‘We aim to make Hatherleigh an even better place to live – Paul Jones, Kingswood Homes MD

Eric Partridge

When Preston-based developer Kingswood Homes first announced their intentions to demolish the historic market site in Hatherleigh just over twelve months ago, to make way for 123 houses, there was uproar.

To protect the traditions of the market and the traders’ livelihoods, a well-intentioned application was made through the Ruby Country Partnership (a not-for-profit organisation) to register the dilapidated market buildings as an Asset of Community Value.

A short-lived and unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign was also launched in an attempt to match the offer made by Kingswood to the then owners of the site, Vicks Auctioneers, who had ceased trading in the February of that year.

Both initiatives were subsequently withdrawn as resistance waned to Kingswood’s plans when their intentions began to unfold and more and more residents of the small West Devon market town began to accept the significant benefits which the regeneration of the market site would offer.

Although the privately-owned developer had inherited existing outline planning consent when they acquired the site from Vicks, after listening closely to people’s views and concerns during the consultation process a revised scheme was introduced earlier this year.

It scaled back the commercial element by reducing the number of homes by 20% to 102 and was tailored to provide opportunities for local businesses by including a number of retail units with separate apartments on a second level, while increasing car parking provision.  A new market pavilion was proposed together with a new market square which embraced views of the town’s most important historical asset, the Grade I listed St John the Baptist Church.

Mr Paul Jones, MD of Kingswood Homes said at the time; “It is very clear people are passionate about the market, but it needs investment and the new scheme would provide a bespoke building that will be a flexible asset for the town.  We listened too about the type of housing needed locally and so we have incorporated a number of bungalows into the scheme as well as one and two bedroom apartments above the retail units.

‘Kingswood is a small developer, committed to working with communities to provide the best solutions to sites and we believe our plans for Hatherleigh will enable the market to not just survive, but thrive, plus provide a mix of high quality new homes needed in the town.”

Although Kingswood’s operation is based 300 miles away in Lancashire, they are quite familiar with the needs of the South West, having already constructed a range of quality, affordable homes in Newton St Cyres outside Exeter and Haytor View near Newton Abbot. In 2017, Kingswood began work on the high profile Green Hills development nearer to home in Blackburn, teaming up with acclaimed designers Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway, MBE. The initial phase featured 167 new homes with 61 individual house styles designed specifically for the development and inspired by traditional Lancashire farmsteads and barns. The development, which also features two new village greens, attracted much positive national media recognition and has won two prestigious
industry awards.

Nine months on and work has now begun on clearing the market buildings and the once-familiar landscape of Hatherleigh’s thriving market and livestock auction which is now quickly disappearing under the demolition gang’s hammer instead.

The 102 proposed dwellings will consist of a mix of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses including 21 bungalows, which will be built in three phases over the next three years, with Phase One scheduled to commence once the groundworks are complete early next year. Some residents, particularly
those living adjacent to the site are concerned that the construction work will impact on their quality of life.

In an exclusive interview with The Moorlander earlier this week, Mr Jones emphasised that Kingswood would be doing everything they can to keep disruption to an absolute minimum.

“Naturally, it’s impossible to build a development of this size without causing some disruption to local residents, but I can assure them that all footpaths and areas of public access will be maintained and open throughout the duration of the build but it might be that for health and safety reasons we have to divert those rights of way, but they will be reinstated.”

When asked about the potential impact that further 100-plus houses will have on the already over-burdened traffic and parking issues, based on the assumption that each residence would have a minimum of one vehicle per house, Mr Jones responded. “This has been addressed and there are two access points to the development with the one from the main A386 being the primary service road and should ease any congestion and traffic flow through the town itself.”

‘Our intentions for the site’s entire infrastructure including roads, drainage, power and sewage went through exhaustive examination during the rigorous planning process and have been checked at every stage by Devon County Council before final approval.”

With a population of 2,218, according to the 2011 census, Hatherleigh is proud of its tag as the smallest town in Devon, with 181 children between the ages of 4 and 11 attending the town’s Community Primary School. It is safe to assume that of the 102 proposed new dwellings, a fair proportion will be families with children of the appropriate age who qualify to attend the primary school, so could the school cope with an influx of as many as 50 new pupils or even more?

“All new pupils would be made most welcome,” The Moorlander was assured by Jane Ruston, the primary school’s Chair of Governors and Headteacher Alan Monger. Jane added, “The school is not quite at capacity and having been aware that we will have to face such a scenario quite soon there is ongoing dialogue with the Local Authority who are most supportive. Our paramount concern is that we put the needs of the children first every time and that we give them the very best education we can.”

This ethos is echoed by the Kingswood MD. “We acknowledge our social responsibility to education which again formed part of the planning process and we have committed to make a significant contribution to help towards the additional facilities required by the school,” said Mr Jones.

Kingswood is clearly a developer who do indeed acknowledge their social responsibility which was patently evident throughout my twenty minute chat with MD Paul Jones; their aim is to make Hatherleigh an even better place to live, to continue to support the town and to create job opportunities while keeping the prices of their new-builds affordable, not just for commuters or ‘buy to let’ opportunists, but for locals in an attempt to encourage those who have enjoyed their formative years in the town to remain and raise their families.

Mr Jones understands that his company’s plans may not appeal to all, but believes that “the detractors are now in a minority.”

On a development this size there is bound to be disruption, inconvenience, disagreements and disputes along the way but without wishing to appear to take sides, from what The Moorlander has seen, the end result will justify the means. After all, as someone once said, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

Local Life