MAGPIE INQUIRY REPORT & WHAT NEXT AT THE BURRIE

A government inspector spent two days this week hearing arguments about the caravan park at Magpie Bridge and visiting the site, in wellies and waterproofs.

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Her judgement on two appeals against decisions by the Dartmoor National Park Authority will be published when she has considered and written it – which will probably take some weeks.

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Mrs Jessica Graham was appointed by HM Planning Inspectorate to rule on the legality of the changes begun by Barton Park Estates, a company specialising in trailer park villages for the over-50s.

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They want to be able to have up to 80 homes designed for couples and singletons in the former Dartmoor Country Holidays park – sold to them by the Bidder family – which would mean increasing the former peak occupancy figure by at least 40 percent and making that a year-round addition to the local population. They want to call the settlement Devon Oaks.

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Existing units which have been retained, and new ones trucked in ready for installation, plus a brochure which was issued before the planning difficulties arose, make it clear that they intend to divide the land up into private plots with more or less permanent structures on hard standings, with gardens, fences and sheds. And Dartmoor NPA have said this would amount to a significant change of use, requiring a full planning permission process.

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But in the hearing at the DNPA offices in Bovey Tracey, the developers’ agent, Ben Eiser, and their barrister, Michael Rudd, argued that previous permissions would have allowed at least 80 caravans, or 16 chalets and a smaller number of caravans, and it was up to the owners to decide how to distribute them. In legal terms, chalets which can be moved on a trailer can be defined as caravans and so can two bolted together on site.

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Some prefab homes like this already exist on the site, with long-stay residents, and the argument is that more of them, instead of sites for touring holidaymakers, would not make much practical difference to the world outside.

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Government inspector Jessica Graham, togged up for a muddy tour of Magpie Park on Wednesday.

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The site visit this week revealed that almost all the old mobile vans have already been cleared and a lot of concrete poured for new hard standings.

The Barton family have been using The Barn, a house in the corner of the site, by the bridge, which the Bidders say they used as a holiday home for many years. The Bartons want its use as a permanent residence to be confirmed legal, without any conditions on who lives there – clearing up some confusion over previous DNPA rulings.

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The inspector, Mrs Graham, is also being asked to rule that any arrangement of up to 80 caravan equivalents is already legal.

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If she does, that would apparently more or less clear the way for the new village, although West Devon Council licenses caravan sites in its area and might get a say later.

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Neighbours on the other side of the river have objected that more concreting and tarmacking could well worsen flooding on their bank. They have also raised doubts about the capacity of the pipe which takes sewage across the river to the main sewer. The Horrabridge Times passed on to the DNPA some complaints about interference with the footpath to Bedford Bridge and the fencing off of access to the river. And there have been objections to the implications for traffic on the A386 and for local health and social services.

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But none of these matters were considered relevant to the hearing this week, which was all about the meaning of previous DNPA planning permissions and whether the conditions imposed had been met.

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There was also no mention of Horrabridge Parish Council’s opinion – which is okay to established useage but against an increase in the population.

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HPC has called for a review of the caravan sites laws which, in their words “allow site owners to circumvent strict National Park policy to build bungalows masquerading as caravans”.

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How it might all look down there – view of a remaining street in the park on the site visit this week.


WHAT NEXT AT THE BURRIE

Phil and Sara Cater have traded their remaining lease on The Burrator Inn back to owner Punch Taverns and the pub closed after their retirement party last weekend.

Punch will put some money in for a refurbishment and are looking for a new partner to run it. Details – and an artist’s impression of the new look – are HERE

Managing director Andy Spencer said today:

The pub is currently closed whilst we recruit for a new publican who shares our passion for this great pub. We have plans to complete a transformational investment and relaunch to guests old and new in time for summer trading. We welcome all conversations and encourage anyone interested in taking this epic opportunity to get in touch with our recruitment team.”


WHAT’S ON

Local musical couple Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman are on tour, promoting a new album, On Reflection, which revisits some of their best work over the past 25 years. Dates include Exeter Phoenix this Thursday (Feb 27), St Austell Arts tomorrow (Fri Feb 28) and Calstock Arts Sat Feb 29 and Sun March 1.

The album includes a popular recent song inspired by walks on Plasterdown – The Cows of Mystery. Hear it HERE

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Wednesday March 4, from 9 pm, ITV begins new comedy drama serial The Trouble With Maggie Cole, starring Dawn French and locations in Noss Mayo and Horrabridge. When filming took place here last year, it was provisionally titled Glass Houses.

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And this Sunday …

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allfornow …

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Editor of The Horrabridge Times.