Wainhomes – Again Treats Feniton With Contempt

In October 2014, Wainhomes (WH) was served a Breach of Condition Notice by EDDC for having failed to install the attenuation tanks it was required to, in order to mitigate flooding in Feniton. The developer’s cynical attempt to evade its responsibilities even made it to BBC’s The One Show. Eighteen months later, and EDDC has had to issue another Breach of Condition Notice, this time because WH has failed to landscape the site in Feniton as required.

This isn’t just about making the estate look less like a building site. It’s also about installing flood defence measures (swales) – WH has effectively dug ditches instead, which simply channel runoff off the estate, and onto the nearby children’s play area. As a result the play area is polluted by silt after heavy rainfall, the swings have had to be taken down for safety reasons, and it’s Feniton that has to pick up the tab, since it’s the Parish Council that has to pay for the clean up each time. (The Parish Council has decided to put the swings back up so children can use the area over the Easter break, but clearly it’s a risk that the swings’ll have to come down again if the site floods once more.)

A Breach of Condition notice is always a last resort, and clearly EDDC’s patience has finally run out. But this kind of behaviour seems about par for the course, for WH. This January WH was believed to be in breach of conditions on another development, in Tavistock, when approved employment land disappeared from their plans, and allotments were moved (http://www.tavistock-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=411530).

It’s unlikely that WH will jump to it and rediscover where it last left its conscience, so for the time being Feniton must hope that it doesn’t rain too hard. Meantime EDDC, district and Feniton taxpayers will have to meet the cost of issuing and enforcing this latest Notice.

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Wainhomes? – No Shame Homes!

Wainhomes is notorious locally for being the developer that puts profits before people, fat cats before flooding, and shareholders before shame.

Their failure to adhere to planning conditions for their housing estate in Feniton has been well documented, including on national TV. But brazenly, Wainhomes once again has refused to honour its obligations – this time in respect of its requirement to landscape the derelict areas on the Feniton site. And in the meantime, profits are being made as residents are made to pay an annual fee to enjoy these ‘landscaped’ vistas!

East Devon District Council has finally run out of patience with the developer that likes to say “give us your money and just go away”. The full text of EDDC’s letter – printed in Cllr Susie Bond’s blog at https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/eddc-takes-a-firm-stand-against-wainhomes/ and in October’s Parish Magazine gives Wainhomes until 4 December 2015 to implement measures required to improve the site, measures that Wainhomes signed up to, and which in both law and honour it is obliged to carry out.

We wait with bated breath to see if Wainhomes will do the right thing, or if it will continue to treat the community of Feniton with the contempt it has displayed consistently over the years.

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Wainhomes … you’re not building any more houses in Feniton!

Wainhomes’ application for 13 houses was rejected by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of East Devon District Council (EDDC)’s Development Management Committee last week. This drew on the decision by Jessica Graham at the Super Inquiry in early 2014, which firmly stated that Feniton was only sustainable for a ‘limited level of development’. Since then, the Local Plan process has moved forward to the point where the built-up area boundaries are reinstated, and development outside these can only be considered if that development is in keeping with a Neighbourhood Plan (NP).

Wainhomes has had its vice-like grip round the neck of Feniton since 2011, determined to squeeze every ounce of profit from the village. The company has never been one to listen to local opinion or be troubled by such niceties as planning conditions. They seemingly deliberately chose to ignore two of the conditions placed on them following their successful appeal to build 50 houses in 2012. One of these was to install attenuation tanks to ensure that the village did not suffer from increased flooding once the land was concreted over; indeed, the tanks should have been designed to improve the surface water run-off by 10%. However, the fact that Wainhomes ‘forgot’ to install the tanks at all made national television, and the tanks only went in once forced to do so by the District Council. (Not that this is the end of the matter: Feniton Parish Council has taken professional advice on the design of the tanks, and is not convinced they will work.) While residents downstream of Winchester Park watch the weather forecast with more than the usual interest, Wainhomes is refusing to discuss the matter of the tanks any further.

This wasn’t the only planning condition that Wainhomes has chosen to ignore in Feniton, given the company’s failure to landscape the ‘green spaces’ around the site and for which new residents were already paying maintenance charges to the tune of £200 per year. Some residents, looking forward to peace and tranquillity with country views, discovered that the green space they had expected to enjoy was to be used as a dumping ground for builder’s rubbish for the duration of the build, and that Wainhomes was determined to block their views by putting up more houses. Wainhomes will now be the subject of an enforcement order to make them comply with the ‘green space’ requirement. This rejection of the proposal to build 13 houses is good news for the village, and especially good news for those living in Winchester Park.

