• Plans for development in East Devon - where we are now …

    27th September 2011 | News | Claire
  • Panel has met regularly since mid July.  The meetings are now weekly

    Key issues
    2 August – housing – recommendation voted through (opposed by myself, Ray Bloxham and Steve Wragg) that 15,000 houses (minimum) would be the right number for the district

    2 August – villages with built-up area boundaries should grow by five per cent (minimum) over the next 20 years. 

    30 August – employment land – two vastly different reports presented to the panel – a lot more industrial land needed.  And hardly any more industrial land needed.  The report stated that a lot more industrial land was needed was clearly flawed and several of us argued this. 

    This report was based on representations from landowners (who have submitted their own land for development) from East Devon Business Forum back in 2007 and contradicted an independent study, which found that East Devon needed only slightly more industrial land.

    There was much disagreement but no decisions or recommendations were made at this panel meeting.  Another consultant report is awaited on this.

    I had done some research on empty units and found that there are over 400 empty industrial or commercial units in East Devon.  300 of which have been empty for more than one year.  I argued that these should be taken into account when determining planning applications.  I appeared to get agreement from Mrs Little (Head of Economy) that this should be so.

    6 September – towns – the towns gave their presentations about how much development they were prepared to take, given environmental and infrastructural constraints.  Where will 15,000 plus houses go? The general picture was that virtually all towns believed they could not accommodate as much development as allocated to them in the LDF. 

    It was perverse that the recommendation on number of houses was made before the panel heard from the towns or the villages.

    13 September – Environment session – the panel heard that Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (two thirds of East Devon’s countryside) would remain largely protected but given the Govt planning reforms it was unclear how much protection the council could give the undesignated countryside in East Devon.  Almost all of the countryside in Ottery St Mary Rural Ward (aside from a small part of Tipton St John) is not protected under this new draft legislation. 

    The panel agreed with me that this protection was vital, whatever the outcome of the National Planning Policy Framework consultation.  However, when minutes of this meeting was presented to us, our comments on this were not listed.  Myself and another councillor challenged this.

    Neighbourhood Plans – the general view was that they are primarily a tool for communities to ask for more development than allocated for them in the Local Plan, and to give a view where it goes.  I asked whether a Neighbourhood Plan could limit development to the five per cent allocated by EDDC’s Local Plan.  The reply was unclear but this looks doubtful.  A Neighbourhood Plan’s primary function appears to be for communities to request more development, not limit or control it. 

    Affordable housing – the recommendation was to alter the current 40 per cent affordable housing figure and split it depending on land value. There was lots of debate on this and alternative views, however, a recommendation was agreed that a minimum of 25 per cent affordable housing will be set in areas where land is cheaper and a target of 50 per cent target affordable housing where land is more expensive, both subject to viability. 

    Rural areas fell into the 50 per cent affordable housing category, which includes rural areas, such as West Hill, Tipton St John, Aylesbeare etc. 

    I opted for the status quo – 40 per cent in all areas, unless a developer can prove they cannot afford it, but Mrs Little (Head of Economy) said that this would not be accepted by the Planning Inspector.

    Next steps
    LDF Panel meetings continue weekly until the end of October.  The revised plan will go to LDF Panel and then Development Management Committee for approval before being submitted for public consultation again, probably in November.  It is expected to be considered by the Planning Inspector next spring.

    2. National Planning Policy Framework
    The Government is consulting on the biggest planning reforms in a generation. 

    Over 1000 pages of planning legislation has been slashed to 52 pages of vague planning statements.

    The Government claims the planning system is too slow and cumbersome and is acting as a brake on economic growth.  They are proposing a default answer of ‘yes’ to development. There is a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’ through the document, but the Government refusing to define ‘sustainable development’.  Without this legal definition, there is confusion, chaos and a planning lawyer’s dream.

    There is now a huge furore.  It is being opposed by just about every environmental group in the land, as well as the Daily Telegraph, which is running a campaign – Hands off Our Land.  38 Degrees petition started up last week and gained almost 50,000 signatures in 24 hours!

    I have read the document.  It is a developer’s charter.  There is no protection for the undesignated countryside – most of the countryside in England is undesignated.  The planning statements are vague and there are caveats to almost every policy.  However, there are signs that Govt may be doing a bit of climbdown …

    Have spoken to Hugo Swire about this and he is concerned.  If you are also concerned, please contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The consultation ends on 17 October but it is quite in order to contact Hugo Swire after this date, as the legislation won’t come to parliament for some time yet.