Planning inspector overturns council decision to refuse permission for 277 homes.

DEVELOPERS have won an appeal to build 277 new homes on the former army camp in Fremington.

Local people applauded the decision to reject the Fremington Developments LLP proposal at a packed North Devon Council planning meeting in November last year.

But this week, following an appeal by the developer heard in April, the decision has been overturned by Government planning inspector David Wildsmith.

In a ruling published yesterday (Tuesday), Mr Wildsmith said that subject to the installation of traffic lights, there was no technical highway safety or capacity reason why planning permission should not be granted.

Highways authority Devon County Council did not raise any serious objections to the access improvements in Military Road.

But Fremington Parish Council chairman Rodney Cann called the decision 'a major disappointment'.

He said: "The local community will be devastated by this - it flies in the face of localism and public opinion.

"We realise the development was inevitable but we have fought this battle long and hard over access issues.

"It will have a significant impact on the village and we now need to ensure that the minimum damage is inflicted on the area.

"This is now a damage limitation exercise and we need to make sure we get the most out of it for the village, including a new football pitch and changing rooms."

Local district and county councillor Frank Biederman said he was 'very surprised and devastated' for the people of Fremington.

He said: "I find it unbelievable that this has been allowed. Where does this leave the Government's localism bill? I don't know.

"I am still trying to take it all in; the people of Fremington were 100 per cent against these proposals.

"There are some positives I guess; there will be affordable housing to come out of this - a lot of local young people in their twenties have got little or no chance of getting on the housing market and the affordable houses will help.

"We always knew the site would be developed but we were led to believe it would be done in a safe way for the benefit of the people living there."

Fellow ward member Cllr Chris Turner said he had been previously 'gagged' from speaking about the proposals because he lived to close to the army camp site.

He said: "Now that the planning onspector's decision has been announced I feel that I should, and must, voice my feelings on behalf of my neighbours and those residents who will be impacted by the decision that says the access to Fremington Army Camp is safe and appropriate. It is surely not.

"Without a doubt this will have a deeply negative impact on our community.

"The fears and legally founded objections of residents and that of St Peters church have been side lined by the inspectorate, who has now given the green light to the proposed new junction which will irrevocably alter the heart of Fremington beyond all recognition."

North Devon Council's planning committee chairman, Cllr Eric Ley, said the Localism Act, designed to empower communities, appeared to be 'powerless when it comes to the crunch'.

He said: "The committee visited and examined all aspects of the application and unanimously concluded that although the site was ideal for redevelopment, the inadequacy for modern-day use of the single access of Military Road, which was designed in the 1940s and where there is no possibility for improvement, was paramount in their decision.

"A significant event at the church would almost certainly cause chaos."

The camp, which closed in 2009, was bought by Fremington Developments LLP from MoD in Dec 2010 after a failed bid to list it.

Plans for the 42-acre camp were first lodged with the district council in December 2011 and include public space, affordable housing, recreational facilities, landscaping and access.

Existing buildings will be demolished with the exception of two former military building which would be refurbished 'for community uses'.

A design and access statement submitted on behalf of the developer said: "The site offers an exciting opportunity to create a locally distinctive development on the edge of the village of Fremington."