East Devon District Council has put an update to the Local Plan on its website. We have been waiting for what seems eons to get some idea of the housing numbers required over the now elastic plan period and it seems we shall have to be patient a little longer.
The lack of the SHMA report (which will identify housing numbers) has been the source of frustration among those councillors who represent wards which are not in the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as it has put so much uncertainty into planning for the future. Those areas (let’s call them Less Outstanding Areas) will have to take the brunt of development in East Devon, as long as they are deemed sustainable for the numbers of houses envisaged in a particular planning application.
The importance of the Local Plan should not be underestimated and the work involved in producing it has been astronomic.
EDDC’s statement is as follows:
As part of East Devon District Council’s ongoing commitment to finalise its Local Plan with the East Devon Local Plan Inspector, the council’s service lead for Planning Strategy and Development Management, has written to the Inspector to update him on progress made with the East Devon Local Plan Examination. The correspondence also highlights the fact that further potential delays are inevitable due to the forthcoming local elections.
The letter confirms that East Devon District Council is expecting to receive – on or before Friday 13 February 2015 – a draft report of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA is a multi-authority commission by East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge Councils and Dartmoor National Park Authority, with Devon County Council also being a partner), which we commissioned, together with a number of other studies, in order to establish a robust understanding of the objectively assessed housing need in East Devon. At this stage, the SHMA report, which is being produced by our appointed consultants DCA, remains highly confidential as it is still a work in progress, with findings yet to be made conclusive.
While the SHMA report was being produced, it became clear that housing needs, potentially arising as a result of possible future job growth, warranted particular attention. As a result, the multi-authority partnership (comprising the five Devon local councils, as well as Dartmoor National Park Authority, as listed above) commissioned Edge Analytics to undertake specific modelling work to establish the relationship between job growth and housing requirements. In addition, East Devon District Council has also commissioned work by Ash Futures Ltd to specifically advise on future job growth levels in East Devon. We have received draft reports from both Ash Futures and Edge Analytics and we will be pushing for final speedy conclusion of all reports.
East Devon District Council’s Leader, Councillor Paul Diviani said:
We welcome the imminent arrival of the SHMA draft report, this week. These three reports are an integral part of the East Devon Local Plan. Their undertaking – involving a significant number of other local authorities – has been an enormously complex process, which has taken longer than would have been desirable.
The benefits of undertaking these reports should not be underestimated. It clearly demonstrates that best practice is at the heart of our decision making and confirmed the need for an altogether more substantial and complex end piece of work and has fully justified the need for additional consultancy support.
We are very much aware of the need to finalise our Local Plan, but at the same time we have to take the reports with proposed changes to the Plan to our members for consideration and consultation. We had envisaged that the earliest we would have been able to take the reports to our members would be March or early April 2015. The process of consultation would then take around six weeks.
However, because of the forthcoming local and national elections this would not appear to be a viable route to follow, as there is concern that the process could be seen as politically motivated, which would overshadow the soundness of the plan. While mindful of the need to progress quickly, the significance to the process of members’ consideration and consultation should not be overlooked, and consequently it is unlikely that we will take the report to our members until shortly after the May election.