The Walkhampton end of the village, alongside the river beyond New Park, is coming into focus as the likeliest site for new housing for Horrabridge and could end up as a community of about 100 people, according to clues in the Dartmoor Plan which the park authority is writing for the 2020s.
Meanwhile, there is likely to be a clampdown on big extensions, garages, and so on, because they put up the prices of old cottages and take them out of the reach of first-time buyers.
The Dartmoor National Park Authority is encouraging people to read the draft plan online, which some have complained about. Printed copies are hard to come by but the Horrabridge Times borrowed one of the parish council’s copies – now back in the clerk’s office and available for study by arrangement. The DNPA will take in any comment through the Horrabridge Times or direct to email@example.com/
Housing is the big issue for Horrabridge, which is classed as a “local centre”, alongside seven probably bigger places – Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, Chagford, Moretonhampstead, Princetown, South Brent and Yelverton.
All these are judged to have roads and services good enough to support development for more than local needs, unlike “rural settlements”, such as Mary Tavy, Walkhampton and Dousland, and “villages and hamlets” like Peter Tavy, Widecombe, Meavy and Postbridge.
The surrounding urban areas, Plymouth, Tavistock, Newton Abbot, Okehampton, Totnes and Bovey Tracey, are already taking most of the pressure to build at this end of Devon. But the “local centres” within the park will be asked for some dozens of new homes a year, nearly half of which should be “affordable”, meaning below market prices in rent or purchase price. The working estimate is 65 dwellings a year in total. Builders will try to push the total up, by arguing about the number of full-price homes they need to sell to subsidise every cheap one. But the DNPA is looking for deals which will deliver four or five affordables out of every 10 builds, although that may be across a spread of sites.
Up to 35 dwellings, with an average of three people in each, is roughly what looks possible for the only site so far put to them by landowners in Horrabridge and given a tentative all-clear – the farmland beyond New Park.
At a public meeting a year ago, a site above Youldon Way was also marked available but has since been ruled out because of local objections about drainage overload. In the meadows beyond New Park, the main objection was impracticality – meaning it is bog much of the time, and worse when it floods.
But builders are learning ways to build in flood plains and they might well buy in to this one. Its inclusion in the Dartmoor plan means the landowner has submitted it for consideration.
A new estate there would threaten more channeling of the river and fencing off of access to it – although actually it is not accessible to the public now.
Yelverton has two sites lined up – Binkham Hill, on the Princetown road, and Effordtown, off Meavy Lane. At Princetown, the plan takes in the possibility that Dartmoor Prison and some of its land will eventually become available, which might be helpful later.
At the same time as pressing for new builds, the DNPA wants to slow down the development of existing housing. It would be difficult to stop “permitted development”, the existing leeway for sheds and small extensions, but there is likely to be much more scrutiny of bigger projects, on the grounds that too much improvement takes old houses out of the affordable price range.
Parking spaces are in but garages already on the way out, although an electric vehicle charging point will be a plus point. Drainage will be a new priority but some flood risk is acceptable if enough precautions are in place. There will be a renewed emphasis on local materials and encouraging self-builds or co-operative projects. Energy efficiency and ground-source heating will be in; wind turbines and solar panels will be looked at suspiciously.
Traveller sites are not yet allocated because demand on Dartmoor is perceived as “low”. But any applications for them would have to be heard. And they would be expected to adjoin either “local centres” (e.g. Horrabridge and Yelverton) or “rural settlements” (e.g. Walkhampton and Dousland).
Meanwhile, the piecemeal development of camping sites into permanent accommodation has been identified as a new problem to tackle and it is proposed that in future no one caravan or tent should be permitted to occupy a site for more than 28 days in a year. There are test cases already arising from tolerance over a number of years and the DNPA is currently resisting an attempt to declare Magpie Park a lawful settlement on the basis of custom and practice.
The Horrabridge Times has submitted the observation that river access is an issue of importance and there is nothing specifically about that in the draft plan. However, there would be a general aim of improving “the access network” for the moor as a whole.
Developers would be able to fix trade-offs for any losses by scoring points for things like new ponds, native trees, flower meadows and stone walling.
Fnd the detail, or download all 180 pages, at www.dartmoor.gov.uk/localplanreview/