now extending along the Brixham Road, this area provides one of the last open views across to the Dart at this end of the Peninsula. It is of inestimable value on several counts: as an outstanding visual amenity, importantly, as a foraging area for the nationally endangered Greater Horseshoe Bat and a breeding site for the cirl bunting which are supported by its traditional farmed system of mixed arable and grazing fields divided by Devon hedgerows. It is also high grade agricultural land which is increasingly precious and scarce with the relentless consumption of our green space, and will be increasingly necessary in the future as we attempt to steam, post-Brexit, into self-sufficiency.
As readers of the Herald Express will be aware from the paper’s positive advertisement of the proposed development, developers Abacus and Deeley Freed, with the approval of our council, have put in an application for a new village of 400 homes on this remaining green space, a space which is crucial in preventing the faceless merging and loss of identity of settlements. It would be good if, in the interests of balanced reporting, our local paper could now attempt to represent the views of the 400 people and organisations who wrote in objection to last November’s formal planning application for Whiterock 2.
The proposal is motivated by a finance-driven short termism willing to sell off the area’s unique environmental assets for short term financial gain. The longer-term impact on the tourist industry on which the area depends, and which is reliant on preserving the natural assets which distinguish it from anywhere else, is ignored. The material self- interest of council and developer is sacrificing assets in which more enlightened councils (Exeter, for example) choose instead to invest for future benefit. Unlike Torbay, they are prospering as a result.
The concreting over of Torbay’s green spaces is certainly already starting to deter some holiday makers who have remarked that they come on holiday to get away from this kind of suburban sprawl. The impact of additional traffic generated by 400 more houses on the Brixham Road will be unsupportable for both locals and holiday makers on the already choked single road within the restrictive topography of a narrowing peninsula. The communities of Brixham and Galmpton and Churston will become increasingly trapped as a consequence, with detrimental effects on the quality of life for residents as well as the tourist-driven economy.
But we need new homes, you may say; surely such a development is justified on those grounds. Yes, everyone would accept that we need to supply a genuine local housing need, but they need to be ‘the right homes in the right places’, as the government admitted in its recent Housing White Paper. As the Neighbourhood Plans can attest statistically, a large proportion of homes recently built in Torbay are merely supporting the second home, commuter, and external block- rental investment markets while stock is also being sold to Midlands and Northern housing corporations. An increasing number of houses in Torbay are vacant for over 6 months of the year while brownfield sites remain undeveloped and empty houses unused. The notion favoured by council and developers that houses should precede job creation is a nonsense, as Planning Inspector Keith Holland acknowledged with reference to this area. Since the recent large-scale expansion of housing since 2012, jobs have actually declined in real terms. (Again evidence of this is supplied in Brixham and Paignton’s Neighbourhood Plans).
Brixham Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan explicitly rejected the proposed ‘Inglewood’ site as a prospective development area on environmental grounds, and principally because it was surplus to the projected housing figures supplied in the Council’s own Adopted Local Plan. Crucially, the proposed development site is outside the Council’s own current Local Plan. Yet incredibly, while working with the Forums and supporting their compliance with the housing figures they had supplied, Torbay Council had privately approved a proposal for development outside their own plan and those of the NPs.
If people are concerned by the finance-driven erosion of our area’s precious green spaces, please object to the ‘Ingelwood’ Planning Application no. P/2017/1133, firstname.lastname@example.org or write to The Planning Department, Torbay Council, Electric House, Castle Circus, Torquay, TQ1 3DR, by April 10th. Time is short, so please act.
Dr. Helen Boyles