From His Honour, Judge William Taylor.
Chairman, River Yealm & District Association.
Firslea, 85, Yealm Road, Newton Ferrers. PL8 1ED.
28th June 2009
Planning inspectorate, (Room 3/12a),
2, The Square, Temple Quay,
Bristol. BS1 6PN.
a. The RYDA Letter dated 8th April 2008
b. The RYDA Letter dated 5th July 2008
c. The RYDA Letter dated 3rd February 2009.
d. Stan Bolt: Architect’s Appeal Statement dated 9th June 2009
Planning Appeal No. APP/K1128/A/09/2106220/WF - “Crispins”.
As you will be able to see from the references above, this property has been the subject of almost continuous debate for some 18 months. Originally, there were two properties at Bridgend coming forward for approval (The Green House & Crispins), both designed by the Brixham architect Stan Bolt. Both have been vigorously opposed, on a number of grounds, by a very large number of local residents, the Parish Council and by the South Hams District Council. The Green House eventually gained approval only on appeal.
This application has seemed to those who live here to be the wrong design, in the wrong place. So much so, that representatives of the local community, the local Amenity Group (The RYDA) which I chair, and the Newton & Noss Parish Council, had a meeting only last Friday, June 26th, with the Planners from the South Hams District Council, chaired by our MP, Mr Gary Streeter. You will imagine my disappointment with the Planning Team from South Hams who, though they must have known that this appeal was in train, failed to mention it at the meeting.
This meeting aimed to try and secure for this community some acceptance for our views as represented by a Parish Questionnaire, in which 66% of the residents took part, the subsequent Parish Plan, and Village Design Statement (VDS) which set out our views as to the way in which we all saw our community developing. We appreciate that these VDS do not yet have statutory authority, but since they are funded by the State, it would seem reasonable for the planners to take notice of what they say at a time when transparency and local democracy are uppermost in the public mind.
You will be all too familiar with the many constraints on building in an Inland Heritage Coastal Boundary, a Coastal Preservation Area and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Reference (d) is largely self-serving and prays in aid the many awards received by the architect, the support of the South Hams “Design & Conservation Panel”, itself having no statutory status, and makes much of “the full support for this design by the local Planning officer”. It is on record that this local planning officer wanted “a Grand Design for Bridgend”, something totally at odds with the expressed wishes of the local community. It is not for a local planning officer to try and impose his ideas as to what is good for the local community.
Reference (d), paragraph 3.4 seems to us to be arrogant. “Paragraph 4.27 of the Local Plan states ‘good design inevitably involves a degree of subjectivity and then proceeds, tellingly, to a definition of basic considerations to achieve such’. We wholly support these basic principles, but would go further and state that in our experience the issue of subjectivity arises not within design itself but through its appreciation which is, regrettably, often subjugated to a cursory visual; evaluation, generally along the lines of traditional (good)/contemporary (bad). This simplification is clearly without substance and prejudicial but nevertheless was, we would contend, the sole issue upon which this application was determined. Those parties with a background or interest in design including the planning officer, the Local Authority Design Review Panel and some elected members steadfastly championed and supported the proposals, but the majority of elected members remained opposed. Clearly, the interpretation of these policies is a matter of some conjecture.”
The inference is that the objectors, who actually live here, are in some way naïve or simple minded and that the elected members of the South Hams District Council are swayed purely by sentiment. This community is particularly well equipped to judge such planning applications, being unusually rich in architects and designers, lawyers and professional people with much experience of being able to judge an application on its merits without being told what is good for us by the local planning officer.
At the end of the day the elected members of the South Hams District Council threw out this application for all the reasons set out in references (a) – (c) and in their decision document. These people represent the opinion of those who live in this and similar communities. Our Ward Member, in voting against this planning application, was certainly representing the views of the local community as represented by many years of work in developing a Parish Plan and Village Design Study and the numerous letters of objection from individual members of the community submitted to the South Hams District Council
We are not against innovative modern design for the sake of it, but Bridgend remains the only undeveloped rural riverside area between the over-developed communities of Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo. The injection of this building into what is a tranquil, unspoilt part of the village will jar with its surroundings in a way that we consider unacceptable.
We see this as a test case of whether the views of a highly intelligent local community, democratically arrived at, and supported by a majority of the District Council, can prevail over those of the appellant and the architect whose self-interests are clear and of a local Planning Officer, supported by a non-statutory Design Review Panel, itself a creature of the Local Planning Department, who did not even visit the site in question before delivering their opinion.
Judge William Taylor, Chairman RYDA.
Malcolm Elliott Esq, South Hams District Council, Follaton House. Totnes TQ9 5NE
The Clerk to the Newton & Noss Parish Council
Mrs Suzie Cooper (South Hams District Councillor) Highlands, Lower Court Road, Newton Ferrers, PL8 1DG
Mrs Jane Jary, Rowan Cottage, Stoke Road, Noss Mayo, PL8 1DY