TOPSHAM PLANNING PANEL – Keeping you up to date with planning issues in and around Topsham

Topsham has a rich inheritance of townscape in a uniquely scenic setting, typified by the quote below“

The buildings of Topsham, from the 16th century to the 19th, are so varied, numerous, and individual, that one cannot even begin to catalogue them. It is quite the most rewarding small town in Devon for the student of local styles in building, and probably one of the most interesting in England. The whole feeling of the water-front is remarkable: the decaying shipyards, the rotting hulks on the river mud, the derelict warehouses, nail factories, and quays, the multitudinous cats, the wonderful river views.”  Devon by W.G.Hoskins (1954)

However, in the early 1960’s the Town had entered a period described at the time as ‘a period of genteel decline’. Several attractive buildings were in danger of being cleared or redeveloped in less than sympathetic ways. In response to this challenge, a group of people who cared about the historic character and built environment of the Town and wished to maintain and improve it for the future, formed The Topsham Society.

The objectives of the Society were:

  • To promote high standards of planning and architecture in Topsham and its surroundings
  • To inform the public of the geography, history, natural history and architecture of Topsham.
  • To secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in Topsham.

This was primarily achieved though the operation of The Topsham Society Panning Panel,  monitoring, and where necessary submitting objections to, planning application affecting the civic environment of the town and its surroundings.

In support of its objectives, The Society issued a number of publications:

Topsham – History and Mystery by Dorothy M Guest was first published in 1972. It gives an outline of Topsham’s history, illustrated by the drawings of Juliette Simmonds-Roads. 


Topsham: An Account Of Its Streets and Buildings (first published in 1971 and revised and enlarged in 2005) is an account by Topsham residents, co-ordinated by local architect and historian the late Caroline Obussier, describing the town’s development in the context of its geographical setting and its historic role as a port. It also chronicles the changes to individual buildings of significance in the Topsham conservation area. It was reprinted in April 2015.

The Townscape Review and Design Statement for Topsham published in 2005 jointly with the TCA following public consultation, the document records the town’s built environment, unique character and future challenges. It offers guidance to local people, planners and developers about how the Topsham community wished its buildings, streets, landscape and estuary setting to be conserved and enhanced. Topsham : A Framework for a Local Plan – A Townscape Review and Design Statement for Topsham : 2012 Update updates the original Townscape Review and Design Statement, examining changes in the town and in planning policies. Over recent years The Society has broadened its remit to consider strategic planning matters affecting the town, contributed to the formulation of the Exeter City Local Plans and Core Strategy and has given evidence/lead the presentation of case at Planning Appeal Public Enquiries for major applications in the area. Whilst these applications have involved the Society in objection to applications, the current Panel has promoted a proactive position, providing one to one guidance to prospective applicants on proposals and design and encourages the utilisation of this valuable insight.In 2021 the Society amalgamated with the Topsham Community Association (TCA) and its Planning Panel carries on the Society’s work as a sub group of the TCA.The Panel comprises a range of contributors with an interest in the built environment of the town; local residents, architects, highway engineers, planners  conservationists and those with an interest in the broader environment. We welcome anyone interested in our work to become involved as a contributor to the Panel.

For more information please contact David Burley:

[email protected]