Proposal for two dwellings on site of proposed doctor’s surgery in Newton Poppleford to be considered by East Devon planning committee again

At its next meeting on 6 August 2019, East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee will be considering a proposal to build two houses on the site of a proposed doctor’s surgery on land off King Alfred Way in Newton Poppleford.

A decision on the proposed development will need to be made by the committee, so that planning officers know how to respond to an appeal, which was submitted by the applicant to the Planning Inspectorate against the council’s failure to determine the application within a reasonable time.

Planning permission was originally granted for 40 houses and a doctor’s surgery on land off King Alfred Way in 2014. However, subsequent legal proceedings established that while the 40 dwellings were acceptable, a doctor’s surgery could not be insisted on in planning terms. As such, despite it being granted planning permission, there was no planning justification or legal mechanism to ensure that the surgery was provided.

At the end of 2018, a planning application (18/2608/OUT) was submitted to construct two dwellings in place of the doctor’s surgery. This application was considered on 5 March 2019 by the Development Management Committee who deferred the decision, asking planning officers to seek further evidence that the site was no longer required for community use or a doctor’s surgery.

After further comments were received from the Parish Council and Coleridge Medical Centre, the application was considered again by the Development Management Committee on 11 June 2019.

At that meeting, planning officers advised the committee that, in their view, all avenues to secure a doctor’s surgery had been exhausted. However, councillors remained reluctant to lose the surgery and deferred making a decision for a second time to try to encourage partners to come forward to enable provision of the doctor’s surgery.

Consequently, on 6 August 2019, Development Management Committee will need to consider how to respond to the appeal.

They have two options. Firstly they could decide to accept the proposed two houses and not fight the appeal. In this case, officers can advise the Planning Inspector of this and leave the Inspector to determine the appeal.

Alternatively, the committee could object to the proposed two houses and give planning officers their reasons why, so that officers can fight the appeal.

The planning officers’ report recommends that the committee advises the Planning Inspector that the application would have been approved with conditions had the appeal not been submitted. The report advises that there are no sound planning grounds to refuse the application, which could be defended on appeal.

This is on the basis that the doctor’s surgery was never required or justified in planning terms as part of the original consent on the site, as there is no firm evidence or commitment from the NHS to provide a doctor’s surgery on the site. In addition, a decision to fight the appeal could result in costs being given against the council for failure to determine the application within a reasonable timescale and/or failure to justify why planning permission should be refused.

Regardless of the committee decision, the outcome of the appeal is likely to be received by the end of the year.

Further information about this planning case can be found online.