South Hams Society BULLETIN March 2008 The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the authors and are not necessarily to be taken as those of the South Hams Society. Chairman’s Message It is unlikely I shall be able to attend the forthcoming Annual General Meeting, so I am taking the opportunity to say a few words that I intended to say on the evening. I am standing down from the chair, although I will continue to serve on the committee: John Chalmers will be taking over, so I give him my very best wishes for a successful term in office. I am sure he will do well and that his committee will give him strong support and help and so enable the Society to grow from strength to strength. The last two years have been extremely busy, with an inordinate number of challenging planning and development applications and appeals for us to grapple with, but by and large we are pleased but far from complacent. It was gratifying to note that in the inspector’s report on the “Overcombe” appeal we (the Society) were mentioned in dispatches! I want to thank the committee for their support, expertise, creativity and enthusiasm; well done and my gratitude to you all. In particular the Society has reason to thank our retiring secretary Jennie Sprague who has been just wonderful, and at present it feels she is probably not replaceable. I also wish to single out John Chalmers your future chairman; his presence on our planning committee is invaluable. It is comforting indeed to have an architect on our committee. Situations Vacant We have had a pretty dramatic increase in membership numbers, coupled with offers to become involved in our work which is most gratifying and promising. Apologies are due to those new members who have indicated their willingness to become involved; we will be in touch shortly. We don’t just ‘do’ planning! However - we are at the time of writing, short on administrative help - with vacancies in the positions of Minutes Secretary, and Treasurer. All interested members should contact our membership secretary, Nicola Fox, for further information, on 01548-856510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org We are also four or five members short on the committee strength and if I were present at the meeting I would be getting you to raise your hand indicating a willingness to join ‘we happy few!’ Bequest to the Society We are grateful to one of our long-standing members for a recent generous bequest of £1,000. This was much appreciated, and a welcome addition to the Society’s funds. George Brownlee Kingsbridge Community Centre Following my article in our May bulletin last year and the reply by Jim Romanos of Kingsbridge Town Council it seems that things are now moving. A presentation by Jim Romanos and Robin Griffin of Kingsbridge Town Council on Monday 18 February outlined the progress made. The Community Centre will be a multi-use centre with high quality facilities for a variety of community services, gatherings and activities. This complies with the SHDC 2006 LDF Core Strategy for area centres such as Kingsbridge, which at present has inadequate community facilities It is proposed to site the centre behind the Quayside Leisure Centre. The Centre will include an underground 350 seat auditorium, a central “hub” café and other flexible multi-use spaces including a space for up to 150 diners. The Centre will have high quality visual and sound equipment, and wireless communications throughout. The Centre will be used for civic functions, social events, public meetings, performing arts and entertainment, exhibitions, educational events, family and youth activities, clubs and societies. There will be facilities for the disabled. A business plan is currently being developed. The Centre will accommodate parts of the Social Services of Devon County Council and the South Hams District Council. Other potential users include the National Health Primary Care Trust and the police. The Centre is expected to cost £3.2M. Funding totalling £3.0M is to be provided by Devon County Council and South Hams District Council. The remainder is to be sought by sponsorship from firms and private individuals. It is expected to open the Centre in 2010. Architects Kensington Taylor have been appointed and hope to complete an outline planning application by May this year. John Watling Latest Gara Rock Hotel plans win parish council support Fresh proposals to rebuild the Gara Rock Hotel, which was demolished in 2006 amid acrimonious arguments between local residents, landscape protection groups and the developers, have finally won approval from East Portlemouth Parish Council. A majority of councillors agreed in February that the latest design – plus the potential economic benefit to the area from a new complex of hotel rooms, holiday apartments and rental cottages - largely offset concerns about the visual impact of the building on the south Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. South Hams District Council, which has the final say over the latest Gara Rock planning application, is expected to make its decision in March. The developers, Aminghurst Ltd, dropped controversial plans to build a glass-fronted two-storey building on the most prominent part of the site after they provoked a storm of protest at a public meeting last year. This west wing was dubbed “a BMW car showroom” by some critics. Instead, Aminghurst now propose that the west wing should be a stone-clad single storey building, housing a bar and restaurant that will be open to the public as well as guests, along with some of the planned 14 hotel suites. Critics continue to worry about the height of the west wing, which will be taller than the old hotel roof and visible from the sea and stretches of the coastal footpath. They are also concerned about the visual impact of an entirely new terrace of five cottages that is due to be constructed to the east of the hotel. The developers say the cottages are needed to increase the range of holiday accommodation on offer which, together with the mix of hotel rooms and 14 apartments, will make the whole development more commercially viable. The National Trust, which had been a vocal opponent of