Thursday 28 August 2014

Housing numbers in East Devon ...... and the Local Plan ...... reports on planning meeting of 26th August

Following on from this week's meeting on housing
Futures Forum: Housing numbers in East Devon ... "The region, which is earmarked for 11,000 new homes..."
and the coverage around the issue
Futures Forum: 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."
Futures Forum: Housing in East Devon: "I don’t see it as the floodgates opening, but I do see a stampede coming.”

... whilst the District Council has not yet published the minutes
East Devon District Council - Development Management agendas. minutes and remit

... here are some reports back on that meeting - together with latest comment.

From the East Devon Alliance:
East Devon Alliance response to EDDC Deputy Director Richard Cohen’s press release and some background information | East Devon Alliance
Back in the EDDC …. | East Devon Alliance


August 26th 2014

“EDDC Chief Executive Mark Williams was bluntly told by a Tory councillor to get a grip on his planning department’s “unacceptable level of performance”.

The barb came from Cllr Mike Allen at today’s Development Management Committee which was given a “progress” report on the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) which Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett ordered the Council to conduct following his rejection of the Local Plan earlier this year. Originally it was supposed to be completed in June

Several other councillors were angry that the assessment of how many houses the district needs was proceeding at snail’s pace, and will not be ready until next year, implying that the Local Plan cannot be re-submitted until after the 2015 Local Elections.

Independent councillor Ben Ingham said EDDC “lacked a coherent strategy and a timetable for completion” of this crucial research. As a result with no Local Plan in place, it was “open season in the Devon countryside” for developers. He concluded, “It’s a shame that this work was not tackled three years ago.”

The obedient, loyal majority of DMC members were acutely embarrassed by all this, and rapidly passed Sidmouth councillor Peter Sullivan’s motion to “move on”!

PS. Mike Allen has been unflattering before about Mark Williams who was his boss when Allen was a senior officer at South Somerset District Council. At last Summer’s full Council Meeting which discussed the Local Plan, the councillor for Honiton said Williams didn’t understand the National Planning Policy Framework! As a former chair of the Local Plan Panel he speaks with some authority.

DMC meeting: a member of the public reports – CEO Mark Williams told to “get a grip” | East Devon Alliance


August 26th 2014

This morning the Chairman of East Devon Alliance, Paul Arnott, once again went head-to-head with a top EDDC councillor – this time EDDC Council Leader Paul Diviani on the lack of a Local Plan. The EDA Chairman said that he was not surprised but still disappointed that, having been dealing with this project since 2007, EDDC still is not in a position to put a (third) draft Local Plan forward to the Planning Inspectorate and leaving the district vulnerable to speculative development. And he comes up with a STUNNING REVELATION why he thinks current research for the Local Plan is wrong and the reason why it is being held up. Read on …

Councillor Diviani trod the well-worn track of saying that there really is nothing to worry about – EDDC has so far won more than 70% of its appeals and (occasionally) says no to developers. The EDA Chairman noted that it is NOT EDDC alone that champions these appeals – particularly in the case of Feniton and Seaton, where it was local people who raised funds and made their case to inspectors, so implying that EDDC alone does this is somewhat disingenuous.

However, then came the total shock. You may recall that two sets of consultants employed by EDDC before the last iteration of the Local Plan said that they thought that around 12,000 homes should be built in the district. EDDC (and, it has to be said members of the East Devon Business Forum and developers, sometimes the same thing) said, no, no – this could not be right and at least 15,000 homes were needed – which is what got put in the draft put before the Inspector.

The Inspector threw out the plan, specifically saying that he could see no back-up research that confirmed the 15,000 number that EDDC came up with.

And what does Leader Diviani say to this – if we take his interview at face value believing that he is being topical we could read it as THREE sets of consultants coming to around the same figure but we must assume he is talking about the two reports? He says, no no – they CANNOT be right. The government wants us to build more houses, we NEED more houses so we are going to “look at the figures again” because they must be “realistic”.

