Sunday, 16 June 2013

National Park for East Devon and Dorset: request for further scrutiny

The District Council has just considered the proposal for a new National Park encompassing the current AONB area. 

There had been reports that the Cabinet looked "set to reject overtures from campaigners keen to establish a third National Park in the West Country"
Devon and Dorset site would encompass Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and fossil beaches and cliffs famous for Mary Anning | This is Somerset
Claire Wright - Your Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural

However, following the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 12th June, "East Devon District Council has already recommended councillors oppose the plans over concerns they could lose planning powers. Paul Diviani, leader of EDDC, said if they lost planning powers it could put pressure for housing on other areas not designated as part of the national park."
Our national Jurassic Park (From Dorset Echo)

As reported in the Sidmouth Herald:

Park still a possibility

A recommendation to oppose the inclusion of Sidmouth and East Devon's AONB in a new national park was rejected following talks this week.
Plans to connect a number of protected sites in the region and Dorset have been proposed by a campaign group - but District Council officers fear that move would cost the authority planning powers.
They wanted the suggestion to be dismissed amid concerns any such move would put 'enormous pressure' on housing and restrict where development could take place.
The Dorset and East Devon National Park Group says its proposals would lead to economic, social and environmental benefits. But EDDC Cabinet members rules that the 'important issue' required further debate when they met on Wednesday and refused to rule out the bid at such an early stage.
During the Cabinet debate, Council Leader Cllr Paul Diviani pointed out that National Parks, compared to AONBs, attracted almost four times the financial support from central government.
Earlier in the day, Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce had voted unanimously to support the idea.
It has already been enthusiastically received by Save Our Sidmouth campaigners  the town's Hospitality Association and the Heart of Devon Tourism Board - with the scheme lauded as a 'marketing dream'.
Home - Sidmouth Herald

The debate and recommendations can be seen in the Minutes to the meeting:
And the full Agenda item 18 at:

However, here is a slightly different take, from an independent witness to the proceedings:

The debate was quite relaxed and good-natured and I think members will be divided on this issue.    Some of the arguments were extremely simplistic – no more than sound-bites – but hopefully things will improve.

The simple fact is that you cannot have your cake and eat it:   the leadership (and Matt Dickins) argue that the AONB offers the same level of protection, and then in the same breath, they claim that non-designated ‘unprotected’ areas will come under extra pressure if the NP designation is introduced.   Only one of these two propositions can be true.

It seems to me that there are two problems in East Devon:  the amount of housing and especially employment land proposed in the Local Plan, which represents an increase in population of 30,000+ over a period of twenty years is much too high and clearly unsustainable.   There was evidence of this at DMC earlier in the week where the terms of the 106 for Cranbrook were changed:   the promised high quality green bus service has been abandoned, and will almost certainly never happen.   Councillor Button took the opportunity to say ‘I told you so’, in the nicest possible way.   For all kinds of reasons, we jut cannot absorb this very high rate of population increase.    Secondly, the process has collapsed ( five year land supply, late Local Plan, Graham Brown, etc. ) so housing is of poor quality and in the wrong place.

A big myth is that building houses will lower local waiting lists.   This is not the case.   In fact, they are likely to rise as a consequence.   The tendency for waiting lists is for their length to closely reflect the size of the host community.   So by adding 30,000+ to the population, we will be adding a corresponding number to our list.   This is because people migrate to/don’t emigrate from areas with short waiting lists.   It is not a discrete local system.    This is an international, not just national, ‘market-place’.         What EDDC don’t reveal is that the waiting list recently fell from 4,500 to 3,000 simply because a change in criteria required the housing team to ring everyone up – 1500 people on the waiting list were found not to exist – they had moved, died, emigrated, changed their mind, remarried, etc., etc.

However, there is a valid argument that every community/district should ‘do their bit’ to provide more housing.   This is why all governments set strategies and targets.   In other words, UK needs more homes ( which it does ), and central government needs to demand delivery/set requirements.   So local authorities need to comply with the reasonable demands of UK plc.   Everyone understands that.   The problem in EDDC is that the pro-development lobby have hijacked the process and exploited it in order to deliver housing numbers much higher than evidence supports and central government is now advocating for the area.    Central government/Nick Boles don’t complain that we are over-providing because other authorities are under-providing.


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