Tuesday, 5 May 2015

District Council draft Local Plan: "It seems as if the council has failed to provide satisfactory answers to any of the Inspector's questions."

The state of the draft local plan is proving to be an election issue:
Futures Forum: District Council draft Local Plan: how other see it >>> Conservatives and East Devon Alliance
Futures Forum: District Council draft Local Plan: and the AONB
Futures Forum: District Council draft Local Plan: and Park & Change

As reported by the Express & Echo, there are serious concerns about the viability of the plan:

Inspector challenges East Devon council with questions over new Local Plan

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

A GOVERNMENT inspector is challenging East Devon District Council to explain a series of decisions it’s made regarding future, district-wide development before he gives his long awaited stamp of approval. In April last year, planning inspector Anthony Thickett rendered the council’s draft Local Plan 2006 – 26, as “unsound with serious evidential failings”.

Since then, the council has been working hard to address the short fallings, including that the plan’s 15,000 housing target was not justified by evidence submitted which the inspector dubbed “inadequate and not up to date”.

Mr Thickett also rendered the absence of an up-to-date Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) as a “serious failing” which made making a full assessment of need difficult.

So the council went back to the drawing board and now year on, in March, the council approved its latest draft which saw a number of significant changes:

> The council is now recommending an alteration and extension to the period it covers, from April 2013 to March 2031.

> And, as a result of the long-awaited SHMA, the council has said that, based on job projection growth, 17,100 homes should be built across East Devon over the next 18 years – 950 per year, and 200 more per year than originally projected.

The council has now launched an eight-week public consultation and as part of this information gathering phase, the inspector has submitted a number of questions, the answers of which will help him inform his conclusions.

Despite the council having already sought to address any issues raised by the inspector last year, a council spokesperson said it was “usual practice” for inspectors to raise challenges to Local Plans at this evidence reviewing stage.

But one East Devon resident, David Daniel, from Budleigh Salterton, has raised concerns that the plan could be set to fail again because the questions that the inspector has asked, echo clarification that he sought over a year ago and which formed the basis for the failure of the plan.

For example, a year ago, the inspector instructed the council to make more progress assessing the need for gypsy and traveller sites and to identify locations where sites could be created – but, now a year on, Mr Thickett has said the council has “failed” to allocate land to gypsies and travellers in the Local Plan which therefore, “does not accord with national policy and is unsound”.

He asks how the failing can be rectified. The inspector also asks whether the council has “robust and reliable” evidence to support the revised housing target of a minimum of 17,100 new homes between 2013 and 2031. He goes on to ask: “Assuming 17,100 is the right number; does the plan make adequate provision for its delivery?”

The council spokesperson would not confirm whether the inspector’s questions suggested that the issues he has raised have not been adequately answered.

Mr Daniel, said: “The questions make devastating reading and there is a very real possibility that the council’s revised plan will be rejected for the second time. His principal reasons for throwing out the last plan were: That the housing targets were not based on empirical evidence; there was no five year land supply; that the plan period was too short; and there was no plan for gypsies and travellers.

“When reading the inspector’s latest comments, as consultation questions, it seems as if the council has failed in the past year to provide satisfactory answers to any of these. Without an adopted Local Plan we are at the mercy of uncontrolled development.”

A council spokesman said: “We have sought to address all the issues in the draft local plan and the inspector is now reviewing the evidence and seeking public opinion. It is usual practice for inspectors to raise challenges on Local Plans, which is what Mr Thickett is doing. Housing is invariably the highest profile issue. The purpose of the inspector’s questions is to gather more information to help inform his conclusions on the Local Plan.”

Inspector challenges East Devon council with questions over new Local Plan | Exeter Express and Echo
Is EDDC’s second Draft Local Plan doomed to fail and leave us with the current developer free-for-all? | East Devon Watch

These same concerns have been expressed by independent Cllr Claire Wright (who is standing down at the election):

Local Plan consultation on changes (ie big development increase)

Sunday, 03 May 2015 by Claire

Below is a message I received from EDDC’s strategic planning department on the revised edition of the Local Plan, which I have already covered in my blog a few weeks ago. The latest iteration is NOT based on any evidence whatsoever. In fact all consultant reports advise much lower growth.

Here’s previous information about the proposals and below is how to comment…. Please note the deadline of Friday 12 June….
EDDC proposes very high housing growth for district - Claire Wright

I note from our planning policy database that you have previously taken an interest in our planning policy and Community Infrastructure Levy work. I would therefore like to draw your attention to a public consultation, which East Devon District Council is undertaking, regarding a series of proposed changes to the East Devon Local Plan and to the Community Infrastructure Levy Draft Charging Schedule.

These changes, together with supporting evidence for the local plan and information about our consultation, can be viewed on the council web site at: 

Proposed changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy, as well as supporting documents and forms for comments can be read at: CIL examination - East Devon

The consultation will run for eight weeks, starting on 16 April 2015. Anyone can comment on the proposed changes and can reply to questions set by the appointed Planning Inspector. Responses must be received by the council at or before midday on Friday 12 June 2015 at the latest.

Responses received will be sent to Mr Thickett, the Inspector and it is envisaged that the first day of hearing sessions will start at 10 am on 7 July 2015 at the Council Offices in Sidmouth. Paper copies of the plan changes, together with supporting documents and response forms will be sent to libraries and Town Council offices in East Devon where they will be available to the public. We will also make paper copies available for inspection at the Council Offices, Knowle, Sidmouth EX10 8HL. Documents will be available during the normal opening hours for offices and libraries.

Local Plan consultation on changes (ie big development increase) - Claire Wright

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