Sister cities of Feniton
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Feniton is a village and civil parish in East Devon the English county of Devon. It lies approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Honiton, 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Ottery St Mary, and 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Talaton. The parish of Feniton also incorporates the hamlets of Colesworthy, Higher Cheriton and Curscombe, and covers an area of 644 hectares (1591 acres). At the 2001 census it had a population of 1,796, which was estimated to have risen to 1,916 by 2005. The 2012 draft East Devon Local Plan recorded 716 houses within the Built Up Area Boundary.
The Village The original village of Feniton contains the 13th-century church, the post office, and most of the older buildings in the village, including a number of thatched cottages. The Vine Water, a tributary of the River Otter, runs through this part of the village and is generally believed to have given the village its name. Feniton new village lies approximately 0.75 miles (1.21 km) west of the original village and is separated by open countryside. This area was formerly known as Sidmouth Junction and for many years consisted of just a few houses, a public house and a chapel, which were associated with the building and operation of the railway station of the same name. From the mid 1960s onwards, this area was transformed into Feniton new village by various medium-scale housing developments. These were accompanied by the building of Feniton Primary school, 2 village shops (one of which has since closed), and a playing field. More recently, a sports and social club, dental surgery, hairdresser and fast food takeaway have also opened in this part of the village. In 1967, when the new village was taking shape, the original Sidmouth Junction railway station and its associated branch line were closed, as part of the Beeching rail network cuts. The station was reopened in 1971 with the new name of Feniton, and offers a limited service to Exeter and London Waterloo.
Feniton Today The village has made regional and national headlines in the past few years owing to its serious problems with flooding, and attempts by developers to increase massively the size of the village in the face of local opposition and opposition from East Devon District Council. In 2008 a number of residents were forced to move into the upper storeys of their houses to escape rising flood waters, and the village suffered again in November 2012: the situation for the village remains so grave that it has its own Flood Warden system, and Devon County Council has estimated the cost of a new flood defence scheme – which has yet to be built - as in the region of £1.6 million. The village made national headinlines for a different reason in March 2013, when the East Devon District Councillor for the Feniton and Buckerell ward, developer Graham Brown, was caught in a sting by the Daily Telegraph, seemingly admitting that he was willing to secure planning permission in return for payment. (Mr Brown subsequently resigned his position as Councillor.)
Notwithstanding that Feniton remains a village where heavy rain continues to cause flooding, with sewage running in the streets, Feniton has been singled out by no fewer than three developers as the ideal place to build several hundred houses on new housing estates. Under East Devon District Council’s draft Local Plan, the subject of substantial local consultation, the Council deemed that in the period up to 2026 it would be appropriate for Feniton to host another 35 houses, i.e. 5% of its total housing stock. Nonetheless developers Wainhomes applied for permission to build 50 houses on high quality arable land at the eastern edge of the village on a field which regular floods and contributes to the village’s flooding problems. Notwithstanding local opposition and being turned down by East Devon District Council, the developers won their case on appeal at a Public Inquiry in 2012, and construction on this estate has started. While the threat to Feniton’s way of life was highlighted in March 2013 by the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) as an example of the failure of England’s planning regulations, the 50 houses approved for the village -- 15 more than the District Council considered appropriate – has proven to be only the tip of a very large iceberg. Wainhomes has also applied to build a further 83 houses on the same site; developers Feniton Park have applied to build 32 houses in the centre of the village; and Strategic Land Partnerships have applied to build up to 120 houses at the western end of the village on high quality arable land that provides a sweeping backdrop to Feniton. Added together, if these developments go ahead in full Feniton will increase in size not by 5% by 2026 as a result of planned growth with local input, but by 40% in the space of a year or two as a result of unplanned growth and in the face of opposition from the community and its District Council. Rather than 35 more houses, Feniton will have to host 285 houses, all built on greenfield sites outside the Built Up Area Boundaries, in a village which suffers from regular flooding and very poor infrastructure. Meanwhile Cranbrook – a new town which will comprise 6,000 houses to meet East Devon’s housing needs – has already welcomed its first new residents, who will enjoy the benefits of new schools, a new railway station and associated infrastructure. Cranbrook is situated just 6 miles (less than 10 km) to the west of Feniton. The fate of the village is to be decided at a ‘Super’ Public Inquiry to be held at the beginning of 2014, in which the three developers will jointly put their cases why they should be allowed to build.
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