• East Devon draft Local Plan - my consultation response

    27th January 2012 | News | Claire
  • 1.General comments
    Although the East Devon Local Plan is an improvement on the old Local Development Framework, which put economic growth ahead of everything else, the level of development in the draft Local Plan remains excessive and not evidence-based.  In particular, consultant reports commissioned at great cost to the taxpayer seem to have been disregarded.  Instead the views of local landowners and developers appear to have carried more influence, particularly in relation to industrial and commercial land.  See my reasoning below:

    2. Housing
    “The number of households cannot increase without an increase in the number of dwellings except by households sharing dwellings … So there is a danger that housing forecasts of additional households will involve a circular argument – they are used to justify increases in the housing stock but these increases enable the additional households to be formed, a type of self-fulfilling prophecy.” 
    Roger Tym report, page 47, paragraph 4.25.

    2.1 I OBJECT to the large amount of housing proposed, which appears to be set at a figure of over 15,000, without credible evidence to support it. 

    2.2 A study of population data from Office of National Statistics shows that this level of growth in East Devon is equivalent to twice the historical growth rate over the past plan period and double the planned future average national growth up to 2026.

    2.3 I set out below, my reasoning:

    2.4 As is to be expected with East Devon being a retirement area, deaths each year exceed births, so that without in-migration, population would decline.  However, according to the latest net migration flows evidence from Devon County Council the trend over the past 10 years has been an increasing number of births.  During 2010 the number of births and deaths has virtually equalised, with a shortfall of only 200 births.

    2.5 This information should be regarded as a key factor in determining the number of houses proposed for the district.  If the numbers of births and deaths are equalising there is clearly less of a requirement for building more houses for in-migrants.

    2.6 Unfortunately, the Local Plan forecasts appear to be based on out-of-date and extrapolated evidence from the Office Of National Statistics/DCLG forecasts.  These are based on the period 2003-2008, when migration was relatively high, apparently fuelled by the buoyant economy.  They start from a base figure of 1940 for 2009, and then assume a year on year rise in migration rates until 2031.

    2.7 Roger Tym’s report criticises those forecasts for starting from that relatively high period of migration, and for rising in-migration (para 4.19).  Migration rates have dropped significantly since 2008, yet the ONS forecasts do not seem to take the current situation into account.

    2.8 The Roger Tym Low Migration Scenario, which proposes inward migration at a rate equal to the average rate of inward migration over the 1991-2010 period is more sensible.  That produces a net housing requirement 2011-2031 of 10800 (not including any allowance for Exeter overspill), compared to the 16800 or so based on the ONS/DCLG projections. 

    2.9 However, because in-migration is likely to remain subdued and the economy is likely to remain depressed for much of the plan period and for the other reasons set out above, the estimate of 10800 dwellings should be seen as an upper limit.  Until the economy recovers in-migration will stay lower than 1600 pa and if the 2010 projection trend continues (as well as the births/deaths ratio) the net population growth could be close to zero, as it has been since 2007/8.  During the period of near-zero population growth there will be little need for new housing.

    2.10 The Local Plan will need to be kept under review throughout the plan period with a view to altering the detail if deemed necessary.  Why not adjust the housing projections downwards, given that the evidence supports it?  Certainly, DCC’s evidence appears to correspond with this approach. 

    2.11 The available and up-to-date evidence clearly supports a lower level of growth than that outlined in the Local Plan.

    3. Overspill from Exeter
    “In the absence of the RSS the planned overspill from Exeter should be treated as a planning decision jointly agreed between East Devon Council and Exeter City Council.  As we have shown in the historic migration patterns, there has been little previous net in-migration from Exeter to East Devon ….”  Roger Tym report, page 48
    COMMENT: I am unclear why East Devon has taken such a large amount of Exeter’s housing allocation, particularly in view of the sentence above. 

    3.1 Kate Little has stated the figure could be as much as around 7-8000 houses.  I note that Teignbridge District Council has taken only 2,000 from Exeter, and Mid Devon District Council has taken very little.  Presumably, Cranbrook will provide some houses for Exeter residents but this is a truly enormous number of houses to provide for another authority in a neighbouring district.

