Plans for 290 homes thrown out amid woodland fears

North Devon Gazette

A development of up to 290 homes near Bideford has been turned down following concerns that it would “destroy” important woodland and habitats.

The proposal for nearly 50 hectares of greenfield land  has proved divisive for Torridge District Council’s planners and nearby residents of Abbotsham Road.Â

Chief amongst concerns is that historic Bagershill Wood, located at the centre of the proposed development, would be harmed.Â

Conservation charity the Woodland Trust has tried to add the wood to the Ancient Woodland Inventory, giving it special protection against damage or destruction. Though this has not yet happened, it believes the woodland does qualify for inclusion.Â

Bagershill Wood already has a tree preservation order protecting it and is known to include trees hundreds of years old, as well as providing important habitats for wildlife. Â

Gladman Developments Ltd, a Cheshire-based company behind the plans, said steps would be taken to protect the wood.Â

However, several councillors on the council’s planning committee don’t  believe the necessary protection would be possible, given the size of the proposed development. They argued that new homes would inevitably result in interference with the habitat.

It is  the second time the proposals have appeared before planners. Councillors had attempted to make a decision in January this year but a bizarre series of contradictory votes meant the final vote had to be postponed. This time round, councillors voted four to three to reject the application.

Strong public concern lead to 70 letters of objection against the plans.

Speaking before the vote, Cllr Chris Leather reiterated his strong misgivings about the development. He said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that if this application is approved it would destroy that ancient woodland; it would destroy a lot of the hedges in the area.Â

“The biodiversity, the ecological value of that area will be obliterated eventually because you cannot open those ancient woodlands to the public and expect them to remain the same and wildlife to remain the same.Â

“We can’t surround that with a housing estate of up to 290 houses and change the whole thing.”

Cllr Ruth Craigie said: “This is probably one of the little bits of Bideford that’s beautiful to look at and we should be doing everything we can to keep it and not allow it to become another housing development.”Â

The council’s aim is for 30 per cent of all new housing developments to consist of affordable homes, equating to around 87 properties for this project.Â

In a move repeated in planning applications around Torridge and North Devon, the developers claimed the project would not be financially viable if that many affordable homes were provided.  Â

Nevertheless, councillor Peter Watson said the developer’s offer of 44 affordable homes was “better than nothing.”

Cllr Craigie argued that the development would be too far from amenities to be practical for affordable housing.

It was a concern shared by Abbotsham Parsh Council, which argued the development would be too far away from local services and employment centres and would add to congestion as new residents drive to get around.

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