Not over for Inglewood but what now for our green fields?
- Credit: Stride Treglown
It would appear that the Battle of Inglewood is far from over.
Local residents, Torbay Council, councillors and countryside campaigners are all up in arms and licking their wounds after a Government planning inquiry inspector gave the go-ahead to a massive housing development on the prime site between Paignton and Churston off the Torbay ring road.
The inspector appointed by the Secretary of State approved an appeal from developers for 373 homes and associated development, including a school and pub, after a two-week public inquiry.
Developers Abacus-Deeley Freed appealed. The council had indicated that it would refuse the application because it was contrary to the Brixham Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan, and harmful to the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which lies close to the site.
The inspector accepted the scheme would cause some harm to the landscape character and appearance of the area. It was also accepted it would go against local planning policies.
But here's the but and it is a very big but - the inspector said the limited harm to the landscape was not enough to justify rejecting the application and - crucially - the council could not meet Government rules to show a five-year or three-year supply of housing sites.
And that tipped in favour of decision-making when it comes to approving new homes.
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Local councillor Jackie Stockman chaired the Brixham Peninsula Neighbourhood Forum and spent years with a small army of volunteers drawing up the neighbourhood plan.
She revealed: ""It is being investigated to see whether there are grounds for a judicial review. It is not over yet."
But the big question here is how did we manage to get in this mess in the first place when it came a land supply for house building which was key to the inspector's decision?
And what now of future developments for any piece of land in the Bay - green or not?
Jackie Stockman has revealed meeting land supply requirements was agonisingly close but the consequences of this appeal could be dire for the Bay.
Jackie says: "If you do not have a neighbourhood plan you would need a five-year land supply so you can build the houses.
"When you adopt neighbourhood plans (as with Brixham) it comes down to three years. We could only demonstrate 2.9 years. We were 75 units short."
She added: "Here we were with 370 houses with 3,000 affordable homes and jobs etc. Did that outweigh the harm to the area? In this case the inspector knew that it would cause harm but we could not demonstrate the land supply. That came out all the way through."
Ironically, land had been earmarked for Brixham but when it came to the supply the whole of the Bay was taken into account.
"The Government also changed the criteria and methodology in deciding housing numbers whether in Torbay or Bristol," said Jackie.
"The Government set up localism so the people decided where development should go. The system is set up in a certain way so you cannot do that."
The neighbourhood plan was several years in the making.
Jackie says: "The process started in 2008 and took 11 years to complete with lots of consultation.
"It is a real one in the face for us. We did all the things that we were asked to do. We did a really good job with some very dedicated people.
"You can imagine the anger and frustration among volunteers. It is very sad."
She said the council had now put out a call for potential land supply sites which may appear to be a case of after the horse s bolted.
Torbay Council said they were 'disappointed' with the appeal decision adding: ""Local communities should have the final say on developments in their areas."
Penny Mills, director of Devon Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "We are bitterly disappointed that permission for the Inglewood scheme has been granted. We have been supporting residents for a number of years to fight this wholly unsuitable development on a greenfield site."
The land supply issue was picked up by the Torbay Labour Local Campaign Forum with secretary Eddie Harris saying: "This decision drives ‘a coach and horses’ right through the Brixham Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan. It also puts at risk the other Neighbourhood Plans in Torbay.
"Developers must be rubbing their hands with glee.
"In the appeal findings, the Inspector says ‘The council is not able to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites’. Torbay Council now has some serious questions to answer about this."
Jackie Stockman has fears for the future. She says: "Developers like to develop green fields because they are more valuable.
"The worry is the result of not having a three or five year land supply puts Torbay's green and pleasant at risk."