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Planning policies 'killing rural villages'

Friday, 12 April 2024 08:42

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Riverbank House, home of Torridge council (courtesy: Philip Halling/Creative Commons)

A leading councillor believes the local plan needs updating

A leading Torridge councillor claims planning policies are killing rural villages.

Chair of the district council’s plans committee Cllr Rosemary Lock (Con, Two Rivers and Three Moors) believes there is a desperate need for the authority’s local plan, a blueprint for development, to be updated so more people can live in the rural areas they grow up in.

She was speaking at a meeting at which councillors went against their officers’ advice and planning policy to approve two self-build ‘local needs’ homes for young families.

One proposal was for a site a mile from Monkleigh and the other a mile from Newton St Petrock, within small clusters of homes. The applicants had grown up in the areas and had family members lthere along with work and business commitments.

Planning policy dictates that most housebuilding takes place in major settlements like towns and large villages, and rarely outside development boundaries unless it consists of affordable housing on ‘exception sites’.

Torridge says appropriately located development of a modest scale can be allowed in ‘rural settlements’ but they have to have at least one prescribed service or community facility such as a pub or village hall or bus stop, therefore reducing reliance on cars.

Many locations in the district are on public and school bus routes but don’t have a dedicated bus stop and a church, shop or community centre is some walk away, outside the classified ‘rural settlement’.

Councillors say the restrictions make it hard to approve worthy cases.

Local needs and self-build applications have become more popular because people are struggling to find homes they can afford in Torridge, where average house prices are near £300,000.

When consent is granted for local needs homes, a restriction is made so it can only be sold for an “affordable price” to local people.

Applicant Jess Burford Redgrave told the plans committee that she was happy for the restriction as it is intended to be her family’s “forever home”.

Cllr Lock who voted against the plans for the site at Monkleigh said: “We need to nail these policies. I am desperate to support this application, but is in conflicts with policy.”

She said the argument that people who lived in the countryside rely more on cars doesn’t stand up.

“There are people living on housing estates in Bideford that use their cars every day. If we don’t work with our new local plan to get rid of these terms ‘in the open countryside’ or ‘rural settlements’ our villages and our countryside are literally going to die.

“We have to absolutely make sure that when we nail these policies.”

Cllr Jane Whittaker said: “If we do not support young people we are haemorrhaging more and more of our skills and talents as they leave Torridge because they cannot find enough homes to live in.”

The current local plan is due to run until 2031, but councillors are looking to revamp it sooner.

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