Moretonhampstead's Special Qualities
15 September 2017
The steering group has agreed a statement in response to the Housing Working Group report mentioned below. This may be downloaded here. A one-page synopsis is also available.
A public meeting to discuss development in the parish will take place in the parish hall on Tuesday 17 October.
29 August 2017
The parish council began a process in November 2016 to identify sites that could be developed for local housing. A large number of green-field locations were considered, as can be seen from the map below.
A public consultation was carried out as to the merits of all these sites in February 2017. An open day was held and a survey undertaken, which together elicted responses from 191 people. A report was compiled that same month based on these responses - a copy of which may be downloaded here.On 7 March 2017 the parish council agreed to accept the report and to send a copy to all the landowners concerned, inviting them to meet with the Housing Working Group 'to discuss the possibility of working with the parish council on proposals for meeting housing needs'. In addition to the above sites, the parish council also resolved on 7 March to 'consider providing an alternative site or sites for public allotments and utilise the existing allotment site for development'.
No one questions the goodwill of those who wish to see local housing for local people. However, providing it without damaging the appearance of the locality is not that easy. Especially not in a national park, where the highest priority, as set out in the legislation, is to 'conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage' of the area.
The problem is made more difficult by the requirement to build more housing than we actually need. Ten years ago, Housing Associations could build homes for local people on the strength of a government grant. These days, such funding is not available. Local-need houses have to be paid for by the profits from open-market properties. Thus if you need just a few new local homes, you must be prepared to build many more than this in total. Although Dartmoor National Park Authority in theory requires 50% of the housing in any development to meet local needs, in practice this is not achievable. A good example of what is achievable is the Briar Tor development at Yelverton. There, seven local-need houses and four local-need flats were paid for by 21 open-market houses. Counting the flats as half a house each, only 30% of that development was for local people. Thus, to provide 12 local-need houses in Moretonhampstead, it will probably be necessary to give permission for 40 new homes. For this reason, providing just a small number of local-need houses will be very difficult, and, if sited inappropriately, the whole new development will have a deeply negative effect on the visual appearance and historic character of the town, and its attractiveness to visitors as 'the gateway to the moor'.
As a result of the lack of precision as to what may or may not be developed in the locations outlined above, it is clear that highly sensitive land is at risk. Therefore local people need to consider where there is a real and imminent danger to views and places of natural beauty being irreparably damaged. Conversely they need also to consider where development would be unlikely to have a significant impact on the visual appearance and historic amenity of the town.
A statement on the sites affected is under consideration by the steering group and will appear here in the near future.
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