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.
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Land Opposite the Devon HotelIt 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 ApplicationThe 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;
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 bidIn 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 sceneAround 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;
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?
Would the result of the 2003 district council elections have then been different?
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.
Latest Progress Reports:8th December 2004
There will be a Phase Three
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
12th April 2006
Breach of conditions
11th May 2006
Another fruitless meeting with JS
19th May 2006
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
8th January 2003
With Links to:
Other Relevant Pages
8th January 2003
With Links to:
Other Relevant Pages
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.
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