Whiddon Down farm shop faces more opposition

Laura White
Laura White

The application to build a farm shop and  café at Whiddon Down has once again been put on hold.

The original application was made in December 2018 and although Dartmoor National Park, whose boundary lies just 250 metres away,
had no objection, there was considerable opposition from locals and the parish councils of Drewsteignton and Hittisleigh. Ward Member Cllr Paul Ridgers of Drewsteignton Parish Council stated: “My reasons for objection are:… The development is in open countryside and now from the description it is a retail premises, which falls outside of current/adopted planning policy guidelines.

‘The application is outside the Whiddon Down village development area. Potential dispersal of village activity to the other side of the main A30, the building size and placement WILL impact on the surrounding area… Traffic concerns on the A30 exit from the exit slip road. There is already a shop/café performing the same functions within Whiddon Down. The inability of the junction and road to Hittesleigh to cope with the additional 280 vehicles a day.”

Hittisleigh Parish Council also commented: “The adverse visual impact of development in the open countryside is also a concern. There is already development on the opposite side of the highway at Whiddon Services. It would make more sense to expand the development there. The whole road network around the A30 at Whiddon Down Junction can be confusing to visiting drivers. We are well aware of drivers overshooting turnings and reversing to locate the desired direction.”

Cheriton Bishop Parish Council also objected, stating: “The Council consider that this is not a Farm Shop as it is not linked in any way to a farm it is a retail unit for which no need has been demonstrated. It is a development on land that was designated agricultural land and should have been returned to that.”

West Devon Borough Council received hundreds of letters of objection and the application was denied. Jack Mann, who made the application, appealed the decision after further research and investigation into how best to integrate it into the local community. This time, he was successful.

The decision letter from an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, dated 12th November read: “The site is located outside of any defined settlement but falls within the area to be considered under the Thriving Towns and Villages Area (TTVA) policies. The proposal is referred to as a ‘farm shop’. Policy DEV15 of the JLP indicates, amongst other things, that support will be given to the rural economy through means such as the creation of new farm shops in the open countryside and unrelated to a settlement only where the proposal is ancillary to, or on the site of, an existing farming operation and provided that 75% of the goods sold will be produced within the immediate and adjoining parishes.

‘This close proximity to the A30 dual carriageway and convenient access therefrom, would enable the proposal to draw a far greater number of customers from incidentally passing vehicles than would be possible from typical rural locations. I appreciate the concerns that the proposal may have a degree of impact on the existing facilities located closest to the proposal.

‘However, I am also mindful that there a large number of potential customers of the proposal that would not be aware of the farm shops sited some approximate 5km in either direction of the appeal site and who would be unlikely to visit given the additional journey time that it would add. I have balanced this against the condition that the proposal is restricted to the selling of locally grown, reared or produced goods and the limitations on its opening hours and food offer during those times.”

However, that decision is now once again threatened. The Moorlander has learned that West Devon Borough Council, on behalf of the parish councils and locals, has taken that decision higher and it is now in the hands of the Secretary of State. It is understood that all opposed parties are at a loss as to how, when so much opposition was given, alongside eight out of 10 councillors recommending the initial application be denied, the farm shop was given approval. The decision is pending and as such, no further comments were made by those involved.

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