Sunday, 15 February 2015

Missing deadlines ....... and 'working in the dark' ............. The District Council and the draft local plan..................... ........ and the housing assessment

A week ago, the District Council made it clear that the local plan process was proving arduous:
Futures Forum: The District Council and the draft local plan ... "We are working as hard as possible to complete the work."

Meanwhile, next door, South Somerset District Council have concluded their own arduous process:
South Somerset now has a Local Plan in place | East Devon Watch
South Somerset District Council - Local Plan 2006-2028
Local Plan is a 'major milestone' for south Somerset (From This is The West Country)
South Somerset local plan found sound following further work

And yet in East Devon, this is still a long way off:
‘Complexity’ of Local Plan delays consultation further - View from Sidmouth
Our Local Plan is just too complex for our councillors and officers to even think of a completion date | East Devon Watch

The Independent Cllr Susie Bond is rather dismayed:

Local Plan update … well, sort of

East Devon District Council has put an update to the Local Plan on its website. We have been waiting for what seems eons to get some idea of the housing numbers required over the now elastic plan period and it seems we shall have to be patient a little longer.
The lack of the SHMA report (which will identify housing numbers) has been the source of frustration among those councillors who represent wards which are not in the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as it has put so much uncertainty into planning for the future. Those areas (let’s call them Less Outstanding Areas) will have to take the brunt of development in East Devon, as long as they are deemed sustainable for the numbers of houses envisaged in a particular planning application.
The importance of the Local Plan should not be underestimated and the work involved in producing it has been astronomic.
Local Plan update … well, sort of | Susie Bond
“Importance of the Local Plan should not be underestimated”, says Independent Councillor | East Devon Watch

Working in the dark … the SHMA report is out

As I thumbed the pages of this week’s Express & Echo yesterday, I was struck by the number of planning stories which were emblazoned across its pages.
There was a story about the East Devon Alliance (formed in response to many campaign groups coming together to fight inappropriate development (http://www.eastdevonalliance.org.uk/)), a story about campaigners opposed to a development for 150 houses in Exmouth, and elsewhere a story about campaigners concerned about the increase in traffic movements around a proposed new development.
And so it goes on.
Meanwhile, there is a groundswell of absolute fury against our District Council which has failed so spectacularly to have its Local Plan in place by the Government’s deadline of March 2012 … almost three years ago now … leaving our precious countryside at risk of opportunistic landowners and insatiable developers trying to cash in on the failure.
And now we hear that the SHMA draft report, which is the report of an independent study which assessed housing need, is out (see https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/local-plan-update-well-sort-of/), but councillors are to be kept in the dark about the content of the report and more importantly are not being given the remotest idea of the housing numbers proposed.
The CPRE has long argued that 11,000 is the appropriate number for East Devon over the plan period, while developers (to much derision) estimate that 28,000 is the magic number.
In reality, I think it’s safe to say that the number will be somewhere between the two.
But the burning question, given that the draft SHMA report has been submitted to EDDC, is why the majority of councillors are being kept in the dark and fed copious quantities of manure. It’s like working in a mushroom farm.
There will be councillors ‘in the know’ who are party to the information which will give a steer to the future appearance of our beloved countryside, so the information will undoubtedly leach out. However, this ‘secrets and mirrors’ approach is not the way forward.
Meanwhile, voters are pondering their choices at the ballot box and will remember the abject failure of a Tory-led Council to put in place a Local Plan which would have put the Council in charge of leading planning policy … rather than responding to planning applications through the woolly and relaxed policies in the NPPF.
Working in the dark … the SHMA report is out | Susie Bond

The Independent Cllr Claire Wright - who is also a candidate for the parliamentary seat -  is also rather dismayed:

When will Tory leadership put East Devon before the party? Now local plan falls foul of elections!

Friday, 13 February 2015 0 Comments by Claire
The long-awaited strategic housing market assessment (SHMA) was set to be out today, or failing that early next week.
It has taken almost a year following the news that planning inspector, Mr Thickett, threw out EDDC’s local plan on the basis its underpinning data.houses

The information that has been, or will shortly be, received by EDDC will finally give an indication on how many houses should be built in the district, providing an “objectively assessed need”, which takes into account births, deaths, occupancy and affordable housing requirements, among other things.
It is regarded as a technical assessment, which does not take into account constraints such as flood zones and national designations such as areas of outstanding natural beauty, for example.
So why is EDDC being so shy about releasing the information - and moving things forward as fast as possible, with a view to getting a sound local plan? 
Anyone would think the district wasn’t under any threat from speculative development!
There is no reason whatsoever in my view that the wheels should not start moving on this urgently. In fact there is EVERY reason to get them moving - yet EDDC says in its press release (below) that it won’t be starting any processes until after the elections on 7 May!
EDDC’s political leadership might well be embarrassed at the spaghetti like mess they have made of our planning system locally (as if central government’s NPPF wasn’t appalling enough) but it really must have a bit of gumption and put politics aside and do the right thing for East Devon - just for once!
Photo:  View of the field behind Barton Orchard, an area of outstanding natural beauty, but controversially, was granted planning consent for 15 dwellings in 2012.
When will Tory leadership put East Devon before the party? Now local plan falls foul of elections! - Claire Wright

The East Devon Watch blog notes the lack of numbers in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment or SHMA - with some rather explosive comment:


“Working in the dark” she calls it. Absolutely spot on.
Two possible reasons for the secrecy:
1. The number suggested is low and would put a complete stop to current inappropriate development.
2. The number suggested is high and would lose the Tories thousands of votes at the forthcoming district council elections in May 2015.
Take your choice.

