An air of exasperation among the Planning Committee (DMC) members was evident this afternoon to discuss the report from EDDC’s Planning Policy Manager on further delays to the Local Plan.
EDDC was instructed by Anthony Thickett, the Local Plan Planning Inspector, to carry out research to provide an evidence base of the numbers of houses required over the plan period (see https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back/).
At today’s meeting, the Planning Policy Manager presented his report to DMC and the chair, Cllr Helen Parr, opened the debate to the floor.
It was noticeable that the councillors who had the most to say on the report were those representing wards outside the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). These are the wards which are being targeted by developers keen to mix cement while the sun shines, safe in the knowledge that while there is no Local Plan, the district is largely defenceless.
Cllr Ben Ingham (Woodbury and Lympstone) spoke passionately about the strategy for the SHMA (Strategic Market Housing Assessment, the research being undertaken to inform the housing numbers). He asked for a timetable for the completion of the SHMA, which is being carried out jointly with other authorities. He said that it was ‘open season’ for developers, while the Local Plan has been subject to delay after delay, with the end point becoming more and more difficult to achieve. The process had been marred by shifting rules and shifting goalposts and he personally had no faith that the Local Plan would be adopted within the next 2 years.
Cllr Geoff Pook (Beer and Branscombe) echoed what Cllr Ingham had said and also asked for a timetable. He said there seemed to be a complete lack of urgency.
Next, Cllr Roger Boote (Honiton St Pauls) spoke saying that this was an inter-authority piece of research and he suggested that DMC should just accept the report.
Cllr Mike Howe (Clyst Valley) recommended that DMC should ask for an update in 2 months’ time, so that it did not just drag on.
Cllr Mike Allen (Honiton St Michaels) spoke for many when he expressed despair on the progress of the Local Plan. He said that Mark Williams, EDDC’s Chief Executive, should get a grip. Progress had been hampered by a change of Government and the introduction of the NPPF, but they had to identify an end point within 6 months and not let the process drag on interminably.
Chair, Cllr Helen Parr, pointed out that the Local Plan was ready as far as EDDC was concerned at the Examination in Public earlier this year, but that it was the Planning Inspector who had asked for more evidence on housing numbers.
Cllr Allen responded that that was a further block on its delivery.
The debate came to a very abrupt end when Cllr Peter Sullivan suggested that they accept the report and move on.
The vast majority of councillors voted in favour of noting the report, with only Cllr Ben Ingham and Cllr Mike Allen voting against.
A recording of the debate will be available on the EDDC website within the next few days (http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/development_management_agenda_mins_remit.htm).