Posted: 06.01.21 at 16:01 by Philippa Davies
A proposed school and housing development in Ottery St Mary, on land that residents had voted to safeguard from housing, has been rejected by East Devon district councillors.
The application by Devon County Council was for a new school to replace Tipton St John Primary, which would be paid for through the sale of land to developers who would build 150 new homes, on a site at Thorne Farm.
The school’s buildings are dilapidated and vulnerable to flooding, and many councillors strongly supported the need for it to relocate.
But the accompanying new homes went completely against the policies laid out in the local Neighbourhood Plan, which specifically protects that site from housing.
During the meeting this afternoon (Wednesday, January 6), Tipton St John’s head teacher spoke out about the urgent need for better and safer buildings for the children, saying the school is ‘living on a wing and a prayer’ in terms of the ongoing flood risk.
But councillors, while expressing sympathy for his position, said the issue in question was not the urgency of need for a new school, but whether the development as a whole was acceptable within the current planning policy.
Cllr Philip Skinner summed up the feelings of many others when he said this was ‘a very, very difficult application.
He said the school is in ‘dire need of relocation’, but on the other hand, Ottery St Mary is being ‘swamped with housing’ and he was ‘not prepared to drive a coach and horses through planning policy’ in order to get the school in.
He said while he had very much wanted to support the application, ‘but I cannot put our policies to one side to fit this in’.
A majority of 11 councillors voted to refuse the application, with two in favour of supporting it, and two abstentions.