East Devon continues to suffer in the absence of a Local Plan and therefore with only national planning policy to guide the decision-making process. However, EDDC trumpets 73% as being the percentage of planning appeals won by the Council.
Those who are not happy with the result of their planning application when it’s decided by Planning Committee or the Chairman’s Delegated Committee frequently elect to contest the decision. They could be householders who have an extension refused or a developer who is refused a large-scale housing estate.
Appeals are administered by the Planning Inspectorate in one of three ways:
• Written representation, where each party makes their case in writing to the Planning Inspector and the appeal is decided (as its title suggests) purely in writing.
• Informal hearing, where parties can represent themselves or engage the services of a planning expert/barrister.
• Public inquiry, where parties can be represented by a barrister or QC is the most formal of the processes.
The most recent, high-profile case in which I was involved was the Super Inquiry into mass development in Feniton. The case was complex and sat for 12 long days earlier this year.
Appeals, particularly at the highest level, are extremely expensive, not least because outside legal help usually needs to be sought by those defending their position.
What is more of interest, however, is how many applications are coming before DMC (EDDC’s planning committee) with a recommendation from officers for approval simply because the Council has no Local Plan in place and there is no 6-year land supply to guide planning.
Where there is no Local Plan, decisions have to be taken on the basis of their perceived sustainability, as defined – or least, loosely defined – by the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework).
At its worst therefore this is not plan-led development … it is an open invitation to landowners and developers who have only greed to guide them. Without the protection of a Local Plan, Localism is meaningless. Inevitably Councils across the country will feel pressured into nodding through applications from developers with deep pockets, irrespective of the wants – and needs – of local people.
A case in point is the Welbeck site in Gittisham which has received much attention from the press and which is still, in my view, a poor decision. Had the Local Plan been in place, this site would have been a ‘reserve’ site; that is, in the event that Honiton did not have sufficient sites over the plan period to 2026, this land could then have been brought into play. The application was approved by members of the Planning Committee by the tightest of margins, and the fate of Welbeck sealed: what once was green countryside will now be just concrete.
Another application currently on the table is for 45 homes at Gerway Nurseries in Ottery St Mary. Ottery is well over its allocation of 300 houses and if Gerway were to be approved, the number of new houses over the plan period would reach 465 … over 50% more than the town was expected to take.
Both these planning applications have recommendations by EDDC’s planning team for approval. It is perfectly clear to me that had EDDC got its act together in time, both Gittisham and Ottery St Mary would be very different places.
As it is, they will never be the same again.