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Submission to cabinet by Dr R W Whittlesey 4th January 2018

MDCC CABINET MEETING: 4 JANUARY 2018

As Chairman of WMLCG, I thank you for the opportunity to restate our position regarding development south of West Manley Lane.

Some of you may recall that back in 2010 the AIDPD Inspector forecast that the adverse planning impact would fall on the “flood risk, visual amenity, wildlife and ancient hedgerows in West Manley Lane”. Since that time, numerous reports, surveys and assessments by such as Natural England, Devon Wildlife Trust, Tidcombe Lane Fen Society, Tiverton Archaeological Group and various ecological reports on behalf of the applicant   have underlined the need to preserve, protect and enhance this “important stretch of a typical but uncommon Devon sunken lane and its unique mix of historical, environmental, recreational and educational features

In its one mile stretch it links the town and its inhabitants with Heritage Trail Railway Walk, Grand Western Canal, and the course of the Ailsa Brook in a safe and easy route.

So much for what is there:

Back in April 2015, following our representation as to why such proposed development would, in our opinion, be disadvantageous to that part of TEUE Area A, the matter was discussed by the then Planning Committee, the applicant subsequently wrote confirming that the red line boundary on the Site Location Plan had been withdrawn and the change in the details was confirmed by a vote at the following Planning Committee Meeting.

Many people assumed that this democratic decision would allow the transfer of the fields south of West Manley Lane to the aegis of MDDC‘s planners and their own stated environmentally friendly Green Infrastructure plan, thus placing the whole area in a safe and rural context, to await whatever and whenever the town and its council decided was best for Tiverton.

However, much to the bemusement of those members  of public who had followed the argument and those councillors consulted, this was not the case;  as a result, these two and a half fields in question remain open for developmental business should the present  or some future applicant seize the planning opportunity.

The current increase in usage of the Lane by  joggers, dog walkers, horse riders, cyclists, families and schools  seeking a safe and local link to the  Canal and the Railway Walk, underlines the need for ring-fencing this land for whatever green infrastructure decisions are to be reached.

 Allowing even the outside possibility of housing south of West Manley Lane, however low the density or in whatever contemporary fashionable design, still brings with it all those risks that were felt unacceptable when the original decision was reached: hedgerow destruction, increased traffic flow with pedestrian risk, surface water flooding, loss of integrity of the SSSI and despoliation of the view to and from the Canal and Railway Walk.

Further, any future successful housing application south of West Manley Lane in Area A would likely allow similar attempts further along the Lane in Area B, a situation that is currently being pursued.

However, this farmland, left to morph into the Green Infrastructure, with its projected proposals such as cycle and pedestrian trails, allotments, play areas, marshland, tree plantations and wildlife spaces all properly managed in the long term, would fit with the concept originally set out for this segment of TEUE.

One is, to say the least, curious as to why, nearly three years after an elected body of councillors voted to remove the application for housing south of West Manley Lane, the retention of housing development in the Masterplan  is still apparently being supported by planning officers. The Head of Planning has set before you a comprehensive report which, it would seem to me puts undue emphasis on legal, financial, planning, and timescale difficulties associated with any attempts to alter the status quo, a move which simply seeks to confirm the Planning Committee’s original decision and to safeguard the future of these fields.

The advantages of their removal from the plan must be considered in the light of the current and future health and well-being of Tivertonians, their visitors and their wildlife.

Dr Roger Whittlesey

 

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