At a meeting of EDDC’s Planning Inspections Committee on Friday (11 July), it was resolved that a decision on the highly contentious application for 300 houses on land west of Hayne Lane should be deferred.
The development was given approval at a meeting of the committee on 25 April against the expectations of many of us who spoke at the meeting (https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/major-decisions-for-honiton-taken-at-planning-committee/). However, considerable concern was raised by Gittisham Parish Council, Honiton Town Council and Gittisham residents at an open meeting in Gittisham church (https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/gittisham-residents-voice-concerns-over-approval-of-300-homes-at-public-meeting/) and following a meeting with the Chief Executive and officers at EDDC, the decision was taken to return the proposal to the Planning Inspections Committee for fuller consideration of the landscape issues which surround the application.
On Friday, the committee sat for the third time to consider this application, but this time a proposal was put to members (and passed unanimously) that the meeting should be deferred to allow officers the opportunity of assessing late submissions from the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Blackdown Hill AONB, Natural England, Devon County Council on education issues and the NHS (expressing concerns about overstretched medical provision in Honiton).
In addition, such is the concern about the suitability of this site that the Department for Communities and Local Government wrote to EDDC informing them that any decision made by the planning committee will be reviewed by the Secretary of State.
The press release issued by EDDC can be read here (http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/communications_and_consultation.htm?newsid=1149).
The statement from EDDC’s Development Manager proposing postponement of the application is reproduced below.
As Members will be aware this application was reported to the Development Management Committee on the 3rd April and deferred for consideration by the Planning Inspections Committee to consider the sustainability of the location and the impact on the highway network. Having done so this committee resolved to approve the application on the 25th April.
Following this resolution concerns were raised by the ward member and parish council among others that the report did not specifically consider Policy EN1 (Developments Affecting Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) of the adopted Local Plan. A number of other concerns were also raised.
As a result of this the Chief Executive has determined that this resolution would not be acted upon and that the matter be brought back to the committee to reconsider following amendments to the report to address these points. Such a report is provided within the agenda papers.
Since the report that appears in the agenda was written and indeed in the last few days a number of consultees on this matter have very belatedly submitted comments in respect to this application that we did not have the benefit of when writing the report that is before Members today. These are:
• A last minute letter of concern from Natural England regarding the potential significant impact of the development on the purposes of the designation of the East Devon and Blackdown Hills AONB’s
• Late comments from both the Blackdown Hills and East Devon AONB partnerships regarding the potential impacts on their respective AONB’s.
• Only yesterday a letter from the NHS was received regarding the additional healthcare infrastructure that may be required to serve the needs of the increased population in the area. They suggest that further discussions are necessary to “….understand the scope and intention of the development and…..to understand what mitigating actions would be required”.
Further comments this week from Devon County Council as Education authority regarding the demands that this development would place and school place provision at Honiton Primary in future years due to demographic changes in the town.
In addition to these comments we have also received yesterday a direction from DCLG not to grant permission for this development without specific authorisation from the Secretary of State. This means that any resolution to grant permission for this development would have to be referred to the Secretary of State for him to determine if the application should be called in for consideration.
While the comments from Natural England and the AONB teams do not constitute formal objections they do warrant further consideration of the issues raised. Furthermore the comments from the NHS raise new issues of which we were not previously aware. It is regrettable that some of the consultees mentioned have waited until the eleventh hour before making us aware of the views on this case, however we have a legal obligation to consider their comments regardless of when they were submitted. It is therefore considered that officers are no longer in a position to make a recommendation to Members today regarding how this application should be determined.
Further consideration and discussion needs to take place. As a result I would like to recommend that Members defer this application to enable this further work to be carried out. The matter to then be reported back to the committee at a future date when all of the necessary information and professional advice can be made available to Members in the officer’s report so that a fully informed decision can be made.
The applicants and their agent have been informed of this change in recommendation and have asked me to make Members aware that they do not believe that the matters I have mentioned constitute grounds for a deferral. They believe these matters could be addressed through a resolution subject to certain matters being resolved. If deferred they have stated that they will have to consider their position with regards to an appeal for non-determination and an application for an award of costs in the event of an appeal.
I am however convinced that we are not in a position today to make a sound decision on this matter and that the risks associated with making an unsound decision today significantly outweigh the risks of deferral. I would therefore ask Members to consider the recommendation of deferral.