    4. Windfalls or unplanned development
    4.1 Windfalls were outlined in previous drafts of the Local Plan as 4000 over the plan period, taking the housing numbers up past 19,000.  These references have since disappeared but I have no reason to believe that windfalls are now disregarded.  If they are being considered, then it should be clearly stated in the Local Plan what the numbers are so that everyone is clear.  They should only be removed if windfalls are not being taken into account in any shape or form.

    4.2 The Department of Communities and Local Government NPPF Select Committee Report – December 2011 – recommends windfall sites be included in Local Plans.  The report states on P60: “We recommend that the Government allow windfall sites to be included alongside identified brownfield land where local authorities can demonstrate a track record of such sites coming forward for development, as this will achieve the aim of satisfying the need for land supply while minimising the need to allocate greenfield sites. The Government should have more confidence in the continuing replenishment of brownfield sites as a source of land for new development.”
    PROPOSAL:  Include windfalls as part of the overall district housing allocation.  Part of, not in addition to.

    5. Employment land
    5.1 I OBJECT to the vast amount of employment land proposed
    In spite of a vast amount of strong evidence to the contrary, the enormous amount of employment land proposed in the Local Development Framework has not only remained, but in effect has grown due to the new proposals for commercial or industrial units in villages. 

    5.2 From studying the Local Plan, as well as the EDDC’s consultants, the Roger Tym report, I have calculated the following:

    5.3 Total employment land allocated for East Devon is at least 263ha

    5.4 NB.  Page 29 – Draft strategy 1– Overall spatial strategy for development in East Devon -states that the figure is 180 ha of which 106 ha is already committed and 74 ha is new allocations.  This figure is INCORRECT. There is more than this proposed.  ALL West End employment proposals need to be listed in this policy.

    5.5 I OBJECT to the Sainsbury’s distribution centre figure not being included in the overall figures for employment land. (I have included in this figure in my own calculations).  The warehouses total around 65ha, according to consultants, Roger Tym.  Roger Tym consultants have included this development in their own calculations for employment land.

    5.6   It is important to NOTE that: 

    – this distribution centre will reportedly will provide hundreds of jobs.

    –  a 160 bedroom hotel has already been given planning consent.  Presumably this would also provide very many jobs. 

    – a combined heat and power plant has also been given planning permission.  This will provide many jobs also.

    5.7 The amount of employment land proposed is equivalent to a line of football pitches stretching from Clyst St Mary to Lyme Regis – at least.

    5.8   Roger Tym advises reductions for all towns and at the West End in employment land for sound economic reasons.  Aside from spoiling our countryside and turning East Devon into a district with a focus on a light-industrial industry, Roger Tym confirms that too much provision of employment land will have the opposite effect of job creation and instead, depress the market.

    5.9 Page 36 of the Roger Tym East Devon Housing and Employment Study 2011, paragraph 3.62 states:  “A common misunderstanding is that because unemployment has increased we need to provide more development land to build more economic floorspace, so planners should be allocating more land.  However, in reality, we probably want to do the exact opposite.  This is because the floorspace vacated in the recession is still available for occupation and therefore, the physical space capacity to employ people has not been taken away.”

    5.10 “The recession has undermined developer confidence and the vacant space depressed values.  Adding further supply to allocating too much new land may only depress values further and undermine market confidence.”

    6.  Independent Atkins Report 2007
    6.1 In 2007 EDDC commissioned Atkins, at a cost of £30,000, to independently study the need for employment land in the district.  Atkins concluded that there was only a slight undersupply of employment land in East Devon, mainly due to the large number of unoccupied premises. 

    6.2 Roger Tym consultants were commissioned in 2011 at a cost of £25,000 to study the demand for future housing and employment.

    7.  East Devon Business Forum involvement
    7.1 From carefully studying the information that has led to the employment land proposals in the draft Local Plan I have concluded that the only piece of evidence relied upon by EDDC to justify their position, is a Task and Finish Forum (TAFF) report from East Devon Business Forum (EDBF), which was then adopted by the Corporate Overview Committee and Cabinet in 2007 and submitted as evidence for the Local Development Framework process. 

    7.2 It therefore seems likely that the views of landowners and developers on EDBF led directly to these proposals. 

    7.3 During the Local Development Framework Panel meeting on 30 August 2011, when employment land was discussed, Business Development Manager, Nigel Harrison, defended the 2007 EDBF Employment Land Task and Finish report on the basis that the list of land submitted with the report had helped him determine the ‘immediacy’ of available land or units, when receiving phone calls from businesses.