What does the company plan to do next? Most likely await the verdict of Planning Inspector who put EDDC through its paces over the Local Plan in early July. The whole of East Devon awaits his verdict with bated breath, and there are two possible outcomes. Either the Plan is found sound, in which case EDDC has to find sites for 950(!) more houses every year for the next 18 years; or the Plan is deemed unsound, in which case East Devon becomes a happy hunting ground for developers who will call the shots. Not surprising that Mr Thickett has been overwhelmed by advice from developers, all of whom believe thousands more houses need to be added to the East Devon countryside.

Feniton hasn’t escaped the attention of those with a mania for concreting fields. Wainhomes itself submitted that Feniton has a mobile NHS unit and a library service, making it ideal for more development. The mobile NHS unit is presumably the mobile chiropodist who hasn’t been to Feniton for a decade or more. And the library service? That amounts to a total of 6 hours per year. In fact, you could argue that Feniton was more sustainable in the past than it is now … there were two tennis courts; the primary school had a swimming pool; there was a full-time chemist’s shop; there was a second mini-supermarket in the new part of the village; and Mr and Mrs Gardner’s market garden sold the most wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables on Ottery Road. All those are now gone. The bus service was certainly more frequent too, and a free bus service took residents to the supermarket at Broadclyst. Interestingly, besides Wainhomes there was a submission to Mr Thickett by Savill’s on behalf of the Escot Estate for an immense site to be included in the Local Plan. The site in question stretches from Sherwood Farm, crosses the Payhembury Road and sweeps up behind Lincoln Close well beyond the extension to Acland Park.

So, what’s the solution? Well, that’s where your Parish Council comes in. The Parish Council, along with a committee of able volunteers, has embarked on a Neighbourhood Plan to put the people of Feniton firmly in the driving seat. Once adopted, the Plan will be enshrined in law under the Localism Act of 2011, and any development will have to accord with the policies in that Plan. Work is well under way following a series of public consultation exercises and a questionnaire will be delivered to every household in the NP area at the end of the summer. This will gauge the views of all adults in the village as to the type and number of housing they would like to see in the next few years. Greed may know no bounds, but let’s hope that the (built up area) boundaries, and the good work being put in on the NP, will act as a brake on developers and keep our village the way we want it to be.

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Feniton is a small village of just over 700 houses in rural East Devon. The village has suffered for a number of years from two afflictions, i.e. flooding and unwanted housing development. Both have been covered nationally by the media. While a new £1.6M flood defence scheme should prevent further instances of houses flooding, with raw sewage flowing through the streets, seeing off predatory developers has been harder to challenge. In 2012 developers Wainhomes successfully challenged the decision to refuse planning permission for 50 houses on arable land on the edge of the village. (The draft Local Plan estimated that 35 houses should be the maximum permitted.) In January 2014 a ‘Super Inquiry’ turned down proposals by Wainhomes for a further 83 houses on the same site; developers Strategic Land Partnerships applied to build 120 to the west of the village, and Feniton Park Ltd 32 in the centre of the village. The proposals, had they been approved, would have devastated the community. (Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive Officer of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, said of these development proposals that “Feniton is facing growth of over 40% as three developers argue the case to build on open countryside. This is not ‘sustainable development’ by any stretch of the imagination, and the outcome at Feniton will have repercussions for many countryside communities facing the same threats”). Of the three proposals, only that by Feniton Park Ltd was approved.

A condition of Wainhomes being allowed to build 50 houses in Feniton was that it should install attenuation tanks to store run off from the site, once the green fields had been concreted over, as part of a flood mitigation measure. In October 2014 it was discovered that these tanks had never been installed, a failure that was covered on BBC TV’s “The One Show”. The following month Wainhomes put forward yet more proposals, this time for 31 houses on the site, to be built in part on what was going to be a recreational area. Almost 1000 people have now objected formally to the three Wainhomes’ proposals in the past few years, and on each occasion Feniton Parish Council has expressed its unanimous opposition.

For more information be sure to check https://susiebond.wordpress.com/, http://eastdevonalliance.org/, http://www.claire-wright.org and https://fenitonparishcouncil.wordpress.com/

FFF/EDA Demo Jan 2014

Mass rally held in Feniton in 2014, attended by local MP, the Rt Hon Neil Parish