earlier plans, questioned the need for increased tourist accommodation in a letter to the district council in January. News that the parish council backed the current plan is the latest twist in a long-running saga about the future of the hotel, which was originally converted from a row of 19th century coastguard cottages. Two previous planning applications from Aminghurst were rejected by South Hams councillors because of their visual impact on the AONB. Both an approved plan for the re-development of the site and last year’s controversial proposal for a two-storey west wing have now been withdrawn. Rowena House WIND TURBINES The Goveton view As I stand outside the porch of St Peter’s Church, Buckland-tout-Saints and look west I see the green fields above the village of Goveton. Today it is an idyllic view but if Cornwall Light and Power’s appeal for three wind turbines is successful this is where they will tower over the landscape. We locals feel like David fighting Goliath as we struggle to raise enough to pay for professionals to put our objections to the Inspector. What are those objections? We are not against renewable energy – in fact we ourselves have solar tubes for our hot water, solar panels for our pool and a weather system to record temperatures, rain and wind speeds. The three turbines will be over 300 feet to the top of the propellers, totally out of scale with natural features like trees, and man-made ones like churches. They will be two and a half times as high as the communication tower at Halwell and more than three times as high as Malborough church spire. Such high towers with turning blades, built on the ridge, will be a focal point for miles around, visible from Dartmoor to the north and the sea to the south. They will be seen all over the South Hams, from Salcombe, Thurlestone, Portlemouth and Kingsbridge. They will tower over Pasture Coombe and Borough Farms, both within 550 metres. To protect our beautiful natural environment it has been identified as an area of Great Landscape Value. Much of the land in the South Hams including the Avon valley just 500 yards away is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Devon Structure Plan states that turbines should be built in the north of the county and not south of the A38. If these are allowed at appeal we all know there will be more to follow. The noise of the turbines will be suffered by the nearby properties and in East Allington when the prevailing wind blows from the South West. Studies have shown that the noise affects concentration and sleep and is damaging for the young and old. When the sun shines there will be flicker from the propellors creating shadows. It would be easier to accept the visual intrusion, the noise and flicker if the turbines were reliable sources of large amounts of electricity. In fact they produce power for only 25% of the time and there are much windier parts of the country than this. In order to provide constant electricity the power stations have to be kept fired up whether or not there are turbines. The Buckland-tout- Saints Association was formed when the first application was made in 2005. SHDC has turned down two applications from the wealthy power company with its off-shore backers. Government policy makes turbines so profitable at our expense Cornwall Light and Power have every reason to press ahead with their appeal. We meet regularly to prepare our case, working closely with the planning officers at SHDC. Having identified that we need professional help from experts on noise, historical landmarks, landscape architecture and lawyers, we are now raising funds to pay them. The inquiry is likely to last several days so we are aiming to find £30,000. Do come and join us at the Buckland-tout-Saints Hotel on Friday 28th March with the Kingsmen and a light supper. Tickets (£12.50) are available from Caroline Percival on 01548 550157. Donations in favour of BTSA can be sent to the Treasurer at Garden Cottage, Buckland Court, Goveton, Kingsbridge TQ7 2DG. Rosalind Spears And on the other hand ... We are now living in totally unprecedented times – the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and will flood our coastal towns and villages and the temperature is rising, yet there are people in the South Hams who are just concerned about whether a wind turbine “looks” OK, or whether it will spoil their view. Obtaining our electricity from wind turbines is but one of a whole host of actions we simply have to do to try and slow down this overwhelming issue of climate change that is gathering speed. There is no sound argument against putting up some wind turbines that will produce for us clean, carbon-free electricity for the next 25 years or so. Regarding their efficiency, these machines make electricity out of fresh air, show me another machine that can do that. We have to act now and focus on the big picture. Don’t listen to or read myths about wind turbines, find out the facts – such as the local residents of Swaffham, Norfolk who liked having a wind turbine in their town so much they asked the developers to build them another one, which is now up and running, producing over 75% of Swaffham’s total home electricity requirements. And these are not small turbines, they are both among the largest in Europe. Go and see one, sit under it, find out for yourself, there are plenty in Cornwall. They are simply not noisy. We have no choice, for the sake of our children and of the landscape we so admire, let us do our bit to try and protect it. Doing nothing is not an option. John Clift The scientist says (in a letter to the Planning Inspector) ... I am staggered to hear that this proposal to erect 3 wind turbines at Goveton has come back yet again. As a government representative I urge you not to be swayed by the IPCC report. That it says officially that man’s profligate use of dirty power is causing climate change in no way diminishes the case against the siting of this wind farm. As a past member of Sir John Houghton’s Climate Change Committee I am not surprised by any of the news that man has triggered climate change. We all knew this years ago within the science community and our report for the