Several members of the public were present for an additional item on the agenda of the DevMan Committee.
It appeared to be a contentious matter – BBC Radio Devon had included a debate between Cllr Paul Diviani, EDDC Council Leader, and Paul Arnott of the East Devon Alliance earlier in the day. EDDC had been accused of being negligent and complacent in not having an adopted Local Plan, and therefore leaving East Devon at risk from developers.
Most members of the DevMan Committee appeared not to have heard the Radio Devon item, or perhaps considered the matter to be of little importance.
Normally at DevMan meetings, councillors are anxious to express their views on planning applications at great length – even if they are all of the same view. By contrast there were very few who desired to express a view on a very important matter.
A planning policy officer introduced his paper. He said the strategic housing market assessment (SHMA) was an ongoing piece of work, which regrettably had not proceeded as speedily as had been hoped. It was being progressed as quickly as possible.
There were two critical areas:
– affordable housing; and
– the economic growth agenda (there must be sufficient homes for workers).
Ben Ingham (independent) was very critical of the paper and the delays in producing the SHMA report, and of the failure to have achieved an adopted East Devon Local Plan, and the failure to provide a five year housing land supply.
He said that the East Devon countryside remained at risk from developers as a result. He said: “At each point of review we seem to be moving further away from completion.” And “It is hard to believe that we have got ourselves into this pickle. Each time we change our objectives we cause more delay. We should have started producing a SHMA three years ago. Instead, we waited until we were asked to do so.”
This prompted some conservative councillors to say “No!” (but the same conservative councillors were strangely silent when they had the opportunity to debate this point; indeed there seemed to be a reluctance to debate anything about the paper on the part of most of the ruling conservative group).
Geoff Pook (independent) echoed Ben Ingham`s remarks. He was concerned about the lack of urgency in the situation; he wanted to see a timetable.
Mike Allen (conservative) was also very critical of the situation. He called on the chief executive to take a grip. He said: “This is an unacceptable performance on the part of the chief executive and his team.” He was concerned about the lack of progress on a piece of work which had been completed by the local plan panel two years ago.
Roger Boote (conservative) pointed out that the SHMA was a piece of work being carried out on behalf of several councils – not just EDDC. He thought that it was time to move on (the “debate” had taken all of fifteen minutes).
Peter Sullivan also agreed that it was time to move on, and proposed that a vote be taken.
It was. Most of the development management committee voted to note the report; only Ben Ingham and Mike Allen voted against.
See Cllr Susie Bond’s account of the meeting here – https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/tetchy-meeting-to-receive-report-on-delay-in-housing-numbers/