Page last updated at 17:56 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Affordable housing plans approved

East Portlemouth
East Portlemouth is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Plans to build affordable housing in one of Devon's most expensive villages have been approved despite being recommended for refusal.

Land was donated and a charitable trust set up to build six houses for rent for local people in East Portlemouth.

Objectors, most of whom own second homes in the village, said they would spoil an area of outstanding beauty.

But South Hams councillors voted in favour despite planners saying the need for such homes had not been justified.

We were desperate to help the village because it's rapidly dying
Isobel Waterhouse

East Portlemouth resident Isobel Waterhouse donated the land and set up the trust to build the houses for working people in response to more than 70% of the houses in East Portlemouth, near Salcombe, being second homes.

Ms Waterhouse, who was born in the village, also rents out four homes, worth 2m, to local people for less than market value.

She said: "When we started this project we were desperate to help the village because it's rapidly dying and becoming a tourist ghetto," she said.

She said that the planning approval was "absolutely brilliant".

Charity trustee Bernice Johnstone added the approval of the scheme gave the village "a lifeline".

She said: "To have these six houses, it's going to be great to see the centre of the village alive in the winter again."

Low incomes

There were a number of objections to the plan. Opponents included TV presenter Steve Rider, who has a holiday home in the village.

He said planners should not alter their criteria purely on the basis of homes being affordable.

"Sometimes these affordable housing projects are wrong - they're in the wrong place and I'm afraid this is one of them," he said before the decision.

But local people who have been priced out of the housing market said it was unfair of second homeowners to try to make the situation more difficult for locals.

Clare Amato, who has been on the housing waiting list for more than six years, said: "They don't live here 100% of the time - they come for holidays and don't see on a daily basis how we live.

"We're on low incomes - we can't afford to buy. Why should we be restricted from living in villages like this."

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