Developer offers �100k for village bus if homes approved

A landowner will pay �100,000 for a bus service if his planning development is approved after council planners went cold on it.

The cash pledge is in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the 15 home scheme in West Hill, which was recommended for approval until a controversial appeal decision was made.

Moments before an East Devon District Council (EDDC) meeting to decide upon Paul Hunt Investment’s plan for West Hayes, the planning inspector threw out a 50 home proposal from Blue Cedar Homes at neighbouring Eastfield.

The West Hayes scheme was then withdrawn from the agenda at last month’s meeting, under the auspices the council needed to take into account the decision in its thinking.

At the time Andrew McNaughton, the agent handling the application said he was assured it was simply ‘a box-ticking exercise’, adding: “We’re confident it still satisfies all the criteria.”

But when the application appeared on the agenda for Tuesday’s Development Management committee, planning offices had changed their mind about the plan.

Initially they had supported the scheme, which includes 10 affordable homes, even though the land sits outside the development boundary for West Hill as it fulfilled special criteria to encourage building low-cost housing.

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But following the inspector’s decision at Eastfield the new officer’s report it said it now considered the scheme potentially harmful to the local landscape quality.

Paul Hunt said he was not at all happy; adding he thinks it is simply a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to the inspector’s report after months of consultation where the council indicated the scheme was acceptable under the departure policy.

He said he has written to the Prime Minister David Cameron and the housing minister Grant Shapps complaining about the council’s turnaround, and said they will appeal if the plans are rejected.

But in an attempt to make sure that doesn’t happen Mr Hunt said Paul Gardner, who owns the land they want to build on, is willing to gift �100,000 to West Hill to provide a bus and subsidise its operation for five years.

Dan Jelly, the president of the resident’s association, said it was a generous offer, but it did not remove the concerns the group has over the development.

The final decision will be taken by district councillors at the Development Management Committee meeting on Tuesday, starting at 2pm, at EDDC’s offices at Knowle.