Town centres cannot provide enough homes for East Devon's housing growth needs

    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 inc. the Magnolia Centre, Exmouth.

    FUTURE HOUSING GROWTH

    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.
    Tuesday’s East Devon District Council Strategic Planning Committee though heard that in the eight main towns in the district, 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 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.
    Cllr Mike Howe suggested that a complete redevelopment scheme for Exmouth’s Magnolia Shopping Centre, using money that the council has been awarded as part of the Levelling Up Fund, was one such suggestion that could provide a significant number of houses inside the town centres, as well as helping to redevelop areas.
    The Levelling Up Fund is currently open for applications of up to £20 million to regenerate and improve High Streets in places like Exmouth, and the new Government fund builds on the work of smaller schemes which predate the pandemic, including the Future High Streets Fund.
    Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, had said: “I have spoken up for Exmouth in Parliament and now funding which can be used to develop plans to improve our town is on the way. East Devon District Council needs to submit a strong bid to be considered for up to £20 million for Exmouth’s High Street. I hope the council will work with me to grasp this opportunity for the good of our town.”
    Under the Welcome Back Fund, which aims to prepare towns for the safe return of shoppers and tourists, East Devon District Council will also 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 Howe added: “We know the Levelling Up fund is open to us and we have seed money to put together a plan for Exmouth, and I have always thought the Magnolia Centre needs a bulldozer and a redevelopment. If you did that properly and did it well, you would have lovely office and shopping units and then like Princesshay in Exeter, 3/4/5 stories of flats above.
    “It would be getting people living in the centre and working in the centre, so I think we need to be ambitious on this and don’t think that the full impacts of the Levelling Up fund have been added to the equation and we need to use it, and we do have the MPs support, so we have to get a move on.
    “500 homes for Exmouth on that Magnolia site would be lovely and wouldn’t it just do the goods for the town centre? I think we can achieve more than the numbers here but need to look more cleverly.”
    Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the council, said that there was a meeting between senior members and MPs on April 14 to talk about how to work together with the Levelling Up fund, and added: “The idea of the Magnolia Centre is fantastic and anything we can do with the opportunities to maximise the use of the footprint is a really smart idea, and that would be promising.”
    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.
     
    THE LIST OF POTENTIAL SITES THAT COULD IN THEORY BE DEVELOPED FOR HOUSING WITHIN EXISTING TOWN CENTRES
      
    BUDLEIGH SALTERTON (10 homes)

    Land forming part of former railway line, Knowle, Budleigh Salterton – 10 homes

     
    CRANBROOK (0 homes)

    No sites considered suitable

     
    EXMOUTH (427 homes)

    Car park at Margret St/north of Lower Fore Street – 20 homes
    Vacant/underused land north of Fore Street – 20 homes
    Open space south of Kay Close – 6 homes
    Green Close northern triangle area – 5 homes
    Green Close southern triangle area – 5 homes
    Open land west of Bradham Lane – 6 homes
    Open land alongside Moorfield Road – 5 homes
    Land at Burnside – 5 homes
    Open land north of Jubilee Drive – 20 homes
    Open space at junction of Bradham Lane and Salterton Road – 10 homes
    Open space west of The Green/at Lestock Close – 6 homes
    Open space area east of The Green /south of Village Close – 5 homes
    Former waste tip site west of Dinan Way – 110 homes
    Withycombe Health Centre – 5 homes
    Vacant/underused industrial premises western side of Pankhurst Close – 42 homes
    Green space north west of the end of Liverton Close – 5 homes
    Open space north of St John’s Road – 7 homes
    Open space area west of Fraser Road – 9 homes
    Open space area south of Fraser Road – 5 homes
    Open space area at Cedar Close – 5 homes
    Open space area east of Jubilee Drive – 5 homes
    Play area at the end of Betjeman Drive – 5 homes
    Open space area at Jubilee Close – 5 homes
    Former industrial site on Albion Hill – 12 homes
    British Red Cross Hall South Street Exmouth EX8 2SA – 5 homes
    28 Cranford Avenue Exmouth EX8 2PZ – 20 homes
    22 And 24 Albion Hill Exmouth EX8 1JS – 14 homes
    Land at Withycombe Brook, Exmouth – 50 homes
    Buildings at the Deaf Academy – 30 homes

     
    HONITON (74 homes)

    Land at Dower Street, west of Lee Close development and south of A30 – 5 homes
    Garages south of Pale Gate, Honiton – 5 homes
    Former Millwater School, Honiton Bottom Road – 23 homes
    Garage block at northern end of Marker Way – 5 homes
    Land adjoining and north of beggars Lane – 13 homes
    Triangular grass area south of Monkton Road adjacent to Harts garage  – 5 homes
    Land north of Chapel Street – 18 homes

     
    OTTERY ST MARY (20 homes)

    Car Park and land off Brook Street, EX11 1EZ – 5 homes
    Field adjacent to Cadhay Lane, EX11 1QZ – 5 homes
    Field adjacent to Longdogs Close, EX11 1JN – 5 homes
    Old Fire Station, Batts Lane, EX11 1EY – 5 homes

     
    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

     
    SIDMOUTH (40 homes)

    Grass area west of Fairmead road – 5 homes
    Land at Alexandria Trading Estate – 10 homes
    Land north of Peasland road – 15 homes
    Sidmouth Health Centre – 10 homes
     

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