Cllr Dan Ledger, Chair of EDDC strategic planning: “The government enforces arbitrary housing numbers that district & unitary councils must follow otherwise we lose planning powers. This opens the door for even less sustainable development.”
“In the next couple of years there will be tough decisions to make. I just hope that the public can understand the challenges presented and we can all work together to get the best future plan for our district. This is why it is so important to respond to the consultation.”
Cllr Paul Arnott, EDDC Leader: “We need feedback. Once we have all this information back, and we have clear legislation from the government, this administration will make sure that we do all we can early in the New Year to take advantage in the interests of the people and environment of East Devon.”
The draft Local Plan is out to consultation: Have Your Say Today – East Devon Local Plan – Commonplace
With a handy video giving an overview of the key issue: Local Plan – Housing – YouTube
However, compared to a decade ago, there has been remarkably little coverage in the press about the District Council’s current draft Local Plan.
These news pages have attempted to bring some of the issues raised in the Plan: East Devon Local Plan consultation road show – Vision Group for Sidmouth
Including the more controversial planning proposals which should fit in with the broader Local Plan of course: Knowle: a failure of promises on affordable housing – Vision Group for Sidmouth
And observations made a year ago when the basics for a new Local Plan were first put out for consultation: Draft Local Plan proposed zero-carbon housing – Vision Group for Sidmouth and Draft Local Plan proposes new housing – Vision Group for Sidmouth
Last week, the District Council issued a press release asking for wider public engagement – especially on housing issues: 16 December 2022 – Will the new East Devon Local Plan help meet your housing need? – East Devon
This followed on from a piece in the Herald by Cllr Dan Ledger, chair of the council’s Strategic Planning Cttee – which he has generously forwarded to the VGS for publication:
“The new draft local plan is currently being consulted on. Mixed in with some positive comments there is a lot of anger and frustration and in a lot of ways I share it.
The government enforces arbitrary housing numbers that district & unitary councils must follow otherwise we lose planning powers. This opens the door for even less sustainable development . We are left with the less of two evils in large scale housing growth but at least having a say in where it goes strategically. Government tells us that we have to deliver 946 homes in East Devon per year. Our housing figure starts off lower than this but due to homes being unaffordable in the area, with the average house price being over 10 times the average wage the figure gets an uplift of over 300 additional homes. As homes become less affordable this uplift of more homes just gets greater. The issue I have with the uplift is it is meant to make accessing home ownership easier. The data in contrast shows it’s never been more unaffordable for our residents to own their own home. House prices double each decade whilst wages relatively are slow to adapt. The crude standard method calculation needs re-evaluation and I’m hoping with upcoming planning reform it is something that will change.
As most will know, East Devon is covered two thirds in land designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). AONB’s are given protective status just under that of national parks which is great for maintaining our beautiful countryside but constrains the third of the district not currently protected by this status as development naturally is focussed more heavily in this area.
The draft local plan attempts to focus growth on a hierarchy. Predominantly, growth is proposed to go in a new community and Cranbrook, followed by our largest town Exmouth, then our other main towns, service villages with a good range of facilities, then finally our tier 4 settlements which still have a sustainable range of facilities but could be improved through development occurring. As you go down the hierarchy, less homes are proposed for each category. With settlements listed outside the hierarchy and below tier 4 it is envisaged that growth will occur from community led developments such as community land trusts and rural exception sites.
I believe the two key issues for residents when discussing additional homes is infrastructure and climate change. Put simply, we want sustainable homes, in sustainable locations. We want to maintain and enhance our beautiful countryside whilst allowing communities to thrive with the much needed infrastructure improvements. Be that roads, doctors, schools, active travel provision or playing pitches, a range of facilities are required to ensure that the community is accommodated for now and in future years.
The draft plan currently sets out a net zero carbon standard on all development upon adoption, 25% affordable housing on all sites as a minimum and will promote forward funding of infrastructure ahead of delivery, wherever possible.
We are still in an extremely early period of plan production and whilst recommendations have been put forward, we are still some way off having a comprehensive and robust plan that will work for the district. We are awaiting the results of the consultation to hear the public’s views and will then do our best to mould a plan that meets both their aspirations and government guidelines.
All our councillors live in our communities and whatever side of the political spectrum you sit, I can see they genuinely want the best for their respective communities. In the next couple of years there will be tough decisions to make. I just hope that the public can understand the challenges presented and we can all work together to get the best future plan for our district.
This is why it is so important to respond to the consultation. To make your voice heard please join in at eastdevon.gov.uk/local-plan “
Yesterday, these news pages posted a piece looking at how central government has suggested these housing targets might not be set in stone after all:
Following on from this, Cllr Paul Arnott, Leader of East Devon District Council has generously forwarded to the VGS for publication a speech he made to Full Council on 7th December under “Leader’s Announcements”. The minutes refer to the speech, but here is his speech published in full, with kind permission:
“Good evening members and officers, and season’s greeting to all of you this freezing night in beautiful Exmouth by the sea. You will recall that a fortnight ago I wrote to our two MPs seeking their support for an amendment to the government’s Levelling Up bill concerning Planning.
Members will now be aware that the Secretary of State made a speech yesterday which seems to have the effect of heading off that amendment at the pass. In particular, we are told that he will legislate in potentially welcome terms. I want to briefly discuss today what implications this may have for East Devon District Council.
Firstly, he says that where a council has a Local Plan in place or is in the advanced stages of a new Local Plan, the requirement to constantly prove a 5 year land supply will be lifted. This might seem like promising news, but as with it all the devil is in the detail. I would argue that we do have a Local Plan fit till 2030, and are well progressed with the Local Plan till 2040.
But we will need to see the government’s small print as to how this “transition period” may be interpreted. So, some cause for hope, but well short of optimism.
Secondly, he says that confirmed Neighbourhood Plans will now have status for 5 years, not the mere 2 years which has been stated before. I am sure many local communities will welcome this after all their hard work. Although of course the NPPF still stands atop the hierarchy, so let us see what actual protection that will afford.
Thirdly, it is said that the 20% extra contingency amount, or buffer, built into housing numbers will no longer need to be adhered to. If this was the case, and with no other factors, our identified target of 940 homes per year would greatly decrease overnight. But again, is this what he really means, and what he will legislate for? Or is he just spiking the guns of his backbench rebels?
Fourthly, and of huge significance, he seems to be saying that the housing number itself will no longer be sacrosanct. Lots of people are becoming excited by this. Oh good, they are saying at our Local Plan consultations, so you don’t need the 940 after all.
Yet again, let’s see the white paper.
So I’d like to conclude with two thoughts. As it happens, it is a very good thing that the people of East Devon are being consulted at the moment in a hitherto unsurpassed transparent process for this council on the draft Local Plan. We need that feedback. We need to take the brickbats and the arguments for and against. That is democracy. As I have done publicly on many occasions now, I urge people to respond. I was told by officers today that we have over a thousand so far. These are coming in through the Commonplace portal, letters, emails and slips deposited at the many consultation events run by our officers. They are likely to still come flooding in. Good. That is democracy. Put your best foot forward. Consult. Digest. React. Consult again. And again if we have to.
The second thought is that once we have all this information back, and we have clear legislation from the government and not just kite flying from the Secretary of State, this administration will make sure that we do all we can early in the New Year to take advantage in the interests of the people and environment of East Devon. But the watchword is, proceed with caution but plan for the positive.“