    7.4 As I said at the 30 August meeting, this does not justify using this information, which was not independent, for the Local Development Framework and subsequent Local Plan, which is strategically planning for at least 15 years. 

    7.5 EDBF examined and dismissed the independent Atkins employment report in 2007, as ‘fundamentally flawed’.  EDBF subsequently submitted its own findings to EDDC – the Employment Land Task and Finish Report. 

    7.6 At the EDBF meeting on 9 August 2007 the EDBF chairman informed the meeting he had gained support for EDBF’s stance on the Atkins report.  The minutes state:

    7.7 “The Chairman advised that he had made a presentation to the Corporate Overview Committee on 26 July 2007 on the issue of the Atkins Report and employment land supply within the district. Members of the Corporate Overview Committee had fully supported the view that the findings of the Atkins report were fundamentally flawed and that there was a lack of employment land within the District.”

    7.8 Subsequently, the minutes from the EDBF AGM on 31 January 2008 states: “Members (of the Corporate Overview Cttee) noted that the work the Business Forum had done on the Atkins Report had made an enormous difference to the final report prepared by the Employment Land issues Task and Finish Forum.  The report was now being used by the Development Control Committee as a base when considering planning applications for employment land.” 

    7.9 And in the same EDBF minutes:  “It was noted that the report would help set an agenda to inform future employment land provision in respect to future planning policy and development decisions (particularly in relation to land supply shortfalls).”

    7.10   22 November 2007 – Corporate Overview Committee meeting minutes conclusions and recommendations:
    that the Employment Land issues Task and Finish Forum report and more detailed evidence be used to:

    a) help inform production of the issues and options report for the East Devon Core Strategy and also;

    b) that the Development Control Committee take full account of employment land availability issues when considering planning applications.

    7.11 It is very doubtful whether these findings can be described as independent.  In which case they should not have been used to form the basis of evidence for strategic employment land provision in the Local Development Framework.  Nor should the evidence have been retained and used as evidence in the Local Plan.

    8.  Devon County Council view
    8.1 During the preferred approach Local Development Framework consultation in autumn 2010, Devon County Council in their submission, stated that the proposals for employment land was so high a planning inspector could find them ‘unsound.’

    8.2 Devon County Council has since consistently underlined the danger of the scale of employment land in East Devon and the damage it could do to major strategic projects at J29, mainly the large business park, Skypark and the Science Park.  I understand that there is so little interest from businesses in Skypark that DCC is considering changing the use class to B8 (warehousing).

    8.3 A report to EDDC’s Cabinet in October 2011 illustrates the problems with Skypark by stating the following:
    “The S106 for Skypark is complete and outline planning permission was issued on 10 June 2010. Current market conditions and lack of demand in certain sectors, together with the significant upfront costs to implement the first phase of the development, has proved challenging, and St Modwen are currently looking at options to get development started on phase one of the site.”

    8.4 Roger Tym backs up this concern.  On page 75 of the East Devon Housing and Employment Study, 2011, it states that: ‘Langage Business Park in Plymouth has progressed over the last five years without success of obtaining a single occupier.’  Adding that ‘the proposed allocations (for employment land) are excessive for what is likely to be deliverable in this area …’ 
    PROPOSAL Adopt the advice of Atkins, Roger Tym and Devon County Council in relation to employment land and substantially reduce the employment land provision.

    9.  Net out-commuting v out-commuting
    Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce has criticised the foundation of the employment land methodology as being based on out-commuting figures NOT net commuting figures.  Clearly, net commuting figures should be used. 

    10. Unemployment
    10.1 The figures used by Roger Tym on unemployment – over seven per cent in East Devon are not reliable as they are extrapolated by the Office of National Statistics. 

