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Consultation hailed as ‘best practice’ as plans for 90 homes on sensitive cliff-top site approved

When Torbay Planning Committee voted unanimously to approve a 90 home scheme on a sensitive cliff-top site in Torquay, the “best practice” community consultation was highlighted as the reason for only a very modest number of objections.

Cllr Nick Bye, a former mayor of Torbay, told fellow members of the committee who were considering an application for new homes on the site of the former convent school at Stoodley Knowle:

It has been through an extraordinarily exhaustive consultation process that I think you could hold up as best practice and it is interesting that on such a sensitive site with such a major development that we actually have only a very modest number of objections.

The application was approved in July 2020 by 8-0 with one abstention.

As well as lying within an area designated as undeveloped coast, the Stoodley Knowle site is home to considerable heritage assets including a Grade II* chapel dating back to at least the 15th century. It is also close to a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest.

PG Group acquired the site in 2017 and KOR Communications was appointed to assist architects KTA and planning consultants Bell Cornwell with community engagement and public affairs.

The well-known Stoodley Knowle school site covers around 43 acres and was home for 90 years to an independent school run by nuns from the Congregation of Les Filles de la Croix which closed in 2015 due to falling pupil numbers.

Following extensive consultation with the community and Torbay Council’s planning department, the final plans for the application were drawn up by KTA Architects of Exeter, and submitted on behalf of the client by Bell Cornwell’s Exeter team.

In May this year, the KOR team was asked to help ensure that the application, validated in December 2019, was considered by members of Torbay Council’s planning committee at the earliest opportunity.

A briefing note for councillors, officers and other stakeholders was prepared, outlining the many benefits the application would bring to the local area, and the Bay as a whole, and urging them to consider the matter as soon as possible. The application was listed for the following committee meeting in July.

To ensure the best possible chance of success the local ward member was also contacted and as a result he expressed his support in a letter to the committee.

At committee, councillors noted there had been an exceptionally high level of engagement on the proposals throughout, and that the scheme also had the support of local members.

If you’re working on a sensitive planning application and need advice on communications, community consultation and public affairs, please contact Annette Richman for an informal discussion.

  • Client: PG Group
  • Architects: KTA Exeter
  • Planning: Bell Cornwell
  • Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment: Tyler Grange
  • Archaeological Evaluation and Historic Building Assessment: AC archaeology
  • Landscape Masterplan: Redbay Design
  • Transport Assessment & Flood Risk Assessment: Awcock Ward Partnership