The Appeal Inquiry continues today, and possibly tomorrow (Friday 1 December). On day two of the Inquiry yesterday, the opposing barristers* for PegasusLife and for East Devon District Council (EDDC) explored the evidence of need for what was agreed in cross-examination “would be by far the largest of these ‘specialist care’ developments in East Devon”. The ageing population nationally was evidenced, but it was counter-argued that this is a “topheavy” proposal for Sidmouth, in its scale (113 flats planned) and narrowly restricted type of provision (limited solely to the wealthy). It emerged that no research had been done by the author of the relevant report for PegasusLife, Nigel Appleton, on existing local provision of varied sorts of accomodation in the town, on the grounds that, as he explained to the Inquiry, he had “not enough local knowledge”.
The Sid Valley emerging Neighbourhood Plan (SVNP) is of course based on meticulously gathered local knowledge. The following extracts are from the speech on day 1 of the Inquiry by SVNP Group Chair, Deidre Hounsom:
‘(EDDC) APP/U1105/W/17/3177340 – Pegasus Life
Point one : The Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group will shortly publish our Draft Plan. An emerging plan carries statutory weight and we contend that if this appeal by Pegasus Life is supported, the result would be to undermine and prejudice the preparation of the final Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan.
Our evidence carries weight according to UK Government guidance on Neighbourhood planning as well as EDDC’s commitment stating that communities have an opportunity to influence planning. We contend that it would be a breach of this commitment to overlook the evidence from the emerging Neighbourhood Plan.
The Pegasus Life Development contravenes the housing allocation in the East Devon Local Plan, which currently only includes provision for 100 new homes and 50 windfalls.
113 new homes at the Knowle is more than twice the original allocation in the Local Plan.Our surveys demonstrated limited support for housing development, and a preference for small developments. A local need for the type of housing proposed Pegasus Life was not evidenced.
The proposal is contrary to evidence contained in our Housing Needs Survey plus the views expressed by nearly 2,000 residents in the last survey. Namely;
A clear preference is suggested for affordable housing, social rented, starter homes and mixed tenure housing.
Additionally, the Pegasus proposal is not in accordance with Strategy 34 District Wide Affordable Housing Provision Targets and to Strategy 4 – Balanced Communities in which a commitment to redressing the existing population imbalance is seen as a priority.
Given that there is no evidence of local housing need of the type Pegasus Life proposes, its reasonable to expect Pegasus Life to target retirees from outside Sidmouth, exacerbating the already considerable age imbalance in the community.We assert that there is no evidence presented by Pegasus Life that provides sufficient weight to override the evidence gathered by us from the Sid Valley community.
On the contrary, there is clear support for EDDC’s Local Plan commitments to its’ own Key Issue and Objective 3: Supporting and Encouraging Thriving Communities, and to Strategies 4 – Balanced Communities, Strategy 26: Development of Sidmouth (50 homes, site ED02A)
and to Strategy 34: District Wide Affordable Housing Provision Targets.
The SVNP does not support the Pegasus Life Application and recommends refusal.’
And further to the SVNP conclusion that PegasusLife may be targeting “retirees from outside Sidmouth”, it is not clear how PegasusLife’s website publicity about the Sidmouth site in its Portfolio of future developments**, serves local needs.
*Simon Bird QC (for Pegasus Life) https://www.ftbchambers.co.uk/barristers/simon-bird-qc
Ned Westaway (for EDDC) https://www.ftbchambers.co.uk/barristers/ned-westaway