• No employment land scrutiny until plan has been agreed

    1st July 2013 | News | Claire
  • There has been ongoing and significant public interest in examining the input that East Devon Business Forum had in the process of the inclusion of employment land in the local plan.  It emerged last year that the forum, formerly led by ex councillor and planning agent, Graham Brown, boasted that the forum had made an “enormous difference” to the amount of employment land in the local plan. 

    Two independent reports commissioned by EDDC have recommended much lower levels of such land.

    During the EDBF scrutiny sub committee meetings (which I am a member of) there have been ongoing discussions and debate about looking at planning issues since it was set up last September.  But the subject of planning had always been disallowed by the chief executive, on the grounds that it would not be appropriate and possibly unlawful for the committee to look at planning issues.

    Then in March, EDBF scrutiny sub committee chairman, Cllr Graham Troman, brought the issue back to the main scrutiny committee for discussion.  At this meeting, councillors narrowly voted through a proposal that the committee should look at planning issues, as it was in the public interest.  Particularly after the revelations in the Daily Telegraph on 11 March. 

    At this meeting the recommendation was “that the remit of the Business Task and Finish Forum include employment land planning issues (but not individual planning allocations) without delaying the development of the Local Plan or impinging on the Police Investigation currently being carried out “

    This recommendation was then agreed by full council at its meeting on 22 May.

    Following this decision, at last week’s EDBF scrutiny sub committee meeting, I proposed the following:  “To consider the appropriateness of the amount of employment land provided in the East Devon Local Plan, and the methodology for reaching this level of provision, including possible flaws in the analysis employed. To establish clearly the process by which land allocations were suggested and by whom”.

    This morning’s email gives the following reasons why the committee is advised not to look at employment land issues.  Officer advice is that it would risk:

    – preempting and/or duplicating the work of the local plan inspector
    – undermining EDDC’s democratic processes
    – interfering with and potentially delaying the inspector’s consideration of the local plan
    – damaging the reputation of the council because this action would cause confusion and doubt in the public’s mind

    The EDBF scrutiny committee is advised via this morning’s email that if it wants to look at the local plan’s process, to study its decision-making timeline and leave any scrutiny of more in-depth procedures, until after the local plan has been adopted.