Effective delivery of strategic sites: Devon

The current East Devon Local Plan (adopted January 2016) defined the current extent and subsequent guidance for the new community and its expansion is set out in the Cranbrook DPD, the subject of an ongoing examination.   

Fact file

Type – new community 

Local Planning Authority (LPA) – East Devon District Council  

Landowner - a number of farms and small landholdings 

Promoter / Developer – Persimmon Homes, Hallam Land Management & Taylor Wimpey  

Scale - 3,500 homes (approved); expansion to 7,800 homes proposed 

Strategic infrastructure requirements –bypass linking the A30 and B3174 (under airport runway extension), district heating network and energy centre, railway station, two primary schools, one secondary school and town centre.    

Other key uses – local centre, sports pitches, pavilion and country park. Additional facilities proposed as part of expansion areas include additional schools, sports facilities, employment land, suitable alternative natural greenspace (SANG) and recreation facilities.  

Stage – Outline Planning Application approved in October 2010. First reserved matters for 1120 dwellings approved April 2011. First completion in June 2012. 2,450 completions by June 2021. 

Key application reference – outline consent for 2,900 dwellings: 03/P1900; Full consent for additional 587 dwellings: 13/1752/MFUL. 

Allocation and policy  

Cranbrook is the consequence of a consistent and longstanding policy commitment to meeting the needs of East Devon and Exeter in a sustainable new community east of Exeter.    

First included in the Devon Structure Plan in 1999 with criteria set out for the site of the new community, successive East Devon Local Plans have settled its location. The current East Devon Local Plan (adopted January 2016) defined the current extent and subsequent guidance for the new community and its expansion is set out in the Cranbrook DPD, the subject of an ongoing examination.   

Detailed consents and conditions 

Development Framework Plan approved under outline consent defining the locations of key land uses. Guidance on the delivery of the settlement set out in a series of strategies approved by the LPA prior to the determination of the application included strategic design guidance, landscape biodiversity and drainage strategy, archaeology, employment, phasing, housing and sustainability.  

Conditions attached to the consent set out the requirements for additional information for each sub-phase of development.    

Reserved matters applications then submitted for infrastructure or phases of development in accordance with the framework plan and the supporting strategies. RMAs all approved under delegated powers.   

Ensuring infrastructure delivery  

  • The initial outline consent was accompanied by expectations of significant public funding (in total some £40 million), comprising:  

  • £6 million grant from Growth Point Fund 

  • £12 million loan from SWRDA Infrastructure Fund 

  • £16 million NAHP funding for first 300 affordable units 

  • £4 million from HCA low carbon fund for CHP scheme (which would not have been viable without it). 

Little public funding has subsequently been directed to the development. 

Growth Point and SWRDA revolving Infrastructure Fund (paid back as completions progressed) enabled early delivery of the bypass, critical infrastructure required before the completion 0f 500 dwellings (but delivered much earlier), delivery of the first primary school (open before the occupation of 30 dwellings); completion of the first community building – accommodating sports leisure, meeting rooms and offices, temporary GP and pharmacy – before any housing occupations. All were delivered by the development consortium.  

The delivery of the primary school was assisted by the relocation of the small primary (30 pupils) from the adjoining village into the new facility.  

The proportion of affordable homes in the initial phases and the attractions of early on-site infrastructure resulted in high rates of delivery achieved from the outset (350 completions and occupations in year one and over 500 in both years two and three).  

Successful infrastructure implementation was also the result of committed and proactive highway and education authority, delivering (with developer contributions) a new railway station, secondary school and education campus (first phase) before the completion of 1,000 dwellings.  

Futureproofing and adaption 

Future expansion of Cranbrook was envisaged from the outset. By necessity, the initial consent was limited to the local plan requirement (2,900 dwellings by the end of the plan period), rather than an ‘end state’ new town.   

Flexibility to ensure ‘end state’ scale infrastructure and facilities has been secured through the inclusion of a large scale (12 hectares) mixed use town centre from the outset. The town centre proposals have been refined over time and the full social and community needs of the town twice its original size assessed. Ten years on from the original consent, there is a high level of confidence that future town centre uses can be met, thus enabling higher density new homes to come forward without any concern that other necessary supporting uses would be squeezed out.    

A further useful innovation is the consideration being given by the district council to the purchase of land in the new town centre to increase the ability for future flexibility.  

Highly successful management of open spaces through the now formed town council and the local precept which (by the avoidance of commuted sums), has allowed the delivery of more and additional community benefits. 

Skills and resources  

Joint working between the county council, district council and the East Devon New Community partnership from its inception. Regular monthly meetings still held with the chief executive, councillors from the new Cranbrook Town Council and relevant officers.  The section 106 provided funding for a new community planning officer, and there is now a team of four officers working on Cranbrook.