Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The District Council and the local plan: 'getting on with it'

There is a lot of impatience from the powers that be at the glacial performance when it comes to local authorities 'getting on' with their local plans:

In private, ministers are unhappy with the pace of local plan delivery

27 February 2015 by Jamie Carpenter

A senior planning inspector has suggested that behind the scenes ministers are less than happy with the pace at which local plans are being delivered. Keith Holland, group manager of projects and initiatives at the Planning Inspectorate (PINS), told Planning's local plan assessment conference in London earlier this month: "I think ministers are losing patience with planning. They wonder, 'Why is it taking so long for local plans to be put in place?'"

There are a number of reasons for slow progress in local plan adoption, highlighted in a report published by the Communities and Local Government select committee before Christmas. These include resource constraints, a lack of political will, and the length of local plan documents themselves.

Another key factor cited for holding up progress, identified by the select committee, and underscored by a planning inspector's findings last week, is the Localism Act 2011's duty to cooperate, which requires local planning authorities to engage with neighbouring councils when addressing cross-boundary development issues, such as housing.

In private, ministers are unhappy with the pace of local plan delivery, by Jamie Carpenter | Planning Resource

In East Devon, it seems that the same issues have been holding up the District Council's own local plan - plus a possible diversion or two:
Futures Forum: The District Council and the local plan >>>>>>>>>>>> "Who benefits from this further delay? An unholy trinity of landowners and developers, who stand to profit massively in the interim period before a new Local Plan is in place, and last, but not least, their chums on EDDC."
Futures Forum: The District Council and the draft local plan... "We are working as hard as possible to complete the work."

Mid Devon has been getting on with it:
Futures Forum: Mid Devon District Council's draft local plan >>> "a target of 28% of housing to be affordable"

Now, too, is the East Devon District Council:
Futures Forum: District Council to publish housing numbers report

As reported over the last weeks by the East Devon Watch blog:


4th March 2015

EDDC tried to pull the wool over our eyes by saying that they could not deal with public consultation on the (second) draft of the Local Plan because it would be “politically sensitive” before district council elections in May 2015 and Leader Diviani sent out a long press release giving his reasons:

We reported this here: 
WHY are the consultants reports on housing to remain secret until after district elections? | East Devon Watch

We noted that Mid Devon was consulting on its Local Plan (albeit without important housing figures) so it was “politically sensitive” in East Devon but not in Mid Devon: 
Something doesn’t add up: Mid Devon’s draft Local Plan out for consultation when its supposed to be tied to our secret consultants’ reports | East Devon Watch

Then we heard that East Devon had done a complete about-turn and now WOULD be releasing consultants’ figures AND putting the Local Plan out to consultation after all – with a subtle mention that the Planning Inspector had forced them to change their minds: 
EDDC making a complete U-turn on housing figures before elections? | East Devon Watch

We found EDDC’s letter of 6 February 2015 to the Planning Inspector attempting to justify their first move on file in the EDDC website: 
EDDC making a complete U-turn on housing figures before elections? | East Devon Watch

But, oddly, not the letter FROM the Planning Inspector which led to the U-turn. Thanks to reader who requested this information, we now have Mr Thickett’s response to EDDC’s letter of 6 February which our reader tells us was not on their website yesterday but, after the request for a copy, IS on EDDC’s website today: http://new.eastdevon.gov.uk/media/869877/letter-no-11-to-east-devon-090215.pdf

Interestingly, the reply from Mr Thickett was dated 9 February 2015 but never made it on to the Local Plan website until today, nearly a month late.

Mr Thickett’s brusque response makes it clear that he will have no truck with “political sensitivity” and he wants this out there and sorted. He says (again) that he had anticipated re-hearing the Local Plan in October 2014 and appears less than happy with how things have turned out.

Same here, Mr Thickett, same here.

Planning Inspector tells it as it is to EDDC: no ” political sensitivity” – get on with it! | East Devon Watch

And from the latest Express & Echo:

Government inspector instructs East Devon District Council to “get on” with development document

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: March 03, 2015

A GOVERNMENT inspector has insisted East Devon District Council “get on” with a crucial document outlining future development across the district “at the earliest opportunity”.

Last month the Echo revealed that the authority’s Local Plan – which sets out where thousands of homes could be built over the next decade – has been delayed again due to the looming local elections in May.

When the council wrote to inspector Anthony Thickett to inform him of more “inevitable” delays to the Local Plan caused by the elections, he told officials it must be completed as soon as possible prompting a U-turn on its decision to withhold reports from councillors until after the elections.

At first, the council had hoped to present three crucial reports which effect the Local Plan, including a Strategic Housing Market Assessment which establishes the number of houses that need to be built, to councillors in March or April.

However council leader, Councillor Paul Diviani said the elections made this plan “unviable” because it could be seen as “politically motivated”.

Then, after the inspector’s instruction, the council made a U-turn on its decision and agreed that councillors would see the report and consider proposed housing numbers before the end of the month after all.

Last April, the Local Plan, which sets out where about 15,000 houses could be built in the next decade or so, went back to the drawing board after the Government inspector ruled that the document was “unsound” with “serious evidential failings”.

The inspector asked the council to provide further evidence to support its housing projections.

A council spokesperson, said: “Mr Thickett did not specifically instruct the council to publish the figures before the elections but, in response to a suggestion by the council that the matter might end up being delayed by the elections, he said he expected the council to get on with it at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Dr Margaret Hall, secretary of the East Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England is among the district’s residents to warn that as long as the Local Plan is delayed, “our countryside is not safe”.

While the wait for the plan continues, the council can only refer to the Government’s controversial planning guidelines, the National Planning Policy Framework document, which favours sustainable developments.

And the council cannot demonstrate it can satisfy the Five Year Land Supply criteria – that it has enough land suitable for the likely demand in houses over the next five years.

So, in the meantime, the council has admitted that its ability to determine new housing developments is “limited” – and this is giving developers the upper hand.

Government inspector instructs East Devon District Council to “get on” with development document | Exeter Express and Echo

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