So, here we have it – Councillor Diviani thinks he is more expert than consultants and will not give up until – presumably – another set of consultants comes up with the figure that he and the government want. A figure not based on evidence. As usual – fire the arrow, then draw the bulls-eye around it.

So, we ask ourselves: where did the figure of 15,000 that Councillor Diviani so desperately wants come from? Developers? Out of thin air? from the Government which has told us (via the NPPF) to come up with LOCAL figures backed up with LOCAL evidence?

Some very, very, trenchant questions need to be asked. Not least by our councillors and, particularly, by Councillor Diviani




EDA Chairman 1 – Leader of East Devon District Council own goal – and a STUNNING revelation!!!! | East Devon Alliance

From independent Cllr Susie Bond:

Tetchy meeting to receive report on delay in housing numbers

Posted on August 26, 2014by susiebond

An air of exasperation among the Planning Committee (DMC) members was evident this afternoon to discuss the report from EDDC’s Planning Policy Manager on further delays to the Local Plan.

EDDC was instructed by Anthony Thickett, the Local Plan Planning Inspector, to carry out research to provide an evidence base of the numbers of houses required over the plan period 
(see http://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back/).

At today’s meeting, the Planning Policy Manager presented his report to DMC and the chair, Cllr Helen Parr, opened the debate to the floor.

It was noticeable that the councillors who had the most to say on the report were those representing wards outside the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). These are the wards which are being targeted by developers keen to mix cement while the sun shines, safe in the knowledge that while there is no Local Plan, the district is largely defenceless.

Cllr Ben Ingham (Woodbury and Lympstone) spoke passionately about the strategy for the SHMA (Strategic Market Housing Assessment, the research being undertaken to inform the housing numbers). He asked for a timetable for the completion of the SHMA, which is being carried out jointly with other authorities. He said that it was ‘open season’ for developers, while the Local Plan has been subject to delay after delay, with the end point becoming more and more difficult to achieve. The process had been marred by shifting rules and shifting goalposts and he personally had no faith that the Local Plan would be adopted within the next 2 years.

Cllr Geoff Pook (Beer and Branscombe) echoed what Cllr Ingham had said and also asked for a timetable. He said there seemed to be a complete lack of urgency.

Next, Cllr Roger Boote (Honiton St Pauls) spoke saying that this was an inter-authority piece of research and he suggested that DMC should just accept the report.

Cllr Mike Howe (Clyst Valley) recommended that DMC should ask for an update in 2 months’ time, so that it did not just drag on.

Cllr Mike Allen (Honiton St Michaels) spoke for many when he expressed despair on the progress of the Local Plan. He said that Mark Williams, EDDC’s Chief Executive, should get a grip. Progress had been hampered by a change of Government and the introduction of the NPPF, but they had to identify an end point within 6 months and not let the process drag on interminably.

Chair, Cllr Helen Parr, pointed out that the Local Plan was ready as far as EDDC was concerned at the Examination in Public earlier this year, but that it was the Planning Inspector who had asked for more evidence on housing numbers.

Cllr Allen responded that that was a further block on its delivery.

The debate came to a very abrupt end when Cllr Peter Sullivan suggested that they accept the report and move on.

The vast majority of councillors voted in favour of noting the report, with only Cllr Ben Ingham and Cllr Mike Allen voting against.

A recording of the debate will be available on the EDDC website within the next few days (http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/development_management_agenda_mins_remit.htm).

Tetchy meeting to receive report on delay in housing numbers | Susie Bond

From independent Cllr Claire Wright:

Tempers fray over local plan fiasco at EDDC planning committee meeting

Wednesday, 27 August 2014 12 Comments by Claire

Cllr Roger Giles has written the following report of yesterday’s EDDC planning committee meeting, where councillors discussed a report concerning yet more delays over the local plan - and the housing assessment required by the planning inspector, Anthony Thickett, who rejected EDDC’s local plan, earlier this year…

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/

1. At 09:12 am on 27th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

It is understandable that councillors would wish to identify scapegoats. But the bitter truth is that it is majority party councillors, and particularly those on the DMC, who should have got a grip years and years ago. They are being led like willing sheep to the slaughter when the should have been taking the initiative instead of being told what to do ( or told nothing at all).

