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East Devon District Council’s local plan found sound BUT Sidford land will become industrial estate

Monday, 18 January 2016 2 Comments by Claire

A government planning inspector has ruled that East Devon District Council’s local plan is sound.

Welcome news for most of us, despite the very high numbers of housing and industrial estates approved, as it will at least provide planning certainty. However, it does mean that the proposed hugely controversial 12 acres of industrial estate at Sidford WILL go ahead - in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The industrial estate proposed on this land inspired the launch of Save Our Sidmouth - and latterly, the East Devon Alliance…..

Last March Cllrs Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman won a controversial vote to delete the allocation from the draft local plan. 

But the planning inspector has included it once again.

This news makes me remember what feels like endless campaigning and years of work that I put in, with others, such as Roger Giles, to try and improve the policies and reduce the amount of development.

The first demonstration I led on this was in November 2010. I then sat on the reconfigured local plan panel after I was elected to EDDC in 2011. We certainly managed to improve some of the really awful policies, but in the end, the overall level of development has hardly altered at all.

Some may remember all the shenanigans relating to the East Devon Business Forum, which I led on exposing in 2012 - and the subsequent resignation of its chairman, former Cllr Graham Brown in 2013, after a sting operation by the Daily Telegraph where he appeared on pages two and three offering his services as a planning consultant for “hire.”

I contributed to many sessions of the first planning inspector hearing in 2014 - and argued vociferously with Mark Williams, chief executive, at the full council meeting in March last year when, after reading the evidence behind the significant levels of development - I learned that all the new evidence (commissioned by EDDC) pointed in favour of MUCH lower levels of development.

I had a hope that Mr Thickett would look at the evidence and reduce the proposed development accordingly. But this was obviously a vain hope.

Why was it a vain hope? Because Mr Thickett is ordered by the government to sanction plans that push levels of development to their very limit.

The issue was of course, a pledge in my general election manifesto. Unfortunately Mr Swire and Mr Parish have been silent on the issue of the levels of development - even going as far as to praise the developer friendly national planning policy framework which all councils must use to determine their local plans. Mr Swire certainly had nothing negative to say about the NPPF.

The fact that our government appears only interested in building as much as possible and in as many places as possible should concern all of us.

We need houses - of course we do, especially properly affordable housing for younger people and those on low incomes - but what we don’t need in East Devon, is growth of almost a third in just a few years.

This is now what we will get.

The next election is a long way away yet, but I hope that those people who voted Conservative will remember that our MPs knew all about these plans. 

And did and said nothing at all.

Roll on the next parliament.

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Here’s the press release:

A key milestone has been reached with East Devon’s Local Plan following official confirmation from the independent Planning Inspector that the plan, subject to a number of modifications, is now ‘sound’.

This means that East Devon District Council can now move forward to formally adopt the Local Plan and the additional Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charging schedule. A meeting to adopt the plan is expected to take place at the end of January.

The Local Plan documents are the culmination of years of work as the Council has assessed many possible development sites and addressed thousands of consultation responses with communities and individuals across the district.

The document was comprehensively scrutinised by Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett who has made some modifications to the final plan which are essentially those that the Council consulted on last October and November with some amendments to these that he felt were necessary.

The Inspector’s main findings are:
• The target of 17,100 new homes between 2013 and 2031 is an appropriate housing need for the district and will meet the needs identified in the Council’s studies.
• The district will have a five- year housing land supply upon adoption of the plan and indeed already has such a supply. This means that settlement boundaries can be more rigorously defended from developers wishing to develop land that sits outside of the boundaries included in the plan.
• The identified need for 37 gypsy and traveller pitches is based on robust and reliable evidence.
• The proposed site allocations for homes and employment are appropriate including land at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary and the allocation of East Devon District Council’s offices at the Knowle, Sidmouth.

The Inspector has also resolved to include the Sidford employment site that East Devon councillors asked to be removed from the Local Plan at a Council meeting in March 2015.

Explaining his decision in his report, he says: “It has been shown that there is neither a suitable site within Sidmouth nor a better one outside the town. I consider that any environmental impacts can be satisfactorily mitigated…..I consider the proposed allocation to be sound and I do not recommend its deletion.”

