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Resume of WMLCG position on development south of WML 260215

Resume of West Manley Lane Conservation Group’s position on development south of West Manley Lane.

West Manley Lane Conservation Group(WMLCG) was formed some six years ago by a body of like-minded local residents.  The group has sought to enhance and protect the uniqueness of the surrounding environment from the potential loss of its amenity value as a result of inappropriate development, to existing wildlife and ecosystems and to townspeople and visitors alike both now and in the future.

 Of the  14 or so homes planned for the south of West Manley Lane (WML), their provision would make little or no material difference to the overall supply of  Mid Devon District Council’s (MDDC) housing requirement; however,  in our view,  breaching this  hedgerow and bank   would threaten the integrity of  Tidcombe Lane Fen  Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and diminish the “important”   status of the  hedgerow (Hedgerow Regulations 1997); it would adversely affect the associated wildlife, reduce MDDC’s own green infrastructure target, bring inconvenience and hazard to its pedestrian traffic and continue to generate  surface water flooding problems.

We set out below a resume of those matters which we feel must be taken into account for the long-term good of the area bounded by WML. Detailed arguments, research, statistics and earlier responses to the outline planning application, including our commissioned Devon WildlifeConsultant’s Hedgerow Surveys, are available on our website www.westmanleylanecg.org  and MDDC’s planning portal (14/00881/MOUT). Unless otherwise stated, we refer to the 350 metre central portion of the lane between the two right-angle bends as illustrated in the MDDC/PFA Consulting map c698/26.

  • SSSI: There are numerous references to the national importance of the SSSI, including useful input from Natural England, Environment Agency, Tidcombe Fen Society, Devon Wildlife Trust, Mid Devon District Council and WMLCG as well as the various planning and environmental companies associated with the presentation of outline application. It is agreed by all that  measures must be employed to protect the SSSI and the Ailsa Brook upstream by the use of SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme) and attenuation ponds constructed below the proposed  housing south of WML. Our concern is that there are no details of the exact siting or timing of these plans for mitigation, nor for on-going responsibility. We have argued that complete safety of the water supply to the SSSI could only be achieved by not allowing development south of the lane, and are pleased to note that both Natural England (NE) and Tidcombe Fen Society (TFS) regard this as their preferred position. (see NE,TFS and WMLCG responses  February-October 2014 in 14/00881/MOUT)
  • Flooding, Foul Water and Sewerage:  In addressing the problems of foul water and sewerage and the recurring surface water flooding, we would direct the reader to our response to the 14/00881/MOUT revised information on flood risk assessment, December 2014. In summary, in our opinion the mitigation measures are insufficient and unproven; the timing of these constructions, which should be before any development, is not clearly set out. Sewerage and foul water from any new build in WML can only be safely removed by the provision of a pumping station sited below the lowest house, squeezed between it, SUDS and the marshy area above Ailsa Brook.  Further, the ongoing maintenance strategy outlined in PFA Consulting’s Flood Risk Assessment, (which see) does not make it clear as to who would fund and be responsible for the long-term supervision of these systems.
  • Hedgerow: Devon Wildlife Consultants, in their Hedgerow Assessments 2009 and 2013, (see www.westmanleylanecg.org) classified the hedgerow/banks along the entire length of WML and the Drovers Track as “important” as per the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. Similarly, MDDC, PCL Planning, (2014 6.6.4) Natural England, AIDPD Planning Inspector’s Report (2010, 3.48) all acknowledge the ecological importance and have repeatedly stated that it should be retained, protected and enhanced. The outline planning application would appear to countermand this by requesting segmental hedgerow destruction, alteration (removal) of the bankside to improve vision for a 300% increase in residential traffic. The entire hedgerow currently serves as a wildlife connectivity corridor and safe environment to small mammal species, and birds some of whom are listed as ‘at risk’. (see Hedgerow Assessment 2009 on www.westmanleylanecg.org ). Interruption and/or loss of this would have a significant negative affect.
  • Vehicular traffic: Currently, the lane is used regularly by some 12 private cars, service vehicles and farm machinery. Throughout its entire length the lane is of single track width, with passing places only in private drives or farm gateways. Speed is, fortunately, limited by this narrowness and restricted vision. The development of some 18 three/ four bedroom houses either side of the lane (14 south and 4 north) would bring at least another 30 or so private cars into the mix with corresponding increase in service vehicle journeys. If, as MDDC and others insist, the hedgerow is to be preserved and widening is not an option, it is not difficult to envisage the resultant chaos.  The provision, construction and maintenance of SuDS, attenuation ponds and a pumping station will inevitably require further access points and service traffic off the south of the lane. Any on-going farming usage will similarly require new access gateways separate to the proposed private drives. (See WMLCG Response July 2014 Transport and Accessibility)
  • Non-vehicular lane usage: In keeping with Government advice on health and activity, increasing numbers of people are using WML as a means of exercise, through walking, jogging, cycling and horse-riding. Family groups, dog walkers, nature lovers and older citizens are frequently encountered along the lane. WML forms an integral part of the Grand Western Canal/ Railway Walk/ SUSTRANS  pedestrian route. The proposed housing development and consequent rise in traffic movements in this thoroughfare, with its limited vision and no footpath, significantly adds to road safety issues. By retaining the fields south of WML as public open space and green infrastructure options, this fits with MDDC’s own stated environmentally friendly plans and sets the whole area in a more safe and rural setting.

 

With regret, we have come to accept the reality if not the concept of the Tiverton Eastern Urban Extension, but continue to hold firm views on the need to exclude WML from its plan for the reasons outlined above. The development of over 1000 new houses in the area needs to provide access to safe, scenic and sustainable routes such as WML   for current and future citizens and for the protection and enhancement of an environment for both them and wildlife to enjoy.

We hope that those whose responsibility it is to approve of such planning do so as caring custodians of the countryside.

 

Dr Roger Whittlesey

Chair, West Manley Lane Conservation Group

26 February 2015

 

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