Tuesday 25 November 2014

A history of the East Devon Business Forum, part three....... "Members of the Business Forum often underestimated its influence on policy at EDDC; an example was for the need for more employment land in the District."

Continuing with a study of the relationship between the EDBF and the District Council's planning processes over the years
Futures Forum: A history of the East Devon Business Forum, part two....... "It mostly represents a number of businesss that councillors and ex-councillors are involved in and those where councillors and ex-councillors own where land which was permitted to be changed from agricultural land to industrial land."

... and in the light of concerns about the transparency of this process
Futures Forum: Scrutinising the East Devon Business Forum...................... "EDDC will not separate the police investigation from the separate issue of interference in the planning process which was one of the causes of the draft local plan being thrown out."

... here is a link to a very full study of that relationship:
Planning in East Devon and the East Devon Business Forum

And here are some excerpts from a summary of that:

The influence of the East Devon Business Forum on the Local Plan

The aspirations of the EDBF and District Council Planning Officers have increasingly coincided.

Whilst the District Council Chief Executive has said (e-mail 23 Oct 2012) that ‘the Council does not accept for one moment that the EDBF is a lobby group,’ the EDBF itself has been very clear about the relationship between the two bodies:

‘Members of the Business Forum often underestimated its influence on policy at EDDC; an example was for the need for more employment land in the District.’ (EDBF Minutes 11 Dec 2008)

One of the primary purposes of the EDBF has been to influence the District Council in matters of planning policy.

The EDBF has sought to persuade the council to relax planning controls for large developers and to decrease the protection for greenfield and AONB areas. For example, the EDBF complained in 2011 that only 1% of East Devon was developed. (EDBF minutes 13 Oct 2011)

Planning and development issues have dominated the agendas of EDBF meetings (referred to in 34 out of 40 meetings since 2007) with on one occasion the question being raised as to whether other matters such as education and training could be discussed. (EDBF Minutes 10 Apr 2008)

The EDBF is dominated by larger businesses and property developers, with smaller businesses dependent on town centre commerce and quality tourism fearing that excessive expansion of business parks in greenfield sites would damage their interests. For example, the former Chairman of Axminster Chamber of Commerce and Industry has complained that he felt unwelcome at EDBF meetings (Comment 10 at Cllr Claire Wright’s blog: 26 Jul 2012)

The EDBF enjoys a privileged status within the District Council, having been recommended as a planning consultee for the District Council since 2007.

The EDBF has convinced the District Council of the need to reduce planning restrictions generally, as of 2007. Following research by the EDBF, the District Council’s TAFF on Employment Land challenged the conclusions of the independent Atkins Report. The Chairman of the EDBF subsequently led the debate at the Corporate Overview Committee (22 Nov 2007), securing the agreement that planning policy on employment land should be changed forthwith, due to an ‘undersupply’ in East Devon, despite the Atkins Report’s evidence to the contrary.

The consequences of this policy change are clear, in that the Corporate Overview Committee (23 Oct 2008) confirmed the ‘urgent need’ for more ‘employment land’, recommending Exeter Airport, Greendale Barton and Hill Barton Business Parks for expansion (all of whom are EDBF members). Moreover, as of 2008, planning applications from EDBF members for large extensions to their industrial estates have been approved.

The EDBF has also persuaded the District Council to increase the amount of ‘employment land’ specified in the strategic Draft Local Plan: ‘Members noted that the work the Business Forum had done on the Atkins Report had made an enormous difference to the final report prepared by the Employment Land Issues TAFF. This had been accepted by the Executive Board. The report was now being used by the Development Control Committee as a base when considering planning applications for employment land.’ (EDBF Minutes 31 Jan 2008)

The question therefore remains as to whose interests are being furthered in the formation and implementation of planning policy by District Councillors and Officers.

The influence of the East Devon Business Forum on the Local Plan

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