Plans for a hotel, restaurant and 280 new homes on the Yelland power station site have been almost unanimously rejected by Fremington Parish Council.
The mood at a packed meeting of more than 70 people in the parish hall was against the proposals being put forward by Yelland Quay Ltd, which are a variation on a previous 2016 application.
This time, instead of a ‘maritime employment campus and marine energy park’, the applicant is seeking to create a 50-bed hotel in addition to a restaurant, pub, ‘social hub, employment space and a community building.
After a presentation by the agent, several people spoke to raise concerns, which included the impact on traffic, the estuary, the presence of asbestos buried on the site, concerns about flood risk and the effect on schools and services.
There was consternation when the agent told the meeting the site had been allocated within the local plan and would happen, and the council’s decision should be more about its design.
Councillor Frank Biederman said this didn’t mean it was acceptable in planning terms.
He also told the Gazette: “Government’s insistence on building 300,000 homes a year with out the suitable infrastructure to support them, is going to cause real social problems in the future, it takes an hour now in the morning to get into Barnstaple, people are missing appointments, children are regularly late for school using the buses.
“This application looks attractive in some ways, talking about doctors, dentists etc but there is no commitment or guarantee they will take up the spaces provided, they are just as likely be a gift shop. Clearly contamination is another big concern, to clear it, is going to take great time and money, it makes you wonder if it will ever be viable.”
Joanne Bell of Yelland and Fremington Action Group added after: “The audience were stunned when one of the agents stood up and explained that this has all been decided; it’s going ahead and there’s nothing we could do about it!
“Although not a planning expert, I consider he is entirely incorrect on that point.”
Cllr Rodney Cann said the proposal was the ‘urbanisation of the estuary’ and would impact on the Biosphere, nearby bird sanctuary and considerably alter the area.
He added: “I think it would be intrusive and would affect the whole area, which is of national importance.”
Mr Cann said he had been present before the demolition of the old power station when it had been proposed to double bag and concrete over the asbestos.
He said: “It was said at the time that removing it would create a bigger health risk. But there is concern about the safety of the site and contamination 20 years on. It was also recognised the nearby ash bed site had deposits of asbestos dumped there.”
Parish councillors recommended refusal of the plans, with one abstention. North Devon Council’s planning committee will have the final say.