Yelland power station development set for approval despite 700 objections

Artist impression of the Yelland Quay regeneration scheme

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

Plans for the major redevelopment of the former Yelland power station in the North Devon are being recommended for approval – despite more than 700 objections. 

The scheme, which North Devon Council’s planning committee will debate on April 28, 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. 

It is more than five years since the plans to develop the site on the Yelland Quay between Fremington and Instow were initially revealed, with them going through several iterations including the additional and subsequent removal of a hotel, and a reduction in housing numbers. 

Despite the 700 plus objections to the scheme, North Devon Council planners have recommended that the waterfront regeneration plans are 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. 

If approved, the development proposals would be undertaken in nine phases with an approximate 13-year build programme, with the first phase of works involving the demolition of all existing structures to allow for site clearance and filling, before the design of the new sea defences (rock armour) which would need to be in place to protect the development from flooding. 

Recommending approval, the report from the planning officers states: “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. 

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“Social benefits would include meeting general housing needs but would not meet affordable housing needs. It is recognised that affordable housing is a pressing issue but the viability of the scheme has been fully tested and only the financial package is available. 

“The delivery of housing in itself must be given significant weight as the housing development on this allocated brownfield site would help contribute towards the council’s five year housing land supply. 

“Environmentally, the impact of development would be adverse in landscape terms, however mitigation exists which would reduce these impacts over time and beyond a local context, but not negate them entirely, and the location of the site and offers the potential for reductions in car use, which would be an environmental benefit. 

“Planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies as a whole. It is considered, on balance, that the identified harm in landscape terms and on the highway network, which would not outweigh the substantial benefits attributed from the provision of much needed housing, public open space, car parking for the Tarka Trail, employment and community facilities. 

“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.” 

Supporting statements with the application, on behalf of Yelland Quay Ltd, had said that the proposed regeneration promotes Yelland Quay as a new destination hotspot for leisure and tourism including retail and restaurants with the creation of a new social hub along the Tarka trail, presents a fantastic opportunity for tourism with the North Devon Biosphere on its doorstep, and would see the former Power Station basement partially flooded with a unique community centre building to be built almost floating at the heart of this mini-development. 

It added: “Yelland Quay will facilitate 840 construction jobs over the duration of the building of the regeneration, creating 1.6 full time direct jobs equating to 400 jobs. For every two houses built, this creates one job indirectly, equating to 125 jobs and providing an injection of £400M into the local economy.” 

Provision of high-quality open space, a public car park and a new dedicated improved access off B3233 would also be provided. 

The statement added: “The location of the proposed regeneration promotes Yelland Quay as a new destination hotspot for leisure and tourism including retail and restaurants with the creation of a new social hub along the Tarka trail. It is envisaged that this destination will complement the successful regeneration of Fremington Quay approximately two miles to the east of the application site together with the established facilities offered at Instow to the west of the application site.” 

Hundreds of objections had poured in on the grounds that they scheme was not necessary, a lack of the necessary infrastructure, the form the development is taking, the design, transport and access issues, damage to ecology and the natural environment, flood risk, and that the economic benefits are not as large as the applicants claim. 

But planning officers in their report concluded that the balance weighs in favour of the development, despite the numerous objections and just two letters of support. 

The report adds: “It can be concluded that the development at Yelland Quay will not have a detrimental effect on the wider locality. It can also be noted that the landscape impact is considered low when assessed and the development will actually provide a number of positive impacts within the immediate a wider locality around these four key areas, with ground conditions and biodiversity being the areas of positive impact. 

“The delivery of 250 new homes will be build out in a period between 5-15 years to mitigate impact on local network The Waterfront provides an opportunity for younger people to continue to live or move into the area, a proposal for a new social hub along the Tarka Trail, proposed community facilities and job creation for local people.” 

A virtual site visit will take place on Wednesday, April 21, before planners will make their decision at the planning committee meeting, also held virtually, on Wednesday, April 28.

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