Budleigh council U-turn on affordable homes

Perplexed landowners were left scratching their heads after town planners withdrew their support for an affordable homes scheme.

Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) has applied for ‘outline’ approval to build homes, including social housing, in Greenway Lane and drew up five alternative layouts, all incorporating the site’s allotments.

One option to build 48 homes, 19 of which would be ‘affordable’, encircling some allotments and moving others, was backed by town planners in June.

And, on Monday, CDE also presented an alternative layout - 36 homes, with 14 affordable units, and moving all the allotments to the north of the site.

But councillors not only rejected the ‘alternative’ plan, but withdrew their support for the first plan, too.

Planning chairman John Shiel said: “I’m totally against this from every standpoint.

“The greenbelt is sacrosanct. The only way I would change my mind was if every home was affordable. All five of these plans are totally unacceptable.”

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Councillor Mike Hilliar called for county chiefs to ‘have another look’ at the traffic plan, while mayor Dick Mitchell added: “It’s not just parking that’s the problem, it’s the movement of traffic.”

But Councillor Chris Kitson said that CDE had no obligation to offer new allotments – but the landowners had done so.

“The new allotments will be… cultivated, ready for use and there would be 10 per cent more space,” he said.

“Water would be provided, there is a potential for huts on the site, which they are happy to provide, and raised flower beds for elderly allotment holders. This plan maintains the allotments and provides 11 parking spaces for the community. It’s a win-win situation.”

Leigh Rix, CDE’s head of land, told the Journal it had been the council which had asked Clinton Devon, in 2009, to release the land for housing to meet local demand in the first place.

He said: “The town council’s U-turn… is extremely disappointing and, frankly, astonishing.

“It might be convenient for…(them)…to believe that the housing need has simply ‘disappeared’ over the past two years, but we would urge them to look long and hard at the long-term needs of their community and to recognise, before it’s too late, the importance of providing homes for young families who are absolutely essential to Budleigh’s sustainable future.”

The final decision over the plans will be made by East Devon District Council.