Blanksmill Creek

The Application to build at Blanksmill Creek ‘withdrawn’ – But….

There was almost unanimous community opposition to the proposal to build a barn at the head of the iconic and unspoiled Blanksmill Creek, in the heart of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). I am delighted that the contentious Application has been withdrawn.

But there is a sting in the ‘tail’. The Applicant is now seeking planning permission for ‘general purpose agricultural building’ a short distance away from the creek, but again, in a highly visible location next to Ilton Copse (potentially Ancient Woodland), much of which was recently felled* by the Applicant. The SHDC Planning Officer Amanda Burden is currently considering the application, which can be see on the Council’s Planning File here

A Highly Protected area

Surprisingly, it seemed the Applicant was not fully aware that development is either prohibited or very highly restricted in the nationally protected landscape areas surrounding the proposed Blanksmill Creek site.

South Devon AONB harmed

Almost all consultees and interested third parties believed the development represented an unwelcome intrusion into an undeveloped open field countryside location within the South Devon AONB and the Undeveloped Coast. It would have introduced a built form within a highly protected, sensitive rural and estuary location, which would have caused harm to the sensitive land and waterscape of the unspoiled and very tranquil creek.

Would not ‘Protect and Enhance’

The development would have failed to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and special qualities of the South Devon AONB and would have conflicted with the aims and objectives of Local Planning Policies DEV23 (Landscape character), DEV24 (Undeveloped coast and Heritage Coast) and DEV25 (Nationally protected landscapes) of the adopted Joint Local Plan (JLP) and would have been contrary to the guidance contained within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) including, but not limited to, paragraphs 170 and 172. The proposed site is adjacent to the Salcombe and Kingsbridge Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest.

‘Contradictions!’

The independent Agricultural Need Assessment undertaken for the SHDC supports the need for storage for the holding. But it also noted that there is a ‘slight contradiction’ in what the Applicant claims the land is to be used for.

The Assessor also stated that he would prefer an ‘open-sided’ building, but left all the “other consultees” to comment on the visual impact of the building on the landscape!

Hiding the Harm

Belatedly, and following substantive planning objections from the SHS the AONB Unit, the Parish Council and many in the local community, the Applicant recognised the restrictions to development at this sensitive and protected water side location. The Applicants proposed additional screening measures in an effort to hide, or mitigate, the visual harms the proposed development would have undoubtedly caused. They also had already acknowledged that “built forms seldom have positive effects” on the existing open landscape.

Hiding the harm causes harm!

There comes a point where the measures proposed to hide the harms caused by development , to the protected land and waterscape , itself becomes so intrusive that it completely changes the nature of the area, and therefore undermines the very landscape designations that led to their protected status in the first place.

Planting schemes can change the Designated Landscape

During the Lyte Lane West Charleton Planning Appeal, that Applicants had argued that the visual harm that would have been caused to the AONB by a proposed development, to the farmland and highly protected countryside, could be reduced by sympathetic design, and that planting schemes would ‘improve’ the landscape. The South Hams Society and District Council disputed those claims, the Planning Inspector supported their views and the Appeal was refused. AP1128/W/18/3208541P/K– Land to East of Lyte Lane, West Charleton, Kingsbridge, TQ7 2BP

Here is the Lyte Lane Letter of Representation drafted by Ian Bryan and sent to the Planning Appeal Inspector:

Here is the Letter of Representation about the Blanksmill Planning Application, drafted by Ian Bryan for the South Hams Society, which was sent to the SHDC.

Here is the South Hams District Council’s (SHDC) Planning File:   http://apps.southhams.gov.uk/PlanningSearchMVC/Home/Details/193911

* Below are comments made by the Forestry Commission representative (Fri, 31 Jul 2020) about the felling of most of Ilton Copse:

Ilton Copse: Our staff visited the site a few weeks after the first report, due to lockdown restrictions. Felling and digging work had occurred in the woodland. Due to the size of the trees felled and lack of evidence on site, the amount felled was judged to be on the margin of licensable volumes. We understand that the owner has confirmed their intention to allow the trees and vegetation to grow back and, notwithstanding the disturbance to soils, our staff have seen the evidence that regrowth is occurring. Therefore we do not currently anticipate taking this any further using our powers under the Forestry Act. The owner and agent have been made aware of the need to apply for a licence for any more felling work in the copse over the thresholds set out in the felling regulations.

Questions remain around the purpose and permissions relating to the digging and levelling within the woodland but these activities are not covered by the Forestry Act so our staff have referred this question back to the Local Planning Authority.  

We have looked at the new planning application which has been submitted by the landowner. This application states:  

“The proposed site benefits from an existing hedgerow boundary to the east and west and an existing copse to the south, which will be retained and enhanced. The north, east and west sides will be bordered with a Devon hedgebank and standard trees which will provide additional landscaping to the site as well as creating a definitive boundary for the new yard. It is also proposed to plant woodland on the east and west sides of the new site which will link the existing copse/woodland and provide additional screening to the site,”  

We are intending to comment on this application to ensure that the local planning authority has a record of our actions and observations in relation to this woodland when they make their decision.

“We can see that there is potential for this woodland to be ancient due to its shape and historic maps recording its presence; the ground flora is disturbed so less indicative. This woodland may be identified during the national review of the Ancient Woodland Inventory which is taking place currently and therefore it is possible that it will be added to the register in the future. Our response to the planning application will therefore draw attention to the Forestry Commission’s and Natural England’s joint standing advice on ancient woodland.”

Friends of South Hams now await the SHDC decision. We will keep you informed about what is happening.

FOSH © 2021

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