Football Club Development
FOOTBALL CLUB DEVELOPMENT
Earlier this month the Forum received a response to its appeal to the Department for Communities and Local Government concerning the planning consent granted by Exeter City Council to Yelverton Properties to build multi-storey purpose-built blocks to provide accommodation for 312 students on the Football Club/Yeo and Davey site and a further 15 students above a retail unit on Old Tiverton Road. To the disappointment of the local community the Secretary of State decided not to call in this application in order to determine, himself, whether it should be refused or given consent, leaving residents bewildered and demoralised and asking the question, why did we bother with the Neighbourhood Plan?
The Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan was developed by local residents with the support and guidance of Exeter City Council to ensure, through the planning process, the protection of the community from the increasing social imbalance caused by an ever-growing student population. Passed by a 92% yes vote in the referendum of 2013 it was given statutory force when adopted by Exeter City Council as part of the Local Development Plan. It is therefore both surprising and perplexing that the key policy of the Neighbourhood Plan – community balance – should have been given little weight when consent for the Football Club development was approved; a decision which, according to the Council’s own figures, will increase the student population in St James to 57%.
It is important to emphasise that contrary to what has been reported elsewhere the Secretary of State’s decision not to call in the application does not amount to approval but, rather, that it should be a matter determined at local level. In light of this, and the Housing and Planning Minister’s assertion that local planning is for local people to decide and that communities views should not be sidelined, the Forum has had to consider carefully what steps, if any, to take in defence of the Neighbourhood Plan. Having taken initial legal and professional advice which was considered at a meeting of the core Steering Group, including Resident Association representatives and also members of the Planning and Design Panel, it was agreed unanimously to instigate a legal review of the Planning Committee decision.
A precursor to judicial review, a Pre-Action Protocol (PAP) letter has been drafted and sent to Exeter City Council which sets out the issues in dispute. A response is anticipated within two weeks. It is the Forum’s earnest hope that matters can be resolved by discussion and negotiation and that, the last resort, litigation can be avoided. The matter now rests with the Council. Should it become necessary to proceed to judicial review it will be necessary to raise money to cover the potentially considerable costs involved. The Steering Group is currently in the process of exploring how this will be achieved.
See a copy of the PAP letter here.
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