    10.2 A far more accurate source of the data and one that the Local Plan should be founded on, and is also used by Devon County Council, is from the District Claimant Count rate – those people claiming job seekers allowance.  In East Devon the unemployment figure is less than two per cent and it is the lowest (with the exception of the South Hams) of all the districts in Devon. See link (dated January 2012) below: http://www.devonomics.info/people/monthly-jsa-analysis-claimants

    11.  Empty units
    11.1 There are around 400 empty commercial and industrial units in East Devon.  Head of Economy, Kate Little and Cllr Mike Allen agreed, at the LDF Panel meeting on 30 August 2011, that there should be a policy introduced for potential developers to demonstrate that they had considered existing available units first and have rejected them for good reason before making additional provision.  However, no policy has been created. 

    11.2 The redevelopment of existing industrial estates should also be written into this policy, as an option before developing greenfield land.  Sound reasons should be given why the units nearby are not suitable, if there is a request to build on greenfield land.
    PROPOSAL: Create a policy directing use of these units or redevelopment of existing industrial sites, before building on greenfield sites. 

    12.  Employment land in villages
    12.1 I will refer to the policies more closely under the relevant section but in principle I totally oppose these policies.  The evidence against the level of employment land proposed across the district is now overwhelming.  There is no justification whatsoever to allocate even more of this land in villages.  The policies are loosely defined and there need be no justification to build warehouse or industrial units.

    12.2 Empty units can be converted into housing if a developer or landowner can prove there is an oversupply of units nearby.  Given the arguments set out above, I imagine that this would be quite an easy thing to prove!

    12.3 The concept of industrial development in villages is a significant change in local planning policy and if plans are endorsed they are likely to destroy village attractiveness and distinctiveness.  Why would we wish to pave the way for industrial estates on the edges of villages?
    I OBJECT to the principle of these policies

    13.  P11: Review of built up area boundaries
    13.1 P10 indicates that small scale land allocations are likely to be deferred until later in 2013.  Given the uncertainty this will create and the inevitable pressure this delay will create on built up area boundaries all over the district, I urge EDDC to ‘hold the line’ in terms of applications that come in between now and when this work is done.  Any approval for applications that are outside boundaries will simply weaken them and allow developers and landowners leeway to argue for more approvals outside boundaries, potentially resulting in a rash of inappropriate development.

    13.2 The usual rebuttal applied to refusing applications outside built up area boundaries – that they cannot be refused on grounds of prematurity – could be an argument of the past, now that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, has recently dismissed a number of appeals on those very grounds.

    14.  Intermodal freight terminal
    It was very disappointing to see Sainsbury’s given permission to occupy the 65 hectare (163 acres) distribution centre next to the freight terminal, without the funding to enable the rail junction.  The rail junction was a stated priority in the existing Local Plan and Sainsbury’s should have been asked to sign a Section 106 agreement in order to provide the funding to build it.  The huge distribution centre, which will serve the south west, will generate an enormous amount of lorry movements each day. 
    I PROPOSE that the rail junction be given absolute priority and is funded and completed as soon as possible.

    15. Cloakham Lawns, Axminster
    It is disappointing as well as disrespectful to Axminster residents and the legal process that while a judicial review is ongoing relating to the decision to approve 400 houses at Cloakham Lawns in 2010, that the land is allocated for the same development in the draft Local Plan.
    I PROPOSE that the strategic allocation for 400 houses at Cloakham Lawns is deleted.

    16.  P90: Ottery St Mary
    16.1 There is too much development proposed for Ottery St Mary and it is out of proportion compared with its population and other towns in the district.  Ottery St Mary Town Council stated in their submission to the LDF Panel of September 2011, that 300 houses maximum were appropriate for the town.  But over 400 are allocated. 

    16.2 Local people do not support development over 100 houses – it was clear from a show of hands at an Ottery St Mary Town Council public meeting on 9 January 2012.  The claimed justification for growth is flimsy and based on incorrect information, such as the high quality public transport link (a sort of tram service) which does not and will not exist due to budget cuts) and its proximity to the west end. 

    16.3 Ottery St Mary does not have proximity to the west end.  To illustrate that fact, David Prentis, the planning inspector who dismissed the Blue Cedar Homes appeal at West Hill in November 2011, stated that West Hill was not at the principal urban area.  Ottery St Mary is further east than West Hill, so is even further from the principal urban area, or ‘west end’ of East Devon.

    16.4 The following passage from LDF Panel minutes dated 12 November 2009 may reveal the real reason why more housing is allocated for Ottery now and why I believe that this is the longer-term plan. 

