Saturday 23 August 2014

Housing in East Devon: "the delay (and the developer free-for-all) could influence how residents vote in the next local elections in May 2015."

There has been a lot of coverage on the latest delay in the District Council's housing plans:
Futures Forum: Housing in East Devon: "I don’t see it as the floodgates opening, but I do see a stampede coming.”

The East Devon Alliance blog has looked into these plans and the coverage with a critical eye:


August 23rd 2014

An excellent article in this week’s Sidmouth Herald which does not just regurgitate the EDDC apology-for-a-press-release on the latest delay to the draft local plan, now not expected until at least summer 2015.

It points out that the delay means a total of at least 4 years without any locally-set building limits, instead relying on a “one size fits all national policy”.

And noting that the delay (and the developer free-for-all) could influence how residents vote in the next local elections in May 2015.

Recall that EDDC wasted at least three years between 2008 and 2011 on its initial Local Plan meetings (held in secret and with secret agendas and minutes) chaired by disgraced ex-councillor Graham Brown* (who also chaired the developer-heavy and 100% funded by EDDC East Devon Business Forum at the same time).

The council “Panel” of 2008-2011 spent a large amount of its time visiting sites owned by EDBF members whilst EDBF spent most of its time rubbishing council-funded research by 2 sets of consultants on “employment land” and successfully managing to persuade the council to accept their much higher figures when many members stood to gain from the said increase.

The current council had to convene yet another panel in 2011 and had to start from scratch again. The Planning Inspector threw out their report in March 2014, citing out of date figures and lack of vital information.

* Disgraced ex-councillor Brown also ran a planning consultancy in the are and was exposed in a Daily Telegraph front-page headline article in March 2013 article saying that if he could not get planning permission in the area then no-one could but that he did not come cheap. He resigned soon after the story was published. He had been EDDC Conservative councillor for Feniton, a by-election then subsequently won by Independent Councillor Susie Bond.

Local Plan delay … some perspectives | East Devon Alliance
When will EDDC’s Local Plan be ready? | East Devon Alliance


August 22nd 2014

From EDDC’s latest press release on the very, very delayed Local Plan:

The report to DMC explains that once consultants have provided a full SHMA report that addresses all the issues,

“an industry workshop should be held to consult with housebuilders before a final report can be produced and agreed with all of the commissioning authorities.”

i.e. AFTER the numbers have been decided (presumably taking necessary growth into account) developers will be allowed to change them! Can you honestly see any developer saying “Yeah, that looks about right” or “Oh, no, that’s far too much”!

It’s like a Bank Manager giving a burglar the keys to the vault and asking him to count the money!

A correspondent points out this is a central government initiative not a local one – which doesn’t improve matters one bit!

East Devon District Council - News

Comment: Paul says: August 22, 2014 at 6:59 pm

This is part of the process as defined by central government and not a local East Devon initiative.

Local Plan: do your research, agree the numbers – and then let developers change them! | East Devon Alliance


August 21st 2014

Below is a comment, left on a previous post, which is repeated here as it contains much useful information:

‘I have now had time to fully digest the report and do some further research and it looks like the LP resubmission is extremely unlikely to be this year, and possibly (if not probably) after the elections in May 2015.

A good starting point for documentation about the activities relating to fixing the Local Plan can be found at East Devon District Council - Submission of the new Local Plan which has a chronology and links to all the major documents.

My analysis of the situation is as follows:

1. The SHMA consultancy contract seems to me to be in a shambles.
However, Section 3 of this recent report gives the breakdown of this Best Practice into 6 stages, and paragraph 3.2 states that the work on the SHMA has only reached the first of the 6 stages in the PAS guidance.
Moreover, in a both letter to the Planning Inspector in mid-April 2014
and the draft action plan of 8 May
attached to a letter to the Planning Inspector on 22 May 2014
Mr Dickens was saying that the SHMA would be available in June 2014.

I have no reason to doubt that Mr Dickens was reporting these dates because that was what he was being told by DCA, but I cannot see how DCA could be reporting in May 2014 that they would finish in June 2014, and yet in August 2014 we have only completed the first of 6 stages to complete the SHMA.
The current report says NOTHING about the state of the SHMA contract with DCA. My experience in public sector outsourcing (having worked on both sides of the fence – though admittedly in IT rather than Planning Policy), this is likely now to be a major issue. DCA is certainly running late (and in consultancy, time is literally money) and so very likely to be running over budget and likely to make a loss on this piece of work, and it seems to me that there is a very high probability that there will need to be major contract renegotiations (DCA will likely claim a “change in scope”, EDDC will deny most of it, arguments will go back and forth – all of which will delay things further), and possibly eventually an agreement for EDDC to spend a lot more money spent to get this work completed by DCA – or worse still the contract being re-let and re-awarded to someone else to start again at the beginning.

So questions I want to know about the DCA contract:

A. Why has the SHMA not been delivered by DCA? Why were they still predicting they would deliver in in June as late as early May, and why were we surprised by its non-delivery with only 1 of 6 stages currently completed?

B. Is DCA still committed to deliver the SHMA within the current contract & existing costs?
If so, what is DCA’s revised schedule, and what happens if they miss it again?
If not, what are the EDDC plans to get the contract back on the rails so that the SHMA can be delivered, and what are the likely timescales and additional costs for revised or new contracts?

2. Timescales
The special DMC meeting on 8 May 2014 
page 5 onwards, discusses the draft Action Plan response to the Planning Inspector, and on page 19 there is a timetable which suggests that by now they would be providing “Feedback report on comments received [from the Consultation on the new SHMA] to Development Management Committee” for approval so that “Feedback sent to Inspector” by the end of August.

