Affordable homes

Regarding the allotments development in Greenway Lane, Budleigh Salterton.

I and my fellow district Councillors are very well aware of the concerns many members of our town have regarding the plans for Greenway Lane. I think it will be helpful to put the issue in context.

It has long been one of the stated priorities of Budleigh Salterton Town Council to find sites for affordable housing in the town. There is a clear need for homes to accommodate our young people.

Due to the generally low wage economy and the high cost of private sector housing, owning a home has been just a pipe dream for many of our younger folk.

In 2009, Budleigh Salterton Town Council (BSTC) wrote to Clinton Devon Estates (CDE), asking them to identify land for development, which would provide an element of affordable housing. At that time, CDE replied that it had no plans to develop any land within Budleigh Salterton.

Early this year, CDE approached BSTC and invited councillors to a presentation, where CDE put forward the proposal to develop the area of the allotments.

The proposals were then subject to a number of public consultations, where we all had a chance to air our views.

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As a result, CDE submitted an outline planning application that, in June, was recommended for approval by BSTC.

This application was to retain much of the existing area of allotments with some encroachment outside the built-up boundary.

This boundary has not changed for many years and the allotments have always been within the area of permitted development. Indeed, when I was allocated my allotment about four years ago, some allotment tenants warned me that it would not be long before they would be built on!

Planning officials at East Devon District Council then asked CDE to submit plans that restricted building to within the built up area boundary. When this was discussed at BSTC, the decision was taken not only to reject this later application, but also to change its recommendation of June.

The Development Management Committee of EDDC considered both proposals at its meeting on September 20. The DMC rejected the second option, but unanimously supported the first proposal that retained some of the existing allotments, but extended development outside of the existing boundary. I and Cllr Hall spoke in favour of this option and Cllr Dent, a member of the DMC, voted in favour.

It is opportune to point out some facts.

CDE owns the land and - subject to 12-month notice - in March of any year has been able to give notice to quit without having to give any reason. CDE had no obligation to provide an alternative allotment site.

I and all councillors were very concerned about the affect any further development would have on traffic in Greenway Lane. However, the relevant highway authority is Devon County Council, which raised no objection on traffic grounds. It is also true that there are other sites, which many of us feel would be more suitable, but they all lie entirely outside the built-up area boundary.

The planning authority can only decide on those applications before it and is not able, by law, to refuse any application on the grounds that another, more popular, application may come forward some time in the future.

We have to deal with the situation as it is and, although I do not wish to state what my position will be when we have the final detailed plans, my hope and expectation is that we end up with a scheme that provides significant affordable housing and that the affordability will be safeguarded by the housing association chosen to manage that aspect of the development. We will also have a larger area of land for allotments.

We will keep allotments close to where they now are, so that those allotment holders who live in Greenway Lane will still be able to ‘pop across’ the road as they now do. It is also hoped to provide some allotment space for those with some disability by way of, for example, raised beds and by negotiation will be able to secure allotments the town can be proud of.

CDE has expressed a ready willingness to meet with representatives of the allotment holders to discuss their needs. At a recent meeting with the BSTC chairman, the deputy chairman and the town clerk repeated their assurances that they wish to provide ‘exemplar’ allotments

Cllr Tom Wright

Budleigh Ward, EDDC.