The Local Plan
Just when the people of East Devon thought that it couldn’t get any worse, the Planning Inspector in charge of the Local Plan announced his initial findings.
It will take some time to digest the contents of his letter, but basically it appears to be ‘back to square 1’.
The Local Plan should have been in place by March 2012 … over two years ago … and despite umpteen consultations with the public and developers, East Devon is still nowhere near safeguarding the countryside from inappropriate development or defending the district from massive overdevelopment where there is insufficient infrastructure.
Mr Thickett, the Planning Inspector, politely criticised almost every inch of the draft Local Plan and has set the process back years.
The gestation period of this Local Plan has been extreme and now the drawn out labour pangs of its delivery have come to nothing.
Meanwhile, Feniton is still awaiting the result of the Planning Inquiry held in January. The Inquiry was to determine whether a further 235 houses should be added to the beleaguered village. Aggressive developers have targeted the village overstating its sustainability credentials to a jaw-dropping degree.
Where there is no Local Plan, as demonstrated in spectacular fashion in East Devon, the presumption is in favour of sustainable development. Whether Feniton is sustainable or not, or rather the degree to which it is sustainable, has come under extreme scrutiny. The overriding principle of sustainable development is that development should be placed close to areas of employment, ideally within walking or cycling distance. Feniton is among the lowest 20% of wards where residents can commute to work on foot on by bicycle.
300 houses proposed for Gittisham
Yesterday, EDDC’s planning committee debated a development of 300 houses on the western edge of Honiton within my ward. A depleted committee listened to strong and well thought-out arguments from residents and councillors and were clearly minded to refuse the application, but were warned by EDDC’s solicitor that their reasons for refusal had to be able to be defended at the inevitable appeal.
The committee decided that a site visit was essential, with input from Highways on why they felt that the single access to such a large estate off Hayne Lane, which itself is only accessible under a very narrow railway bridge, would not be the cause of severe traffic congestion.
Restrictions set to be imposed on public speaking at planning committee
In a spectacular own goal, EDDC have chosen now as the moment to curtail public speaking at planning committee meetings. At a time when EDDC should be listening to the electorate who are seeking to defend their communities from the ravages of overdevelopment, the full Council meeting next week will debate (and almost certainly agree) new speaking arrangements in an effort to make the process more efficient. The timing of this decision is a PR shot in the foot if ever there was one.
Come along to East Devon’s offices at the Knowle in Sidmouth at 6.30 p.m. on Wednesday 9 April and have your say during the council’s public speaking session and see how your councillor chooses to vote in the debate. Alternatively, email your councillor and tell them what you think (see links below).
EDDC’s press release
Planning Inspector’s initial response to the Local Plan
Cllr Claire Wright’s comments
Link to contact your District Councillor