CONTROVERSIAL plans for up to 820 homes on the outskirts of Barnstaple have been approved.
The outline planning application for Larkbear, between Sticklepath and Lake, was approved by North Devon Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday. Ten councillors voted in favour and five against.
The plans were submitted by Persimmon Homes and Elan Homes.
Simon Perks, managing director for Persimmon Homes South West, said: “We are extremely pleased at the decision made by the council and recognise that this new development in Larkbear will bring economic growth to the area along with much-needed new housing.”
The vote followed a lengthy discussion which saw councillors question a number of aspects surrounding the development, ranging from potential congestion issues to the visual impact for nearby residents.
However, planners recommended the development for approval after highlighting the growing housing demand in the region and the economic benefits the project may bring.
The plans have generated widespread opposition, with the Larkbear Action Group which counts more than 300 residents among its members, leading the charge against the application.
Don Pratt, leader of the group, said he understood the restrictions councillors faced when voting on the plans.
He said: “We are pretty pragmatic. Overall I think we have got the best result we could have got given the constraints on the planning committee.
“But the fact councillors are forced to vote this through or face having the choice taken away from them by central government is taking away local democracy, taking away local decision making and putting all of the power in the hands of the developers.”
Although the 60-hectare site is outside the town’s current development boundaries, North Devon Council’s lack of a five-year land supply plans meant councillors were forced to ignore this when considering the application.
Councillor Joe Tucker, who voted in favour of the plans, said councillors were given no choice but to approve the development.
He said: “We are where we are. You may say we have got a gun to our head and that is what we’ve got.
“I don’t want it but on the other hand we have to be realistic. No one has come up with any reasons to refuse it today.”