Oral hearing sessions anticipated to commence early July

The eight-week public consultation period for East Devon District Council’s Local Plan has now ended (12 June 2015) and the responses from a total of 145 individuals and organisations, have been analysed and forwarded to the appointed planning inspector, Mr Thickett, for his consideration.

It is anticipated that the inspector will hold oral hearing sessions at Knowle starting on 7 July and he has advised that those people and organisations which previously made oral representations will be invited to speak. Everyone making representations will be contacted and informed of the next stages.

Proposed dates for the hearing sessions, which will be open to the public, are as follows:

  • Tuesday 7 July – Gypsies and Travellers Plan, and allocation sites, including Cranbrook
  • Wednesday 8 July – Housing (excluding Cranbrook)
  • Thursday 9 July – Reserved day
  • Friday 10 July – Community Infrastructure Levy

Overview of themes and issues

A diverse range of comments was received by the council in response to the 14 questions provided by the inspector (plus a general question from the council), for the consultation and the issues raised within these comments have been broadly summarised below. However, for a more detailed picture of people’s opinions the council has published full details of the representations on the East Devon website.

Housing (including overall numbers and distribution)

Some respondents questioned whether there were sufficient houses built in the past and whether the council is proposing enough for the future, while others suggested that the target of 17,100 homes in the  plan was too high and were of the view that the number of projected new jobs was over-estimated.

From some, there was the concern that the environmental value and integrity of East Devon would be adversely affected by the proposed increase in development. A number of people supported a concentration of development in the West, while others wanted greater provision in the rural towns and villages. There was specific concern that neighbourhood plans were not an effective way to plan for growth and development. A number of respondents questioned the potential rate at which housing sites would be developed and indicated that lower build rates would result in there not being a five-year land supply.

Gypsies and Travellers

The assessment findings and targets of 37 pitches for gypsies and travellers and three sites for travelling showpeople received very few comments other than that large scale housing allocation sites in the plan should also provide for gypsy and traveller accommodation.

Site allocations

Limited comments were received on topics such as the Cranbrook Plan area boundary and how this has been defined, land for a railhead at the Intermodal Interchange and the pro’s and con’s of safeguarding it, and the impacts of allocating Winslade Park at Clyst St Mary, including the loss of employment land and the impact on the listed building and parkland.

General matters

A very wide range of matters feature in other representations, including people proposing additional land allocations for residential development. There was also concern that the policy approach over development at Sidmouth and Sidford Employment Allocation Site would damage Sidmouth. Some residents favoured the de-allocation of the Sidford employment allocation and believe that an enhancement to the Alexandria Road would be preferable.

There was concern about the processes being used for habitat regulations and sustainability assessments. In addition, some respondents wanted a greater range of employment sites allocated, in order to give more opportunity to potential investors.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

The council received ten representations on the revised CIL draft charging schedule. These comments primarily related to what infrastructure should be provided through CIL and what should be provided through Section 106 agreements and therefore how CIL rates should be set for different parts of the district.

Commenting on the responses, Councillor Andrew Moulding, Deputy Leader of East Devon District Council said:

We asked the public to tell us what they thought about the draft Local Plan through the consultation and the hearings, which are to be held shortly. As a result of which the Local Plan Inspector will be able to consider public opinion, views and assessment. Community engagement has an extremely important role to play in the development of the Local Plan. The responses that we have received will all be considered and will be used to help influence the Plan.

In light of any other issues that the inspector may identify and changes that have been suggested by respondents, if he recommends any modifications to the Plan, then we will be asking full council to consider those recommendations.