14. March 2021 · Comments Off on Planning News · Categories: News, Planning

Planning applications on the previously protected Topsham Gap Lands, continue to be a focus for the Planning Panel’s work. Recent cases include the Reserved Matters/replacement Detailed applications for 7 houses (20/0121/RES) and 27 houses (increased from the 23 approved at outline stages) (20/0437/FUL) off Newcourt Road, the approval of 64 houses at Broom Park off Exeter Rd (20/0321/FUL) 155 Houses off Clyst Rd (20/0849/RES) and a 5 storey office slab block off Wessex Close (20/0938/FUL).

In each case the Society has objected to proposals, but despite vociferous objection, including representing the town at Planning Committee meetings (which due to Covid restrictions are now online, buffering elected councillors from the impact of physical representation from towns people) all have been approved, despite all being in contravention of Exeter City Councils adopted Policy. Dispiritingly, at one recent meetings the Chairman of the Council, who had previously been a more understanding member of the pro-growth Labour-led council, stated in response to ward members observation that Topsham had taken its fair share of volume development, that “Topsham is a port and that boat has sailed”. From this and the recent draft GESP (Greater Exeter Strategic Plan) it is clear that the council no longer has the will to offer even token resistance to the loss of the Gap.

Whilst the Society understand the difficulty the Council has placed itself in by failing to foresee the impact of Housing Supply Targets when these were introduced in 2012, its inaction in the intervening 9 years to “plug the hole” is lamentable and leaves all City communities exposed to the Wild West of unplanned development. This pro growth at any cost stance was highlighted by the Wessex Close office approval, where despite there not being the policy driver as there is for housing  the Council placed reliance on the conclusions of the applicant-commissioned report by the Devon Design Review Panel which was not made available to the public for comment, over the strong opposition of the councils own Urban Designer who mirrored many of the Society’s objections. The Society believe this is a clear breach of due process, setting a dangerous precedent, and is pursuing the matter currently. Public presentations at Planning Meetings are limited to 3 minutes. Previously the Society has been able to boost its impact by our ward member asking questions, so we could expand our arguments, and making his own statement about applications. It was particularly concerning recently that our new local ward member on the Planning Committee failed to either ask questions or speak in defence of the town. We are attempting to ensure this situation does not reoccur.

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