Village Life -v- Future Development
Many people favour living in a picturesque, rural village nestled in surrounding countryside with only the amenities of a village shop, post office, school, pub, hall and church. Clyst St Mary is a village where some historic areas have barely changed since late-medieval times but the settlement has expanded and progressed to incorporate the demands of the 21st century. It is often described as a rural idyll, offering a different lifestyle than that experienced in the nearby urban City of Exeter. The old village is portrayed as charming and rustic.
New contemporary designs show a progressive quality that coexists with the more traditional standards of the settlement. It remains unpretentious but with a modern, caring and vibrant neighbourhood. This community has recently embraced considerable, sustainable housing development with the building of almost 100 new residences (a substantial quantity for a modest-sized village) to support East Devon Local Plan growth policies to 2031. However, the Local Plan also includes a further 150 dwellings allocated on brownfield land at Winslade Park awaiting planning approval, which totals approximately 250 new homes. Although it is appreciated that people need somewhere to live, such high numbers in one village go beyond growth recommendations in the Local, Villages and Neighbourhood Plans.
Crucially, there are also fears that proposals in the Draft Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) for substantial future development along the A3052 around Westpoint at Clyst St Mary will sound the death knell for this historic Devon village, with the creation of, perhaps, another new town similar to Cranbrook or building a large suburb of Exeter or a sizeable extension to the existing settlement, all of which could result in the destruction of the village identity.
The entire GESP area incorporates Exeter City, Teignbridge, Mid Devon and East Devon with a vision for the provision of new homes, jobs and infrastructure for existing and future generations while protecting and enhancing the environment. Ideally, each area would share growth, avoiding one locality being burdened by substantial, unsustainable over-development. However, concerns are not alleviated by recent comments made by East Devon planners declaring that some communities will be detrimentally impacted by proposed GESP large scale growth recommendations, e.g. ‘…in most cases growth would have to be quite substantial to make it viable to deliver the required services and facilities to make the settlement suitably sustainable for growth and in the process could harm the character of the village and the existing community.’
http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/2581497/040918strategicplanningcombinedagenda.pdf – (Strategic Planning Committee report – 4th September 2018, page 24, Item 9.1). Furthermore, at the full Council meeting in October 2018 in answer to a question as to why East Devon is taking a disproportionate share of development (58% more than Exeter, 53% more than Teignbridge and nearly three times that of Mid Devon according to independent analysis conducted by CPRE), a local politician replied: “Because we have the land and we are good at it.”
Exeter City Council has just unveiled their 20-year vision for the city, which includes 12,000 new homes, cultural centres, ‘a garden bridge’ across the Exe and the creation of a comprehensive cycle and pedestrian network to tackle traffic congestion. However, with a target of 53,200 homes proposed for the Greater Exeter areas and the propulsion for substantial business growth, surely the communities within East Devon should equally have sight of the development proposals for their localities? For example, the present Exeter Sowton Park and Ride site appears to show future development – so where will the new replacement Park and Ride facilities be located to serve Exeter? To date, representatives from East Devon local authority, business communities and growth partnerships have maintained exclusivity regarding the proposals for the GESP large allocation sites offered by landowners for future major development. Will there be a general release to the public of this restricted information before the Local Elections in May 2019? The electorate may be reluctant to vote for expansive commercial and housing proposals that would destroy or detrimentally alter their community. Consequently, it might be thought unwise to acquaint the populace at this time with extensive GESP growth recommendations for fear that they would be judged undesirable. Although, there will, of course, be statutory public consultation on such vast development proposals under GESP but not until after the Local Elections!
In reality, Clyst St Mary’s portrayal as an idealised village is not entirely accurate and the images here bear testimony to the daily traffic congestion which reaches unacceptable levels, where the A376 and A3052 converge at the bottleneck that is the Clyst St Mary roundabout.
At present, large volumes of HGVs serving the extensive business expansions at Hill Barton and Greendale Industrial Estates, together with huge tractors and trailers importing and exporting to an ever-increasing sized anaerobic digester, thunder through the village! Coupled with significant large levels of commuter and tourist traffic they create safety issues for residents (especially young children) accessing the village primary school, shop, village hall and play park via the toucan crossing on the A3052. Regrettably, the pedestrian footbridge is unsuitable for many users and is generally in a state of disrepair! Only last year a resident sustained serious injuries crossing the A3052 in the village after being knocked down by a speeding car during daylight hours! Fortunately, there appears to be current medium-sized road improvements planned around the Clyst St Mary roundabout and Junction 30 of the M5 in the near future.
However, it is considered that the crucial, major road network advancement necessary in this area at present and for any future development expansion may not be forthcoming in the current uncertain and fragile financial climate. It is unacceptable for developers to build sizeable residential and business developments that access a substandard, mediocre road network. There is gridlock with the present peak time traffic let alone any future requirements. Planning cycle tracks and park and ride facilities are positive approaches but may be inadequate ‘band-aid solutions’ that will not sufficiently tackle the root causes.