Belle Hill plans for 96 new homes receives “Conditional Support”

Kingsbridge Town Council’s planning committee has recommended ‘conditional support’ for the development of 96 new homes to the west of Belle Hill.

The committee meeting on Tuesday evening was attended by representatives of the developers along with about 20 members of the public, many of whom will be directly affected by the development and are keen to voice concerns.

The committee ultimately recommended five conditions necessary for their support. Firstly, they requested an air and noise pollution survey analysing the impact of traffic on the area and particularly Church Street. Some of the most vehement opposition to the development has been from residents who stand to be impacted by an increase in traffic on Church Street.

Several members of the public disputed Devon County Council’s highway consultation, written by case officer Richard Jackson. The report predicts that the new development will see 23 vehicles leaving to the north, five vehicles leaving to the south and eight vehicles entering the site between 8am and 9am. And 10 vehicles leaving to the north, seven vehicles leaving to the south and 19 vehicles entering the site between 4pm and 5pm.

Mr Pengelly of Buckwell Road asked: “Where did they get this analysis from? It’s a joke – I live close to Belle Hill and 99 per cent of the time I turn right!”

Ian Lawrence, who also lives on Belle Hill drew attention to the potential increase in traffic numbers and the dangerous intersection near the primary school at the bottom of Belle Cross Road as a cause for concern.

Mr Lawrence made two requests of the committee – one was that the veracity of Westcountry Land & Homes’ consultation traffic count (conducted by Vectos) be questioned and compared with the one conducted by Church Street residents in October.

Residents of Church Street conducted a traffic survey that found 2,120 vehicles travelled down Church Street over a five hour period in October. Traffic was counted between 7am and 9.30am and again from 2.50pm until 5.15pm. One resident highlighted that with two parking spaces for each of the 96 homes, there could be an increase of 192 cars daily, with up to 384 journeys in and out of the development.

Mr Lawrence asked the committee: “Would Mr Jackson have a clear conscience if there’s another serious accident? I do hope you pay balance to the pleasantness of Kingsbridge with the need for development, and that you do not let the town get too congested.”

David Lavender from Church Street drew attention to a petition, signed by 50 residents of Church Street, against the development on Belle Hill.

Mr Lavender is particularly concerned at the current level of car emissions on Church Street – and the potential increase this development would cause.

He drew attention to a recent World Health Organisation report which drew attention to air pollution as a greater threat than ebola or HIV. And also a study published in the Lancet that showed that living near heavy traffic increases the risk of dementia.

Mr Lawrence said: “You, as a committee, cannot approve this application unless there is a way to divert the traffic away from Church Street.”

The second condition called for by the committee is for section 106 highways money to be used to improve safety on Church Street, for example the installation of a safer crossing at the junction with Belle Vue Road or a lollipop person being reinstated for school children.

Several residents raised concerns for road safety, particularly on Church Street. Jean Anderson of Church Street called on the committee to consider the children. Particularly those who walk to and from the primary school every day immersed in car fumes. She highlighted the dangerous crossing at the intersection of Church Street and Wallingford Road – a crossing once manned by a lollipop lady during the school run – but recently cut by Devon County Council. She also noted the dangers of children crossing to enter and exit Duncombe Park.

“The fumes are horrendous – I no longer hang my washing on the line because of them,” Jean added.

Margaret Halliday, also of Church Street said: “I don’t see how we can cope. There’s often a traffic jam outside of my house, and in the holiday season it’s appalling.”

Justin Dodge, director of Westcountry Land & Homes, addressed concerns about the traffic levels on Church Street. He explained that impact of this development won’t cause a “significant increase, because there’s an existing problem”- and explained the survey conducted by Vectos, on behalf of Westcountry Land, was conducted in August because this “represents the highest levels of traffic in Kingsbridge” – an opinion disputed by murmurings in the public gallery.

The committee’s third condition was to meet with the applicant’s landscape architect to discuss landscaping on the site. One member of the public described the design as “most inconsiderate”, and described the impact it will have on the access to Buckwell Close as “disgraceful”.

“These three-storey houses will be visible on the skyline of Kingsbridge and the LED street lights will appear to be in the sky to those living below the site,” he added.

The fourth condition of the committee was that the £300 sustainable travel vouchers – planned to be offered to every new home – should be invested in a bus service taking residents form the development into the town so as to ease congestion in the town.

The fifth condition of the committee’s support was that reassurance of the impact on the town’s drainage, both the surface water drains and the potential for flooding, as well as South West Water’s plans for sewage in the town.

Barry Day from Wallingford Road raised concerns with the plans for attenuation tanks, and theIR potential to create greater risk of flooding if not maintained, for example if leaves weren’t cleaned out in the autumn. He also highlighted that the plans for the tanks to drain into the stream at the bottom of Duncombe Street is flawed, as the stream has flooded in the past.

One issue that arose several times throughout the meeting was the fear that the developer would challenge the section 106 money and particularly, the agreement for 30 per cent affordable homes through a ‘viability report’ after permission had been granted.

Cllr Griffin said: “Our local development plan states that any development should have a minimum of 30 percent affordable homes. You’re not too blame for the sins of your kind. But are you making a firm commitment to 30 percent affordable homes and is the layout and content of the section 106 agreement fixed?”

Mr Dodge assured the committee and public that the section 106 agreement would be honoured.

Mr Dodge said: “These figures have been agreed in advance and are honourable. Unlike other planning applications, the section 106 money is bound in the application.”

“I think that if a site cannot deliver a certain level of affordable homes, it should be left as a green field,” Mr Dodge added.

The decision is expected to be ratified at next week’s Kingsbridge Town Council meeting in the Council Chamber at Quay House, at 7pm on Tuesday, March 14.

The application can be seen and commented on the South Hams District Council planning website, using the reference number 0299/17/OPA.