London Flood Committee resulted in the Thames Barrier. The mistake comes in allowing the saving of CO2 to bend our thinking away from proper planning of the way forward rather than piecemeal bandwagon projects such as this one. There is a fundamental flaw in much of what is being discussed concerning the benefits of wind energy. Although we do want to offset our production of CO2 by clean generating systems it is a fallacy to suggest that wind is other than neutral in its savings owing to the need to maintain base load power stations, in other words a standby to be able to take up the shortfall at times of no generation. This is because you cannot “save” electricity without some sort of battery and a wind generator may have to be turned off even when the wind is blowing if there is too much power in the grid or wind-speed is too great. CO2 is also used in the construction of the generator. The real value of wind generation is not in saving CO2 in its own right but in saving fossil fuels being used in other plant. It is government that is hiding behind the CO2 debate. Climate change is with us now and any saving of CO2 even by the UK plc is not likely to be effective for inside 100 years even if the rest of the world halts increase in economic development and the production of CO2. What government is trying to do is to switch our power away from fossil fuels – very laudable – but not in itself a pill so easily swallowed by the general public as suggesting we can protect our grandchildren from climate change. The latter being a taxation opportunity that the public can be persuaded to swallow. At present government sees an opportunity to collect tax on every breath that we exhale – namely CO2. Wind is a heavily subsidised form of generation and this makes it look viable. Certainly both the generating company and the landowner are likely to make money but in terms of the saving of fossil fuel the contribution by these 3 enormous pylon generators at Goveton is negligible alongside the impact on the landscape. Although not in the AONB they will be destructive to the landscape of the AONB, which has been designated as an important National Resource. There is no case for undermining the national stock of AONB areas for what is purely a commercial money spinner and which makes no contribution to UK base load generating capacity. The change of use of properties should apply to agricultural land. Those of us who are not farmers would be subject to stringent planning requirements and highly questioned if a proposal effected even a small proportion of the local population let alone running against the policy of AONB designation. In this instance the effect is apparent for miles and should not be allowed in our small country when there are alternative methods of satisfying the generation policy. As a past member of the Severn Barrage Committee and chairman of the Interdepartmental Environment Committee for Severn Barrage, I have experience of renewable energy developments. The problem with even tidal power is that impermanence of the generation timing means that such a generator does not replace the need for development of permanent base load generation. Unfortunately electricity costs in terms of price per unit are quoted for alternative forms of generation but written down to Treasury horizons of 20-25 years which militates against more capital intensive large schemes with long lead times. In these terms the cost per unit of wind looks a good investment as it can be built up piecemeal in lots of small schemes but unfortunately escapes the stringent environmental statements that large developments require. If examined over the full lifespan of 130 years then a scheme like the Severn becomes much more attractive. Unfortunately our national skills of planning have been passed to small planning departments all over the country, who suffer from the pressure brought on them by the large vested interests. I look to you as the inspector to demonstrate that I am wrong. I repeat that in the national perspective in reducing our CO2 emissions then the contribution from these wind generators is minuscule. Even the full Severn Barrage development only offsets 11% of our UK fossil fuel burning and tides are predictable! I urge you to protect the AONB and not to be swayed by short-term economic policy that damages the “natural beauty” of the South Hams and undermines the National Policy for AONB designation. J.C.Peters MA, C.Biol.,MIBiol. Mr Peters started his working life as Assistant Warden of Slapton Ley Field Studies Centre. He then held posts in the Nature Conservancy, Newcastle University, the Water Resources Board and DOE, finally heading the research programme in the Rural Affairs Directorate and initiating the Countryside Survey of 1990. Planning News Tesco Supermarket, Kingsbridge, Planning Application No. 2685/07/RM A final planning application has been submitted by Tesco to cover the conditions, known as Reserved Matters, put on the outline application approved by the Development Control Committee in March last year. The Reserved Matters include those discussed below. The proposed store is single story except for a mezzanine floor over a part of the storage area that is used for staff purposes. The areas of the store and the retail sales area are slightly less than the maxima permitted. To protect resident’s peace the opening hours are to be 08.00 to 20.00. It would be surprising if Tesco were content with this. Somerfield’s opening hours are 07.00 to 22.00 on weekdays and 10.00 to 16.00 on Sundays. Tesco state that delivery hours are to be 07.00 to 23.00. A noise survey is to be carried out to determine the impact on residents. Only one HGV is permitted to be on site at one time but where will vehicles wait when the delivery schedule is delayed? The external walls of Tesco’s store are shiny white and blue powder coated cladding. This material does not sit happily with Fore Street where slate and stone predominate. The drawings show large Tesco signs over the front and on the roof but our objective (unlike Tesco’s) must be to make such a large building fit in with the town landscape. The roof will be grey aluminium with