38 new Bradworthy homes deferred after environment concerns

North Devon Gazette

An application to build 38 homes in Bradworthy has been deferred after concerns about its environmental impact on the area. Â

As part of the plans, it was proposed that more than £123,000 be paid by developers to offset biodiversity harmed by the project. However, instead of the money going towards improving the biodiversity of Bradworthy, it was suggested that the funds should be spent elsewhere – an idea that raised eyebrows amongst councillors.Â

The area scoped out for development is to the northeast of Bradworthy on grazing land opposite Landon Road Industrial Estate. The proposals, put forward by Amity Planning, a Newport-based urban design company, are for a mix of one, two, three and four-bedroom homes.Â

Planning permission for a previous proposal for 28 homes has lapsed.Â

Addressing Torridge District Council’s planning committee, Councillor Anna Dart (Hartland, Independent) echoed the concerns of Bradworthy Parish Council, arguing that the plans to put £120,000 into off-site biodiversity work instead of addressing the environmental impact of the project nearby ‘lacked common sense’.Â

She also raised concerns that the fee would reduce the number of affordable houses that could be provided in the development.Â

Following a viability report, it was concluded that seven affordable homes could be built, significantly fewer than the 30 per cent requested as part of the council’s planning policy.

Councillors also worried the additional £123,000 off-site biodiversity payment could drive down this figure even more.  Â

Cllr Dart said: “What we need is affordability for local people and that is in the end not what this site will provide.”Â

Cllr Dart, who represents Bradworthy on the council, was not part of the section 106 discussions around the project where the proposal for the biodiversity contribution was formalised. This fact particularly irked councillor Peter Christie (Green Party, Bideford North) who said he was ‘absolutely fed up’ with councillors not being invited to such discussions for projects in their wards.

The proposed £123,000 developer’s contribution would have gone towards biodiversity net gain projects undertaken by North Devon Biosphere at Abbotsham cliffs and/or Roborough to provide grassland, ditch and hedgerow habitats.

Commenting on the idea, councillor Ruth Craigie (Labour, Bideford East) said: “I think it’s wrong that the biodiversity gains should be elsewhere.”

A district valuer’s viability report, the basis for the low number of affordable homes in the plans, was carried out in July last year. Some members of the planning committee pointed to the rise in house prices since then and said that the report should be re-evaluated to see if the developer could afford to offer more affordable homes as a result.

Councillor Richard Wiseman (Independent, Shebbear & Langtree) spoke against the idea, calling it ‘quite a risky suggestion’. He added: “What’s happening now is inflation and building costs are going up a great deal. We very seriously run the risk that these seven affordable houses might end up being close to zero when a re-evaluation is made.”

In the end councillors on the committee voted six votes to three in favour of deferring a decision on the application until a re-evaluation of the district valuer’s report is done and the biodiversity proposals are reassessed.

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