Many heads should roll, not just one.

2. At 02:20 pm on 27th Aug Paul wrote:

In my mind, a vote to “note the report” is nothing more than a wringing of hands and a disclaimer of responsibility.

I presume that since the report was made to DMC, that DMC is the council committee that is the vehicle for councillors to be responsible for, and be accountable for, the activities of the officers of the Planning Policy Unit. (Let’s not forget that it is the councillors who are ultimately responsible for the performance of the council, not the officers - even Mark Williams senior though he is.)

Noting the report for the record, without providing any direction, additional resources, or either support for or criticism of the Policy Planning Unit, appears to indicate that DMC do not feel responsible for the Local Plan or for the success or failure of the Planning Policy Unit.

I do appreciate that the bulk of the DMC work is handling the raft of individual planning applications, and so it may be easy for the members to lose sight of the fact that they are also the committee responsible for Planning Policy. However, one would have hoped that in the aftermath of the Graham Brown controversy, the DMC would have made extra effort to take back responsibility for Planning Policy from the defunct Local Development Forum which was handling Planning Policy (possibly illegally since Planning Policy needs to be accountable to a committee and the LDF was neither a committee in its own right nor a sub-committee of DMC).

So, in other words, yet another disgrace!! (Disgraceful behaviour from councillors on a small number of vitally important matters appears to becoming the norm these days, sadly overshadowing the good work done by these same councillors on the much larger but less controversial day-to-day workload.)

I have previously commented elsewhere on my respect for Mike Allen (for bucking his party line and speaking / voting against the public speaking restrictions), and again I respect his stand on this occasion for saying it how he sees it and for attempting to hold the Chief Executive to account.

3. At 03:13 pm on 27th Aug Roger Giles wrote:

I have often been critical at council meetings where it has been suggested that I and other councillors should “note the report”; particularly so at scrutiny committee meetings, before we have even questioned witnesses, or started to debate the subject. Can you imagine the reaction of Margaret Hodge, MP, Chairman of an important Commons Select Committee, if a parliamentary officer told her she should “note the report” before she had looked into a matter?
Councillors can note a report at home – they do not need to go to a meeting at The Knowle to do so. It is a poor outcome for any matter.
When – as it was yesterday - the matter is of major importance, and East Devon continues to be at the mercy of rapacious developers because of political sloth and incompetence, it is a dereliction of duty to fail to discuss the report and to fail to agree action on it.
Having attended very many planning committee meetings, I formed the distinct impression that members of the Conservative group had been told to keep quiet about the issue. With some honorable exceptions, they appeared to be keen to do so and to move on to less embarrassing business as quickly as possible.

4. At 05:27 pm on 27th Aug Phil Twiss wrote:

I can confirm that not for the first time Roger Giles impression/speculation in matters concerning not just the EDDC Conservative Group is totally incorrect. He would no doubt benefit in attending more meetings at Knowle (not just DMC), in order to gain a more rounded and informed impression of what work happens at EDDC rather than making it up.

No members of the EDDC Conservative Group had been told to be quiet about this issue as was clearly obvious to any sensible person when Mike Allen spoke. If members of the EDDC Conservative Group they wish to speak on any issue and express a view they can and frequently do.

