Sunday, 1 February 2015

What exactly do we want to do with our land in East Devon?

Land with planning permission is a premium:
Farmland hits £1m/acre for housing - Farmers Weekly

This has just been pointed out on the East Devon Watch website:


1st February 2015

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph today, Miss Truss declares her personal mission to get consumers to buy less cheese from abroad, while reconnecting the British people with the ancient agricultural landscapes from which their food is grown. 
Liz Truss interview: 'We have lost touch with the land' - Telegraph

Might we suggest she could struggle to connect many of us with the land in East Devon where much of our best agricultural land is now covered in concrete – or about to be covered in concrete.

And where we may have no choice but to buy our cheese abroad when grade 1 agricultural land with planning permission for houses sells for £1 million an acre.

And where dairy farmers are going out of business because milk prices are so low.

Agriculture Minister says we have “lost touch with the land” | East Devon Watch

As Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Ms Truss will of course be concerned with the value of land for its environmental and farming qualities:

In an interview with The Telegraph, Miss Truss declares her personal mission to get consumers to buy less cheese from abroad, while reconnecting the British people with the ancient agricultural landscapes from which their food is grown.

Liz Truss interview: 'We have lost touch with the land' - Telegraph

However, there are competitors.


This blog has looked extensively at the 'demands' for employment land in East Devon
- especially in relationship to the East Devon Business Forum:
Futures Forum: A history of the East Devon Business Forum, part nine ... "The local development framework would enable businesses to progress land allocation. It was agreed that the strategy should reflect the Forum’s views."
Futures Forum: The current state of employment land sites in the Sid Valley
Futures Forum: A history of the East Devon Business Forum, part three... "Members of the Business Forum often underestimated its influence on policy at EDDC; an example was for the need for more employment land in the District."
Futures Forum: The East Devon Business Forum, housing numbers and greenfield sites

When does a farmer become a 'developer'?
“The A3052 corridor” – When is discussing planning applications NOT discussing planning applications? | Sidmouth Independent News
Agricultural accommodation permission sought for Ottery St Mary farm where council rejected claims it had not been used for agriculture | Exeter Express and Echo


There are fears that any 'surplus employment land' could simply be re-classified anyway:
Too much employment land – so it could be changed into more housing developments | Sidmouth Independent News

And promises of 'good development' don't always convince:
Futures Forum: Persimmon, Sidmouth and "promoting well-designed housing that is sustainable and provides much-needed new housing..."

Still, you can play the game:
Planning Permission: How to Play the Game | Homebuilding & Renovating

Meanwhile, the protests against more housing continue to grow.... 

Here are the latest from the East Devon Watch website:
Planning reminder from Save Clyst St Mary | East Devon Watch
New group of Exmouth campaigners mobilise support. | East Devon Watch


The woes of national supermarkets seem to have upset the District Council's relocation plans:
Futures Forum: Supermarket saturation point: Is there really room for more in Sidmouth and in Honiton?

But these problems for supermarkets have meant that they have had to withdraw from other key, symbolic projects in the District:
Futures Forum: The Exeter Gateway intermodal logistics site ... Sainsbury's "has finally killed the plan to build one of the largest logistics plots available in the South West"

Meanwhile, supermarkets still have this 'reserve':
Sainsbury’s landbank: including massive “intermodal transport” site in East Devon | East Devon Alliance
Supermarkets have acres of unused land, new figures reveal | Western Morning News


There are concerns that the AONB will be littered with solar and wind farms:
Futures Forum: "It has not been demonstrated that development in the highly protected AONB landscape is essential."

A lot of the arguments against 'development' is that it is on 'prime agricultural land':
13/1202/MFUL | Proposed solar farm, comprising the erection of solar arrays, equipment housing, fencing and ancillary equipment. | Land To West & North West Pithayes Farm Whimple

However, it does depend where the development goes - 'premium' farmland or not
- and to what extend farmers need to 'diversify':

Food production fears over Devon solar farms

Solar panelsMost solar farms were built on low grade land, the NFU said

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25 January 2013 Last updated at 20:43
A countryside group has raised concerns about Devon farmland being taken out of food production for solar farms.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said the 1,500 acres which could be affected should be used to produce food for a growing population.
Friends of the Earth said there were sufficient alternatives - such as roofs - not to warrant concern.
The National Farmer's Union (NFU) said using "low-grade" land could help supplement farmers' incomes. Dr Jonathan Scurlock, chief policy advisor on renewable energy for the NFU, said one in three farmers across the country were diversifying into some sort of renewable energy.
'Modest income'

Start Quote

We need food and we have a growing population”
Penny MillsCPRE
"Solar is very efficient in terms of the amount of energy that can be produced. Most solar farms are on low-grade land and can bring a modest income to the farmer," he added.
Penny Mills from the CPRE said: "Farmland should be producing food, that's traditionally what it's done and the concern is this is so large... where is this going to stop? We should be supporting local producers. We need food and we have a growing population."
The 2011 Census revealed England and Wales have a population of 56.1 million people, an increase of 3.7 million since 2001.
RegenSW - an independent centre of expertise in renewable energy - said the CPRE had a "reasonable point to express" but it did not believe there was a serious cause for concern.
'No conflict'
"Prime agricultural land should not be used, in our opinion, and we have issued best practice guidance to councils," chief executive Merlin Hyman said.


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"But there shouldn't be a conflict between fuel and farming and I'd be surprised if planning permission would be granted on prime land. There is perhaps a debate to be had, but by and large our impression is that planning guidance is largely followed."
Friends of the Earth said it was fully committed to alternative energy and solar power had a strong role to play.
"We would be concerned if solar farms were pushing out prime agricultural land but there's no real need for it to happen," energy campaigner Dave Timms said. "There are enough roofs on houses, factories, local authority buildings and enough brown-field sites and waste land."
Rob Denman, director of TGC Renewables, which is building several solar farms in Devon, said farming of livestock, such as sheep, could remain alongside a solar farm.
He said: "To get planning permission we only submit applications for low yield agricultural land otherwise the planner generally turns it down." Mr Denman said depending on a variety of factors, farmers could earn an average of £800 per acre per annum.

BBC News - Food production fears over Devon solar farms

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