May 01, 2017 Last Updated 10:20 AM, Apr 28, 2017

Town masterplan flourishes

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The challenge was a tough one. Take a two-and-a-half-acre plot of land consisting of 56 community allotments and build a development of 48 new homes – 40% of them affordable – but keep the allotment holders happy. Oh, and the whole town sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Budleigh Salterton is a picturesque seaside community on the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, set within the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is considered to be one of Devon’s most charming and unspoilt towns, with many fine examples of the Arts and Crafts style of architecture.

It is hardly surprising then that the town’s Design Statement says: “All planning applications will be viewed in the context of the preservation of the essential character of the town and its unique place within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“New designs should be resource-efficient and incorporate sustainable techniques and materials. However, all projects will be expected to enhance the character of the town and the immediate environment within which they are to be built.”

The Housing Register of 2009 identified a need for 162 affordable homes in the town, and in 2011 the town council’s planning committee was told: “Budleigh Salterton has the highest average age population in the whole of the United Kingdom. The age structure is abnormal. There is a shortfall of young people aged 20-34, presumably because they leave their home for higher education or in search of a suitable job.

“There is an urgent need for housing to accommodate workers in the service industries which are not well paid. This will enable job vacancies in the town to be met by people who live locally rather than drawing commuters in from outlying areas.”

As long ago as 2006, Greenway Lane, to the north of the town, was identified in the East Devon District Council Local Plan as suitable for residential development. In fact, it was the only parcel of land within the designated development boundary. A major concern, though, was that the land was already being used by local people, as allotments, and that new buildings would potentially mean the loss of this much-loved and much-in-demand amenity.

Nevertheless, in 2009, Budleigh Salterton Town Council wrote to Clinton Devon Estates, the landowner, asking if it would consider a development of affordable and open market housing on the site. In its letter, the council quoted the Clinton Devon Estates mission statement: “To secure the long-term prosperity of the estates and the people who live and work on them in ways which care for the countryside and assist the wider community.”

A few months later the Exeter-based studio of award-winning LHC Architecture were asked by Clinton Devon Estates to work-up concept designs for the site; to provide housing and allotments – many more of them and in a much improved layout.

Consultants were engaged to prepare transport and environmental reports, and talks were opened with Devon housing association Cornerstone, which is responsible for a number of affordable housing projects across Devon.

Partly as a result of such extensive consultation, the preferred plans emerged with a bold vision to place the allotments at the heart of the new development.

The number of allotments was increased, from 56 existing plots to 87, which would go on to help the town council reduce its waiting list of those keen to have their own growing space. Better facilities, including locally built sheds and an enhanced water supply, were also integrated into the plans. Half of the existing allotments were retained in their original positions, with new ones being created to the north of the site.

Arts and Crafts heritage

The final scheme drafted by LHC was for 48 detached, semi-detached and terraced houses, 19 of which were designated as affordable and available for rent or shared ownership through Cornerstone. Key features of the overall development included enhanced and increased allotment space including new features such as Devon banks, water points, communal fruit trees and a rainwater harvesting system. The house designs were to be sympathetic to the character of the town and, in particular, its Arts and Crafts heritage.

To make best use of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, many of the open-market homes were sited at the top of the development to offer stunning views over the countryside, including local landmark Peak Hill.

Outline consent for the project was granted by East Devon District Council in June 2011, a little over 18 months after that first letter from the town council to Clinton Devon Estates, and work began on the first homes on the site in the autumn of 2013.

Work on the new allotments had been completed by then, so as Clinton Devon Estates’ joint venture development partners Cavanna Homes moved in with their diggers, the allotment-holders set to work on their new plots.

Children benefited from the project in other ways too. Among the conditions of planning approval was a Section 106 agreement, which meant £79,000 was handed over to Devon County Council to provide for educational provision in the town, and almost £27,000 was earmarked as an “Open Space Contribution towards the provision, maintenance and improvement of open-space facilities in the Budleigh Salterton area.”

John Baulch, Group Director at LHC Architecture who master-planned the development said: “From the beginning, the allotments were at the very heart of this project so our designs focused on maintaining and enhancing this important community resource.

High quality finish

“We took into consideration the soil type and condition, the aspect, the drainage and access and we designed the new layout of the allotments to make the most of the space, the sunshine and the views. We also added sheds for each allotment, a water supply to be shared between four allotments and gravel paths for access.

“We carefully designed the houses to fit in with both the allotments and the neighbouring properties and general character of the town. The majority have been inspired by the Arts and Crafts design style and all were finished to a very high quality.”

Fitting in with the Budleigh Salterton Design Statement, the properties were to exceed the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3 through careful planning and efficient and good-quality design and materials. Marketed as “Horizon” by Cavanna Homes – one of only 18 HBF five star homebuilders nationally – the development welcomed its first new homeowners in October 2014, as Cornerstone began handing over the keys to their affordable homes.

Sustainable community

Chief Executive of Cornerstone, Rick Williams, said: “About six years ago we started working on projects in more rural Devon communities because we were acutely aware of how difficult it has become for people to afford to live in their home town or village. The Horizon project is a shining example of how we help to provide homes for local people who may be struggling to get onto the property ladder.”

By January 2015 more than two-thirds of the open market properties had been sold or reserved by Cavanna Homes.

Jeremy Cavanna, Chairman of the Cavanna Group, said: “This mixed development of open market and affordable housing works so well in terms of design and layout, access to amenities and stunning views of the East Devon countryside.”

The Head of Property and Land for Clinton Devon Estates, Leigh Rix, said: “To provide affordable housing for local people along with high-quality allotments is an important step towards building sustainable communities. From the outset we have been working to provide the right kind of housing, designed and built to the highest standard, to enable young families to stay in Budleigh Salterton, allowing this community to thrive.”

Contact

www.lhc.net

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