Wykeham Homes

Barnes Meadow Development

Inspite of strong local objections The Uplyme Parish Council recommended the go ahead of this development, originally for 44 houses. It was East Devon District Council who reduced it to 41.
On the left is Plot 21, a four bedroomed detached house on three floors. On the right is Plot 22, a three bedroomed thatched detached house occupying two floors. Reports suggest that this latter house is already occupied and the curtains and TV aerial confirm this.TV aerial, main terrace block comprising plots 33 to 40 is made up of eight three bedroomed town houses on two and three floors. A terrace of three thatched cottages being Plots 30,31 and 32, each having three but what was that in the glossy brochure about aerials? The rot has already set in. The main terrace block comprising plots 33 to 40 is made up of eight three bedroomed town houses on two and three floors.
Whatever criticisms were held by opponents to the development, it must be agreed that the overall village scene from a distance - here from Rhode Hill - is a vast improvement on the stark unimaginative row of houses of Whalley Lane, that hitherto stood out like a sore thumb (April 2004)
Run mouse over pictures to see description and click for larger picture.

Some Site History

Land Opposite the Devon Hotel

It only became known as Barnes Meadow in 2000 after the developer asked Uplyme Parish Council to suggest a name, they having rejected his Miller's Green. It remained a green oasis of 7.6 acres in the centre of the village warding off builders and developers with its instability and drainage problems resulting from it being on the convergence of the lias and greensand strata. Dormice and badgers thrived in this undisturbed haven together with any number of other inconspicuous and unrecorded species.

Wicken's Application

The land remained undeveloped, even though permission had been granted for two houses fronting Lyme Road/Venlake in 1984, when at the end of the 1980s the development company Wickens purchased the land. They duly made an outline planning application for 20 to 30 dwellings which was strongly opposed by the village including the parish council. The PC preferring to keep the field undeveloped. The planning authority, East Devon District Council, convinced that the site could not be developed without serious harm to the character and appearance of the area, fully accepted Uplyme's recommendation of refusal and the application was rejected.

Wickens appealed and to everyone's bitter disappointment the inspector granted outline permission to develop the land. Amongst the objections raised at the enquiry, the inspector's report refers to "..some people were concerned about possible harm to surrounding houses". Geotechnical experts, reported to the inspector, that the site was developable in part, albeit at extraordinary cost and that the western, more stable half was the best place to build. He understood the real concern about the development of open land in such an attractive village, but was not convinced that building dwellings here in the manner proposed would cause the amount of harm envisaged. The "manner proposed" is significant here for it refers to a development of 20 to 30 dwellings, ten years later the parish council was adamant that this outline planning permission left the number of dwellings undetermined. But with the passing of time when Wykeham made their application the number was, as we shall see, quite irrelevant.

Amongst the inspector's conditions was;

3. None of the existing trees on the site shall be felled or wilfully destroyed.

Furthermore condition 4 went into great detail as to what precautions must be taken to protect these trees and their roots, specifically regarding fencing. This further indicates the size of the development he had in mind for it would be impossible to retain all the trees on the site if more than 30 houses were built. The building of the present 27 houses (phases 1 and 2) has resulted in complete un-authorized denuding of parts the site.

Condition 1(b) said, in accordance the Town and Country Planning Act, that an application for reserved matters shall be made before the expiry of three years from 13th November 1990. An application was never forthcoming for this was the time of dire straits in the building industry and negative equity amongst house buyers. It was during this period that Wickens became bankrupt. It was therefore, the planning permission having lapsed, quite irrelevant when further applications came along whether the 1990 outline planning application referred to 27 dwellings, 20 to 30 or no specific number.

The Vanstone bid

In 1998 a planning application was made by Vanstone Prestige Properties, the new owners. Although it was nominally an outline application it was in fact a full application in all respect save for the actual details of the dwellings. The number of dwellings involved in this application was 35. Councillor Peter Burton as ward member proposed to the EDDC that the application be refused. He thought that "35 houses would change and overpower the village scene and result in continuous building development from the centre of Lyme Regis to the village hall". He summed up his report by saying that, "If development is to take place no more than 20 properties should be accommodated." Mr Burton later recommended approval of the Wykeham's 44 dwellings application!

Eventually in March 1999 outline permission was given for 27 houses. As Vanstone or any subsequent owner had until March 2002 in which to make an application, for reserved matters, the parish council were quite wrong in saying that the outline permission still valid for the site, when Wykeham made their 44 application in March 2000, did not mention any number.

