The Parish of Stokenham, bounded by the black line on the map, covers the whole of the southern half of Start Bay, from Slapton Sands to Start Point and on to Lannacombe Beach. It encompasses the villages of Torcross, Beesands, Hallsands, Kellaton, Kernborough, Dunstone, Beeson and Chillington, as well as Stokenham itself, covers an area of some 20.6 square kilometres, and has a population of approximately 2,000.
The seven larger settlements and many smaller hamlets and farms are connected by miles of narrow country lanes, byways, bridleways and footpaths. The main arterial route in and out of the parish is the A379, which runs north to Dartmouth and west to Kingsbridge. This route is serviced by the First Western National Bus Company, with connections available to Plymouth (change for Derriford Hospital), Salcombe, Dartmouth, Totnes (our nearest main line railway station) and Exeter. The parish also enjoys the service of The Coleridge Bus, a community bus providing weekly runs from outlying areas to Kingsbridge. There are airports at Plymouth and Exeter.
This is the response sent by Stokenham Parish Council to the Plymouth & South West Devon Joint Local Plan consultation:
Although there is much we could take issue with in the way it has been managed, the Parish accepts the premise of this Consultation, namely that the provision of additional housing in our part of the world is mandated by central government and is therefore inevitable. If development there must be, then we strongly support a planned rather than piecemeal approach. We agree that the pooled approach to a Joint Local Plan is of benefit to all partners.
The methodology of establishing the number of houses needed for the JLP is not well explained, and little evidence is produced to substantiate the numbers given, but we see no advantage in disputing the overall strategic approach. The specific requirement for areas such as ours, however, is the provision of homes principally for those who live and work in the area. Additional development only adds to the pressure on overstretched local services and highlights the inadequacy of the supporting infrastructure, which – in the case of the road system, for example – is often not amenable to improvement at a viable cost.
In response to the question of where new homes should be built, we do not seek to evade our share of the overall burden. We understand why – given the existence of a large primary school and a health centre – the Parish has been designated a Local Centre. At the same time, however, our location at the heart of the AONB severely constrains the scope for further development. Paragraphs 115 and 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework say that “great weight” should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in the AONB, and further state that planning permission should be refused for major developments “except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated that they are in the public interest.” This leads us to conclude that any developments in that part of the Parish lying within the AONB (the majority) ought to be small-scale and organic in nature. Our view is reinforced by the 2013 High Court judgement in the case of R (Mevagissey PC) v Cornwall Council, where Mr Justice Hickinbottom held that the Council had erred in law in its interpretation of the relevant paragraphs of the NPPF. We feel it would benefit colleagues to pay close attention to that judgement, in particular to paragraphs 51 and 52, where the judge reasons that even a demonstrable need for the delivery of a significant number of affordable homes does not amount to the “exceptional circumstances” required to set aside the protections offered by the NPPF. From this it should be clear how much less likely is it that a development with fewer mitigating circumstances would pass this test. In our view it is not just likely but inevitable that major developments within the AONB are increasingly going to face legal challenge.
With regard to the specific sites proposed for Stokenham/Chillington, the consultation did not provide enough information to allow locals to understand the rationale for the choice of sites. This more than any other factor impeded proper consideration of the document. There is a already a significant body of local opposition to the proposed development at Green Park Way in Chillington, as will be seen from the numerous and overwhelmingly negative responses to the application for OPP. Chillington has had a significant amount of housing development in the last few years and villagers are unwilling to countenance any further burden until such new community has settled. The mood in Stokenham is more nuanced, with villagers not wholly against development in principle, but the choice of site left them scratching their heads in bemusement, as it had already been considered and dismissed as unsuitable by the Planning Inspectorate. The authors of the plan would have considerably strengthened their case had they bothered to explain this sudden volte-face, especially when there already exists a site, at Holbrook Terrace, which has been identified by the village as suitable, and where plans for a small-scale development with a significant affordable housing component would be likely to raise far less in the way of opposition.
It was noted that the assessment failed to allocate any employment sites within the Parish. Not only does this lead us to question the economic viability of providing significant additional housing in such a sensitive area; it also points to the conclusion that further development would be designed to provide homes in the Parish for people whose economic activity is outside the Parish, creating additional traffic pressures and leading to a proliferation of hollowed-out, dormitory-style settlements that fail any reasonable test of sustainability.
