Axminster homes plan approved despite child safety fears
PUBLISHED: 10:52 22 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:37 22 July 2019
Plans for 10 new homes in Axminster have been approved, despite fears children could be run over by lorry drivers who wouldn't notice them until 'they heard the screams'.
East Devon District Council's development management committee, via the chairman's casting vote, gave the go-ahead last week for outline plans for the housing development on land adjacent to the Co-op's West Street supermarket.
Serious concerns about highways safety had been raised by councillors as the front doors of the houses would open almost onto the road used by delivery drivers heading to the Co-op.
The committee heard that Devon County Council's highways department had no concerns over the plans and had notobjected.
Committee chairman Councillor Mike Howe used his casting vote to approve the application. He said: "I have to vote in favour as I cannot see a reason for refusal that would stand up and would not cost this council money at an appeal."
Cllr Paul Hayward had said that he was very concerned about the safety aspects of the plan. He said: "This is building family houses next to a car park and the front doors will open directly onto the path of a reversing HGV from the Co-op. The lorry driver would only be focused on reversing into his spot and he wouldn't even notice if a child ran out of the doors after a ball or a dog or if they saw a friend across the road.
"A child wouldn't even be on the radar until he heard the screams. "Safety is paramount and I cannot conceive a worse place to build family houses."
Cllr Sarah Jackson said: "The development is situated opposite a car park and alongside the car park access road. Family properties are likely to be occupied by young children who lack road sense and can easily run out unexpectedly, particularly as they may not perceive this as a road in the traditional sense.
"Equally, articulated lorries have incredibly limited visibility and when turning may not see a child in time. The nearest playing field/recreation areas are at Foxhill and Jubilee field. Both would require children to cross several roads.
"It's worth noting that the play park at Jubilee Field is currently out of action due to a legal dispute and it is unknown as to when this will be returned to proper use, so it is therefore likely that children will end up playing in the car park.
"I just question the logic of putting family homes right next to somewhere where lorries will be reversing in and out to make their deliveries."
Cllr Tom Wright voiced his concerns about children running out and being run over, and added: "I also have environmental concerns. "Encouraging people to live in an area which is being heavily polluted and there will be lorries running with their diesel engines is unbelievable and an absolute nonsense."
Cllr Paul Arnott said the development was the kind of thing you may see in inner-city London, but that 'even there it would be turned down on environmental grounds'.
Planning officers had recommended that the scheme, which would consist of three blocks, be approved.
Six homes would be on a terrace row which fronts on to the car park, with two semi-detached properties situated adjacent to the supermarket building and two further properties fronting onto the proposed car park for the new three bedroom homes.
Development manager Chris Rose said: "The application seeks to address the two reasons for refusal on a previous application, which related to the unsuitable access and conflict with the loading area to Co-op and the lack of affordable housing contribution.
"The development can be accommodated without harm in terms of amenity, highway safety, visual impact or loss of character. Although these types of development would usually result in an off-site contributions toward affordable housing, in this instance viability information has been submitted which has demonstrated that such a contribution would render the development unviable.
"The proposal adequately addresses the two previous reasons for refusal on the previous application and as such is considered to meet the social, economic and environmental and thus achieves sustainable development."
Cllr Helen Parr proposed that the application be approved in line with the recommendation, saying: "It is going to be difficult to refuse this on highways safety grounds as Devon County Council's highways team are satisfied that there is appropriate separation. I don't see how we can object on highways grounds if they won't support us. The other reason why development was refused was on affordable housing but there is now evidence that it would be unviable."
The vote to approve the application saw seven councillors in favour and seven against, before Cllr Howe broke the deadlock with his casting vote in favour of approval.