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Controversial homes plan on children’s play space will go before committee

Wednesday, 10 July 2024 08:44

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

City council denies that people's views are being ignored

Homes planned for green space at a large Plymouth estate which residents are trying to protect will be determined by the city council’s planning committee, not officers, it has been confirmed.

The plan for five affordable homes at Wilmot Gardens on council land between Crownhill and Honicknowle is controversial as residents say it is the only green space where children can play.

The scheme also involves felling ash trees.

Claims by Crownhill Local Residents Association (CLARA) that the city council is ignoring their views were refuted by Cllr Chris Penberthy (Lab, St Peter and the Waterfront), cabinet member for housing, this week. He said the 41 letters of objection would be taken in account when the application is considered.

He was responding to questions by group members who attended a meeting of the council’s cabinet.

Classed as a minor planning application, the proposal can be decided by council officers unless it is referred to the full planning committee made up of councillors.

And it was –  by the head of strategic planning and infrastructure.

The scheme by Darren Wills of Classic Builders (SW) Ltd was submitted in April.

This is the second time a plan for homes has come forward for the site, firstly in 2021 when it was withdrawn after protests.

The number of homes has been reduced from seven to five. Cllr Penberthy said the current revised layout allowed for more open grass space on the eastern boundary, a community garden, and replanting scheme for trees which were to be removed because they were at risk of ash dieback.

Opponents say children would be forced to cross busy roads and walk far away to play and impact older residents too.

Lois Lloyd said that there were a huge number of health benefits from an area known as ‘the Wilmot Gardens green.’“We are concerned that taking it away will have negative consequences including social exclusion particularly for elderly residents with mobility issues,” she said.

Ryan Aldred asked the council: “In the aftermath of the Armada Way tree felling, is it really the intention to ignore residents’ concerns and plough ahead with bulldozing the Wilmot Gardens green despite the strength of opposition?”

Cllr Penberthy said the council had decided to dispose of various public open space sites in a programme called Plan for Homes, which included Wilmot Gardens, whichc speed up delivery of new housing.

The council planned to provide 1,000 new homes each year by releasing land.

But he added: “It is simply not the case that the council is ignoring the views of residents and to suggest otherwise is, at best, disingenuous

“It is in the interest of openness and transparency that the matter is to be determined by the planning committee.

“The views will be taken into account by the committee when it considers the overall merits the scheme.”

Council leader Tudor Evans (Lab, Stoke) added: “On every site we consider the views of the public and we value the environment very highly. Last winter we planted 4,000 trees.

“It’s important people recognise the city council’s commitment to environmental protection and to net zero which remains resolute.”

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