Posted: 06.04.21 at 09:54 by Daniel Clark - Local Democracy Reporter
Most of East Devon’s future housing growth will have to be built on sites outside of existing town centres, councillors have been told, although there is potential for 55 new homes in Seaton.
With the council currently producing a new Local Plan, an Urban Capacity Study was commissioned to assess the potential for development within existing town centres.
Areas identified in Seaton included Seaton Town Football Club’s ground, the community hospital and the former St John’s Ambulance Depot (see full list below), although this does not mean planning permission will be granted for these sites.
East Devon District Council Strategic Planning Committee heard last week that, in the district’s eight main towns, a maximum of 766 homes could theoretically be built, less than the 928 currently required by government to be built each year.
The meeting heard that most of the housing would have to come from sites outside of town centres, although increases in home working and the resultant repurposing of office space for residential use was something that may be possible in future.
And the committee said that, in future, developments will probably have to be of a higher density than they currently are; the solution in some cases to build up rather than out, and that further exploration is needed on how the redevelopment of some town centres areas can be achieved.
Ed Freeman, service lead for planning strategy and development management, said that the aim of the Urban Capacity Study was to get an understanding of how many possible housing sites with a capacity of five homes or greater may be located within already urban areas.
He said: “It would be ideal to meet the needs from brownfield sites but sadly it is not going to be anywhere near possible based on our assessment. We have looked at what is physically and practically possible but not the willingness of landowners and details of layout of sites.
“There is a potential supply of 766 homes and that is a maximum as some may never come forward as there may not be a willing landowner or more specific constraints than the high level assessment suggests.
"It can form a component of housing supply going forward, won’t be a significant element.”
Cllr Olly Davey said that it was a salutary reminder that the council cannot rely on areas inside built-up boundaries to meet the housing needs, commenting: “This is 766 in total, not per year, as if it was, we wouldn’t have a problem. People want to see towns developed before open countryside is, but we have to recognise that may not satisfy all our future housing needs.”
Cllr Eleanor Rylance said that there would be a need for higher density living in urban areas in the future.
She added: “If we don’t have the land, then the only solution is to go up, and Britain has to get used to living in flats. Crucially, it stops town centres from dying out as there are people around to use the businesses, as without it, a lot of the shops won’t recover.”
The urban capacity study identified all undeveloped land within the study area, although the vast majority of the sites, such as playing fields, leisure facilities, and green spaces were discounted due to their recreational importance, and were only included for completeness rather than any indication they were being considered.
Mr Freeman told the meeting that inclusion within this final list of sites should not be considered a substitute for planning permission and the study makes no judgement on whether permission would be granted, adding that it was likely that some sites included will not be appropriate for development as a result of detailed factors not assessed though the remit of the study.
A total of 60 sites in the eight main towns were identified through the study, including four in Seaton, with a capacity for a total of 766 homes to be built, but Mr Freeman added: “Even in the unlikely event that all of these sites were brought forward, the potential supply of 766 homes represents significantly less than one years housing supply coming from land within the existing built up area boundaries of the towns.
“A proactive approach to their delivery is likely to be highly resource intensive and is potentially fraught with difficulties in terms of tracking down and approaching owners to discuss these sites without being seen to be encouraging an application that may ultimately not be accepted.
“The work is however useful evidence to inform plan production and also any estimate of the likely numbers of windfall sites that may come forward in the future.”
Cllr Kevin Blakey put forward a recommendation that members note the limited capacity available within the existing built-up area boundaries of the main towns and the potential need to find land outside of these areas to meet the future development needs of the district when other opportunities are exhausted, which was unanimously accepted by the committee.
The meeting also agreed to the provisional timetable to produce a new draft local plan, with the aim to be for committee consideration in December 2021.
The list of potential sites that could be developed for housing within existing town centres in future included the following:
SEATON (55 homes)
• Former St Johns Ambulance Depot – 8 homes
• Seaton Town FC Football Ground – 28 homes
• Grass triangular area beyond the eastern end of Summersby Close – 5 homes
• Seaton Community Hospital – 14 homes
AXMINSTER (140 homes)
• Land At Millbrook Valley, Stoney Lane, Axminster, south of Hallets Way – 10 homes
• Axe Vale Social Club, Chard Street, Axminster – 5 homes
• Land off and north of St Andrews Drive – 10 homes
• Land off St David’s Close/St David’s Drive – 5 homes
• Former football pitch site at Millwey – 30 homes
• Millwey Community Gardens and Community Centre – 15 homes
• Land south of Monkstone and west of St Mary’s Church – 10 homes
• Land to the east of Lyme Close – 5 homes
• Parking courtyard and garages at Ridgway Court – 5 homes
• Axminster Community Hospital site – 10 homes
• Land north of cemetery at Millwey – 10 homes
• Websters Garage site and adjoining land and buildings – 25 homes
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