NEWS PLANNING & PLACE

City council approves plans for controversial greenfield site housing

Key details remain unresolved including future ownership and management of green space and public access restrictions during construction period.

Exeter city council Property development

Exeter City Council has approved detailed plans for 93 new dwellings on a controversial greenfield site in the city’s northern hills.

The application by developer Edenstone Homes for approval of reserved matters of layout, scale, appearance and landscaping followed an application for outline planning consent that was granted at appeal in August 2022.

The development will provide a range of flats, maisonettes and houses, 32 of which will be designated “affordable”.

It will be constructed on ten acres of greenfield land alongside Celia Crescent, above Beacon Lane. Another 22 acres of adjacent land in three fields will be allocated as publicly-accessible green space, described as a “new valley park”.

Two motor vehicle access routes will be provided. One will connect with an existing spur off Celia Crescent, the other will be driven over Juniper Green, a council-owned public green space beside Spruce Close.

The development will provide nearly 180 off-street parking spaces of which just under 40 will take the form of private garages.

Spruce Close Celia Crescent site masterplan

Development site masterplan. Image: Edenstone Homes.

Councillors raised several concerns about the development proposals at Monday evening’s planning committee meeting, not all of which were clarified by council officers as key details of the agreement between the council and the developer are currently unresolved.

Whether the developer or the council will end up as owners of or be responsible for the management of the publicly-accessible green space is not yet decided. However a document accompanying the proposals appears to confirm that new public rights in relation to this land will not be created.

It is also not clear for how long local residents will lose access to the green space, which has been in use for many years despite there being no public rights of way, during the construction period. A representative from development project consultant Black Box Planning was twice asked to provide details at the meeting but did not do so.

The potential impact of the development on already significant levels of surface water run-off nearby was also raised. Many local residents already employ sandbags to protect their homes, and The Beacon Community Centre was seriously flooded in September.

Officers said drainage was being dealt with separately, but that it was expected to lead to an overall improvement in the area.

Councillors also queried the provision of Devon banks either side of the entrance to the development on Juniper Green. These will be constructed by the council on its own land, but paid for by the developer.

Devon banks design for Juniper Green development site entrance

Devon banks design for Juniper Green development site entrance. Image: Edenstone Homes.

Many issues that had been raised by members of the public in relation to the scheme, including the impact of the motor vehicle traffic it will generate and developer contributions to local schools and health services, were not addressed at the meeting because they had already been decided at the outline planning application stage.

Council officers originally recommended approval of the scheme in the face of 465 objections submitted by local residents (with not a single public comment in support) but council planning committee members voted unanimously to refuse it in October 2021.

In April 2022, council leader Phil Bialyk said: “I am totally committed to saving the hills around Exeter. They are so important to us. It is an important amenity space. We have to protect it for the residents of Exeter.”

A planning inquiry followed in July. Exeter Greenspace Group raised over £5,000 to enable community participation in the appeal, seeking expert advice and preparing evidence to support the planning committee decision.

However the developer’s appeal was allowed in August, mainly because the council was unable to demonstrate that enough housing would be delivered in Exeter during the following five years to match government targets based on what turned out to be faulty population growth projections.



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