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.