However if you look at the draft Action Plan, it is clear that there are several other pieces of work to do before Feedback to the Inspector, so this seemed unrealistic even then.

As far as I can see, the following still need to be done:
A. The remaining 5 stages of the SHMA as documented in Section 3 of the current report.
B. The activities described in the draft Action Plan.
C. The activities in the timetable from 8 May.
Personally I cannot see these being completed this year, and I would guess that it might take considerably longer than that.

The DMC needs to get a grip and take both control and responsibility for the completion of the Local Plan.
They need to find out the state of the contract with DCA and get it back on the rails.
They need to create a robust plan for redelivery of the revised Local Plan to the Inspector, providing additional resources to the Planning Policy unit if that is required to speed things up.

The current situation with the Local Plan: worse than omnishambles | East Devon Alliance 

This posting is referring to this earlier posting:
The delayed Local Plan – the missing document tracked down and a commentary on it (“What the Dickins”) | East Devon Alliance 

... and to an FOI request into the Strategic Housing Market Assessment Contract with David Coutie Associates:

21 August 2014

Dear East Devon District Council,

I understand from documents on your web site that EDDC (together
with Exeter, Teignbridge and Mid Devon councils) have contracted
with David Coutie Associates (DCA) for them to develop a Strategic
Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for the Exeter Housing Market
Area, and that this report was due to be delivered to the EDDC
Planning Policy Manager (PPM) in June 2014.

In his recent report to DMC section 3, the PPM states that there
are 6 stages in the process to develop the SHMA, and that DCA have
completed only the first stage.

Can the Planning Policy Manager, Matt Dickson, please confirm:

1. What were the detailed reasons provided by DCA for non-delivery
of the SHMA in June 2014 as promised?

2. What reasons were provided by DCA for not having provided
earlier warning that the SHMA would not be delivered in June 2014?

3. Is DCA still committed to deliver the SHMA within the existing
contract and original agreed costs?

4. If DCA is indeed still committed to deliver the SHMA within the
existing contract and original costs, what is their revised
committed date for delivery of the SHMA?

5. If DCA is no longer committed to deliver the SHMA within the
existing contract and original costs, what is the alternative plan
to deliver the SHMA (i.e. overall approach, timescales and
additional costs)?

Many thanks.

Yours faithfully,

P Freeman

Strategic Housing Market Assessment Contract with David Coutie Associates - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow


August 21st 2014

Recap: our draft Local Plan was thrown out by the Planning Inspector, Mr Thickett, because – oh, so many reasons – mainly because pretty much all of the figures in it were either too old or too unreliable. We were told to go back to the drawing board.

A crucial aspect of a local plan is that there must be a “5 year land supply” – i.e. enough available land to meet the district’s agreed needs for the next 5 years to enable building to start quickly and to keep up with demand. Those local authorities which had persistently underperformed in this area over the previous period were told that they would have to have a 6 year land supply – EDDC was one of those authorities.

Whichever way EDDC seemed to cut it, we never reached that magic 5 or 6 year level. As a result, developers are pretty much given free rein to build anywhere in East Devon unless EDDC can provide very strong reasons that they cannot – this as a result of the Coalition government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which ripped up all previous rules and gave the green light to building just about anywhere.

EDDC thereafter took this to heart and passed pretty much anything and everything that came its way (and is still coming its way) from developers. It was left to local communities (Feniton, Seaton, Newton Poppleford) to argue their own corners and find their own money to fight developers. In Feniton and Seaton the communities rallied and defeated them (only to find that, in both places, it seems the developers are coming back to fight again). In Newton Poppleford there was a perverse decision from the DMC – yes to a Clinton Devon Estates development but no to another developer at Badger Close using the same reasoning, but turned on its head for the latter.

EDDC promised the Planning Inspector that there would be a fast review (which had to include dealing with other local authorities in the area where they said that they had run out of space for their developments and needed us to build to take up their shortfall). The Inspector told EDDC that he would be ready to re-examine the draft local plan in October or November 2014.

Bear in mind that the new draft local plan once again had to go out for public consultation – a project that lasts at least 6 weeks and then demands officer time to collate the results. It became pretty obvious that EDDC was not going to meet this target.

Now we have confirmation that this is the case. At the next Development Management Committee on Tuesday 26 August 2014 at 2 pm a report is tabled on the agenda entitled Objectively Assessed Housing Numbers for East Devon – Emerging Work:

“At this stage it is not possible to provide a timetable for completion of the full SHMA (strategic housing market assessment) work. There are complexities to the task that will need working through. However, officers of all the authorities involved in the commission are working together to come to a final set of recommendations on the objectively assessed housing numbers for the SHMA as a whole and for the individual authorities”.

It adds “In the meantime based on the available information we can only conclude that we do not have a 5 year housing land supply and continue to consider applications accordingly”.

It then suggests that the growth point area near Skypark will cause many businesses to set up and as a result housing should be factored in to address the extra jobs (see below for a post on those extra jobs which are mostly self-employment and particularly self-employment in the construction industry – ephemeral jobs).

So, the status quo continues. No land supply, happy developers, very, very unhappy residents.

Local Plan delayed again – unlikely to be approved for many months | East Devon Alliance
Dear Mr Thickett … | East Devon Alliance

And all of this is within the context of greater pressure generally on greenfield sites: 
Rural housing – smoke and mirrors | East Devon Alliance
Green field housing estates in the South West – CPRE notes dismay | East Devon Alliance

To finish:


August 11th 2014

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

But the plans were on display … | East Devon Alliance
Politics Quotes: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Page 1

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