Potential housing development sites in Honiton town centre identified

  Posted: 01.04.21 at 10:54 by Daniel Clark

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Possible sites for new homes to be built in Honiton have been identified, as part of a study on housing development across the East Devon district.

The Urban Capacity Study was commissioned to look into the potential for small numbers of new builds in or near town centres.

It has been proposed that Honiton accommodates 74 new homes.

Below is a list of potential sites that could be developed for housing within the town centre:

• Land at Dower Street, west of Lee Close development and south of A30 – five homes

• Garages south of Pale Gate – five homes

• Former Millwater School, Honiton Bottom Road – 23 homes

• Garage block at northern end of Marker Way – five homes

• Land adjoining and north of beggars Lane – 13 homes

• Triangular grass area south of Monkton Road adjacent to Harts garage – five homes

• Land north of Chapel Street – 18 home

Most of East Devon’s future housing growth will have to be built on sites outside of existing town centres, councillors have been told.

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.

The Government currently requires 928 new homes to be built across East Devon every year, and the study concluded that a maximum of 766 of these could theoretically be built in town centre sites – with 74 envisaged in Honiton.

The committee agreed that there would be a need to find ‘substantial’ land outside the built-up boundaries of the district’s eight main towns (Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Exmouth, Honiton, Axminster, Seaton, Budleigh Salterton and Cranbrook) to meet the district’s future development needs.

The meeting heard therefore that most of the housing would have to come from sites outside of town centres, although increases in home working and thus the repurposing of office space for residential is something that may come forward further down the line.

And the committee said that in future, developments will probably have to be of a higher density than they currently are, and with the solution in some cases to build up rather than out, and that further work needs to be explored as to how redevelopment of some town centres areas can be achieved.

Under the Welcome Back Fund, which aims to prepare towns for the safe return of shoppers and tourists, East Devon District Council is set to receive £230,992 from the Government.

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 cannot rely on going inside the built-up boundary to meet the housing needs, adding: “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 is going to need to be higher density living in urban areas in the future.

She said: “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.”

Cllr Kevin Blakey put forward a recommendation that 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 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, with a capacity for 766 homes to be built on them, 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.”

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.

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