Independent District Councillor, Feniton and Buckerell ward, EDDC
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For two days this week (7 and 8 November), the Villages DPD (development plan document) will be examined by a planning inspector. This document will sit alongside the Local Plan and guide development in East Devon.
The hearing sessions are to be held at East Devon District Council’s offices, at the Knowle, in Sidmouth.
The Villages DPD identifies 15 settlements (including Feniton) under Strategy 27 of the Local Plan, and states that these settlements must have a Built-Up Area Boundary (BUAB), within which development will be allowed. While a settlement can push for additional development via a Neighbourhood Plan or community led development, the Villages DPD is not in the business of recommending or allocating specific sites for development.
This is absolutely crucial as it underpins the whole Local Plan which has only been in existence since 2015. For the time being, development is primarily envisaged at the West End of the district (i.e. principally Cranbrook), then in the major towns in the district (i.e. Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton and Sidmouth) where there is likely to be availability of employment. Finally, Strategy 27 communities, such as Feniton, are the lowest tier for development.
It is essential that we support our planning policy officers who have assessed all potential sites for development in the 15 settlements where landowners have requested that the Built-Up Area Boundary be moved to incorporate their land, and thus allow development. Each site has been scrutinised and rejected.
The proposed BUAB for Feniton is shown here.
Back in 2014, under the guidance of Feniton Parish Council, a steering group was formed to help formulate a Neighbourhood Plan for our community, and this group, made up entirely of volunteers, has reached a watershed moment in the process.
Feniton’s Neighbourhood Plan has now been submitted to East Devon District Council and is currently out for further consultation for a period of 6 weeks. Hard copies of the plan are available in the Spar Shop and St Andrew’s Church, as well as at the Council offices in Sidmouth. Instructions on how to comment on the Plan are available with the hard copy and the consultation closes at noon on 8 December. All the documents with their supporting appendices are available on the Parish Council website (https://fenitonparishcouncil.wordpress.com/feniton-parish-neighbourhood-plan/), as well as on East Devon District Council’s planning policy website (http://eastdevon.gov.uk/planning/neighbourhood-and-community-plans/neighbourhood-plans/neighbourhood-plans-being-produced-in-east-devon/feniton/#article-content).
Following the consultation period, comments will be assessed, and the plan amended if necessary. The plan will then be scrutinised by an inspector, following which it will be the subject of a referendum and if 50% of votes cast are in favour, then it becomes part of planning policy.
The Neighbourhood Plan was written following rigorous consultation with residents in the Neighbourhood Plan area and does not allocate sites for development in Feniton. As a community, we are still reeling from a super-inquiry which looked at three possible sites round the village where developers were keen to concrete over some of the best and most versatile agricultural land in the district.
In recent years, 50 houses have been built at Winchester Park in Feniton and a further 32 houses are currently being built at Acland Park. Respondents to the NP questionnaire were clear that they did not want to see the village swamped by new development. However, it is envisaged that at the 5-year review of the Neighbourhood Plan, sites might need to be identified for development and these will be assessed and voted on by the residents of Feniton. As part of the 5-year review of the Neighbourhood Plan, a Housing Needs Assessment will be commissioned by the Parish Council to establish whether there is a need for additional housing.
It is through the Neighbourhood Plan review that decisions on housing in Feniton will be made. That is the proper route – any comments at the Examination in Public of the Villages DPD next week will not affect policy, and indeed could distract from the years of work that the Parish Council has put in to produce a Neighbourhood Plan, and protect our community from inappropriate development.
It is absolutely vital that both the Neighbourhood Plan and the Villages DPD are found ‘sound’ so that they can pass into planning policy.
This is democracy at work … this is democracy at its best.