WHERE WE'RE AT
NA3 is the third phase of the Newton Abbot 'Local Plan'. It's an innocuous name, and kind of the exact opposite of what it is. For the destruction and disruption it'll bring, imposed entirely by councillors from other areas, Alien Chaos would ring far truer. NA1 and NA2 are some way down, so this website will concentrate oFor now we need to do what we can in our own area. Just fighting this corner is complicated enough!
Planning applications, and the means by which councils get them through, are very complex (spoiler alert: the council always wins). So we’ll skip over the history. Those who want chapter and verse can get it from our Cuttings & Dox
In brief: Teignbridge District Council is planning to double the size (that is, the map footprint) of Newton Abbot. When we started building this website the Council’s plan was to increase the population of the town by about 40 per cent (on a basis of 2.2 residents per house) but things have moved on, new plans for even more houses have been added and it’s now looking like Newton Abbot’s population will almost double too. Of course, we say that doubling the population is the council’s ‘plan’, really it’s neither here nor there to them. The Council’s plan is to build massive housing estates and get its hands on a load of government cash; the population jump and the problems this will create are purely incidental to that.
WHY NEWTON ABBOT?
In a word: politics. Or politics and geography if you want to stretch to two. Newton Abbot is the largest township within Teignbridge. Most of the wards in this little kingdom reliably return Conservative councillors every four years, with the occasional hiccup in which independents or the Liberal Democrats win the reins. But Newton Abbot, which has four wards, has long been an anomaly. Although its Parliamentary MP is the, erm, ‘challenging’ Conservative Anne Marie Morris (more of her here), council elections in Newton have consistently frustrated the Tory council leaders. Right now three wards have Lib Dem councillors and one is independent.
The plan to create massive urban sprawl in Newton Abbot is being spearheaded by Council Leader Jeremy Christophers, Deputy Leader Humphrey Clemens and Council Managing Director Phil Shears; all of them are Conservative. None of them live in Newton Abbot. All of them want to protect their own interests, their own constituents and their own jobs. This helps explain, why, of the 10,000 houses being built in Teignbridge over the next decade or so, only a paltry handful will be in our dear leaders’ patches of Ashburton and Dawlish.
Geography has damned us too. Our councillors will gladly tell you that you can’t build 10,000 houses in the moors and you can’t build them by the sea: these areas have tourist revenue to protect. So where else but Newton Abbot, a place that’s not on the tourist map and far from our leader’s surgeries. It elects the ’wrong’ councillors every four years and its four wards make it much harder for it to put up any united resistance. It’s a largely working class town which means its residents will be far too busy to attend the ‘planning consultations’ the Council puts on at 2pm on weekdays in accessible places. The town has little history of concerted political action. Its MP is a Tory with the worst record in Parliament of addressing, or even listening to, her constituents’ concerns. If anyone cares about what is about to happen to Newton Abbot, she’ll be the last one to listen. So why not turn Newton Abbot into the Southwest’s Luton, when each new house built earns the Council a stipend of £19,000?
Humphrey Clemens strenuously denies this. He insists that 80 per cent of the take-up will be local. Well, to quote Bismarck (and Sir Humphrey on Yes Minister), never believe anything until it has been officially denied. In any case, to suggest that an area’s population doubles in ten years is clearly insane. Are these people insane?
Regrettably, insanity would be a mitigating affliction. We are talking about a council in which the economy, skills and tourism officer tried to murder his wife with a mallet. Where the entire executive colluded to hide the massive payoff it gave, at our expense, to outgoing executive director Nicola Bulbeck only to be found out by a Fleet Street reporter. A council that cannot properly account for £400,000 in cash misappropriated from parking schemes. Where the council leader is seen hobnobbing with the bosses of Trovit Homes in his leisure time. And where the council’s OWN vice-chairman of Overview and Scrutiny found it so difficult to investigate these and other issues that she resigned, calling the entire council a nest of “misogyny and bullying” that is “not in the 21st Century”.
TDC are definitely suffering from SOMETHING, but it’s nothing as benign as madness.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Officially, we can do nothing. And Teignbridge District Council earnestly wants you to believe that you can do nothing. The Local Plan was pushed through in ****, in the most horrific of circumstances [see under Carol Bunday [here], and now the land is free for development for the next five years. The only, sliver-thin chance we have is that the plans get delayed for that time, after which they will need to be reapproved. Perhaps by a council that is more sympathetic to Newton Abbot’s best interests.
But there’s more to it than that. NA3 was approved while two other local plans – NA2 and NA1 - were in the works. Local people were confused as to what was happening. The council only released each local plan to different parts of the town. It discharged its duty to make plans transparent by releasing odd topographic maps that had nothing in common to any map a normal person might see or understand. It arranged ‘consultations’ with the public, as local democracy demands, at ridiculous times and in out-of-the-way locations. Nobody we know has ever seen a locally posted notification for NA1, NA2 or NA3.
At every stage, the council has kept the full scale of what it was planning to unleash as secret as it could. It has deceived the people of Newton Abbot and it has betrayed the tenets of local democracy it was elected to uphold. And then Humphrey Clemens told the local press that resistance to the scheme was ‘negligible’.
When this letter to the Mid Devon Advertiser was published, there was an outcry from people who simply had no idea what had been formulated behind their backs. The council is on the defensive now. We need to keep it on the defensive.
If you want to fight back, let us know you're out there!
WHY SO MANY HOUSES?
Nobody outside the council seems to have any idea. No Newton Abbot Councillor supports the Local Plan. Nobody has given a cogent reason for what is about to happen. There is, of course, a financial reason (see above), and a political reason (Downing Street has an obsession right now with building houses, as new houses always mitigate against other catastrophes). But there is no practical reason for building *** houses in Newton Abbot. The number outstrips the actual requirement by ***.
Brexit, and the depressed housing market, are believed to have reduced demand almost to the ambient rate of property availability, even in parts of the UK with massive population pressures (see here). Nobody is certain who, exactly, is going to live in these houses. There are theories: that they will be offered to other councils to rehouse their most troublesome social residents (as happened in Cranbrook, Exeter).