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East Devon wedgies go back to drawing board

Monday, 19 February 2024 09:28

By Will Goddard, local democracy reporter

East Buedleigh (image courtesy: Simon Cobb/ Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

They're the 'green lungs'

Plans to slash East Devon’s ‘green wedges’ have been sent back to the drawing board. 

Green wedges are designed to protect the character of towns and villages and stop them blending together. 

But they do not prevent housing development completely and are not part of national planning policy. Other protections also exist to safeguard landscapes and the environment. 

The proposed cuts and changes to how the wedges are defined were brought forward at an East Devon District Council meeting this week amid concerns they could be challenged in the future without clear evidence to justify them. 

Over 70 per cent of the currently designated green wedges would have been lost under the plans, according to Cllr Geoff Jung (Lib Dem, Woodbury and Lympstone). 

He said: “I appreciate that a green wedge is not a countryside protection tool, but a development and planners’ device to help protect the unchecked development of our conurbations, as well as helping to try and stop any correlating of settlements.  

“But many of our residents see them as far more important, as the green lungs, wildlife areas and helping to reduce flooding, etc.  

“Reducing them by this magnitude without any replacement policy sends the wrong signal that we as a council don’t care about environmental protection. Our countryside is our number one asset.” 

Cllr Ben Ingham added: “The NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] does not identify green wedges as such. That is not a green light to get rid of them, rather an opportunity for us to protect our green credentials. 

“Green wedges came into form for this authority during the 1990s. Over the last 30 years, residents and councillors have taken these to represent a part of our collective values and aspirations. To attack these collectively is to reject our current cultural values that embrace the East Devon vision. 

“They come into play when different planning major applications come forward within a green wedge and can be the last resort of our protection for our planning policies and values.” 

Councillors voted unanimously to send the plans back for revision and more councillor input, and also for officers to look into whether areas of East Devon could be designated as ‘green belt’ land, a more established classification nationally. 

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