Chudleigh garden centre refusal – District Council explains decision

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Teignbridge District Council (TDC) has explained its decision to refuse planning permission for a Farm Shop, Cafe and Garden Centre at The Rock Nursery, Station Hill, Chudleigh.

And a leading councillor has commented on a show of public frustration at the decision not to allow a change of use of the former market garden.

In addition to reservations expressed by Chudleigh Town Council, there are six main reasons for refusal. Many relate to a failure to provide the detailed information required by TDC planners to determine the impact the proposal would have on the community, local landscape, wildlife habitats and a site of archaeological importance. There could also be problems with highway safety.

Commenting on the decision, Cllr Mike Haines, Chairman of TDC’s Planning Committee, said: “I can fully understand the frustration of local people who believe that a business operating from this disused site would benefit the community. There has been a lot of comment on social media in support of the garden centre, shop and cafe plan.

“It may seem to many that this is a clear-cut case for approval, but planning authorities have a wide range of things to consider before we can say ‘Yes’.

“The harsh realities of working within the UK’s planning system mean that we can’t give permission for a change of use unless it complies with a hefty set of regulations and guidelines. Those rules have grown over many years and are designed to protect communities from harmful development.

“Of course everyone has their own view on what’s harmful and not harmful. As planners, we have to balance the needs for new homes and other facilities with considerations like protecting the landscape, environment and wildlife habitats.

Judicial Review

“Having given planning permission for the Linden Homes development mentioned on social media, The Devon Wildlife Trust sought clarification from the courts as to whether the Council had acted appropriately, specifically in relation to impacts on biodiversity. In the Judicial Review, The High Court approved The Council’s approach in granting permission for the development of the homes.

“Impact on bat habitats was one issue, but the developers were able to prove to the court that they could mitigate any minor impact. The Rock nursery site is entirely different because the bat habitat is much closer by and so more vulnerable to lighting from a busy retail development that would be so much more active than the previous market garden”.

Cllr Haines also tackled insinuations of corruption among those at TDC who make planning decisions. He said: “That is a very serious accusation, which is offensive to people who painstakingly follow the rule-book. If anyone has any evidence of backhanders or bribes, they should immediately take this to the police. We would welcome any investigation – but I’m confident such slurs are groundless”.

“So far as accusations of giving preference to housing developers on grounds of council income are concerned, the proposal we have just refused had the potential to generate a six-figure sum in Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). By contrast, the council has previously indicated a strong lack of support for housing on The Rock site. This is because it is outside the settlement and would be subject to the same issues as the garden centre proposal”.

Cllr Haines concluded with a word about the choices that the developer now has: “It’s clear from the six reasons for refusal that a major problem was a lack of information provided by the applicant. If he feels aggrieved about the refusal he has the right to appeal. Detailed information will be required by the Planning Inspectorate, just as it was by the Teignbridge planning team”.

Below is a summary of the full reasons for refusal:

Insufficient information has been submitted to demonstrate that the proposal would not have a significant adverse impact upon Chudleigh Town Centre’s vitality and viability and the proposal is therefore contrary to Policy EC6 (Large Scale Retail Development) of the Teignbridge Local Plan and the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework and the advice contained within the National Planning Policy Guidance.

Insufficient information has been submitted to demonstrate that the proposed access and highway arrangements would not cause an unacceptable impact upon highway safety and a safe and suitable access and the proposal is therefore contrary to policy S1 (Sustainable Development Criteria) of the Teignbridge Local Plan and the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Policy Guidance.

The proposal is in close proximity to the SSSI and the South Hams Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and is a highly sensitive location for bats. Based upon current information it cannot be ascertained that the proposal will not adversely affect the integrity of the South Hams SAC European Site (with respect to Regulation 61 of the Habitat and Species Regulations 2010). The proposal is therefore contrary to policies EN9 (Important Habitats and Features), EN10 (European Wildlife Sites) and EN11 (Legally Protected Species) of the Teignbridge Local Plan and the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Policy Guidance.

Given the high potential for survival and significance of below-ground archaeological deposits and the known prehistoric activity in the vicinity, insufficient information has been submitted to understand the presence and significance of any archaeological heritage assets within the application area or the impact of the proposal on these potential heritage assets. Consequently, the proposal is contrary to policy EN5 (Heritage Assets) of the Teignbridge Local Plan and the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Policy Guidance.

Insufficient information has been submitted to demonstrate that the proposal would not have an impact upon the setting and in particular, the rides and views of the Grade II* Listed Ugbrooke Park. The proposal is therefore contrary to Policy EN5 (Heritage Assets) of the Teignbridge Local Plan and the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Policy Guidance.

Insufficient information has been submitted to demonstrate that the proposal would not have an adverse impact upon the setting of Chudleigh Rocks and the proposal would, therefore, be contrary to Policy EN5 (Heritage Assets) of the Teignbridge Local Plan and the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Policy Guidance.

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