    17.  “Ottery St Mary
    17.1 The Panel noted that housing and employment growth to meet the local need would be appropriate for the town; however it was possible with the extension of the high quality public transport serving Cranbrook that there was potential for strategic housing growth to meet part of the west end requirement. The existing secondary school was very popular and it was advised that that in the past there was an aspiration for a new site for the school.”

    17.2 PROPOSAL: Adopt the recommendations of Ottery St Mary Town Council in relation to housing.

    17.3 PROPOSAL 2: Remove references to high quality public transport and ‘proximity to west end as they are factually incorrect. 

    18.  Ottery St Mary employment land
    18.1 There are four hectares of industrial/commercial land already committed but not developed at Ottery.  The Local Plan has arbitrarily allocated a further three.  Roger Tym consultants, however recommend on p77 of their report that an additional 0.67ha should be ‘more than sufficient to create capacity for future development in Ottery St Mary.’
    PROPOSAL: Adopt Roger Tym’s advice in relation to Ottery St Mary

    19. Feniton to Ottery to Tipton to Sidmouth cycleway
    19.1 In many other sections of the Local Plan cycleways are listed and supported by EDDC.  However, despite numerous requests from myself, Ottery Town Council and district councillor, Roger Giles, the Feniton to Ottery to Tipton to Sidmouth cycleway along the disused railway line, remains missing from the Ottery section.  Clearly, from an economic perspective, this project could be highly valuable to the local tourist economy, as well as to local people’s health and wellbeing.  This kind of project has the widest possible benefit for the economy and should be wholeheartedly supported by EDDC.
    PROPOSAL:  Include and support the above cycleway in the Ottery and Sidmouth towns sections. 

    20.  P115:  Alfington’s built up area boundary
    20.1 There is a proposal on P115 to remove Alfington’s built up area boundary. Ottery Town Council carried out a consultation with Alfington residents as part of the Local Development Framework process in November 2010.  Residents attending the meeting stated that they would like some play facilities.  For this reason the built up area boundary should remain.  Ottery St Mary Town Council also requested that Alfington’s BUAB remained, in its submission to the LDF Panel in September 2011.

    21. Aylesbeare
    21.1 Aylesbeare Parish Council is conducting a further public opinion survey to establish how much development residents believe is appropriate.  At a parish council meeting on 4 January, around 100 people were present and the majority expressed concerns about the level of development proposed. 

    22.  P121:  draft strategy 26 – future job and employment land provision
    22.1 The policy of one job per home is excessive, overly prescriptive and inappropriate.  Population data clearly shows that the majority of people who move here, do so to retire – see p63 of the Roger Tym East Devon Housing and Employment Study 2011.

    22.2 The second part of this strategic policy relates to residential developments of 10 dwellings or more in villages and small towns.  I totally OPPOSE this policy as it is a gross overprovision and excessively prescriptive.

    23.  P122: Draft strategy 27 – resisting the loss of employment, retail and community uses
    23.1 The intention here is laudable, but because of the over-provision and over-allocation of employment land it would be relatively easy for landowners to prove that they cannot sell or rent out their industrial or commercial space, in which case it could be converted to housing.  This could hugely and inappropriately increase the housing stock in East Devon.
    PROPOSAL:  Adopt the advice of Devon County Council, Roger Tym and Atkins on employment land provision

    24.  P123:  Draft strategy 28 – promotion of tourism in East Devon
    24.1 There should be greater emphasis on encouraging green tourism, such as cycleways.  These sorts of projects complement East Devon’s rural nature as well as providing economic benefit to a wide range of businesses. 

    24.2 On page 52 of the Local Plan it is clear that residents support this view.  It states in the ‘what you said about landscape and AONBs’ that residents want investment in green tourism, which secures the management of natural features and enhances their value for local people and visitors.
    I PROPOSE that green tourism is prioritised in the tourism strategy

    25 Draft Strategy 29 – page 125 – district wide affordable housing provision targets
    25.1 I OBJECT to this policy.  Economic conditions for providing affordable housing for landowners should be taken into consideration, however it should not be the only issue.  Building more affordable homes (50 per cent of all developments) in rural areas where community facilities, shopping, work and transport is likely to be much scarcer, is contrary to national policy relating to sustainability. 
    I PROPOSE that EDDC should build a higher percentage of affordable houses in towns and a lower percentage in rural villages.

