Fears for Topsham’s future after planning decision

PUBLISHED: 12:30 07 May 2016

Topsham high street.  Picture: Simon Horn

Topsham high street. Picture: Simon Horn

Archant

The floodgates will open following the decision by the Planning Inspectorate to allow a care home to be built in Topsham, claims a campaigner.

The planning inspector has given permission to developer Waddeton Park to build a 60-bed care home, a mix of assisted-living flats and age-restricted homes in Exeter Road.

Exeter City Council has said it is ‘extremely disappointed’ by the decision, which it now has six weeks to appeal.

Lily Neal, the owner of Topsham Bookshop in Fore Street, said Topsham’s identity was now at stake.

She said: “Developers will now look at the other fields around Topsham and will think this is a nice place to build, because Waddeton Park has been given permission to build here. The decision will set a precedent.

“We are a tight-knit community in Topsham, where a lot of towns and villages across Devon have lost their pubs, post offices etc. We haven’t, because the town has a thriving community.

“Everyone knows each other in Topsham, like many people do in villages, but there are enough activities going on for Topsham to be a town.

“The only way we achieve this success is because of the size of the town. If you add 25 per cent to Topsham’s population, then you’re asking the town to change in a way that will damage the area.”

Richard Short, assistant director of planning at Exeter City Council, lambasted the decision.

He said: “I am extremely disappointed that the inspector has allowed the appeal and reached these decisions on Exeter’s housing supply and on the importance of the site.

“His conclusions on the ‘gap’ are clearly not shared by Topsham residents. Local, long-term planning policy has been developed to protect the unique identity of places like Topsham, but the inspector completely ignored this and concluded that the degree of harm to the gap between Topsham and Exeter would be modest and not cause coalescence.”

Mr Short said Topsham was already at the forefront of Exeter City Council’s house building plans.

Jack Russell, a spokesman for the Save the Topsham Gap group, which is battling to save the ‘green wedge’ between the town and Exeter, said he was deeply ‘frustrated’ by the decision.

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