At the DCC Cabinet meeting on 7th September 2021, Leader of the Council, Cllr John Hart, went back on the statement that he gave at DCC’s full council meeting on 22nd July 2021, “that there had been no plans to sell the Estate”.
At the 7th September meeting, the Leader admitted he had known since 2018 that there were plans, to sell off for development, a large part of Markhams Farm – 85 acres. These 85 acres had been purchased by DCC in 2009 in order to make the farm more viable.
Therefore it means the proposed sale of land at Markhams Farm could make the farm unviable for the tenant farmer.
Also at the 7th September meeting, the Leader said he had known since 2018 that a large area of Manor Farm, near Dawlish, had been proposed as a site for development, a minimum of 62 acres.
I plan to present the petition to Devon County Council and to the Leader, Cllr John Hart, at their full council meeting on 7th October 2021.
To: Cllr John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council
Keep Devon County's Farms Farming! Save Markhams Farm and Manor Farm!
We call on Devon County Council to keep Devon County's Farms farming, and to remove them as possible housing development sites from the Local Plan.
Why is this important?
In the Local Plan proposed housing development site options consultation for the local District Council, the Markhams Farm (Shillingford Abbot, near Ide) is listed as a proposal for housing development.
In the HELAA* report the Manor Farm at Holcombe, near Dawlish, is listed as a site that has been submitted as an option for development by the landowner, Devon County Council (DCC).
However, the land agent for DCC had submitted both of these sites as proposals for development in 2018.
The Markhams Farm, and the Manor Farm are both successful working farms. These farms thrive from the energy and enthusiasm of their tenant farmers.
According to their website, Devon County Council's county farm estate "comprises 68 fully equipped residential dairy and mixed livestock farms categorised into starter and progression units ranging from 37 to 301 acres". The Devon County Council farm estate is managed by NPS South West Limited. (Reference e)
Devon County Council website proudly declares that their farms "aim to provide people with their first opportunity to farm but with a view that within a reasonable time frame, they secure an independent livelihood from agriculture".
Devon County Council (DCC) has also declared a climate emergency and is part of the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group, in which it recognises the important part that locally farmed and locally produced food can play.
In 2009 Markhams Farm was expanded by DCC by 34 hectares in order to make it more viable, adding almost exactly the same size of land (= to 85 acres) now proposed to be sold off to housing developers and built on. Selling off the land that was acquired in 2009, in order to make Markhams Farm viable for 154 cows in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ), would risk making the farm unviable and the whole farm vulnerable to further urban development. (References: a, b, c, d)
In 2018 Manor Farm in Holcombe changed hands, as the then tenant retired. A new tenant farmer and his family run a successful cow and sheep farm there. (Reference g)
Manor Farm is listed in the Local Plan potential site consultation documents, in the HELAA catalogue as a possible site identified by the owner – Devon County Council – in 2018 – as available for building development. (Reference h)
In June 2021, the Planning Department and the HELAA panel at Teignbridge District Council rejected Manor Farm as unsuitable. (Reference h)
At the DCC full council meeting on 22nd July 2021, the Leader Cllr John Hart “highlighted that the Farms Estate was in an improved condition since 2009 and there had been no plan to sell the Estate. (Reference f)
How then have two of Devon County Council’s farms been offered as potential sites for housing development?
Is Conservative-controlled Devon County Council hiding the truth and planning to sell Markhams Farm, and Manor Farm off to the developers?
On 9th August 2021 the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has declared that human activity has changed the climate in unprecedented and some irreversible ways.
At this time of emergency, we call on Devon County Council to drop the planned sell-off of our local farms for housing development, and to continue to support local farming and sustainable agriculture.
We call on Devon County Council to keep Markhams Farm, and Manor Farm farming, and to drop their proposed sell-off for housing development as mentioned in Teignbridge District Council's Local Plan Review 2020 - 2040.
We say Keep Devon County's Farms Farming!
Save Markhams Farm and Manor Farm from being sold off and keep farming local.
f) https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/g4348/Printed%20minutes%2022nd-Jul-2021%2014.15%20Council.pdf?T=1 see item 25.
https://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/planning/local-plans-and-policy/local-plan-review-2020-2040/housing-and-economic-land-availability-assessment-helaa/ pages 93, 96, 99, 102, 105 and 108
* HELAA: The Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) is a catalogue of all the individual sites that have been assessed in relation to their development potential. Sites were submitted under the Call for Sites that took place in 2017 and 2018. The HELAA provides evidence for the Local Plan.
How it will be delivered
This petition will be emailed to Cllr John Hart, the Leader of Devon County Council, together with a copy by post, and a formal in-person presentation at County Hall.
A copy will also be emailed to the Planning Department at Teignbridge District Council, with reference to the proposed sites for housing development in the Local Plan 2020 - 2040 site options consultation.