    26.  P128:  Draft strategy 30 – lifetime homes and extra care homes
    26.1 This provision should be INCLUDED as part of the overall housing numbers in towns and villages, not in addition to.  If in addition to, it needs to be expressed as part of the housing tables for towns and villages, otherwise it is a hidden number and subsequently the housing tables are misleading.

    27.  P154: Draft Strategy 40 – landscape conservation and enhancement and AONBs
    27.1 I SUPPORT this policy.

    28.  P157: Draft strategy 41 – nature conservation and geology
    28.1 I OBJECT to this policy.  Local, county and regionally designated sites are missing from this list.  They should also be included in the list of protected areas, to reflect the list on P155.  East Devon has 8 local nature reserves, 270 county wildlife sites and 21 regionally important geological sites – a very large number of sites that need adequate protection from development.  I PROPOSE that the wildlife sites stated above should be included in this policy.

    29.  P165:  Draft strategy 44 – infrastructure delivery
    29.1 I SUPPORT this policy.

    30.  Development management policies
    30.1 P180.  Policy EN5 – protection of Local Nature Reserves, County Wildlife Sites and County Geological Sites
    I OBJECT to this policy.  I would prefer that these wildlife sites were included in draft strategy 41.  If this is not agreed then I would like these sites given the same protection as in policy EN3 – amenity land – where they are developed only if there is a clear community need.

    31.  P180.  Policy EN6 – wildlife habitats and features
    31.1 I OBJECT to this policy.  I would like to see the first two words removed – ‘wherever possible’ – as they constitute a large loophole.  And also the first three words of the next sentence should be removed – ‘where potential arises’ – as they constitute another loophole.  The policy should be clear and unambiguous.

    32.  P184.  Policy EN14 – Development on high quality agricultural land
    32.1 I SUPPORT the return of this policy

    33.  P194 – Policy H5 – Affordable housing on exception sites
    33.1 I have CONCERNS about this policy.  ‘Small-scale’ needs to be defined.  I PROPOSE that the interim exceptions policy of 15 houses is retained.

    33.2 In addition, on the interim exceptions policy there must be 66 per cent affordable housing.  In the revised H5 policy, no proportion of affordable housing is stipulated.  Surely this will nullify the policy?  I PROPOSE that the retention of 66 per cent proportion of affordable housing is also applied to H5.

    34.  P204.  Policy E3 – safeguarding employment land and premises
    34.1 I have CONCERNS about section 3 of this policy. Given the overwhelming evidence relating to the provision of too much employment land section 3 of this policy is the obvious loophole which will mean that developers and landowners will be able to prove relatively easily that there is a surplus of employment land locally.  Change of use to housing of course, is far more desirable and lucrative for developers than industrial or commercial use. 

    35.  P205.  Policy E6 – small scale economic development in rural areas
    35.1 I OBJECT to this policy.  These units are entirely unnecessary, given the evidence relating to the overprovision of employment land in the district, as well as empty units.  Over time these units are likely to be extended and the result is industrial estates or business parks in villages, which would clearly be damaging to the character and distinctiveness of East Devon villages.  My concerns over conversion into housing also remain.

    35.2 Proposals are likely to increase traffic in villages as more people travel to rural areas to work.  Clearly, this is also undesirable.

    36.  P206.  Policy E7 – new employment provision in association with residential development
    36.1 I OBJECT to this policy.  Employment provision for every 10 homes built is entirely unnecessary and overly prescriptive when the statistics clearly outline most incomers are retiring – see p63 of the Roger Tym East Devon Housing and Employment Study 2011.  My arguments relating to the general over-provision of employment land are well-documented above. 

    37.  P206.  Policy E8 – Extensions to existing employment sites
    37.1 I OBJECT to this policy.  Allowing industrial estates or business parks to expand by 10 per cent once they are 80 per cent occupied is nonsensical and will damage the countryside unnecessarily.  How would the claims of landowners or developers be monitored or checked?  The policy is weak in controls, open to abuse, not justified and should be discarded. 

