As I thumbed the pages of this week’s Express & Echo yesterday, I was struck by the number of planning stories which were emblazoned across its pages.
There was a story about the East Devon Alliance (formed in response to many campaign groups coming together to fight inappropriate development (http://www.eastdevonalliance.org.uk/)), a story about campaigners opposed to a development for 150 houses in Exmouth, and elsewhere a story about campaigners concerned about the increase in traffic movements around a proposed new development.
And so it goes on.
Meanwhile, there is a groundswell of absolute fury against our District Council which has failed so spectacularly to have its Local Plan in place by the Government’s deadline of March 2012 … almost three years ago now … leaving our precious countryside at risk of opportunistic landowners and insatiable developers trying to cash in on the failure.
And now we hear that the SHMA draft report, which is the report of an independent study which assessed housing need, is out (see https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/local-plan-update-well-sort-of/), but councillors are to be kept in the dark about the content of the report and more importantly are not being given the remotest idea of the housing numbers proposed.
The CPRE has long argued that 11,000 is the appropriate number for East Devon over the plan period, while developers (to much derision) estimate that 28,000 is the magic number.
In reality, I think it’s safe to say that the number will be somewhere between the two.
But the burning question, given that the draft SHMA report has been submitted to EDDC, is why the majority of councillors are being kept in the dark and fed copious quantities of manure. It’s like working in a mushroom farm.
There will be councillors ‘in the know’ who are party to the information which will give a steer to the future appearance of our beloved countryside, so the information will undoubtedly leach out. However, this ‘secrets and mirrors’ approach is not the way forward.
Meanwhile, voters are pondering their choices at the ballot box and will remember the abject failure of a Tory-led Council to put in place a Local Plan which would have put the Council in charge of leading planning policy … rather than responding to planning applications through the woolly and relaxed policies in the NPPF.