Wykeham Homes enters the scene

Around the beginning of the new millennium John Steven of Wykeham Homes, having purchased the site in January 2000, approached the parish council with a view of testing the water before making a full application regarding development of Barnes Meadow. On offer was a development of various traditional styled house types incorporating a mix of natural materials. There would be a village green, a duck pond, a gazebo and a boules pitch all for the pleasure and use of the parishioners. Wildlife would be protected and trees would be retained by planning the development around them. He played his trump card by agreeing to finance a 40,000 traffic calming scheme in the village. The reception being favourable Wykeham Homes made a full Planning Application in March 2000.

To broadcast the developer's good news, to each house in the parish was delivered a 16 page A3 glossy fully illustrated colour booklet explaining the proposed development. Much of what was contained in the publication now reads like a work of fiction.

The price the council thought worth paying for all this was that there should be 44 houses on the site.They - barring one - considered this a good trade off.

If Mr Steven was to stand any chance of getting the application approved by EDDC then first he had to get the parish council on his side, at least this was what the district council's planning officer stated. This he did in no uncertain manner.The naivety of the councillors can perhaps be excused, for the parish had never been confronted by such a slick, experienced and articulate salesman before. He was a class apart from the usual applicant applying for a conservatory, a detached garage or the odd fill-in house development.

The parish councillors were "bouled" over by his generosity and vision. Typical comments made by the members were;

    "He is a man we can do business with"
    "His heart is in the right place"
    "A visionary project"
    "Working hand in glove is the only way to proceed"

From their first knowledge of the proposals the vast majority of the population were completely against the development. The parish councillors, bar one, forgetting that their primary duty was to serve their parishioners, would not listen to their concerns arrogantly lording it over them that they knew what was in the best interest for the village. To fight the developer and the council a protest group was formed by the name of "27 OK - 44 No Way". Much bitterness ensued between the council and those opposed to the development.

The parish council made no attempt to lower the number of houses proposed for the site. Any criticism of the council brought forward the often repeated cliché; "If he wins [an appeal] we are in danger of loosing control of the application". If you still think that the parish council is, or ever was, in control please see the report for the February 2005 parish council meeting, and the report of that meeting in the Lyme Regis News for 18th February 2005.

There was one spanner in the works, Councillor Carole Halden. Suspicious of strangers bearing gifts Mrs Halden was not someone to take things on face value. She delved behind the friendly smile of the affable John Steven and found that he was made bankrupt in 1993 and that one of his companies had been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office after thousands of investors were left stranded (The Times 28th January 2000). . Her warning to her fellow councillors was that dealings with Mr Steven should be treated with caution.This advice went unheeded.

For her opposition to the development Mrs Halden was treated in an appalling manner by the rest of the councillor. She was the only member to be representing the views of the majority of the parishioners, which basically is the councillors raison d'etré.

It must be said that several councillors, particularly Beryl Denham, John Duffin, Brian Mason, David Sole and the ward member Peter Burton, put an enormous amount of time and effort into obtaining what they thought was best for the village and its inhabitants, both the human and wildlife. The council should then have consulted with the village putting forward their recommendations. In turn they should have taken on board the wishes of the electorate and finally made their recommendation to the planning committee based on what the village wanted, not what they considered was best for them. The council was obviously not ignorant to these wishes, which seemed unchanged since answering questions in the "Uplyme Appraisal 1989". In answer to the question, "Do you think the Village needs to grow or do you think that the population should remain stable?" only 15 said growth should be according to external demand whilst 366 said that the village should remain stable and any growth should be controlled by local needs. Incidentally a questionnaire, in connection with the Uplyme Parish Plan, delivered to every home in the parish returned just 40 responses by the closing date of 16 February 2005. Does this perhaps show a little disillusionment with the idea that the wishes of the parishioners are taken seriously?

It was, as the council said at the time, inevitable that building would go ahead on Barnes Meadow, but did the council have to be on the winning side?
It would have been far better for the subsequent democratic health of the community if their recommendation reflected general village feelings and they recommended refusal. The development would almost certainly still have gone ahead and they knew it.

Would the result of the 2003 district council elections have then been different?
In that election Ken George (Lib-Dem), a leading campaigner against the development, unseated the ward member Peter Burton (Conservative), who approved of the development in principle. This was the first time in living memory that the Conservatives had lost the seat. Was this the parishioners first, and to date only, chance to lodge a democratic protest reflecting how they were ignored three years before?

When approval was given at the 21st September 2000 meeting for 41 dwellings, a reduction it may be added that was negotiated by EDDC, the parish council not having dared to suggest a reduction because of the self induced blackmail of "loosing control" several remarks were made by members of the planning committee and officers.

