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Councillor snapped playing solitaire

Teignbridge member says speeches were boring

Teignbridge District Council were discussing whether to approve preparation of a new masterplan for how development of the Wolborough area of Newton Abbot, where controversial plans for at least 1,500 new homes are included in the Local Plan.

Campaigners from Newton Says No, who on their website say they are dedicated to halting the start of NA3 by ‘any means necessary’ and say they do not encourage people to ‘comment’ on the Local Plan via the Teignbridge planning portal, because all they will do is nod politely, thank you for your comment and then ignore you, had packed out the public gallery for the meeting, with capacity issues meaning some were denied entry.

But some members continued to shout out throughout the debate, from both the public gallery and inside the chamber where two of the group were sitting after asking questions during the allotted question time.

The pair in the room were told by council chairman Avril Kerswell that if they carried on interrupting they would be asked to leave, at which point they left the room after shouting ‘we were told to shut up during your stupid nonsense consultations so it’s no surprise we are being asked to shut up now’.

And then the meeting was later adjourned for more than 30 minutes after members in the public gallery interrupted proceedings to shout at councillors after one of them was spotted playing solitaire on his phone while the plan was being debated.

Cllr Charlie Dennis, the councillor involved, hit back, saying ‘that’s how boring the speeches were’, and called for the public gallery to be cleared.  Cllr Jeremy Christophers, leader of the council, and a target for a lot of abuse from campaigners, though made it clear he wanted the members of the public to stay and listen to the debate.

Cllr Dennis has since apologised, although it is understood that a complaint in regards to his behaviour in accordance with Code of Conduct for councillors is set to be made.

On advice from the council’s solicitor, the meeting was adjourned for 30 minutes, and members of the public were warned that one more outburst would see them kicked out of the rest of the discussion.

Upon the resumption, the members of the public who had stayed listened to the remainder of the debate without interrupting proceedings.

One veteran councillor had said the meeting was the nastiest that they could remember in the 40 years they have been in politics.

Councillors eventually agreed that a Development Plan Document, which would have the same status and weight as a Local Plan, for the site should be prepared, and a budget of £210,000 set aside for it. The council was told the Wolborough Residents’ Association, Abbotskerswell Parish Council and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, all of whom had objected to the existing planning proposals currently submitted for the site, were in favour of the DPD being created.

Prior to the meeting, 30 written questions had been asked on the Wolborough Plan, questioning why residents were being ignored, what was being done to solve the gridlock around Newton Abbot, how the council can justify building hundreds more homes and how did the Wolborough site ever get into the Local Plan in the first place.

But Cllr Humphrey Clemens, portfolio holder for Planning and Housing., said: “All the objections we heard earlier are about the fact they don’t want development at all. But there will be a development here as that decision was made when the Local Plan was approved.

“This document makes it more certain that the Local Plan policies will be adhered to and by having this plan, we can control the planning process and in an orderly fashion.”

He also criticised the Newton Says No campaigners for the dreadful and derogatory comments made about the development, councillors and officers on their website.

The ward councillors for Ambrook, in which the development would sit, both supported the preparation of the DPD. Cllr Mary Colclough said she was concerned about the development included in the Local Plan, but if it has to take place, then as much watchful and effective control to protect the area was needed and welcomed the document, while Cllr Dennis Smith said he fully supported the recommendation.

Cllr Jackie Hook said that the DPD could give the council the tools to refuse applications for the site that did not fit the brief of what they wanted, but that they had to work alongside the Wolborough Residents Association, Abbotskerswell Parish Council and the CPRE.

Cllr Mike Hocking added that a DPD was necessary because without it, we won’t have control over what happens with the land. He added: “With it, we have some say, as long as we get the document right, and if we turn something down as it doesn’t meet the framework, we have arguments against it and can defend it at appeal. It is important that we have something that is the right document for the area.”

Cllr Christophers added: “The principle of development for this area of land has been established and fully consulted on during that process and it is important that APC and WRA are supporting this document. For the first time in 30 years, more people under 30 getting on the housing ladder. Every in their mid-20s should have chance to get onto housing ladder, but the reality is that age is 38.

“This is the most sustainable area in the district to develop. There is the argument that people’s grandkids want to see a green field, I think they would rather have a decent house to live in.”

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors though slammed the initial Local Plan as it did not address local need and destroyed the countrywide, saying that the DPD was just trying to sort the problems of that plan and to paper over the cracks, and that rather than building the social housing that Newton Abbot needed, it would just provide more three or four bedroom houses to suit developers.

And councillors were also told that the preparation of the DPD would not preclude developers submitting planning applications for the site, or an inspector determining the existing application by PCL planning, on behalf of the Rew family, for the 165-acre site, which is for 1,275 homes.

The meeting heard that the DPD was intended to address the issues from the existing proposals as they do not address the Local Plan requirement for a, ‘comprehensive landscape and design led masterplan for the strategic site allocation, produced with meaningful and continued input and engagement from stakeholders’.

Councillors voted by 24 votes to three, with 13 abstentions, to begin work on a DPD for the area.

The timescale for the preparation and the adoption of the proposed Wolborough DPD is.

  • Evidence gathering, including ecological surveys, would take place in the Spring/Summer of 2019
  • Public consultation on the draft DPD would take place in Summer 2019
  • The proposed DPD would be submitted in January/February 2020
  • Submission for Examination in Public would take place in May 2020
  • Examination of the DPD in Public would take place in August 2020
  • The DPD would be adopted in December 2020.

 

The masterplan for Wolborough include at least 1,500 homes, with a target of 20 per cent being affordable homes, are included in the Masterplan. Seven hectares of employment land across the site is currently allocated, while a neighbourhood hub has been identified in Neighbourhood 2 around the existing Wolborough Barton and close to St Mary’s church. Shops, a community building and a new primary school could all be included.

The main street that runs from the A381 Totnes Road to Kingskerswell Road near the A380 will be delivered early in the development.

The DPD also outlines that the route of the proposed link road between the A380 and A381 has been changed so that it avoids the ‘extremely challenging change of levels around Stoneman’s Hill’ and is also pulled as far away from the listed St Mary the Virgin church.

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