Chairman’s Report to 2019 AGM

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT FOR THE AVF AGM ON 12 JULY 2019
Now well into its 9th year, the Alphington Village Forum is still smouldering away despite little fuel being poured on its embers during this last year! We try to keep the old fire burning by watching and listening for any movement on the Western Front, so that as soon as there is some new development relevant to the South West Exeter plans for 2,500 new homes, we can respond effectively. You probably noticed that I called the Forum an ‘old’ fire – well that is because our committee members are of course getting older by the year and so need the inspiration of some bright new sparks to kindle the Forum’s flames. We really hope we will be able to recruit some new members tonight, even if they just offer to be Street Representatives who can speak up for their neighbours! So please start thinking of nominations now and put them forward when we have the election, as we need you!
If you are new to Alphington, you may not know the history of the Forum, which was set up by a few residents who were really concerned that our local community had not been informed properly about the newly published Core Strategy for Exeter and the massive SWE development coming to this area. Several of these residents are still on our committee, I’m pleased to say. Since 2012 we have been taking every opportunity to consult with Exeter City Council, Teignbridge District Council and Devon County Council, presenting our objections and comments to the Government Inspector, TDC planning committee and stakeholders’ meetings etc, attending every relevant exhibition, writing articles and letters to the local paper and generally making a nuisance of ourselves!
Our main objections have been the very poor planning aspect of this development, as it’s straddled across a major arterial road (the A379), which will result in a split community and the devastation of the beautiful landscape and arable fields between here and Exminster. Inevitably there will be a huge increase of traffic coming through our village, part of which is an ECC Conservation Area and many years ago the Conservation Officer warned about all the traffic damaging our listed buildings!
As a result of all our comments, Alphington residents have been accused by TDC of being ‘opposed to the principle of development’, which is utterly untrue of course. We all know that we need more housing in Exeter, but we need affordable housing for young people, not large expensive homes that will attract new – and probably retired – residents from further afield. You will hear from Dr Bratby of CPRE shortly that two thirds of our new houses are occupied by people from outside Devon.
However, Teignbridge DC has approved the outline plans for the 1,350 Bovis Homes and agreed that only 10% of affordable homes will be required in the first phase instead of their usual 25%. Meanwhile ECC requires 35%.
The good news this year is that we succeeded in getting the outline plans for Aldens Farm East & West, Alphington, deferred on the grounds that they were not fit for purpose. DCC, who own most of the land, had submitted them to ECC four years ago, when we objected to them very strongly as not meeting any of the stipulations in our Alphington Development Brief, which was created in 2015 with ECC and DCC as a Supplementary Planning Guide for developers. DCC suddenly decided at the end of last year that they were ready to have these plans approved by the ECC planning committee, so I wrote to all the members informing them of our views. Our councillors supported us and both Peter Croft and I objected firmly at the meeting, resulting in a unanimous vote to defer these shocking outline plans. Apparently DCC submitted them again but, according to one of the officers, they had only coloured them in and again ignored all the conditions set by the Chief Planning Officer, as well as our Development Brief, so he sent them back to DCC again!
The result is that DCC has apparently given up trying to get approval by ECC, which is why you will have seen large signs going up around our village offering the land for sale by informal tender. This means the purchaser will have to get their own approval and will thus pay less for the land, so fewer funds for DCC. Is anyone here interested and rich enough to put in an offer, I wonder?
As for the TDC part of SWE comprising at least another 2,000 homes built right up to our border (Markham Lane) and over to Matford and the Devon Hotel, three of the developers have now submitted their detailed plans for approval (these are called Reserved Matters for some reason!). These are on display here, but the only one that will affect us is what was called West Country Land, which is being developed by Barratt Homes on the triangle of fields to the right of Chudleigh Road at its junction with the A379. If you wish to see the plans, they will be on display at the start of the Exminster Parish Council meeting at 7 pm on Monday. You will of course have the opportunity to comment or object to TDC.
The other local development to which the Forum has objected recently is that of the former care home, Alphin House in Mill Lane, which was closed by DCC three years ago. It has since been changed from community into residential use with 22 units, including two three-bedroomed houses on the same site, creating 46 bedrooms in total, and thus potentially 50-60 new residents who could possibly own a total of 80 cars, with only 22 parking spaces! We objected largely on the grounds of the danger to all the children who walk and cycle along this narrow country lane going to and from three different schools. There is no pavement and DCC has only insisted on a pavement running the length of the Alphin House land, leaving a considerable length of road without any and expecting all these children and their parents to cross over and go into the playing fields to avoid the traffic by the bridge! It seems they don’t care about their safety, as they stated there will be no problems with traffic here.
You will all have noticed the building of flats on Church Road where the garage used to be. The plans for these were apparently approved years ago, so there was no opportunity to object to the increase of cars, the lack of parking spaces, and the congestion on the roads. This is obviously our greatest concern, as I am sure it is yours, but the Highways Department completely ignores any objections. In fact, Dave Black, the DCC Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment, had the nerve to tell us recently in this very hall that local traffic had not increased over the last 10 years and was not likely to increase in the future. Those present jeered at this complacent comment and he quickly disappeared!
We are also involved with monitoring the Energy from Waste plant, commonly known as the ‘incinerator’, as we are concerned with the possible pollution from burning rubbish. If you would be interested in going round this building, we are happy to arrange a visit. The dates are: 6, 12, 20 or 27 September and the best time is at 10 am. Please sign the list at the door if you would like to be included.
Diana Moore, who has recently been appointed a councillor for St David’s, has been active in trying to protect Grime’s Field, the lovely area between the surgery and the community centre. She has approached DCC who lease the land to ECC, asking if we can register it as a village green, but they have refused to do this, saying it must be used for community recreation. Well of course it is, but they don’t seem to be aware of this, so there are now three options:
1) To do nothing and leave land at risk of approaches by developers;
2) To get a covenant on the land, which DCC could let us do; or
3) To register it as a village green, which would involve a community survey for the proposal. There are organisations that can help. Is anyone keen to progress this?
Diana has also been very involved with setting up an Exeter Community Forum to help ECC define where the CIL money should go (the developers have to pay 15% of this levy to the local community, preferably to the residents that are affected by any new developments). This has been through a very tricky stage with ECC taking back control from the ECF, but the members are finally having some input into the recent grants review and hopefully will be able to influence where the grants go and ensure that we get our 15%.
Finally I would like to finish by thanking my committee and making another plea for new members to join us. We now only meet every two months, so it is not too arduous! This year will be an interesting one as all the detailed plans will be submitted to TDC by Bovis, the biggest developer of all as their 1,350 houses make up nearly half of the whole of the SWE development. These are the ones that will affect us most as half of them are on this side of the A379, so together with the 225 Barratt homes and approx 400 in Alphington, the total will be approx 1,350 between here and the A379! Unfortunately there will no new community facilities for them nearby, so they will either have to go some way to the new local centre on the other side of the A379 or of course will try to come into our village and use our over-crowded facilities. Of course all the 3000 – 4000 new residents will be expected to walk, cycle or use public transport, so traffic will be no problem at all!
So I plead with you to join us in our fight against this huge invasion of our village.
Juliet Meadowcroft, AVF Chairman 12 July 2019