Residents unite to fight ‘inappropriate’ house building plans

Defend North Devon has been formed to fight thousands of new homes planned for the area.

Defend North Devon has been formed to fight thousands of new homes planned for the area. - Credit: Archant

100 people attend Barnstaple meeting to discuss over-development fears.

MORE than 100 people attended the launch of a new alliance formed to fight ‘inappropriate’ housing development plans in North Devon.

Around a dozen anti-development groups have formed Defend North Devon to combat plans for thousands of new homes around the region.

Following the meeting at Roundswell Community Hall on Friday, chairman Steve Crowther said the volume of medium and large-scale housing proposals had ‘mushroomed’ in North Devon and Torridge.

“The Government’s policy to stimulate economic growth indicators through housebuilding, and the lack of a current Local Plan for the area, mean that it’s a gold-rush for developers in Northern Devon,” he said.

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“The last straw was the recent Larkbear decision, with the councillors approving a massive development outside the Barnstaple development boundary because without up-to-date policies they did not have the grounds to refuse it.

“Decisions are now being made weekly to approve major housing schemes purely because, if they are refused, the council will lose on appeal to the planning inspectorate, and it’s not worth the appeal costs.”

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Defend North Devon was formed by representatives from Bickington, Pilton, Chivenor, Yelland, Barnstaple (Gorwell and Goodleigh Road), Bishop’s Tawton and Westward Ho! groups, plus the Larkbear Action Group and Torridge CPRE.

Group secretary Jim Martin said the aim was to include all the groups now addressing development proposals across the North Devon and Torridge districts, as well as other members of the public with an interest in the long-term planning issues of the area.

“We will give support to any local community action group that’s concerned about a housing scheme, using the expertise that the groups have gained in their own cases,” he said.

“But we are not here just to say ‘no’ to everything. It is clear that we need to both act as a brake on the Government’s headlong rush to build houses, and help communities define how they want to develop.

“This is where the councillors are being hamstrung by the lack of agreed policy, and their own rules.”

Mr Crowther said the group hoped to be able to develop constructive proposals for urban regeneration, job creation, appropriate energy and infrastructure planning, and housing that meets real local needs; encourage and help communities to take control of their own environment; and hold the local authorities to account.

“We aim to know as much about planning and environmental issues as the planners themselves, so that we can support our councillors and help them fight our corner,” he said.

“We have a great deal of expertise within the group, and it’s growing daily. In some cases, we are already ahead of the planners, and are having an effect on their decisions”, he added.

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