Wainhomes have submitted a planning application to the District Council for a development of 172 new houses on land off Nadder Meadow, to the south of Nadder Lane.
Whilst we do need more houses in North Devon, this development, combined with the other developments outlined in the latest Local Plan, would result in a 50% increase in the number of homes in South Molton.
Such large scale development in what is a small market town will undoubtedly alter the character of South Molton in a detrimental fashion.
I attended the North Devon District Council planning committee meeting where this application was discussed, and gave a short presentation objecting to the proposal. Despite this the application was given approval, albeit with one minor change from the original submission – the inclusion of some bungalows as accommodation for the elderly or disabled.
However, as a direct result of my intervention, the committee requested that the authority investigate the identification of supplementary planning design guidance to address the issue of minimum space standards for new houses and flats.
I had previously submitted a written objection to the proposed development where I made the following comments:
“1. At present the application is listed as being a Delegated Decision i.e. one that can be determined solely by the planning officers. My firm belief is that given the size of the development this application must be looked at by NDDC’s planning committee.
2. This development, combined with the other developments in the still to be adopted Local Plan, will lead to a totally unsustainable increase of more than 50% in the number of dwellings in South Molton over the plan period.
3. The houses/flats are, in general, far too small. I’ve looked at the sizes of each type of dwelling on the development and compared these with the various space standards as used by Ashford Council, the Greater London Authority, Northern Ireland, Adur Council, Worthing Council and Mid-Sussex and other authorities. In each case I’ve erred on the size of caution and taken the smallest size used in the space standards.
On the development as a whole just over a third of the dwellings meet the space standard – that’s 58 out of the 172 dwellings. None of the intermediate dwellings meet the standard and only 30% of the open market dwellings do. The saving grace is that just over 50% of the 45 Social Rented dwellings meet the standard.
Garden sizes and storage areas aren’t shown in the plans so I haven’t been able to see how they measure up. But none of the flats have individual private outdoor areas – either as gardens or as balconies.
Research suggests that the space in homes affects the educational outcomes of children, public health costs, individual wellbeing and interpersonal interactions and relationships. The lack of private outdoor areas for the flats is also detrimental to wellbeing.
Therefore, for sustainability, the meeting of minimum space standards, as well as the provision of private outdoor areas, is an absolute necessity, which this development totally fails to address.
4. There is no mention of housing suitable for the disabled or the elderly. Dwellings that can accommodate wheel chairs need to be larger than the standard minimum sizes as recommended by numerous authorities.
Given the changing demographics of the country, and North Devon in particular, and the already high proportion of elderly people in North Devon, this is an area that must surely be specifically addressed.
5. In the Sustainability and Renewable Energy Statement it says “the development would be served by regular public transport into the town centre” – which service is this exactly? If a new service is to be provided how will it be funded?
6. There’s nothing in the Sustainability and Renewable Energy Statement related to the use of renewable energy on the site’s dwellings – no PV panels or solar water heating.
7. The Sustainability Statement also says that the development will result in a requirement of about 43 primary school places and 29 secondary school places. It then goes on to say that there is currently surplus capacity at both primary and secondary level within the town and that it should not be necessary for additional school places to be provided as a result of the proposed development.
I believe that this is totally incorrect – at least until the two existing primary schools are expanded. UPDATE: I believe that DCC Child Services have submitted a response which states that the primary schools are at capacity and that a S106 contribution of £629,040 will be required. I wonder just how good the quality of the remainder of the developer’s application is.
8. The Transport Assessment makes wildly optimistic statements about walking distance and walking times to various local facilities in South Molton. They all seem to be based on “as the crow flies” distances and take no account of the undulating nature of the territory or, indeed, the actual routes that would need to be walked. The needs of the elderly and disabled are also not considered.
9. The statements related to bus and rail services in the Transport Assessment are both very inaccurate and very optimistic. Nothing is said about the time of the first and last bus services between South Molton and Barnstaple for example. There is also no explicit mention of the fact that for the majority of the year there are no buses at all on Sundays and Public Holidays. The Transport Assessment says this in Paragraph 3.16:
“It is useful to note that the No. 155 Stagecoach service offers 2 buses to both Exeter and Barnstaple arriving prior to 9am as well as 3 return services from Exeter after 5pm and 4 return services from Barnstaple after 5pm. This route is therefore considered a viable option for sustainable commuter trips from the site.”
Realistically there is only one bus from Exeter after 5pm, and that’s at 7:05pm, as during the week the first bus after 5pm actually leaves at five past – a totally unrealistic option for anybody working 9 to 5. For anybody working in the retail trade or any job involving shift work, travel to Exeter via public transport is almost certainly not a viable option.
Even travel to Barnstaple by bus for work is not realistic for many people as there is a need to get from the bus station to the work location. For shifts that start at 7am there is no public transport available, and as the last bus from Barnstaple is at 7:15pm late shifts are also not possible. Neither is any form of travel by public transport on Sundays or Public Holidays.
This route, the 155, is therefore most definitely not a viable option for sustainable commuter trips. Apart from the 155 the other services mentioned are designed to get people from outlying areas into South Molton and not vice versa.In addition, the service between Barnstaple and Bampton via South only runs on Saturdays and not Monday to Friday.
11. There is no statement of the impact of the development on local health services.
12. There is only mention of providing a LEAP – Local Equipped Area for Play – and no mention of providing a MUGA – Multi-Use Games Area. Large open spaces for play are lacking on the western side of town and provision should be made for them.
You may also be interested in this report on the BBC web site which relates to the same developer. Note that the Nadder Lane development also requires “attenuation tanks”.”