District councillors have unanimously voted to refuse a controversial planning application in Ivybridge.

Councillors on the South Hams District Council Development Management agreed that the plans in their current form, for a change of use from the sale of motor vehicles to sale of building supplies and associated works, should be refused.

Lucy Hall, SHDC’s planning officer opened by recommending the plans should be refused. Outlining three key concerns, the relationship with the Highlands Health Centre, the impact of an imposing palisade fence and the on-site parking and truck turning arrangements.

The councillors deemed the proposal of 2.4m high steel fences across the road from the grade two listed Methodist Church as unsuitable. And indicating that the parking proposals could leave cars in the way turning lorries and vans, which could block ambulance access to the health centre.

The historical commercial use of the site and that the applicant Palladium Building Services are a local business with all their employees living locally, were considered. However, these were not enough for councillors to approve the current plans. Councillors added that they are minded having a business occupying the empty site, but this proposal as it stands was not suitable.  

Cllr Lance Austen, Ivybridge town Council, was opposed to the plans, commented:

"I am delighted that the planning application for a builders’ merchants on the former Ivybridge Motors site has been rejected by the Development Management Committee of South Hams District Council and would like to thank all the residents who registered their objections to the proposal. I believe the strength of public opinion against the proposed changes did make a real difference to the decision of the committee.

“I personally believe that builders merchants do not belong in town centre locations but rather on the outskirts of towns and in areas such as industrial estates. The large fence that would have been placed around the site would have been an eyesore in my opinion and that would have been particularly unfortunate given that it was opposite the listed building that is the Methodist church. 

“I have been contacted by many residents who are very pleased that the application is no longer set to go ahead, and we now need to work on finding a better solution to the future of the former Ivybridge Motors site."

South Hams District Council’s Cllr Mark Long, Chairman of Development Management (Planning) Committee, said: “In this case, the committee carefully considered the tensions between supporting the local economy, while still recognising the importance of safe public access. During debate, there will always be varying views and hopes for different developments. This is precisely why we have a fair, public and democratic process in place to reach a balanced outcome.”