Independent Planning Inspector confirms the plan is ‘sound’ subject to modifications

A key milestone has been reached with East Devon’s Local Plan following official confirmation from the independent Planning Inspector that the plan, subject to a number of modifications, is now ‘sound’.

This means that East Devon District Council can now move forward to formally adopt the Local Plan and the additional Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charging schedule. A meeting to adopt the plan is expected to take place at the end of January.

The Local Plan documents are the culmination of years of work as the Council has assessed many possible development sites and addressed thousands of consultation responses with communities and individuals across the district.

The document was comprehensively scrutinised by Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett who has made some modifications to the final plan which are essentially those that the Council consulted on last October and November with some amendments to these that he felt were necessary.

The Inspector’s main findings are:

  • The target of 17,100 new homes between 2013 and 2031 is an appropriate housing need for the district and will meet the needs identified in the Council’s studies.
  • The district will have a five- year housing land supply upon adoption of the plan and indeed already has such a supply. This means that settlement boundaries can be more rigorously defended from developers wishing to develop land that sits outside of the boundaries included in the plan.
  • The identified need for 37 gypsy and traveller pitches is based on robust and reliable evidence.
  • The proposed site allocations for homes and employment are appropriate including land at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary and the allocation of East Devon District Council’s offices at the Knowle, Sidmouth.

The Inspector has also resolved to include the Sidford employment site that East Devon councillors asked to be removed from the Local Plan at a Council meeting in March 2015. Explaining his decision in his report, he says:

It has been shown that there is neither a suitable site within Sidmouth nor a better one outside the town. I consider that any environmental impacts can be satisfactorily mitigated... I consider the proposed allocation to be sound and I do not recommend its deletion.

In relation to the identified need for 37 gypsy and traveller pitches, Mr Thickett says he understands concerns that up to 30 of these pitches are provided at Cranbrook. Mr Thickett adds:

There is nothing in the modified policy to require all 30 pitches to be in the same place and I have seen nor read anything to suggest that sites could not be developed in a way that would integrate satisfactorily with other development planned for Cranbrook.

The Council will continue to look at all options for the delivery of the gypsy and traveller sites and these will be allocated through a separate document to be consulted on later this year.

Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said he was pleased to see the Local Plan now moving forward.

He said:

The plan is a vital ‘blueprint’ for future growth and development in East Devon up to 2031, and will be used to decide planning applications, helping guide investment in infrastructure and give communities more certainty about how their part of the district will grow and develop during this period. 

I hope that our residents feel reassured that the local plan, when adopted, will give us full control over what development is permitted in the district and I am grateful to everyone who took the time to contribute to the many consultations that were held. They have helped to shape the future of the district.

The plan has taken time to develop and we have had some demanding policy challenges along the way. However, it is crucial that we have the right plan in place to ensure that our outstanding environment is conserved and enhanced, and that new development can provide homes that people need, places for them to work and social and community facilities to support them in leading healthy, active and fulfilling lives.

Mark Williams, East Devon District Council’s Chief Executive, said:

It is a pleasure to read a rational, proportionate and common sense assessment of the planning issues that the East Devon Local Plan addresses. We are grateful to Mr Thickett for the excellent work he has undertaken and now look forward to finally adopting the Local Plan.

Both the Local Plan Inspector’s report and his report into the Community Infrastructure Levy have been published.