Saturday 23 August 2014

Housing in East Devon: "I don’t see it as the floodgates opening, but I do see a stampede coming.”

The words of former Feniton Cllr Graham Brown have come back to haunt his erstwhile colleagues:

“Which means that whereas East Devon was traditionally one of the three hardest areas in the country to get planning permission, that will change … They will retain within the rules the ability to refuse things which fall down like if the design is poor, certain green belt areas, there will be certain areas so I don’t see it as the floodgates opening, but I do see a stampede coming.”

The problem is that the District Council does not have any locally-determined 'rules' in place:

Thousands more homes for region?

Dave Beasley Friday, August 22, 2014

Thousands more homes may have to be built in East Devon than first thought - as more delays loom for a blueprint for the region’s future.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) currently estimates that 15,000 new dwellings are needed over the next dozen years.

But the authority still has not worked out the final number - six months after a Whitehall inspector first asked for it. Inspector Anthony Thickett refused to rubberstamp EDDC’s housing estimate up to 2026, in its Local Plan, because of a lack of evidence.

The delay could mean that a final plan will not be agreed until after next year’s general election - and could even influence how local residents vote.

The Government expects all councils to draw up a Local Plan. Many have not, and in those areas development tends to be higher. The blueprint effectively guards against excessive building on scenic parts of the country - like East Devon – and is based on a ‘guesstimate’ derived from local data, projections and research.

But because EDDC’s last Local Plan expired in 2011, delays to the latest one will mean a total of four years without any locally-set limits being imposed.

Developers would have no official, locally researched ceiling on how homes are too many or too few.

Instead this policy black hole would continue to be filled by a one-size-fits-all national policy. The final estimates are likely to be higher than first thought for three reasons. 

The first is that existing projections are largely based on a straightforward comparison with the past 30 years. But new factors, including homes for workers at sites like SkyPark and Exeter Science Park, now have to be considered.

Secondly, East Devon has not met its affordable housing needs and must now play catch-up - or else local people will be priced out of the area. And thirdly, Whitehall has told EDDC to make projections beyond 2026, pushing the final figure up even further.

EDDC’s planning policy manager, Matt Dickens, said: “It is likely to be months rather than weeks before we will have an objectively assessed housing need against which to revise our housing land supply figures. In the meantime [we will continue] to consider each application accordingly.”

Thousands more homes for region? - News - Sidmouth Herald

Things don't look very good... 

The District Council's press office have put a positive spin on matters:

Housing growth: Progress being made but full picture still to emerge

Wednesday 20 August


East Devon Councillors will hear next week that good progress is being made in the quest to identify the right level of housing growth in the district. But until all the latest data is factored in, EDDC will not be ready to provide the evidence requested by an inspector examining the council’s draft Local Plan.

Despite the considerable progress made so far, the absence of a definitive Local Plan will have an impact on the amount of land in East Devon earmarked for housing, and this in turn limits the council’s ability to determine applications for new housing developments.

In a progress report that will be considered by members of the Development Management Committee (DMC) on Tuesday (26 August), Planning Policy Manager Matt Dickins explains that early data collected by consultants tasked with producing a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) does not provide the full picture of likely housing demand over the next 20 years. But this does represent a significant step in the right direction.

East Devon District Council - News

Here's a summary of the whole situation from the SOS website:

‘Perfect storm’ brewing as EDDC gives progress report on the new Local Plan

August 21, 2014 by sidmouthsid Leave a comment

The Development Management Committee (DMC) will be presented with a special ‘additional report’ next Tuesday afternoon (26th August, at Knowle). The report is expected shortly after the 2pm start of the DMC meeting. Recently introduced Government rules mean that press and public are allowed to film and record the session.

Matt Dickins (Planning Policy Manager)’s report to DMC entitled “Emerging Work on Defining an Objectively Assessed Housing Number for East Devon” is now available to view on line under 

The link to the actual report is here: http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/dm260814-emerging_housing_numbers.pdf

A press release about the report is on EDDC’s homepage here: 

PLEASE NOTE: Under the new public speaking rules passed by Full Council in July, two members of the public are allowed to speak on planning policy items.

Footnote: EDDC has been widely criticised for such things as alleged over-provision of employment land; errors in the commuting calculations; the lack of a five year land supply; endless delays with the Local Plan; and what many believe to be serial incompetence. 
East Devon certainly now finds itself in a defenceless position, and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) may not be wholly to blame. 
The emerging figures for future housing and employment provision for our District may leave many councillors, and the unsuspecting public, in a state of shock.

‘Perfect storm’ brewing as EDDC gives progress report on the new Local Plan | Save Our Sidmouth

And here is another very useful overview from independent Cllr Susie Bond:

One step forward and two steps back

Posted on August 21, 2014 by susiebond

The work involved in producing an acceptable Local Plan seems interminable.

Much has been written about the Government’s plan to build the country out of recession and, to that end, under the Draconian planning laws (the National Planning Policy Framework or NPPF) every Council was expected to produce a Local Plan. The Plan outlines where housing should be built in the coming plan period (typically 15 years).

It seems that the process is so fraught with difficulty that only 50% of Councils have managed to wend their way through the lengthy Examination in Public and achieve the ultimate prize of an adopted Local Plan. These Councils are in the enviable position of being able to decide where development should happen.

Where there is no Local Plan in place, policy is determined by the NPPF which insists on a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

For East Devon, the Examination in Public took place in February this year and one of the conclusions reached by Anthony Thickett, the Planning Inspector, was that there was insufficient evidence to inform the numbers of houses proposed.

