I have limited my comment to three towns that I believe are the still the most controversial, in terms of proposals for development.
But it was a decision over development at Sidmouth that caused residents anger to erupt into shouts and heckling, after an amended recommendation to retain a 12 acre industrial estate at Sidford, was backed by the committee.
Fords of Sidmouth are promoting the land at Sidford. Fords are also members of the East Devon Business Forum.
Committee chairman, Cllr Mark Williamson read out an amendment to the recommendation to retain the industrial estate. He proposed to phase the development, on the proviso that the south side of the land was developed first.
Sidmouth councillor, Peter Sullivan said he didn’t support the allocation and there was land suitable at Alexandria Industrial Estate, which was currently being looked at by Cllr Stuart Hughes.
But planning policy manager Matt Dickins said that this was highly unlikely to work because of ransom strips, as well as the cost and appropriateness of using public money for a compulsory purchase order. Mr Dickins said Alexandria Industrial Estate would only increase by a small amount, even if it was expanded.
Cllr David Key backed proposals for development at Sidford. He said there was a demand for it and there was nowhere else for a new industrial estate to go.
An amendment from Cllr Ben Ingham to instead allocate the land as a ‘reserve site’ was voted down.
There was no mention of the fact that two independent consultants had stated that there was little need for new ‘employment’ land in East Devon, largely due to the many empty units in the district – around 400.
A report from East Devon Business Forum is the only evidence that EDDC appears to be relying on to justify its allocations for industrial land.
Councillors supported the chairman’s amended recommendations by eight votes to six, much to the considerable anger of residents present.
Over an hour was spent listening to representatives from town councils. Many made complex and in-depth points. Bizarrely, the committee did not hear each town representative in sequence with the debate. They heard all the town representatives first and then the committee debated each town in turn.
The likelihood of committee members remembering all of the points raised by town council speakers, I would have thought was pretty slim!
Ottery St Mary
I was very surprised at the way the chairman dealt with Ottery.
Cllr Williamson dismissed the shopping frontage extension proposal as being an issue ‘for a neighbourhood plan’, and Ottery Town Council’s desire to reduce the employment land for the town to be in line with independent consultant’s, Roger Tym, he claimed was ‘arguing over an acre.’
Cllr Williamson then claimed that there was no need for a proposal, that he would move as chair, that the recommendations in the agenda papers be approved.
So there was no debate and no vote on Ottery at all!
This seemed pretty poor to me, especially after our clerk, Judith Reynolds had spent time preparing a detailed speech and after Ottery councillors met and debated the issue last week. EDDC asked our opinions and invited us to address the committee at the Knowle after all!
There was a debate on Honiton, but it was complex and distinctly odd.
Councillors discussed the land in the Gittisham parish which had caused so much controversy as it was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and was being opposed by Natural England and Gittisham Parish Council.
There was no opposition from committee members to the massive 15 hectares of industrial land which takes Heathpark Industrial estate a mile to the west and which is universally opposed by community groups in Honiton and Gittisham, as well as the town and parish council.
A very large site to the east of the town appeared to be pushed hard by Cllr David Key. He said that he had spoken to people at Honiton and they didn’t want development to the west but they didn’t mind development to the east of the town.
Cllr Key said sites E034 and E167 were the sites favoured by people when he spoke to them. He added that he knew this even though he was not Honiton’s councillor. He added that the town was being elongated to a ridiculous size with the current proposals.
But Matt Dickins said that there were problems with this site as the highways authority had objected to it. He said development here would require a bypass and to fund this around 5000 houses would need to be built at Honiton. He said this would be a ‘non starter.’
But Cllr Key, who is a former chair of the local development framework panel, claimed mysteriously that there were ‘big negotiations’ going on with those sites (E034 and E167) but that he ‘couldn’t divulge any more’. He said that although he wasn’t a councillor of Honiton he was in talks with a company which was interested in the site and that ‘talks were at an advanced stage.’
I found this quite an astonishing piece of information to be raised at such a critical moment and I was surprised that the chairman allowed it to be taken into consideration.
On this basis Cllr Key proposed that site E158 was deleted. Upon which there was a whole series of proposals and counter proposals for sites all beginning with the letter ‘e’ to be deleted and then reallocated and I am afraid I got rather lost.
So it seemed, did a large proportion of the Development Management Committee, judging from the number of requests for clarification.
Anyone wishing to know the final outcome of this debate should refer to the minutes when they are published!
The local plan will now be rubber stamped at the full council meeting next Wednesday 25 July, before being submitted for a six week consultation.
After this the formal submission stages start, where the plan is readied for the scrutiny of the planning inspector.
The full council meeting on Wednesday 25 July starts at 6.30pm and there will be 15 minutes for public questions at the beginning.
Photograph: View of the Sid Valley.