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7 The Gables, Wiliatia, Devon

Mrs Jenny Clifford
Head of Planning and Regeneration Mid Devon District Council
Phoenix House, Phoenix Lane TIVERTON, Devon EX16 6PP

18 October, 2018

Dear Mrs Clifford
Proposal: Conversion of existing building to Pre-School and Community rooms and erection of extension for storage area
Location: The Gables, Gables Road, Willand

We object to this proposal in its current form. We feel that it should be deferred until further information emerges from The Parish Council who hold the freehold of this site for the people of Willand. We will however, make initial comments about this proposal later in this letter as a secondary issue.

The Proposed Health and Community Centre for Willand (your ref 14/01911/FULL)
It seems that the Parish Council has let this full planning consent for the above site lapse in January, 2018. One can only deduce from local comments on under Community , News and Comments that bureaucracy has hampered the achievement of meaningful progress within the time frame
Willand has a diverse and growing population of which 30% are over 65 and have very few support services available locally.

At the time of the planning application in 2014, there was excitement and support for a Health and Community Centre from all quarters. It was seen as a one off opportunity. This enthusiasm remains the same within the Community itself. What on earth has happened? The Parish Council is conspicuous by its silence and the community needs answers from them directly and urgently about the current status of the project and its funds. With a number of housing developments planned in Willand, one would have thought that these could attract lucrative Section 106 agreements to revitalise this important Health and Community Hub for the village.

The Section 106 Agreement for the proposed Health and Community Centre for Willand
On 17 April 2014, Westhaven Homes Limited entered into an agreement with the Parish Council and in just over two years Westhaven has completed a new 14 homes, sustainable development adjacent to the above site, following the demolition of the main house on The Gables land.

The Stables and its land were generously gifted to the village by the developer and assigned to "Community Use" status "Land which furthers the health, social wellbeing and varied activities/services to enhance the community cohesion of the village of Willand and surrounding areas". There is also a mention of affordable housing should the terms of this agreement not be met locally (see planning application documents 14/0911/FULL).
The Latest Planning Application for the expansion of a privately owned, existing Pre-School Business in Willand (your reference 18/01471/FULL)

The first we knew of this second proposal for the above site was when your letter dropped through the letterbox on 9th October. We understand that only a few householders have received a letter despite the fact that this proposal replaces that for a Health and Community Centre to benefit everyone in the village. The majority of residents remain in the dark about:-

 why the original proposal is not progressing
 why they have not been consulted about this alternative lesser proposal to comment on
 why discussion with residents about this apparent u turn has not been forthcoming from the Parish Council

This is hardly a case study that one would use to demonstrate democracy, transparency and consultation in action.

The Application for Planning Permission by the Pre-School
This Planning Application is vague and lacking in content and much more information is needed.

One would perceive that this expansion of business will attract new families with younger children and probably babies as sleeping arrangements appear to be integral to the plan. It is essential that a full business plan supports this application for this second site. It should shows extent of operations envisaged as an upper limit, i.e., number of children, ages, holiday club proposals, hours of opening, activities etc.

An impact statement is also needed regarding :-

 how noise from, the proposed outdoor play area just over the wall from quiet residential estates will be minimised to avoid impact on residents' quality of life. Could it be relocated?
 how this operation will be managed to ensure that there is no further strain on an already full Village Hall Car Park at peak school times. There is already overspill of parking vehicles on Gables Road itself as well as Silver Street.
 Gables Road is dangerous near the Meadow Park junction at peak school times. Cars are often parked inconsiderately at this junction and a thick hedge on the side without a pavement blocks all visibility of on- coming cars for pedestrians trying to cross from there to the only pavement on the school side. Many vehicles travelling from Silver Street often enter the junction assertively at inappropriate speed with little regard for families trying to cross. Road Safety measures are needed here now.
The short pavement which is planned adjacent to the Stables site in Gables Road should be extended to the Meadow Park junction if this request for permission is approved.
The Quality of the Building
An up to date survey of this building is needed and should be integral to this application by the pre-school. The last one was prepared in 2014 for the Parish Council and it was presented to the surveyor as " semi derelict in a boarded up condition".

Further information , clarity and supporting documents are needed in response to the gaps which exist in the Building Survey prepared for the Parish Council then. ( see a copy of the Building Survey in documents associated with 14/0911/FULL). Is drainage still by septic tank and have specialists been deployed to seek out noxious substances? Many other issues were identified by the surveyor as needing further evaluation and tests by specialists in the field which would increase the £100,000 costs of basic refurbishment significantly. The value of the building was considered to be £180,000. So refurbishment could cost as much as its value in the end.

Many people locally feel that the value of the site for the community is in the land. Having read everything that is wrong with this building, we would agree and conclude on health, safety and financial grounds that the building should be demolished. It was built for horses not children . It is irrelevant and lacks sustainability in the 21" Century.

In our opinion the Pre-School would be better served by an eco-friendly, purpose built, modern unit maybe on the Industrial Estate at the top of the village. It would offer some relief for Gables Road's congestion and has ample space for safe parking by families. This would seem to be a far better option for a well funded pre-school, than being saddled with a lease on a cash and energy draining old building.

As a courtesy, we would like to see the Stables site go back to Westhaven homes, if they want it, because we know that they would regenerate the site quickly and sensitively for the community. It would compliment the good work which they have done on the Gables estate adjacent. Maybe a drop in café with a visiting doctor's facility could be incorporated into the plan there or in conjunction with the spacious village hall ? It would be a consolation prize for Willand but better than nothing.

The alternative will happen anyway if the terms of the Section 106 agreement are not met. The site will go to Mid Devon District Council to enable new, sustainable, affordable housing to be progressed, again hopefully with a proviso that they and the Parish Council fund a facility for the community.
Yours sincerely
Robert and Sarah Deacock

Comments submitted - 1 Add your comment

On 01 Nov 2018, Amanda Jones wrote:

I have not received the mentioned letter about the change of use and agree with points about relocating the pre school to the outskirts of the village to ease the congestion, trying to get to the pharmacy at peak times is dangerous due to the hedge visibility and the school parking and would also mean mums with young children would be crossing this road to use the village hall car park so would need a crossing, the loss of the proposed original amenity would stop the village developing to be able to support all age groups. The amenities of the village are already out of balance with the size of this ever growing village which is really the size of a small town.