EAST Devon district councillors are due to approve an ‘action plan’ which seeks to address “serious failings” in its long term development plan, recently critiqued by a Government inspector.

After the three week public examination of the authority’s Draft Local Plan 2006-26, inspector Anthony Thickett concluded that the 15,000 housing target is not justified by evidence submitted, which is inadequate and not up-to-date.

He also said the absence of an up-to-date Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) was a “serious failing” and made a full assessment of need difficult.

The delay to finalising the plan is set to cost the council a further £12,000, by way of consultants’ studies fees, on top of the 2013/14 inspection budget of £110,000 plus £50,000 in reserve funding.
No date has been set for when it should be completed, but the action plan outlines the following measures:

Consultants are due to complete their work to produce an updated SHMA which will inform proposed housing numbers, by June.

The production of a report to address the need to work jointly with West Dorset District Council, which cannot accommodate its housing need meaning there “should be an overspill” of development into East Devon.

Further assessment on possible additional development sites to meet the next five years worth of housing need.

A review of villages’ ability to accommodate development.

Consideration over extending the Local Plan period from 2026 to 2031.

An accompanying report responds to a number of pertinent questions raised at the full council meeting to discuss the inspector’s conclusions, including why officers used 2008 population and housing predictions to base their housing recommendations on.

The report states that this “outdated” data was used due to concerns about the “statistical validity and worth” of the 2011 data in a Royal Town Planning Institute Research report which said “planning on the basis of latest projections could lead to an under-provision of housing”.

Councillors also complained that East Devon was having to help meet the needs of Exeter’s need for housing.

No guarantee was offered in the report against the district accommodating the needs of Exeter, due to the constraints on development within the city’s boundary.

However the report states that the city council is reassessing its scope for development and “there is also scope to question” whether there are constraints that should limit what East Devon can cope with.

The report also explained why the council produced a 12 year, instead of the required 15 year, plan.

It clarified that it was considered “appropriate” to produce the plan in accordance with the now defunct South West Regional Spatial Strategy.

The report concluded that it is not possible to give a definitive completion date of the revised plan.

Vice chairman of the East Devon Alliance campaign group, John Withrington, said: “East Devon is caught between the hammer of Exeter city and the anvil of West Dorset and should be fighting for every bit of countryside it has rather than allow it to be nibbled away by neighbouring authorities.

“It is disappointing not to see a date by which the council will have laboured day and night to complete it by so it can be returned to the inspector – given that until a plan is approved the countryside is vulnerable.”

Councillors on the council’s Development Management Committee are due to approve the action plan on Thursday, May 8.