5. At 05:32 pm on 27th Aug Claire wrote:

Oh hi Phil, glad you have put the record straight. I wonder whether you could resolve a query of mine. I have been trying to get a copy of the consultants report on the local plan - the one that was referred to at yesterday’s DMC meeting. I am told by EDDC officers that it is not available - further queries have been met with radio silence. In the interests of transparency I would be grateful if you would arrange for me to be sent a copy. That would be much appreciated. Thanks Claire

6. At 06:15 pm on 27th Aug Paul wrote:

I would like to echo Claire’s thanks to Cllr Twiss - though I am not sure whether it would actually be better if there had been a whip, because the alternative appears to be that the DMC members either:

1. Don’t understand that it is their responsibility for ensuring that the Planning Policy Unit delivers the Local Plan; or

2. They understand that it is their responsibility, but don’t feel that having a Local Plan is that important; or

3. They know it is important but don’t feel that they have any influence or control over the Planning Policy Unit or other council staff; or

4. They know they can control / influence the PPU, but don’t have the skills to understand what they should do about it; or

5. They have the skills, but don’t feel that they have the time to deal with it; or

5. They have the time, but don’t have the inclination.

Frankly, all of the above seem to me to be worse than there having been a whip.

7. At 06:19 pm on 27th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

Do you realise what you did there Councillor Twiss? You have confirmed that the constipated response to the omnishambles was because your councillors found themselves with absolutely nothing to say on this issue except “noted” or “move on” - the biggest issue of the day and year and even of your whole term in our district. Just ONE of your councillors had anything useful to say.

I honestly don’t know which wouls be worse: being whipped into silence or just choosing it en masse! You have now confirmed that they have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say about a project that began in 2007 and is nowhere near completion, leaving us in development limbo - wow! Thanks for the heads up!

8. At 07:33 pm on 27th Aug Roger Giles wrote:

Whether or not I have attended meetings at EDDC is quite irrelevant, but seems to be exercising Phil Twiss more than when we can expect an adopted Local Plan and when the threat of inappropriate development across East Devon can be reduced.
But for the record there have been 12 EDDC Development Management Committee meetings this year of which I have attended 9; Phil Twiss has attended 3.

9. At 08:56 pm on 27th Aug Tony Green wrote:

I wonder if Phil Twiss could also tell us if there is any truth in the rumours that he applied the “hair drier treatment” to Mike Allen for criticising the Chief Executive on an earlier occasion
In July 2013 at the full council meeting Cllr Allen said Mark Williams gave biased advice on the National Planning Policy Framework and he didn’t have a “grip” on it.
Witnesses claimed that the unfortunate Allen then felt the full weight of the Tory Whip’s disapproval, and appeared chastened for a while.
Any truth in this, Phil?

10. At 10:10 pm on 27th Aug Damien Mills wrote:

I understand that East Devon have written to the planning inspector, Anthony Thickett, to advise him of this latest delay.

I’m sure it’s just [another] oversight but, thus far, there’s no sign of this piece of correspondence on the page of the website set aside for this purpose:


Indeed, the most recent piece of correspondence from East Devon looks forward to reconvening local plan hearing sessions ‘in October 2014 or soon after’:


No doubt when someone does finally remember to append the latest letter from East Devon, it will be accompanied by the consultant’s report referred to by Claire [which logic dictates will also be shared with Mr Thickett].

11. At 07:15 am on 28th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

Perhaps Councillor Twiss could also tell us what his advice would have been if he HAD whipped his colleagues.

12. At 10:06 am on 28th Aug Conrad Black wrote:

Councillor Twiss, I seem to recall that last time we exchanged words you were adamant that there is no whipping in EDDC, something I have to say you failed to convince me of.

This time it seems that you wish to contradict the views of others without offering any argued justification than they should get to more meetings. But when it is made clear that key meetings on planning, the Knowle and so on, are held in secret your argument is inadequate, because people (including the long suffering public) are prevented from doing the very thing you say they should - attending more meetings - and spreading the good word.

As a challenge for those good at sums, 1 Tory Councillor expressed serious disquiet about what was going on (or more accurately, perhaps, not going on) and exactly how many failed to do anything at all?

Tempers fray over local plan fiasco at EDDC planning committee meeting - Claire Wright.

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