PLANS: Criticism and thanks

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Many people spent endless hours and long nights fighting the New Hartley application. Some criticisms are warranted, but so is some gratitude.

I came into this to fight for the Seaton Red House Farm; 27 acres is a lot of food and revenue, and once lost David and Nick Thompson’s business would shrink markedly. I asked Barratt if anyone had measured detrimental impact on the farm. The response was “What farm?”

I suggest that the developer worked backwards from the gross development value and wedged the most profitable number of houses it could get on the field, then shaped the site consultation.

The tree survey missed oak trees. The flood risk assessment promised a survey of Lysdon Burn and downstream flood risk in line with national policy and county council planning guidance (the field is between two flood zones), but the promise was removed and the council let it go.

Documents said there was no railway embankment, but it’s still 6ft high. They said the whole field drains to the pond, which it doesn’t, unless you show water can flow uphill. The pond is the main run-off receiver, but no document mentioned its slotted weir, which constrains free-flowing water and protects Lysdon Well. We think they’ll remove the weir and, as the pond was never surveyed, they’ll dig that out as well.

The transport assessment ignored a width issue on the eastern road. The council only agreed it was a problem after we proved the anomaly with video, and it solved it with a chicane to match the one to the west.

So a village which significantly increases in size now has single-file traffic on its two access roads. The council brought this ‘solution’ out at the first determination committee with no consultation.

In the wake of the refusal, Barratt announced that it would appeal and its statement of case made a point of mentioning the council’s legal advice as part of the reasoning.

We’ll live with the defeat and how it came about because through all the writing and research and discussion, we never had to resort to anything ‘fast and loose’.

Mentions in dispatches: John and Christine Barrell, the academic and his tireless secretary; John Seldon, retired engineer and a brilliant document reader; Jill Henderson, a woman who would gladly welcome 25-hour days; Seaton Valley Council, which guided and supported us throughout; Simon Potts, clerk, convenor, print and copy guy, buffet; Graham Garnham, ‘Rule 6’ rep and technical advisor; Geoff Horseman, appeal strategy and technical advice; James Reid of Barratt, who was courteous, professional and always answered his emails like a gentleman.

Special thanks to New Hartley’s resident objectors who felt their right to defend the village far outranked the developer’s right to exploit it. Well done.

Stephen Hislop RVM

New Hartley