One thought on “Independent councillor Susie Bond (Feniton) slams EDDC for keeping housing numbers secret

  1. Keeping secrets even from their own is a routine part of the way this undemocratic ruling group and their senior officers carry on.
    The way the complaints procedure is controlled with conservatives protected and opponents bullied is one nauseating example.
    When we look at the financial deceits practiced during the last district and local elections perhaps we should ask persistently the following questions.
    When it was realised that the sums were wrong over the planned Exmouth Strand pavilion, why didn’t they tell the public? Did all councillors of all groups agree to keep this secret? I was told about it by a conservative during the campaign, in confidence. When they did advise the public after the election why did they pretend this was due to a ‘cost overrun’ rather than tell the truth?
    How many tory councillors were aware that their cabinet had given a 50k payment that could be considered unethical to their EDBF chums Clinton Devon Estates in order to remove the protective covenants on Exmouth sea front? Remember that their election leaflets at the time promised no inappropriate development on the sea front.
    How many tory councillors knew that an overpayment from Exmouth Town Council under a service level agreement had been ‘discovered’ in February 2011? The official line is that no councillors were aware until October 2011, but in truth this would have been an extraordinary breach of faith and procedures by members of staff. The line was held as a duty of care to staff issue, although concerned members of the public were really trying to find out who else had been involved in the secrecy over a period of at least eight months. When a member of the public asked if all councillors could state individually when they had been made aware of this the mayor was advised by a very senior EDDC officer with a legal background that this question should not be answered. Was this to keep the truth from the public or to prevent the tory group’s own mushrooms (particularly those on the relevant management committee who each confirmed to me that they were not aware) from discovering that their colleagues had been kept in the dark.
    The machinations involved in keeping all of these secret when the public were making their decisions do not reflect well on those involved. We cannot blame the whole tory group for this so we should ask persistently who was behind this, in order that decent tories might be kept and the guilty parties electorally culled.

Independent councillor Susie Bond (Feniton) slams EDDC for keeping housing numbers secret | East Devon Watch

Here is the complete press release from the District Council:

NewsHousing needs assessment reports will help push Local Plan forward says council

When this content has been created

12 February 2015
Cllr Paul Diviani welcomes draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment report
The SHMA report will establish a robust understanding of housing needs in East Devon
The SHMA report will establish a robust understanding of housing needs in East Devon
 As part of East Devon District Council’s ongoing commitment to finalise its Local Planwith the East Devon Local Plan Inspector, the council’s service lead for Planning Strategy and Development Management, has written to the Inspector to update him on progress made with the East Devon Local Plan Examination. The correspondence also highlights the fact that further potential delays are inevitable due to the forthcoming local elections.  
The letter confirms that East Devon District Council is expecting to receive – on or before Friday 13 February 2015 - a draft report of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA  is a multi-authority commission by East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge Councils and Dartmoor National Park Authority, with Devon County Council also being a partner), which we commissioned, together with a number of other studies, in order to establish a robust understanding of the objectively assessed housing need in East Devon. At this stage, the SHMA report, which is being produced by our appointed consultants DCA, remains highly confidential as it is still a work in progress, with findings yet to be made conclusive.  
While the SHMA report was being produced, it became clear that housing needs, potentially arising as a result of possible future job growth, warranted particular attention.  As a result, the multi-authority partnership (comprising the five Devon local councils, as well as Dartmoor National Park Authority, as listed above) commissioned Edge Analytics to undertake specific modelling work to establish the relationship between job growth and housing requirements.  In addition, East Devon District Council has also commissioned work by Ash Futures Ltd to specifically advise on future job growth levels in East Devon.  We have received draft reports from both Ash Futures and Edge Analytics and we will be pushing for final speedy conclusion of all reports.  
East Devon District Council’s Leader, Councillor Paul Diviani said:
We welcome the imminent arrival of the SHMA draft report, this week. These three reports are an integral part of the East Devon Local Plan. Their undertaking – involving a significant number of other local authorities – has been an enormously complex process, which has taken longer than would have been desirable.  
The benefits of undertaking these reports should not be underestimated. It clearly demonstrates that best practice is at the heart of our decision making and confirmed the need for an altogether more substantial and complex end piece of work and has fully justified the need for additional consultancy support.  
We are very much aware of the need to finalise our Local Plan, but at the same time we have to take the reports with proposed changes to the Plan to our members for consideration and consultation. We had envisaged that the earliest we would have been able to take the reports to our members would be March or early April 2015. The process of consultation would then take around six-weeks.  
However, because of the forthcoming local and national elections this would not appear to be a viable route to follow, as there is concern that the process could be seen as politically motivated, which would overshadow the soundness of the plan.   “While mindful of the need to progress quickly, the significance to the process of members consideration and consultation should not be overlooked, and consequently it is unlikely that we will take the report to our members until shortly after the May election.
12 February 2015 - Housing needs assessment reports will help push Local Plan forward says council - East Devon District Council

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