Scotts Meadow is a piece of land off Riviera Way, Torquay and within the Shiphay with the Willows ward. There is currently a proposal to build 200 homes on this site. We all need a home somewhere, so is it a good idea to build here and at this time?
Well, I love living in Shiphay with the Willows. It has low crime, a range of quality and affordable housing, reasonable shops at The Willows, unique parks, great schools, it has a large number of working families (like mine) so I don’t feel alone and has more resident satisfaction as a place to live than the Torbay average, fairly decent bus services, road access to Exeter and Plymouth (although it is slow) and not forgetting the people who work and live in the area are generally friendly and welcoming. It makes sense why more people would want to live where we live.
We also play a key role in welcoming visitors and businesses to the English Riviera because we are one of only two main entranceways by road. Scotts Meadow is visible as soon as you enter and I certainly think creating a more tree-lined road would begin to recreate what we have lost with the old gateway of the Newton Road and don’t get me started on the crash barriers on Riviera Way!
However, the area also has an alter-ego. The Willows has been identified by Torbay Council as being in the top 25% for children who are in need in Torbay, and the whole of Shiphay with the Willows is in the bottom 10-20% in England for children’s health (which relates to hospital admissions and disability). This is certainly nothing to be proud of and needs addressing.
In addition, what do the local residents generally think are important issues to be tackled? A resident survey identified the issues most in need of improvement, and in priority order they were:
1) The level of pollution
2) Activities for teenagers,
3) Affordable decent housing,
4) Job prospects
5) The level of traffic congestion.
So there appears to be some local support for new development in terms of affordable decent housing, although would a development ease or increase traffic congestion and pollution? These priorities were established almost five years ago, and we have had the Edginswell Business Park, and more homes at The Willows built since then. So it is probably time for an update and last week at a community partnership public meeting, opposers to this development turned out in their hordes and certainly made their priorities known.
But for me the question is…will a further development of 200 homes on Scotts Meadow help to tackle the local issues and is it the right time?
Does a development have the ability to:
- maintain a great quality of life for the majority?
- improve a much lower quality of life for children in need?
- improve the gateway to Torbay?
I think it can attempt to address some of it, but it is more about the timing of the proposed planning application than the development itself that concerns me. As with comedy, timing is everything. A bit like how the pacing in the delivery of a joke can have a strong impact on its comic effect. Let’s take time to pause at the ‘joke’ and now react:
1) Changes in the planning system are due from central government to aid local people to get more involved through the ideas proposed in the Localism Bill. This includes the abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategy that set housing targets for each authority area and have been used to support business cases for housing developments. Also, the ability to develop Neighbourhood Development Plans where local people can come together and decide where new businesses, houses and shops should go and what they should look like. However, it is currently being debated via Committee at the House of Commons and has a number of stages to go through before being formalised. So we have a few months yet, but the concept is being piloted in Brixham already, so let’s wait and see how that goes first.
2) The Local Development Framework that sets the planning policy for Torbay is still under development and in a draft format along with the Green Infrastructure Plan. Therefore, consultations on what the whole Torbay community think about how their area should evolve are yet to be completed. I think these are likely to tie in with the final results for the Localism agenda.
3) Scotts Meadow is designated as an Urban Landscape Protection Area, which was a local policy choice back in about 2003 but is due to run out. The Council fought to protect this land before and was only reconsidering such a designation due to Devon County Council recognising it as a constraint when allocating housing targets. I suspect again the outcome of the Localism Bill will inform this potential renewal of policy or something similar.
The point is I strongly believe that when development occurs people can feel put upon and done to as opposed to done with. This can certainly affect whether people feel they can influence decisions in their local area and Torbay appear to be right at the bottom of the pile when it comes to this. The Place Survey found that in Torbay only a quarter of people felt they can influence decisions in their local area, which is worse than that of the South West and England.
So maybe we should hold fire on this development and make sure that we actively seek resident and business involvement in the next stage of planning for our future. Maybe the result will be a resounding yes for development but at least we’ll all feel more involved and maybe even be able to laugh about the whole thing!
If you have strong views of support or opposition to this development then please view the application online and contribute your views on this development by Friday 18th February 2011. The application reference is: P/2010/1388.