    Kate Little - planning officer - "I have no bargaining power left to negotiate a further reduction in numbers" This was said in the presence of the developer.
    Cllr. Trevor Ffoulkes, "I don't find Uplyme a very attractive-looking village when I go through it, but if there was a nice duck pond and a village green it would be improved".
    Cllr. Bill Waterworth, "I think the end result is that Uplyme will be getting a very good deal out of this one, and at the end of the day they will wonder what all the fuss was about"
Finally a word from Ken George after the decision:
    "I don't think people in Uplyme will forget and I am sure they won't forgive. They can express their feelings via the ballot box but unfortunately it will be too late to save their village."

Latest Progress Reports:

8th December 2004
There will be a Phase Three
The Wall
7th January 2005
Why was phase three shelved?
13th January 2005
UPC disillusionment with John Steven
10th February 2005
Irretrievable break down
18th April 2005
Amended plans, the wall windfall? and maintenance scheme reversal.
14th May 2005
Soil levels to be investigated.
15th July 2005
Parishioner demands action on damaged homes
14th September 2005
Start announced for Phase 3
14th October 2005
The Saga Continues
18th November 2005
Phase 3 Go-ahead
15th December 2005
Liaison officer to keep watch
12th January 2006
Barnes Meadow drainage
12th January 2006
Dogs fertilizing Millenium Copse
9th March 2006
Meeting with John Steven
Site drainage
The Wall
Millennium footpath
Landscaping commitment
Millennium trees
12th April 2006
Breach of conditions
11th May 2006
Another fruitless meeting with JS
19th May 2006
Landslide victims
19th November 2006
Phase three progress
11th October 2007
NHBC Scheme, Site Maintenance
14th December 2007
Mr Steven's New Company and Millennium Weeds
14th August 2008
Where have all the flowers gone?
20th November 2008
Lym Valley Society to pay for trees.
20th November 2008
Mr Steven and administration

Progress Reports to October 2004:

9th September 2001
Lost Oak
13th September 2001
John Steven Owns Up
11th October 2001
Death of the Dormice
13th October 2001
Quintessential Sales Catalogue
15th November 2001
Caught Red-handed
Going Like Hot Cakes
Could it be 42 OK?
9th January 2002
Gas Leak
21st January 2002
Sunday Telegraph Article
3rd May 2002
Developer Not "Bust"!
10th May 2002
No John Steven
18th May 2002
Council Repudiates "Rumour"
13th June 2002
Early Hand-over of Millennium Copse
14th August 2002
Incorrectly Placed
Parish Council's Change of Attitude
11th September 2002
John Steven Comes Clean
1st Occupation
9th October 2002
John Steven
Walls, Pavements and Occupancy
Parishioner's Letter
Diversion of Stream
Traffic Calming
8th January 2003
John Steven Braves the Weather
Front Retaining Wall Saga
More on the Waterfront
Suburbia by Sea
12th February 2003
Whalley Lane Slippage
UPC not in on Materials Choice
Development Lost it's Way
12th March 2003
Sunday Working
Whalley Lane Slippage
Front Retaining Wall Saga
Smaller Footprints!
Award Winning
9th April 2003
Sunday Working Continues
The Wall
Footpath 12
Badger Set
14th May 2003
That Wall will be Finished.
A Summer Break for the Badgers.
Site Activity.
Footpath 12.
Starter Homes
Traditional Bungalows
11th June 2003
Angry Meeting, but no JS
9th July 2003
No JS, badgers and broken promises.
13th August 2003
Goodbye to JS?.
19th January 2004
That Wall Again
Nigel Marsh on footpath, house prices and the consequences for Barnes Meadowers of an unfinished site
The Lone voice
10th March 2004
John Steven faces the village
Peter Burton in a hurry
Time table
Houses sold at premium
Why leave site?
JS takes full blame
Last word on the wall?
Why Plot 7 was delayed
14th April 2004
Final cosmetics
Wild flowers?
Railway cutting infilling
12th May 2004
Final Broken Promises
The Wall
14th July 2004
Wild Flower Meadow

UPC Meetings:

11th December 2002

8th January 2003
12th February 2003
12th March 2003
9th April 2003
14th May 2003
11th June 2003
9th July 2003
13th August 2003
10th September 2003
8th October 2003
12th November 2003
10th December 2003

14th January 2004
11th February 2004

With Links to:
Other Pre-2003 Meetings

Other Relevant Pages

Introduction Page to Parish Council Meetings
Rhode Hill Gardens Home Page

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Parish Council meetings will now again revert to their usual starting time of 7:30pm. as John Steven has now probably made his last appearance at a parish council meeting.

Please Email    johnrhodehill.co.uk   with any comments.

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