Plans to turn a caravan park in Northam into a 58-home holiday village have been rejected.
The application to transform the Knapp House camp site into Knapp Woodland Holiday Park was discussed by Torridge District Council’s plans committee on Thursday morning.
The committee rejected the plans, which include a reception building and swimming pool in addition to the 58 timber lodges, citing an impact to the coalescence of Appledore and Northam, and the impact on an under-developed coast.
Knapp House owner Ashley Clements claimed the site could provide as much as £1.95million to the local economy each year and create 14 full-time jobs.
Councillors voted four-to-three in favour of refusal, but only after a motion for approval fell short.
The case will be brought back to the plans committee at its next meeting, where councillors will hear an implications report.
Dozens of members of the public attended the debate, with many opposed the development off Churchill Way.
Among those addressing the council with concerns was author Nick Arnold, who believes the site is an ancient battlefield that served as a follow-up to the Battle of Hastings in 1069.
He said: “This is a last chance to make the battlefield of Northam into a visitor attraction that could benefit the whole of Torridge.
“Next year is the 950th anniversary of the battlefield. We can’t celebrate it by bulldozing the battlefield.”
He added: “In Northam parish we are losing our contest to houses.
“This development looks like a modern housing estate with a car park, and wrecking what is an attractive and sensitive landscape.”
Stephen Reed, part of Devon County Council’s historic environment team, said there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest the site was a battlefield.
He said: “As it stands we have got no evidence – there are inklings it may have happened but we don’t know.
“Our advice has to be evidence based. There has been some really good research undertaken and this is a proposed probable location for a battlefield site, but there is no evidence in terms of landscape work.”
In addition, public speakers and a number of councillors had concerns about the demand for the holiday homes, and whether they would merely be used as second homes for buyers.
Mr Clements said: “It will be an upgrade to the site and bring Knapp in line with what holiday makers are looking for.
“These units will be built within the existing caravan site. They will not be second homes or residential homes – they will be holiday units.”