Charlie Hopkins, the East Devon-based planning consultant who represented Feniton Parish Council at the ‘super inquiry’ and advised Gittisham Parish Council in their fight against 300 houses off Hayne Lane last year has spoken out against EDDC for not making public the draft report of the long-awaited housing needs study which will inform the Local Plan process.
Anthony Thickett criticised the process in his report following the Examination in Public of the Local Plan last year for not having sufficient evidence of housing need in the area … and therefore found the Plan unsound.
The sound of champagne corks popping in the offices of developers and land agents alike was audible above the sounds of groans from East Devon residents who have been let down so badly by a council which is elected to represent them.
The announcement of further delays to the Local Plan by EDDC’s leader, Paul Diviani, is quite incredible. We are told to believe that these delays are “inevitable”, because were the public to have sight of a housing needs report before the elections in May the process “could be seen” as being politically motivated.
Could be seen by whom Mr Diviani?
The report itself certainly won’t be seen by anyone except those select few in EDDC, who then take it upon themselves to decide what the public should know and what they shouldn’t. When EDDC presented the new Local Plan at the public inquiry a year ago, last February, they considered that it was in a form acceptable to the Inspector, who made it clear from Day 1 that it was anything but. A clearer case of incompetence would be hard to imagine. We were then assured that revised housing figures could be produced within a matter of weeks. A year later, still we wait, now to be told, with much hand wringing, that we must wait even longer because of the remote possibility that some unspecified, unidentified persons may see the process as “politically motivated”.
The only reason for withholding the housing needs report is that it is likely that housing needs will be shown to be higher than the figures presented by EDDC a year ago. The consequence of this is that villages and communities in East Devon will be allocated higher housing figures than previously. This is highly unlikely to go down to well with the vast majority of communities in East Devon, some of which have already seen proposals by developers to hugely increase housing on greenfield sites (think of Feniton, Gittisham, and more recently Clyst St Mary).
If there is political motivation behind delaying the release of these reports that can only come from the Tory majority on EDDC.
Finally, who benefits from this further delay?
An unholy trinity of landowners and developers, who stand to profit massively in the interim period before a new Local Plan is in place, and last, but not least, their chums on EDDC.
Sincerely Charlie Hopkins