More than 100 people crammed into the Clyst St George and Ebford Parish Hall.

The meeting was chaired by Vaughan Rosser, chair of Ebford Residents Association, who started the meeting by informing everyone present that Hugo Swire had to leave dead on 7.30pm to enable him to catch a train back to London.

Hugo Swire explained that he has no influence in planning matters unless there has been some wrongdoing. 

But he did say that his job is to ensure that there is somewhere for children to go to school, and hospitals in which people are cared for.

In justification for building some houses (he said that there were those who did not want any houses to be built) he suggested to the audience that a significant number of them had not been born locally. However he was concerned about ribbon development along the A376 road.

Mr Swire went on to say that said that people had to hold their councillors to account. He was very keen on Neighbourhood Plans – he referred to NPs on three or four occasions – which he said, allowed communities to decide where development should or should not be.

Someone said that Clyst St George had 38 dwellings, yet faced a planning application for 25 dwellings outside the Built Up Area Boundary – an increase of 65% -in an unsustainable location with very little employment and few facilities. He said that developers were taking advantage of the situation.

Hugo Swire said that the problem was that East Devon District Council (EDDC) did not have an adopted Local Plan (LP). This was something that had concerned him for some time, however EDDC had told him that an adopted LP was not far away. He again expressed concern about the prospect of urban sprawl all the way down the estuary.

Vaughan Rosser said that Ebford faced an increase of 53% dwellings. He said there was a feeling that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) favoured developers.

Hugo Swire emphasised the need for housebuilding, by saying that the average first time house buyer was now over 30.  He said that the NPPF was the first attempt ever to give communities the power to decide the level of local development.

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An Ebford resident said that EDDC`s lack of a five year housing land supply and the NPPF made East Devon vulnerable to developers.

Hugo said that planning was never perfect, and again said that the NPPF was a genuine attempt to ensure local engagement over planning decision-making. He suggested that he wanted to see the majority of EDDC houses go to Cranbrook.

A Woodbury Salterton resident said that there is “planning blight” everywhere. He said there is an election coming up, and asked what the government is doing about it. Hugo replied those of us lucky enough to have houses should think about those who are not so lucky.

An Ebford resident who was well informed said that the NPPF was biased towards developers and was “flawed”. He said that it had been criticised by a parliamentary select committee.

Then it was 7.30 and Hugo had to catch his train back to London, He was thanked for coming down, received polite clapping, and people went home.