In relation to the identified need for 37 gypsy and traveller pitches, Mr Thickett says he understands concerns that up to 30 of these pitches are provided at Cranbrook. Mr Thickett adds: “There is nothing in the modified policy to require all 30 pitches to be in the same place and I have seen nor read anything to suggest that sites could not be developed in a way that would integrate satisfactorily with other development planned for Cranbrook.

” The Council will continue to look at all options for the delivery of the gypsy and traveller sites and these will be allocated through a separate document to be consulted on later this year.

Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said he was pleased to see the Local Plan now moving forward.

He said: “The plan is a vital ‘blueprint’ for future growth and development in East Devon up to 2031, and will be used to decide planning applications, helping guide investment in infrastructure and give communities more certainty about how their part of the district will grow and develop during this period. 

“I hope that our residents feel reassured that the local plan, when adopted, will give us full control over what development is permitted in the district and I am grateful to everyone who took the time to contribute to the many consultations that were held. They have helped to shape the future of the district.

“The plan has taken time to develop and we have had some demanding policy challenges along the way. However, it is crucial that we have the right plan in place to ensure that our outstanding environment is conserved and enhanced, and that new development can provide homes that people need, places for them to work and social and community facilities to support them in leading healthy, active and fulfilling lives.”

Mark Williams, East Devon District Council’s Chief Executive, said: “It is a pleasure to read a rational, proportionate and common sense assessment of the planning issues that the East Devon Local Plan addresses. We are grateful to Mr Thickett for the excellent work he has undertaken and now look forward to finally adopting the Local Plan.”

The Local Plan Inspector’s report is available on East Devon District Council’s website at http://eastdevon.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/emerging-plans-and-policies/the-new-local-plan/local-plan-adoption/

The Inspector’s report into the Community Infrastructure Levy is available to read at http://eastdevon.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/community-infrastructure-levy-cil/cil-adoption/

Photograph:  The loved Camp Field at Feniton, which has repeatedly been the target of planning applications for well over 100 houses.

Comments

1. At 08:04 pm on 18th Jan Sandra Semple wrote:

But no more housing in Ottery!

2. At 02:08 pm on 19th Jan Paul F wrote:

Much as I respect Claire for all her efforts over far more years than I have, I must beg to differ with her when she says “the overall level of development has hardly altered at all”. In fact the level of development has increased greatly.

EDDC’s own figures show an average of 402 new homes were built per year between 2007 and 2013 ( http://eastdevon.gov.uk/planning-libraries/evidence-document-library/chapter8.1-housing/hsg011-localplanhousingnumberstechnicalpaper2013.pdf#page=13), but in 2013/14 were 824 ( http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1001413/2606145yrldsply.pdf ).

The new plan talks about an AVERAGE of 950 house per year, but this is front loaded and a graph in the draft local plan shows that projected build rates for 2015-2021 are: 1,550, 1,444, 1,449, 1,291, 1,537 and 1,549 ( http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1060693/psd2015a-local-plan-tracked-changes-consultation-apr-2015.pdf#page=271 ).

Indeed even the headline figure of 17,100 new homes is an understatement. The latest draft of the Local Plan actually talks about 18,241 homes ( http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1060693/psd2015a-local-plan-tracked-changes-consultation-apr-2015.pdf#page=35 ) rather than 17,100, an average of 1,013 per year.

So instead of 400 new house a year we will be seeing 1,500 (think Costa del Sol during the major development years). EDDC’s Leader, Tory councillor Paul Diviani, has described this increase in numbers as “modest” - but most of us would think that growth from 400 to 1,500 can never be described as “modest”.

It is also worth noting that the Inspector explicitly points out that he would expect to see the majority of this growth within existing towns, but that the figures relating to this is the Local Plan only cover a minority of this growth - in other words the Inspector is pointing out that this growth will be outside existing Towns i.e. in the countryside.

As Claire points out, this amounts to growth of c. 30% against the 61,000 existing homes - imagine all the area in East Devon currently covered with buildings (i.e. Seaton, Axminster, Budleigh, Exmouth, Honiton, Sidmouth, plus the smaller towns and villages) and lump this together in your mind into one huge conurbation. Now take a third of this area - and now imagine that amount of green countryside, some of it in our AONBs, covered in buildings.

Not a great picture is it. But, that is the path that EDDC’s Tory leadership has now set us upon.

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