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COLYTON: Residents take on new planning battle against school access road

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

RESIDENTS of Colyford have strongly objected to a new access road for Colyton Grammar School being added to the East Devon Local Plan, despite admitting that a solution to school coaches blocking roads is needed.
Speaking at last week’s Colyton Parish Council meeting, which was held in Colyford, residents spoke out against the proposed access road and coach park, funded by a mix of residential and employment development, including an area for self-builds, which would be built on green wedge land between Colyford and Colyton, to the north of the village off Coly Road. The new road would extend through to and cross Fairview Lane, terminating adjacent to Stafford Lane, opposite the school, with a coach park and footpath for students.
The proposal has not been submitted as a planning application, but has been sent to planning inspector Anthony Thickett for consideration to be included in East Devon District Council’s new Local Plan, which Mr Thickett is currently examining in a number of hearing sessions. The item was raised during hearings two and five.
Residents said they did not know that the proposal had been submitted to the inspector, and it was only by chance that they came across it when researching during their recent, successful campaign against development of the green wedge between Seaton and Colyford.
The plans have been considered in previous years by Devon County Council officers, who agreed the access road was “technically sound” and had the potential to provide a “realistic way of overcoming the chronic safety issues”.
The proposal, submitted by James Carthy and Company Limited, states: “While it is accepted that the district council is not responsible for providing education, we do not believe that the plan is doing enough to support Colyton Grammar School, which is second to none, in removing the very real safety hazard experienced by pupils staff and A3052 road users by the current arrangements for buses transporting pupils to and from the school dropping off and picking up on the road adjacent to Elmwood Residential Home.”
It adds that the development would deal with a number of important issues, including the poor access and lack of coach park at the school, the dangerous junction where Shells Lane meets Coly Road, the excessive number of vehicles using Fairview Lane and the lack of provision of residential and employment development in the village. It would also reduce traffic on narrow lanes around the school and nuisance to local residents who live nearby, provide parking at the rear of Fairview Lane properties and affordable housing.
But at last week’s meeting, residents argued that the developers were not proposing the plans for “reasons of altruism” but for their own financial gain.
Diane Nason said that “cutting up” Colyford with the access road was “ludicrous”, adding: “We don’t want any further development.”
Mrs Nason admitted that the school coaches were often a problem, saying they arrived too early to pick schoolchildren up, caused delays on the A3052, tried to turn around in narrow roads, left their engines on creating unpleasant fumes, damaged grass verges and were sometimes rude to other drivers.
However, she added: “There must be a less extreme way to solve the problem of coaches. If we had a choice between Mr Carthy’s new road or buses waiting as they do now, there is no question – we would rather put up with the coaches.”
Malcolm Harmer said he was concerned that there was a covenant on the land proposed for the new road and housing which stated it could not be developed on.
He added: “If houses are built on either side of the road we will be boxed in well and truly. Colyford will effectively join Colyton. The covenant must be taken into account, it prohibits building which I think includes roads as well.”
Later in the meeting, district councillor Helen Parr, who is chairman of the Development Management Committee, said they could not take into account covenants as this was a civil matter between the person who wrote the covenant and the owner of the land; the district could only look at planning-related reasons in accepting or refusing an application.
Mr Harmer replied: “I’m absolutely shattered! Have we forgotten about the Magna Carta and laws of this land?”
Parish council chairman Andrew Parr clarified that the covenant could still be enforced, but it had to be enforced by the person who wrote it, not the district council.
Mr Harmer said he was concerned that the person who set up the covenant could be “long gone”.
A third resident, Ursula Pratt, presented a petition against coaches parking on the A3052 and on residential roads surrounding the school, asking for the council to come up with an alternative solution. She suggested that coaches should park in the industrial area off Harepath Road, just within the borders of Seaton, and schoolchildren should be guided across the A3052 to meet them.
The Mayor of Colyford and parish councillor Howard West said the problem was not the A3052 but Fairview Lane. He added that he had recently met with the school’s headteacher, Paul Evans, to discuss the issue and was hoping for a response shortly.
Councillor Bob Collier said he was concerned the increasing size of the school was adding to the problem.
“Something needs to be done before someone gets probably killed or at least badly injured,” he said.
The parish council agreed to write to the planning inspector objecting to the proposal on the grounds that the it was not brought to them for consideration and is on a green wedge site protected by the Local Plan and Colyton Parish Plan. Their letter also pointed out that a similar plan had been deemed not appropriate in an EDDC public local inquiry in 2004 and the current proposal included more housing than needed, as stated in the Local Plan. Parish councillors also said that alternative measures to improve school transport in the area should be investigated.


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