The plan of the meadows has sunk into the tall grass


The CONTROVERSIAL project to build houses on a prairie with a rare type of “rich in species” meadow suffered a setback.

At Tuesday’s Teignbridge Council Planning Committee meeting, detailed plans for 22 new homes on a Bovey Tracey site with a ‘rare’ meadow known as MG5 were rejected.

However, the building permit for the construction remains in place.

In 2018, plans for 30 homes to be built on land north of Indio House were denied, but were subsequently overturned on appeal by the plaintiff, KACH Developments.

Planning officials had recommended approval for the design of the 22 houses. The land use planning request – which is normally intended to approve the finer details of developments – was rejected on grounds relating to damage to the landscape and ecology.

The meeting turned into a feud over planning procedures and conflicting external opinions from the plaintiff and the opponents’ side.

The request had been deferred for a month to allow time for a site visit. Something the avid objector, Cllr Avril Kerswell was grateful to the planning officers.

She said: “Biodiversity should be at the forefront of our decision making… we need to protect this ecosystem.”

Cllr Kerswell took the opportunity to remind the committee that the district has declared a climate emergency.

However, planning officials and the applicant’s development consultant, Nicole Stacey, said the time to raise concerns about the prairie has passed, as blanket clearance has already been granted. “These issues are ‘not’ to be considered for this candidacy, said Nicole Stacey. In addition, the applicants’ own environmentalist claimed that the MG5 was in fact ‘not uncommon’ in Devon.

Cllr Andrew McGregor took aim at some of the green advice for development, which he frankly summed up as “dumb”.

Planning committee chair Cllr Mike Haines said that while he recognized that the site may well be rich habitat, there was no legal protection for the MG5 prairies per se.

He said: “I have read material from Natural England on how such a meadow can be legally protected.

“It can become a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), or it can be purchased by a trust or a wildlife stewardship program – but none of that has been done.”

Cllr George Gribble announced his objection to the project in line with concerns from Bovey Tracey city councils.

Councilor Jackie Hook agreed that while she had concerns about much of the request, the committee was required to follow the regulations, in light of the general permissions already granted. She stressed that refusing this request for reserved materials would not mean that development would not continue.

A first motion to reject the plans called by Cllr Kerswell was inconclusive, with seven votes for and seven against. However, Cllr Haines then called an alternative motion for approval of the plans which, oddly enough, ended with nine votes against, with five votes in favor.

President Mike Haines noted that this can sometimes be confusing, as members are asked to press the “yes” button in order to say “no” to a nomination.

The committee then recalled Cllr Kerswell’s motion to reject the plan which was passed with nine votes in favor of rejecting the plans.

The requester now has the option to appeal and / or come back with an updated request.

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Chris B. Hall

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