Joint research (Strategic Housing Market Assessment or SHMA) was already under way across East Devon, Mid Devon, Teignbridge, Exeter City and Dartmoor National Park Authority and the piece of work was due to be completed this summer, allowing Mr Thickett to return in the autumn for further consultation and the likelihood of the Local Plan being adopted in early 2015, or more realistically summer 2015.

However, next week’s Planning Committee (DMC) meeting will debate a paper written by the Planning Policy Manager explaining that the SHMA report has been delayed and will not be available for some months and this will delay the whole Local Plan process.

The meeting, being held at the EDDC offices at the Knowle in Sidmouth, is on Tuesday 26 August, starting at 2 o’clock.

And the debate is likely to be a heated one.

Following my email to the Planning Policy Manager on the likely date for the adoption of the Local Plan, he responded “At this stage I would not be able to give an adoption date but if things do go along at a decent pace, as I trust they will now do, I would still consider that Summer 2015 could be a reasonable adoption date.”

One step forward and two steps back | Susie Bond

And this is comment from independent Cllr Claire Wright's blog:

Permissive planning rules continue in East Devon as housing projection assessment document delayed

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 6 Comments by Claire

A housing projection report requested by the planning inspector, Anthony Thickett, to calculate the number of houses required for EDDC’s local plan has been delayed, it appears.

The document was expected to be published over the summer, but a report to next Tuesday’s development management committee states that it is not possible to say when the work will be completed.

The lack of a five year supply of land for housing will also continue into the future, meaning that planning officers will need to use the permissive national planning policy framework as their main guide, rather than a local document.

The report states: “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 of 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.”

The report 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 application accordingly.”

The report suggests that the “growth point” area, near junction 29 of the M5, will cause many businesses to set up and as a result housing should be factored in to address the extra jobs.

However, despite vigorous marketing, few businesses have so far relocated to, or set up at “growth point.”



2. At 12:29 pm on 21th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

Is anyone surprised - I know I’m not. The “duty to co-operate” is NOT a duty to agree and it seems as if all the councils around Exeter are bending over backwards to build for their overflow. But Exeter already has a Local Plan with all its numbers in it so where is the problem?

Around half of councils have agreed Local Plans that have satisfied inspectors - what are they doing right that we are doing wrong?

Or does our council like giving its developer friends (many former members of the East Devon Business Forum) their free pass? Hmmm.

4. At 01:30 pm on 21th Aug Damien Mills wrote:

Claire et al

For those that are interested, here it is:


The following paragraph makes interesting reading:

‘2.1 The spring 2014 timetable for the SHMA work was that by this point in time [late summer] it should have been at or close to completion. Unfortunately there have been delays in production that have centred around complexities associated with modelling work and then integrating this into wider SHMA assessment.’

It would appear the goalposts are shifting all the time. Clearly, EDDC would have us believe that the expectation was the SHMA would be complete, or close to complete by late summer, ie now.

However, that’s not what was said in their letter to the planning inspector of May 22:


In this correspondence they said the draft SHMA would be available in ‘early June’ - which can hardly be described as late summer - and that a SHMA workshop would take place later that month:

‘East Devon District Council and partner council’s [sic] have been advised that we should receive the draft SHMA in early June 2014, a SHMA workshop has been proposed for June 2014.’

Moreover, it went on to say that EDDC aimed to report the findings of the final SHMA to the Development Management Committee meeting scheduled for July 1.

I fully appreciate that the delay in producing the SHMA may, to some extent, have been due to circumstances beyond EDDC’s control but to suggest there was never any expectation of it being delivered before late summer is nonsense and, once again, seeks to take us all for fools.

Of course, the reality is that all this work should have been undertaken ahead of the local plan examination.

As we all know, that didn’t happen and planning inspector Anthony Thickett delivered a damning assessment of the council’s efforts. One might have hoped that would have jolted it into action and that we might, finally, see some evidence that those charged with delivering this project on our behalf – and, no doubt, paid handsomely to do so – were belatedly grasping the nettle and showing a bit of urgency. But not a bit of it.

Early June has turned into late summer and now Matt Dickins says:

‘It is likely to be months rather than weeks before we will have an objectively assessed housing need against which to revise our housing land supply figures.’

And all the while our beautiful East Devon countryside is turned into a developers free-for-all.

Surely, the buck must stop with the chief executive, Mark Williams, and the leader of the council, Paul Diviani. So, the $64,000,000 question is, what, exactly, can be done to hold them to account?!

5. At 08:36 pm on 22th Aug Conrad Black wrote:

Damien hits upon an extremely important point with his closing questions. We know that the position of ‘leader’ is a mere gift of the ruling party, so the ballot box can offer a way of getting rid of people who have failed to live up to their promises. But what of the permanent officials? It seems that the voting public cannot touch them because there appears to be no mechanism available to the constituency to remove officials. And it seems that elected officials run so scared of the permanent officials that they dare not even criticise them - permanent officials cannot be held to account. So what we see emerge is a whole tier of people who can be complete catastrophes but they are impossible to remove.

Now where is the democracy in that?

6. At 07:48 am on 23th Aug Roger Giles wrote:

The ruling Conservative group at EDDC has presided over a complete shambles. Without an adopted Local Plan, and without a five year housing land supply – a situation which appears likely to continue for another year – rapacious developers will continue to use their financial muscle to achieve totally inappropriate planning approvals on greenfield sites across East Devon.
Damien and Conrad refer to accountability and democracy. In May 2011 Paul Diviani, Conservative Leader of EDDC, and ultimately responsible for this very damaging fiasco, was elected unopposed. Six other Conservative councillors were also elected unopposed in 2011.

The next elections to EDDC take place in May 2015. The very least that the people of East Devon deserve, is to be able to exercise a choice as to who they wish to represent them on their council.

Permissive planning rules continue in East Devon as housing projection assessment document delayed - Claire Wright.

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