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Strategic plan improves at the 11th hour

Monday, 21 November 2011 0 Comments by Claire

A handful of strategic planning policies have been tweaked for the better at last Friday’s (18 November) meeting of the Development Management Committee.

The all-day meeting, which was to review the Local Plan (formerly the Local Development Framework) prior to public consultation, was largely a rubber-stamping exercise, however, I was pleased to amend several planning policies for the better - proposals which I had been outvoted on during the previous LDF Panel meetings.

These are:

- Two environmental policies (EN5 and 6) concerned with developing near sites of special scientific interest and nature reserves.  The wording in the document up until now had made it clear that applications could only be refused if there was a ‘significant’ adverse effect.  I proposed to remove the word ‘significant’ in both policies, which was agreed.  My proposal was backed by the RSPB, which had made several submissions to the LDF Panel over recent weeks.

A small change which will hopefully make a big difference to our most sensitive countryside and wildlife.

- An alteration to a visitor attraction policy (T06), which again used the word ‘significant’ adverse effect on the landscape, for the only reason to refuse a planning application.  I successfully argued that the word ‘significant’ should be removed, which means that any application that would create an adverse effect can be refused, as above.

- A most bizarre policy (strategy 25 and E7) of ‘requiring’ workshop sheds to be built for every 10 new houses in villages and smaller towns.  This policy has now been altered so that the developer makes a contribution to ‘employment’ in the locality instead.  I was pleased that several of the Development Management Committee agreed with me on this.

- A further employment policy (E1) has been mitigated to include a line about an application not having an adverse impact on the landscape or the settlement. The chairman and planning officers agreed with me on this.

- Proposals for park and ride schemes now have to be based on ‘need.’ as I argued the proposed policy was written as though schemes could be approved for any town

- I asked for changes to tighten up the policy on supermarkets, especially requirements for ‘needs tests’ but was defeated on this.  The answer given was that the ‘needs test’ was now scrapped in government policy, so we could not introduce our own.  I disagree with this on the basis that new Government policy is silent on the undesignated countryside, but EDDC is retaining its countryside protections.

Cllr Roger Giles argued strongly for fewer houses in Ottery St Mary, but was told his comments would be submitted as a consultation response instead, and the document would go to consultation as it stood - with 400 houses proposed.

The fundamental key aspects of the Local Plan, such as the housing levels and industrial and commercial land, were nodded through.

I note that the concept of ‘flexible built-up area boundaries’ - a highly controversial proposal which had survived from the previous plan - and one which I have been very critical of, now appears to have been toned down.  How much, we will have to wait and see the final draft of the document, which is expected to be published some time next week.

Most other proposed changes raised on 18 November will be forwarded as responses to the consultation, which starts on 1 December, finishing on 31 January.

All comments collected will be considered and used to revise the Local Plan, prior to being forwarded to the Planning Inspector.

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