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Community fights for village green space, but is it a done deal?

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Community fights for village green space, but is it a done deal?

The old school playing field in Loddiswell is earmarked for housing but the community is fighting to keep it as a common green space. 

The old school playing field in Loddiswell has been left to its own devices since the new school opened in 2018, meaning it has become a haven for wildlife in the centre of a busy working village. 

When the school building was sold, the plan was for the field to be used for housing. It is currently an area of green space in the centre of the village, with housing on four sides. 

Devon County Council are now putting the land up for tender. 

Since that development got the go-ahead, however, thanks to the building of the new estate at the top of the village and the redevelopment of the old school site on the one-way system at the bottom, as well as pockets of new housing elsewhere, Loddiswell now has a large number of new houses and villagers argue that no more is needed and wild space is more important. 

The new school site and the new development of Beechwood Park and Chestnut Way at the top of the village - Google Maps

Liz Montague, Wild About Loddiswell, said: "The field was the playing field for the original primary school and many in the village have fond memories of playing there and school sports days. The small copse of trees was planted by some of the school children, including my own.  

"Because it has not been ploughed, had chemical sprays or fertilisers applied for at least 50 years it is a fine example of unimproved grassland which is a rarity these days. Since the school moved to its new site in 2018 the field has been left largely untouched and the wildlife has flourished. 

"The grass has become tussocky, an ideal habitat for voles and other small mammals, making it a perfect larder for barn owls and one has been seen hunting there. There are hazel dormice living in the hedges and hedgehogs and slow worms have been found there too.

"Greater and lesser horseshoe and barbastelle bats have also been recorded there – all these species are rare or endangered. It has a rich diversity of wildflowers too."

Alarm bells went off in the village after it was incorrectly asserted at a recent parish council meeting that the field had already been sold, but despite this information being corrected, it has encouraged local people to start a petition to prevent the field from being built on in the future. 

The old school field - Liz Montague

Speaking after the Loddiswell Parish Council meeting, Liz posted on the Wild About Loddiswell Facebook page, saying: "People should also not be hoodwinked by the proposal that some of the houses would be 'affordable and self build' or the area of 'public open space'. I doubt whether such a development would be a viable proposition to a developer.

"A development of 10 houses or fewer is exempt from the requirement for affordable housing and how many so called 'affordable' houses built in the area have been truly affordable for local people? The developer could easily submit this application, possibly getting some local support, be granted permission and then at a later date amend it so it no longer has the affordable housing or self build option.

"This happened at Sherford where the original proposal of 45 percent affordable homes was reduced down to 20 percent. 10 houses may not take up the whole site, but in the course of construction the whole field would be trashed, destroying the valuable wildlife habitats.

"There is already too much pressure on the village road infrastructure and sewage system. Having had the recent additions of Beechwood Park and Redwood Park does the village really need more housing?

"Devon County Council may well argue that when the new school was built on land kindly gifted by Paul Harvey, in order to fund the building of the new school the old school was sold and there was an unwritten agreement that the old school field would be sold for 'houses for the village'.
"However, this agreement is not legally binding and the fact that DCC has not done anything with it for five years indicates that they don’t really need the money. Things have moved on and there is no longer the need for more housing in the village.
"I think...that this field should not be developed, but kept as the last remaining green space in the heart of the village, its rare and endangered wildlife protected, a community orchard planted there and for it to be a peaceful place, accessible to all including the elderly and less able.
"Connecting with nature is essential for people’s health and well-being and this would be an important amenity for the village."
The Old School Field is a green space in the midst of Loddiswell - Google Maps
Devon County Councillor Rufus Gilbert said: "If the community puts itself in my position at the time of trying to and indeed succeeding in achieving a much needed new school for Loddiswell - competing against many other equally deserving cases for a new school, alongside the dire finances of DCC - I am also sure anyone else would have done the same to finally achieve this long needed new school for Loddiswell.
"I do feel a sense of honour not to renege on the agreement that was at the time fully supported and understood by Loddiswell Parish Council. I’m proud of helping to get Loddiswell a new school, alongside the generosity of the Harvey family for donating the land.
"I’m a huge supporter of educating our young people of Devon to get a good start in life and this school plays it’s part.

"Nevertheless, I do understand the desire of some to maintain this field as an open space. I also understand, that a pre application has been discussed with SHDC for up to ten houses, maintaining the woodland and much of the bio diversity.

"In the event of housing being built a planning application would be needed and the community via Loddiswell Parish Council would be consulted.

"DCC’s intention now is to sell this land by tender and Loddiswell Parish Council have applied for a tender package. That so, I genuinely hope they are successful in their tender and will do what I can impartially to help them."

You can view the petition HERE

We have contacted Loddiswell Parish Council for comment and will update this story as soon as we can. 



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