EAST DEVON residents are being urged to have their say on the district’s draft Local Plan as its final consultation reaches the halfway point. And those who question the council’s propriety are being challenged to make it formal rather than resort to the rumour mill.

The Local Plan sets out how much-needed homes and jobs will be delivered around the district over the next 15 years, whilst also taking in to account the balancing act between provising these and protecting the environment and other things that make East Devon outstanding. If it is approved by an independent Planning Inspector next year and then adopted by the Full Council, it will become the area’s main evidence base for determining planning applications and negotiating with developers.

The council is asking anyone with comments about policies or allocations in the Local Plan to make their concerns or support known through the consultation at http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/localplan. At this address they can view the plan and comment on any of its proposals online.

People can view hard copies of the plan at district council offices, libraries and town council offices around the district. Comments are welcome by post as long as they are clearly linked to a specific policy. People can write to Planning Policy Section, EDDC, Knowle, Sidmouth, EX10 8HL.

This reminder follows the launch of a Task and Finish Forum (TAFF) where six councillors are examining the council’s relationship with East Devon Business Forum, established by the Council to act as a regular consultation and engagement link with the district’s business community. The TAFF will assess and recommend how, in its view, the Council might improve upon or replace the existing arrangements.

However, the TAFF is not designed to look at allegations that the EDBF might have had an undue or improper influence over employment land allocation in the draft Local Plan. Any allegation is a matter for an independent planning inspector, who will examine the plan in public next year.

People’s responses to the Local Plan consultation will be considered by the inspector, making this the most appropriate avenue for raising any planning policy or land allocation concerns. The inspector’s public investigation is a standard part of the Local Plan process, and all councils have their plans independently inspected in this way.

Procedures

Nor will the TAFF directly investigate any allegations about influence on specific planning applications in the past, as any complaints of this sort should properly be dealt with through formal procedures involving the Local Government Ombudsman.

Now the council is asking those saying they believe something wrong has happened to make it formal if they actually have a specific complaint.

Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council said: “It’s important and entirely proper for a Task and Finish Forum to examine our relationship with the East Devon Business Forum and how we as a council can engage effectively and properly with our business community.

“Given the nature of some of these complaints, we think it is best that any allegations of undue influence follow formal procedures. It’s not something the Council should be investigating itself since public confidence in the matter is properly assessed through an independent approach involving either the Inspector or the Ombudsman.

“If people have concerns or a belief of maladministration involving planning, they should make a formal complaint to the independent Local Government Ombudsman.

“If people wish to question the evidence behind employment land allocation in our draft Local Plan, it is most appropriate to respond to the consultation so that the independent Inspector can consider it.

“The Task and Finish Forum is not independent of the Council and not the right place for it, and I would hope that encouraging formal reporting will reassure everyone that we take any complaints seriously. We co-operate fully with formal external investigations”.

The latest and final round of consultation on the Local Plan opened on 19 November, and people can have their say until 12 noon on Monday 14 January.