Skip to content

2016 Comment on Knowle Planning Application

VGS Futures Forum – comment on Knowle planning application

– re the latest documents submitted by the developer

Objection to planning application 16/0872/MFUL

Futures Forum of the Vision Group for Sidmouth

The concerns of planning officers have not been taken into consideration:

> C2/C3 status:

“Our conclusion based on this assessment and a Counsel opinion is that the proposed units should be classed as C3 (dwelling houses). [Rather than the C2 classification desired by the applicant. See: Building Use Classes C1 C2 C3 – Planning Consultants London and Clarification of Planning Classes with regards to C3(b) and C2 – GovYou]

Turning to the issue of affordable housing the newly adopted policy of the East Devon Local Plan (Strategy 34) sets out a target of 50% affordable housing for residential development in Sidmouth. The presumption is that such affordable housing should be provided on site. As a result we will be seeking on-site provision of affordable housing in this case. We appreciate that the provision of your mandatory well-being care and support package is likely to be unviable to a registered provider but can see no reason given the layout of the proposed units on the site why your care and support package would have to apply to all residents. The facilities could still be available to residents of the affordable units on the same basis as they will be available to the wider community. We would however accept that it would be appropriate for the affordable units to also be age restricted and we believe that there is sufficient demand in the local area to fill the affordable units. Strategy 34 does allow for an offsite contribution of equivalent value to be provided where the inability to make provision on-site can be justified through evidence from Registered Providers or for other planning reasons. We would be open to considering a case for provision to be made off-site but as detailed above the presumption is that provision should be made on-site in the first instance and so the onus would be on yourselves to demonstrate to us why this would not be possible. You should also note that Strategy 34 is predicated on ensuring that developments are viable and so in the event that you believe that our requirements are unviable we are willing to consider a suitable robust and independent viability assessment. Our usual practice is to obtain an independent appraisal of such viability information through the District Valuer. We must advise at this stage that we would expect the cost of the District Valuer to be borne by the developer.

We understand that both the assessment that the scheme constitutes a C3 use and the level of affordable housing sought will come as a disappointment but we can assure you that these issues have undergone a very detailed consideration by Officers with appropriate independent legal opinion. To date we believe that we have had meaningful and constructive discussions and look forward to these continuing in respect of this issue. [And ‘viability’ is a very slippery commodity: Revealed: how developers exploit flawed planning system to minimise affordable housing | Cities | The Guardian and  The truth about property developers: how they are exploiting planning authorities and ruining our cities | Cities | The Guardian]

> Encroaching the upper lawns:

“You will note from the attached consultation feedback that there is an outstanding objection from our specialist conservation team – most importantly raising concerns about the setting of the Listed summerhouse (folly). This is not an objection that we can take lightly as the tests within legislation and national guidance are very specific and attract significant weight in any planning decision requiring us to give this matter special regard. Where there is harm to the setting of a listed building we should only allow this where it is in the wider public interest and we do not see that being the case in this instance. As such, this is a matter that weighs very heavily against the proposal and needs addressing.

“To remove the harm to the setting of the listed building we recommend that Building E be set back such that it does not project materially beyond the southern-most point of the existing elevation.”

This is unsustainable development:

> Increased flooding risk:

“In their original application PegasusLife planned to reduce the amount of rainwater going into the town’s drains by diverting excess water into soakaways. However, their latest ground survey has shown that the types of soil and their distribution means this is ‘not technically feasible’. An alternative solution was to install attenuation tanks (basically large holding tanks that drain slowly) near the existing car park and under the EDDC depot at the SW corner of the site. It turns out that these tanks would have to be so large to cope with predicted flows they would be difficult and expensive to build. PegasusLife make it clear in their letter they do not want to deal with this problem, partly because “it is not viable in terms of cost for the project”.”

> Visual impact:

“EDDC Ward Member for Sidmouth, Cllr Cathy Gardner (East Devon Alliance) has argued that the planned Pegasus Life development would be visible from both the areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) flanking Sidmouth to the east and west.

“And Mike Temple, a Sidmouth resident for over 30 years, emphasises that “The visual impact from far afield will be worse than you might imagine, because many of the trees screening the existing buildings on the west side of the development will be cut down.””

“Councillor Cathy Gardner also questioned an independent report from the Design Review Panel (DRP) – because it was paid for by applicant PegasusLife. However, the developer has refuted this, insisting the expert advice is impartial.

Cllr Gardner, a Sidmouth Town ward representative, said: “New photomontages accurately reveal the impact of the proposed development, notably the views from the southern park and from upper Knowle Drive.

“But PegasusLife has left out the view from the western side of Sidmouth, where the development dominates the Sidmouth skyline.

“Most significantly, the central objections of overdevelopment, excessive heights and massing, and the overbearing impact of the development on the south park and on local residents have been completely ignored.

“When any of the larger surrounding trees are lost, as they inevitably will be, this giant modernist design will dominate this historic town for years to come.””


on behalf of the Futures Forum of the Vision Group for Sidmouth