Controversial Yelland power station redevelopment plan deferred

Artist impression of the Yelland Quay regeneration scheme

Artist impression of the Yelland Quay regeneration scheme - Credit: Woodward Smith Chartered Architects LLP

Controversial plans for the major redevelopment of the former Yelland power station on the North Devon waterfront have been deferred for further negotiations with developers over the proposed scheme. 

There had been more than 800 objections to the proposals – with only two letters of support – but planners had recommended that the scheme for Yelland Quay be approved when North Devon Council’s planning committee discussed the proposals on Wednesday morning. 

The scheme includes 250 new homes, employment land, retail space, cafes and restaurants, indoor sports provision, public halls, with a unique community centre building to be found almost floating at the heart of this mini development. 

Officers had recommended that the waterfront regeneration plans be given the green light, saying that benefits of the scheme on what is an allocated site in the Local Plan outweigh any impacts it would cause, but a vote to approve the application was defeated by 10 votes to four. 

After more than four and a half hours of debate, councillors agreed to defer the application until June’s committee meeting to see if amendments to the scheme could be made. 

Artist impression of the Yelland Quay regeneration scheme

Artist impression of the Yelland Quay regeneration scheme - Credit: Woodward Smith Chartered Architects LLP


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Councillors wished to see an agreed masterplan for the site, for detailed designs to be provided so the full impact of the development can be seen, for the transport assessment to be updated to assess mitigation over the highways impact of the scheme, and for developers to affirm how the 250 homes, none of which would be affordable, would meet the local need. 

Putting forward his support for the scheme, Matt Steart, the agent for the applicants, said that it would be a high quality and sustainable scheme that was integrated into the environment. 

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He said: “This has had more scrutiny than any other site and the principle of development has been established. This will be a high-quality scheme and will regenerate this brownfield site and it will provide a community hub that will ultimately be its success,” adding that it was allocated in the Local Plan for housing and the council cannot demonstrate a five-year land supply. 

Colin Pill added: “This is a phenomenal opportunity for a well-designed and self-contained 21st century coastal village. It is well designed and attractive development and fits into the supporting and sits well on the estuary and will benefit wildlife, tourists, residents and business alike.” 

But calling for it to be refused, Penny Mills, director of CPRE Devon, said that it was clear from the overwhelming response from local people that the vast proposal is not wanted. 

She added: “There were over 800 comments and only two in support. What’s proposed will be rich people’s second homes and genuinely affordable housing is not what is proposed. Listen to what the people of North Devon say or what is the point of asking them?” 

Joanne Bell added: “It is incomprehensible to me some people do not appreciate how blessed we are to live here and yet you are discussing how to destroy it with a scheme that insults our intelligence. 

“No one in their right mind thinks this is a good idea and you will never be forgiven if you allow this environmental holocaust. We need heroes with integrity to dump this scheme.” 

Councillor Steve Crowther from Heanton Punchardon Parish Council, added: “This is one of the most unsuitable places in North Devon to build new luxury homes and 250 luxury homes would be a slap in the face for the local community.” 

Cllr Jayne Mackie, who represents the Fremington ward, said that while it was allocated in the Local Plan, it was not a locally led application, nor one that delivered affordable homes for local people, or was reflective of the local need. 

Fellow ward member Cllr Frank Biederman added: “This application will have devastating consequences for Fremington and Instow and also sits prominently in view for many of the prominent beauty spots. 

“There have been 800 plus members of the public taken the time to write in and only two in support so are we with the people of North Devon or a government hell bent on building all houses at any cost? There are reasons to say no, no, no to the governments build, build, build. 

“It is criminal to deliver 250 houses and no affordable homes. Are we going to say yes for a development that will be a plot on the landscaper for the rich to enjoy? Where is the gain to outweigh the harm this will cause? There are good and sound planning reasons to refuse this.” 

Cllr Frederick Tucker added that it was so obvious from what we have heard this application is just not suitable for the site, but Cllr Paul Crabb said that he was finding it hard to separate himself from the fact that the applicant has put forward a scheme that broadly speaking matches the local plan, while Cllr Pat Barker said that the scheme should be approved. 

Putting forward deferral as an option, Cllr Kevin Davies outlined that he wanted to see an agreed masterplan for the site, detailed designs to be provided so the full impact of the development can be seen, for the transport assessment to be updated to assess mitigation over the highways impact of the scheme, and for developers to affirm how the 250 homes, none of which would be affordable, would meet the local need. 

A vote for deferral ended in a seven all tie, with committee chairman Cllr Eric Ley casting the deciding vote in favour of the application. 

His announcement of his vote coincided with the shout of ‘idiot’ that could be heard by committee members, with Cllr Barker admitting that she had made the comment, but that she didn’t realise her microphone was not on mute and it was directed at her husband who had entered the room and was in relation to walking the dog rather than at the chairman and the way he voted. 

An amendment to approve the application was then rejected by 10 votes to four, before councillors then voted again but this time by 12 votes to 2 abstentions for a deferral until June’s meeting. 

Officers had recommended that the scheme, which would be undertaken in nine phases with an approximate 13-year build programme, to have been approved, saying: “The Local Plan has allocated this site for development and its status as a brownfield site should be recognised. There is a detailed policy that controls how this site should be delivered and the criteria are either met by the application or can be controlled by conditions at the reserved matters stage. 

“The economic benefits of the proposal would be strong, including the creation of jobs, the addition of spending power to the local economy and the new homes bonus and would result in the regeneration of this semi derelict site. 

“Substantial weight is given in favour of the scheme as it is an allocated run down brownfield site which can be delivered to a high design standard, addressing biodiversity, amenity, contamination, drainage and flood risk. As such considered as a whole, the site is sustainable and with the imposition of appropriate conditions and S106 obligations, the balance in this instance falls in favour of the proposal.” 

But officers will now be tasked to try and negotiate further improvements to the scheme with the developers, although Jean Watkins, the planning officer, said that they had already spent 18 months discussing viability and this was the best they had got, while Cllr Biederman added: “We have spent five years trying to get this before us and they say the best that they can come up with, and we won’t get anywhere near what we need to satisfy us for the harm it will cause to the setting.”

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