A planning inspector has rejected plans for a new £500,000 service station aimed at tourists travelling on one of Devon’s busiest roads

The plans for Whiddon Down Farm Shop on the A30 had initially been refused back in 2019 on grounds it was for unrestricted retail use on a site in open countryside and it had the potential to harm existing villages by diversion of trade.

Developer Jack Mann appealed the decision and after an initial planning inquiry, the scheme was allowed. The decision was quashed though earlier this year when the High Court ruled the Inspector failed to give all parties the opportunity to comment on the Retail Impact Assessment submitted by the applicant, and as it was procedurally unfair and it caused a ‘material prejudice’.

Whiddon Down Farm Shop plans

A second planning inquiry has since been held, and this week, the appeal was thrown out when inspector H Porter ruled the proposal would not be sustainable development and would not be in a suitable location.

Countryside campaigners Devon CPRE are now celebrating along with local residents after they joined forces to oppose a controversial retail development on greenfield land next to the A30 near Okehampton.

Penny Mills, Director of Devon CPRE said: “It’s fantastic news that the appeal has been dismissed. There was a huge principle at stake here – the fact that the Local Plan designates the site as open countryside.

“We were concerned that if this so-called farm shop were allowed to go ahead, it would open the floodgates to other developments on green fields, which the local authorities have agreed should only take place in exceptional circumstances.”

Location of the Whiddon Down Farm Shop
Location of the Whiddon Down Farm Shop

In the report, the planning inspector said: “The proposal would provide social and economic benefits, not least through the construction phase, the generation of direct and indirect employment and payment of business rates. I have not been provided with substantive evidence of local job needs or how future employment opportunities would demonstrably be secured for local workers.

“The weight I attach to the benefits of the development providing a showcase for locally produced food and supporting local producers is diminished to a modest level by the absence of meaningful evidence of the extent of local supply chains or substantive evidence of how the needs of farms in the local area would be met or diversified.

“Reading the development plan as a whole, the policy reason for not supporting new development in isolated countryside locations is that it would be unsustainable and would undermine the character and appearance of the countryside. In my judgement, the proposal would not be sustainable development and would not be in a suitable location.

“I am mindful of the favourable support for the scheme from Council Officers and a previous Inspector and although I am aware of the support for the proposal from, amongst others, the South West Tourism Alliance, and the contention that the Covid-19 situation has placed increased scrutiny on food supply chains and sourcing of local produce, I do not find there to be other material considerations to justify making a decision other than in accordance with the development plan read as a whole, and I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.”

Artist impression of the proposed Whiddon Down Farm Shop
Artist impression of the proposed Whiddon Down Farm Shop

The development could have cost £500,000, but would boost the economy by £1.4m a year, and in statements with the application, the applicant had claimed the new shop and café could prove essential in maintaining the future vitality of the village of Whiddon Down.

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They added: “The farm shop aims to champion local Devon food, harness transiting tourist trade and provide economic stimulus to the local area and provide a new route to market for localised suppliers and food producers.

“The shop will promote its use of local suppliers and producers, as well as dealing directly with farmers to ensure the shop champions the best produce from the local parishes.”

While the application has been dismissed by a planning inspector, a second almost identical application, which does include a retail impact assessment, remains outstanding and awaiting determination by West Devon Borough Council.





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