    38.  P211. Policy SH6 – change of use of village shops or services
    38.1 I have CONCERNS about this policy.  The first sentence of the second paragraph renders the policy meaningless as villages do not have ‘significant numbers of shops’.  I PROPOSE that the sentence is changed to read:  ‘Proposals which would result in a loss of shops, post offices, public houses or community facilities …’

    39.  P212.  Policy SH10 – Retail development in rural areas outside built up area boundaries
    39.1 I OBJECT to this policy.  It is too loose and could be open to abuse. According to Richard Eley of the Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce, in his submission to LDF Panel, dated 27 September, EDDC already has the loosest criteria for controlling farm shops. Mr Eley estimates that there are now more than a hundred ‘farm shops’ operating in East Devon, and at least half of these are operating unlawfully.

    39.2 Within perhaps five years, he fears, most of these operations will have acquired a lawful use will be potentially developable into large scale retailing operations. This development would be unplanned and the consequences for town centres would be serious. As many of these businesses are operating on our main roads and tourist routes, the impact upon the appearance of our countryside would be considerable.  I PROPOSE that this policy should be tightened so that 90 per cent of goods sold in these rural shops are from the farm or local to the district.  A strict enforcement policy should also apply. 

    40.  P216:  Policy TO6 – Provision of visitor attractions
    40.1 I PROPOSE that this policy is tightened.  It was agreed at Development Management Committee on Friday 18 November, to remove the word ‘significant’ from point 1.  A further point should be added – point 6 should read ‘it would not use the best and most versatile agricultural land.’

    41. Other policies that do not appear to be included
    41.1 Justification for development of barns or agricultural buildings in the open countryside.  Current planning policy stipulates that there must be justification provided for building agricultural buildings, such as barns, in the open countryside.  I cannot see this policy in the new Local Plan.  I PROPOSE it is retained.

    41.2 Also, the policy that relates to barn conversions.  Currently barns must be worthy of conversion – structurally sound, for example.  I cannot find this policy either.  I PROPOSE it is retained

    42. Bad neighbour uses policy
    42.1 I remain concerned about the deletion of this policy.  I believe it could lead to the council being in a weakened position when it is necessary to refuse an application on these grounds.  I PROPOSE it is reinstated.

    43.  Tourism (general comments)
    43.1 Tourism could be linked to around 32 per cent of the East Devon economy (a significant form of income), according to the Tym report (Table 2.5 on P9). In many east Devon shops, tourist expenditure could be around 50 per cent of total turnover.

    43.2 The household income figures released by Devon County Council have shown that the economy of many other East Devon towns cannot be sustained alone by the spend of residents.  For town centres to survive it can only be possible through the boost provided by tourism. We need all-year-round tourism, and we need high-value tourism.

    43.3 I share Richard Eley’s worries that recent statistics from South West Tourism show East Devon tourism going downmarket faster than any other district in the region. While other authorities have encouraged hotel investment, upmarket restaurants and quality attractions, EDDC has opted for mass tourism such as holiday camps as the focus for tourism policy.  High quality restaurants and hotels, as well as green tourism should be the focus for EDDC’s tourist policies.  This gives the biggest boost to the most number of local businesses and is line with East Devon’s natural assets.

    43.4 The more we chase a light industrial future for East Devon by over-allocating fields for tin sheds the more we put at risk our natural economy – our tourist industry. 

    43.5 The evidence is overwhelming that people visit East Devon for its countryside.  This needs to be nurtured and protected.  To continue along the path set down by the Local Plan could easily jeopardise the backbone of our economy.

    44.  P216.  Policy RE1 – Retention of land for sport and recreation
    44.1 I PROPOSE that point 3 be clarified, relating to being able to develop recreation land if there is an excess of open space in the area.  Presumably, there are standards for assessing this.  The named standards should be stated to avoid developers and EDDC clashing about which set of standards are valid.  Also in point 3 the word ‘area’ is ambiguous.  Developers could argue about an excess of recreation ground at parish level for example.  I propose the word ‘community’ replaces the word ‘area.’

    45.  P218.  Policy RE5 – Recreation facilities in the countryside and on the coast
    45.1 I PROPOSE a fourth point is added to this policy:  ‘Proposals should not use the best and most versatile agricultural land.’

    Photograph:  With Communities Before Developers campaign group last March protesting about the level of development proposed in the Local Development Framework