A PLANNING Inspector has advised that a number of changes to the submitted East Devon Local Plan that EDDC considered to be minor and not in need of further consultation do in fact constitute major changes.

Mr Anthony Thickett has advised that he cannot undertake his examination of the document submitted to him by EDDC on 2 August because there are 53 changes from an earlier version that he feels should be consulted on first. EDDC?s senior planning politician said that the news was not a surprise and she welcomed the Inspector?s clarification.

The development means that EDDC must commence a further public consultation on the Local Plan as soon as possible. A recommendation that a new consultation exercise should be launched on 23 August will be put to the Development Management Committee (DMC) tomorrow (Tuesday).

The proposal, which is for all the changes made since the previous consultation ? not just the 53 mentioned by the Inspector ? to be the subject of a further consultation exercise, means that the Inspector will not reach any firm view until the new comments have been received by him.

Only those changes to the the earlier version of the plan may be the subject of any new comments. EDDC has stressed that this does NOT present an opportunity for anyone to comment on any other elements of the draft Local Plan. New comments will be forwarded to the Inspector for his attention.

Among the changes that the Inspector has picked out as in need of further public comment is an amendment to the wording of a section dealing with the proposed business park at Sidford. This is now more restrictive on commercial activity at the site than had been the case in the previous version of the document.

Departure

The Inspector also felt that EDDC?s removal of Zones A and E from the proposed development areas of the Knowle campus should be the subject of public comment because in his opinion this constitutes a significant departure from the earlier version of the draft Local Plan.

In a similar vein, the Council?s decision to tighten up on environmental conservation and enhancement in small rural towns and larger villages was considered by Mr Thickett to be another example of a change where the public should have an opportunity to express a view.

Commenting on the news, Councillor Helen Parr, Chairman of East Devon?s DMC, said: ?This development comes as no surprise to me or to our planning team. It is common for Inspectors to call for further consultation on Local Plans submitted to them and this is only to be expected when you consider how much interest there is in the planning agenda both nationally and locally.

?We will of course comply with Mr Thickett?s request and will launch the new public consultation at the first available opportunity so that we do not hold up the process of examination any longer than is necessary. We want to follow ? and be seen to follow ? due process, but we also want to finalise our new planning policy document just as soon as we can?.