New homes in Barnstaple at risk after Westacott Park road refusal
- Credit: BBC Spotlight
North Devon is at risk of losing up to 950 proposed new homes after it refused to allow a road to be built through Westacott Park in Barnstable.
Truro-based developers Progress Land Ltd wanted to buy the park to build an access road for 149 proposed new homes. The road is also needed for an adjacent development by East Midlands company Barwood Land to build 800 homes.
The proposal to sell the land for the secondary access road covering 10 per cent of the park met with severe criticism from residents on its way to a six-to-three defeat at the strategy and resources committee last month.
Without the road, and with the alternatives posing major problems, councillors are worried the whole project could fall through, creating huge difficulties in reaching housing targets.
Councillor Malcolm Prowse, vice-chair of North Devon’s strategy and resources committee (Liberal Democrat, Bratton Fleming ward) described the situation at the latest meeting of the committee on Monday: “We are stuffed at the moment. The local plan is in absolute tatters.”
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“The way the negotiations are being held with developers it’s almost like we’re going to be held to ransom by the end of it.
“They know they’re going to have us by the proverbial if we’re not careful. But it’s not the time for ‘I told you so’ – that decision has been made.”
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Cllr Prowse admitted there is no ‘good’ decision, adding: “There will be uproar whatever we choose.”
The outline application for Barwood Land’s 800 homes is being dealt with separately from the 149 homes for Progress Land. However, the fate of the two developments is closely tied. All considerations and design work for the 800 homes have been based on the need for a secondary access road.
Officers say that if all proposals for the road fall through then the Barwood Land development would then not be compatible with the council’s local plan and would almost certainly be deemed unsustainable.
If the developments don’t go ahead the council will be far behind its housing targets. This means ‘hostile’ applications from outside the local plan could go ahead, leading to controversial developments with next to no community say.
The local plan has been made jointly with Torridge District Council. Officers worry that without these 950 homes Torridge will decide the partnership is too risky and pull out.
Another fear is that if the council fails to get the developments underway it will lose credibility, putting off investors from North Devon in general.
With planning permission denied for the road on Westacott Park, the council could lose funding it has received from Housing Infrastructure Fund for a new roundabout towards the development on the North Devon link road.
This could create major budget problems. If the government believes the council is not making ‘reasonable endeavours’ to get the houses built then it could force the council to repay the money allocated for the infrastructure. However, officers believe that this is unlikely to happen at the moment.
Without the road link, the Whiddon Valley bus service could not be extended into the new development and cycling and walking routes would be limited. This would have knock-on effects for the new school site, which would not be easy to access from Whiddon Valley.
Progress Land argues that outline consent, a less detailed agreement of planning permission which precedes a final application, for the proposed 149 homes can still go ahead. However, council officers say this is unlikely because, as it stands, the secondary access road can’t be built.
The main alternative now being discussed is for that road to be built at nearby Westacott Lane, but officers say it may be too narrow for the expected traffic. It would also drive vehicles past listed buildings and undermine local businesses.
On the other hand, a route down Castle Park Road could cost more, straining the project’s viability whilst forcing vehicles through an industrial estate.