north lights and considerable amounts of mechanical plant will probably be visible from the historic town centre. Good planting of the bank between the site and the top car park would provide an additional effective screen. The design of the pedestrian link to the top car park is now shown in detail - 51 steps for a rise of over 8 metres. A terrace and “child’s play area” is provided after 30 steps – seats for exhausted mothers might be more use. The ramp for mothers with prams and pushchairs and the disabled with wheel chairs is approximately 260 M long at a gradient of 1 in 15. Does this represent a satisfactory link to Fore Street ? We believe not. Some other method is required such as a travelator and a lift for the disabled to the mezzanine floor and a bridge to the top cark park. But will Tesco’s car parking policy allow you to leave your car, get to Fore Street, shop and return? A minimum time of 2.5 hours is required. SHDC has considered closing or relocating the toilets in the top car park, although they now say there is no intention to close them at present. If they did, Fore Street shoppers would have to walk down 51 steps or 300 metres down the ramps to use those in Tesco – and then climb and walk back. There are good reasons why councils should provide such facilities and not allow them taken over by corporations for their own commercial purpose. Finally there is a useful path from Church Steps through the site to Cookworthy Road which will be diverted along the front of the store. There would be advantage if direct access to it were provided from the long term car park planned on the Western Power site. Having obtained outline planning consent despite contravening local plans and national planning guidance, and against the wishes of many local people who fear for the future of their familiar shops and producers, we must help the Councillors and planners ensure that all the reserved matters are fully implemented. If these issues strike a chord with you we hope you will write to the SHDC to explain your position. The Thatches, Thurlestone The Thatches is a modest thatched 5-bedroom house with a large garden constructed in the early years of the last century. It is surrounded by a group of similar houses. A development company from Gloucestershire propose to demolish it and construct two large three storey detached houses on the site. The proposed houses have a footprint over twice the size of the Thatches, the aesthetics of a motel and all the paraphernalia of “modern” living including a “foyer for meet and greet use”, en-suite bedrooms and games rooms. This grandiose proposal, designed to maximise profit for a remote developer, overwhelms the site and is out of keeping with the surroundings. The SHDC has received over 50 letters of objection. The PC and the Society have objected. A notice posted around Thurlestone comments that this type of development already inflicted on Salcombe, is now coming to Thurlestone. However, the Overcombe appeal, described in our Chairman’s message, has shown that the opinion of local residents can count. Other planning applications Other applications that have been the subject of letters to the District Council include: Harbour Lights, Salcombe - a restrained development down the slope from Devon Road to Fore Street with, however, some significant design problems to overcome. Significantly it has been made by a resident who wishes to preserve the character of the town. Baptist Lane/Devon Road – over-development of a small site in the conservation area. Sandnes, Beadon – the application hardly provides enough information to make a secure decision, Waterside and 7, The Quay, both in Batson – both applications are for extended “garages and boat stores” much larger than the original they replace and in the case of Waterside with first floor sleeping and living accommodation and in the case of 7, The Quay capable of division into two storeys. We have also observed that there are an increasing number of applications to extend modest houses in tight plots so that neighbours lose views and are overlooked. Much of the extended space is used for ensuite bathrooms and dressing rooms – fashionable essentials of modern living. Examples include applications in Buckley St. and Bonaventure Road. The Planning Dilemma Top Neddy: Exactly where have you been hiding Godfrey? You seem to be always on leave or something when I want you to perform some vital action. Bottom Neddy: If I can remind you Sir, you sent me down to South Devon to find why people there are sending so many letters to the local District Council complaining about planning matters. TN: Yes I know that, but you have not as yet produced any definitive report. I sincerely hope you are not allowing yourself to be coerced by any developer. If you have by any chance been indiscreet, do please make certain that the press do not hear of it: our Minister is in enough trouble as it is. Our department, as you know, does not make errors of judgement, so do not make it harder for me to convince everyone that this is still the case. BN: If I may Sir, we have not made local people in the area at all happy with our late Minister’s rather patronising (or naïve) ideas on brownfield sites, affordable housing, extended communities and amenities and developers’ contributions to local housing finance, to say nothing about green energy. TN: Stop shilly shallying about; be specific Godfrey. BN: OK Sir. Local people object to the siting of huge wind driven electrical generators, of doubtful efficiency. They spoil their views and they have to pay higher prices for the electricity they produce. About 50% do not want another supermarket displacing the local shopkeepers who are their friends. They think out of town developers “buy” planning approvals for expensive and unsuitable flats with ridiculously small contributions to the local fund for affordable housing – which turns out to be unaffordable for those who need it. In short the local planning process is not responding to the local wish list. TN: Very well Godfrey, you have said enough. Now I should be obliged if you would go away and re-educate your informants. Go away and get on with it.