Controversial plans to build an ‘overbearing and alien’ electricity substation on the outskirts of Exeter have been unanimously rejected despite a warning that hundreds of new homes being built around the city would rely on it. Devon County Council and the National Grid jointly applied to build a substation at Matford Home Farm to support a large housing development on the south-east of the city between Alphington and Exminster.

Hundreds of properties have already been built and many more are in the pipeline, but electricity capacity in the area is not sufficient to support the full development of 2,500 homes around Matford. The applicants wanted the new substation to be up and running in 2026, providing power for homes with heat pumps instead of gas boilers, together with charging for electric vehicles.

However, people living nearby raised fears over potential flooding, noise and light pollution. It would have also resulted in the demolition of some existing buildings at Matford Home Farm including Matford Home Farmhouse, Parr’s Country Store, Perimeter Fencing and Static Homes UK, as well as other buildings and structures.

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Teignbridge planning committee was set to make a decision in January with the application recommended for rejection, only for their meeting to be halted by a late move by the applicants to have the secretary of state look at the issue. This time they heard from lawyer Neil Bromwich on behalf of the National Grid, who told them suggested alternative sites at Peamoor and Marsh Barton were not feasible, the former because it would cost an extra £10 million and cause ‘significant environmental damage’, and the latter because it is on a flood plain.

Any alternative could take years to plan and deliver, he said, and by 2029 the resilience of the power network could be compromised, leading to delays in building much-needed new homes. But Exminster Parish council objected to the plans, calling them ‘uninviting and hostile’, and Cllr Kevin Lake (Con, Kenn Valley) said the project was being ‘railroaded’ by the county council.

“The need for a future sub-station is not disputed,” he said. “But not here.”

The proposed plans for a electricity substation on land at Matford Home Farm

Cllr John Parrott (Lib Dem, Kenn Valley) said he was ‘appalled’ at the county council’s attempt to have the proposal called in for scrutiny by the secretary of state which, he said, was an attempt to ‘circumvent the democratic planning process’. He said the plan was poorly thought-out and rushed.

Cllr Suzanne Sanders (Lib Dem, Chudleigh) said: “I’m astounded. This is a gateway to a cathedral city, and I do not consider that this application enhances that gateway. We are being trampled on by higher authorities, and it is imperative that our voices are heard.”

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After the meeting, Cllr Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Exminster and Matford) said of the planning application, which was submitted to Teignbridge by Devon County Council: "Devon threw it in the lap of Teignbridge six months after they first submitted the application to their own planning committee at County Hall.

“Devon County Council is a planning authority in its own right. They could have determined their own application if they believed it really was the right thing to do.

“However, they bottled out and, as a cuckoo puts its eggs in another nest, Devon submitted this planning application to Teignbridge Council to decide.”

He concluded: “In refusing the application today, Teignbridge has rejected what would be a dreadful blot on the landscape.”