In summary, we question the viability of any major development in the Parish in view of the overarching protection offered by the AONB designation. Small-scale developments that address the needs of local communities for affordable housing with ownership covenants would be generally acceptable. We would like to see the AONB designation given full weight in District planning policies in this most sensitive area, under constant threat from coastal erosion and inland development. Finally, we cannot agree that Outline Planning Permission is an appropriate route for sites within the AONB unless the reasons for setting aside the protections offered by paragraphs 115 and 116 of the NPPF are specifically addressed within the grant of permission.
Clerk to Stokenham Parish Council
12 August, 2016
South Hams planners will have plenty to think about, thanks to all those who attended one of last week's lively Local Plan drop-in sessions in Chillington and Stokenham! As well as some very firmly held views in response to the specific proposals in the Plan, villagers expressed a surprisingly wide range of opinions on the best way to manage future development in the Parish and beyond.
Despite an extensive volunteer leafleting exercise in both villages, we know that some people didn't find out about the meetings until it was too late, or were unable to attend either of the sessions. If you were one in one of these groups, don't despair – the consultation runs until 12 August, so there's still plenty of time to make your views known.
For background, best start here. Once you've digested that, the response form can be found here. For those who prefer to fill out a printed version of the form, the parish clerk still has one or two copies. Or, if you prefer, you can put your response in a letter, which should be addressed to: South Hams and West Devon Place Making Team, c/o Follaton House, Plymouth Road, Totnes, TQ9 5NE.
In all cases, be sure to get your responses, whether in print or online, back to South Hams by 5pm on 12 August!
Stokenham Parish Council will consider the proposal to develop land behind Green Park Way in Chillington at its Full Council Meeting on 16 June. The meeting will, as always, be open to the public and in view of the significant local interest in the plan, your Council has taken a decision to move the venue to Chillington Village Hall, and start at the earlier time of 6.30pm. These changes are designed to give the maximum opportunity to all interested parties to make their views known and all members of the public are heartily welcome to attend.
Every year Stokenham Parish Council holds a community meeting at which representatives from various local organisations are invited to speak, so everyone can see and hear for themselves what a vibrant and varied selection of community groups we are lucky enough to have amongst us. This year's meeting will be held on Tuesday 10 May, at 7p.m. in Stokenham Parish Hall, Kiln Lane. Piers Spence, Chair of Stokenham Parish Council, will give a summary of the year's activities on the Council. County and District Councillors are also invited to speak, and all will try to answer any questions relating to the parish. A representative from the police usually attends, time permitting, and over the years we have also had various guest speakers presenting on a range of topics.
This year we want to do something different. In addition to the routine business and council housekeeping that must be gone through, we hope to get your thoughts and comments on how we might improve public recreational facilities and amenities in and around the parish over the coming years. Although further reductions in central government support for local councils means that money is always in short supply, from time to time funding does become available from one source or another. With your assistance we would like to create a plan to help guide the parish council on how best to spend any monies that might come our way, to the good of the entire parish. Areas that might benefit from attention include parks and public gardens, nature reserves, orchards, footpaths, sports facilities, play equipment, allotments, even cemeteries, and perhaps other ideas relating to the use of open spaces for recreational purposes that you feel should be considered.
At the meeting we will provide boards with lists, ideas, pictures and information for you to consider and comment on, either by talking to a parish councillor on the night, or by writing down your ideas. Please do come along so we can have the widest possible input into the plan at this stage. If you cannot attend please take the time to think about the parish and send us your ideas by post or email.
Clerk to Stokenham Parish Council
"Work is almost complete on bore holes and trial pits. We have continued to monitor the site for movement. With investigations complete, the contractor’s accommodation will be demobilised from site but we will continue to check the tell-tales for movement – this will be on a weekly basis unless conditions dictate otherwise.
We are currently reviewing some very outline options and getting the contractor to estimate the costs of these options. We have to continue to treat these works as emergency works, otherwise it is unlikely we can build a business case to support the economics to justify doing any work. As emergency works, we have to select the option with the best benefit / cost ratio. We believe that this will mean a new, much deeper, steel sheet piled wall with a capping that overlaps, but does not tie in to the existing wall (so it doesn’t directly transfer vibration to the existing structure and houses behind it.) We believe this would be affordable, but are awaiting confirmation, now that we know how deep the shingle is (14 – 17m or so) whether it would remain stable if beach levels were further depleted. We are hoping to understand this within a couple of weeks and will then need to confirm what consents are required (we believe planning permission and Marine Management Organisation consents would be required as a minimum) and what this means for programming work.
In the meantime, beach levels have risen by about 1.5 – 2.0m since January, which in itself is the best outcome possible. We’ll be interested to hear what the current weather is doing to levels – hopefully further raising the levels in front of the defence. If so, this would make any installation work much easier."