Much needed Local Plan will fill planning void and allow appropriate development for the district

East Devon District Council has now formally adopted its draft Local Plan. At an Extraordinary Meeting of Council on Thursday January 28), a cross-party majority of 42 councillors voted in favour of adopting the plan, including all the Independent Planning Inspector’s proposed main modifications, which are:

  • The Local Plan should cover the period 2013-2031
  • It was appropriate for the plan to provide 17,100 homes over the plan period – which equates to 950 houses per year
  • The council can show a five-year housing land supply
  • The need for 37 Gypsy and Traveller pitches across East Devon, including up to 30 pitches at Cranbrook, is based on robust and reliable evidence
  • The Sidford employment land allocation should remain in the plan
  • The Plan makes appropriate provision for affordable housing and jobs growth

Sidford employment land allocation

There was some criticism of Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett’s decision to keep the Sidford employment site in the plan. In his report, Mr Thickett stated: “I consider the proposed allocation to be sound and I do not recommend its deletion – despite councillors asking for it to be removed (at a Council meeting in March 2015). The Inspector’s decision was said, by some, to be undemocratic, but it was pointed out that just because the Inspector did not agree with the community’s views, it did not mean that he had not fully considered comments made about the Sidford allocation. Furthermore, the Plan as a whole has to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was produced by a democratically elected government and sets out government’s planning policies for England and how these should be applied.

Some councillors questioned why the council had not submitted further evidence to support the removal of the Sidford site from the Plan at full Council in May 2015. This was because the council had already submitted all of the necessary evidence, which the Inspector had already considered. The Council had no power to remove the site from the plan nor any opportunity to submit further evidence.

Cranbrook Gypsy and Traveller Provision

Concerns were raised about Gypsy and Traveller site provision at Cranbrook and the impact this would have on the community there, as well as adjacent communities. The Deputy Leader, Councillor Andrew Moulding, who is also a member of the new Growth Point delivery team steering board and the Portfolio holder for Strategic development and partnerships, pointed out that all other options for Gypsy and Traveller site provision were to be considered through the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document (DPD) and any sites put forward would still need planning permission. He confirmed that there would be plenty of opportunity for community consultation and all proposals would be scrutinized by East Devon’s Development Management Committee (DMC).

What next for the Local Plan?

A version of the Local Plan has now been produced, which includes all of the main modifications and this can be found in the planning section of the council website under Local Plan Adoption.

There are clear benefits to having the Local Plan finally in place – not least that it provides a strategy for development throughout the district (particularly the West End) and makes appropriate provision for affordable housing, which in turn is linked to jobs growth. 

Although the Plan has been adopted, there is still a significant amount of work to be carried out to ensure its successful implementation and the correct delivery of its allocations and policies. The five-year housing supply will need to be maintained and a five-year supply of gypsy and traveller sites must also be identified and maintained.

Villages Plan DPD and Built-up Area Boundaries

Part of the Local Plan’s future work involves the production by the council of a Villages Plan DPD, which will define Built-up Area Boundaries for the 15 villages (and the town of Colyton) that are in Strategy 27. Work on defining boundaries for villages will now continue and a draft report will be presented to councillors later this year with a recommendation for consultation. As an interim measure, the boundaries of the existing Local Plan will be used when deciding planning applications.

Community Infrastructure Levy charging schedule

Councillors also heard that the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charging schedule, which the council produced was also found to be acceptable by Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett. A separate report on the introduction of the CIL will be considered further by officers, before being discussed by members at a future meeting.

Filling the planning void

Commenting on the council’s adoption of the Local Plan and the CIL charging schedule, Councillor Paul Diviani, the Leader of East Devon District Council, said:

Common sense dictated that the council voted to adopt the Local Plan. Had it not been adopted, then the control of development in the district would have been at risk of being seriously compromised. Not only that, without adoption, there was a danger that future changes in legislation, designed to ensure that councils have an up to date Local Plan, would lead to government intervention and ultimately there would then be no guarantee that the council or the community would have a full say over the contents of the Plan. It is important to note that the Local Plan is a policy document and that all applications for development must first receive planning permission and follow the necessary process to gain that permission, which will only be granted if it meets the necessary strict criteria.

There has been a planning policy void for the past few years, which needed to be filled urgently. But these policies take time not least because of the amount of highly detailed and skilled work involved. The Local Plan may not be what everyone would want, but that will always be the case. You could make endless modifications and still not please everyone. The important thing is that we now have a Local Plan, which clearly demonstrates that we have a five-year housing land supply and which enables us to defend the communities of East Devon from inappropriate development.

There is still much work to do to ensure successful delivery of the plan’s allocations and policies and we will keep everyone informed of progress. The main thing to remember is that the inspector has confirmed that we have a sound plan, which has been positively prepared, justified, effective and is consistent with national planning policy.