More than 18,000 houses are now proposed to be built in the area by 2031.  But the figure may be much higher than this even.  Read on….

The controversial figures, which will be debated at an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday afternoon, have been long-awaited by East Devon councillors and residents, following the council’s draft local plan being thrown out by planning inspector, Anthony Thickett around a year ago.

But in a scene of deja vu the numbers appear to be based on the highest level of growth possible. In fact it is hard to even work out where the numbers come from.

Rewinding to 2007, the Atkins report commissioned at great cost by EDDC recommended low growth for the district and so did the Roger Tym report in 2011. But EDDC ignored them both and opted for a report by East Devon Business Forum, recommending very high levels of industrial land, which was put together by the landowners and developers on the forum – who then gained from major planning consents when EDDC policy shifted in their favour!

Unfortunately, not much seems to have changed.

In the past year, Mr Thickett’s requirements for an updated housing and employment land evidence base, has meant that the council (along with other local councils) commissioned consultant reports on the numbers of jobs required (industrial land) and also for the numbers of houses, for the district.

And yet again, in the consultant report on jobs the clear recommendation is for the council to follow a lower growth scenario – from government projections (the Office of Budget responsibility) to determine jobs growth (or new industrial land allocations) in the district.

The report, by Ash Futures, references two other higher growth scenarios – and the highest is described as risky. The bottom of page 10 states:  “There is an inherent risk associated with the assumption that growth will occur over the whole plan period …”

But guess what? EDDC has not just opted for the highest growth scenario, it has also added on some more for the western end of the district!  Its press release trumpets that EDDC will provide 549 jobs a year, …. However, the recommended projection from Ash Futures following government projections, is 273.

So I then took a look at the housing report, by Edge Analytics. And guess what?  They had only been given ONE option on which to determine the housing numbers for the district.  Yes, you guessed it, EDDC had plumped for the vastly inflated figure of 549 jobs and told Edge to come up with the numbers of houses to match the hugely inflated (and unachievable) jobs growth.

Surely, if one consultant had been obviously steering the council in one direction, EDDC might have at least asked the housing consultants to come up with three scenarios….. But they didn’t. And in today’s report under “risk” officers admit that the revised local plan may be so different from the last one, that the planning inspector may view it as a NEW local plan, incurring considerably more delays.

The disappearing houses
And something sinister has happened to all the houses built between 2006 and 2013.

They have disappeared!

Before I get on to this I should explain that in the old draft local plan the plan period was between 2006 and 2026.

The new revisions propose a plan period of 2013 to 2031.

So what has happened to all the houses that were in the old draft local plan between 2006 and 2013?

Have they been erased from the towns and villages that they were built in?

No. They simply have not been counted!  This means that the figure of 18,000 is a considerable underestimate. I am not sure how many houses are now unaccounted for but I think we can assume it is several thousand.  Which does rather increase the true housing hike up to well over 20,000.

I gave the council quite a blast over all this (as did other councillors including Susie Bond and Ian Thomas and a more than a dozen residents) at this morning’s development management committee meeting, which was packed with around 100 members of the public.

I also asked whether the planning inspector had recommended a housing number for the district. The chief executive indicated that he had not.

Then why I asked, does it say on the press release dated 9 March, that the planning inspector had advised on housing growth of 950 a year? This gives a clear (and totally false) impression that the council was implementing the sort of development levels that the planning inspector had told them to.

Villages v towns
Today’s report to the development management committee made it clear that further growth at the towns of East Devon was not desirable.

Instead, there should be more development in villages, it advised.

So there is now a list of villages that are deemed “sustainable” and therefore ripe for development.

The rest are set to lose their built up area boundaries, which effectively renders them in the countryside, pretty much only capable of receiving replacement dwellings and barn conversions.

The villages that are deemed sustainable for an unspecified level of development by EDDC include:
West Hill, Broadclyst,  East Budleigh, Lympstone, Newton Poppleford, Sidbury, Feniton, Woodbury Salterton, Otterton, Whimple, Clyst St Mary.

Clyst St Mary was in fact singled out for a housing allocation of 200 dwellings!  But I am told that the committee later deleted this allocation.

Ironically, Rockbeare looks set to be swamped by Cranbrook as it is now proposed to expand significantly south of the A30, however, the village is set to lose its built up area boundary. Ironic you might think.

Tipton St John, Aylesbeare and Alfington are among those villages set to lose their built up area boundaries.

Who knows what the planning inspector will make of all this. We will see in due course.

The public consultation on the new figures is expected to start in April for six weeks.

The contentious revisions to the local plan will be debated on Thursday afternoon – 2pm, at an extraordinary meeting, at the Knowle.