Is EDDC’s second Draft Local Plan doomed to fail and leave us with the current developer free-for-all?

A GOVERNMENT inspector is challenging East Devon District Council to explain a series of decisions it’s made regarding future, district-wide development before he gives his long awaited stamp of approval.

In April last year, planning inspector Anthony Thickett rendered the council’s draft Local Plan 2006 – 26, as “unsound with serious evidential failings”.

Since then, the council has been working hard to address the short fallings, including that the plan’s 15,000 housing target was not justified by evidence submitted which the inspector dubbed “inadequate and not up to date”.

Mr Thickett also rendered the absence of an up-to-date Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) as a “serious failing” which made making a full assessment of need difficult.

So the council went back to the drawing board and now year on, in March, the council approved its latest draft which saw a number of significant changes:

The council is now recommending an alteration and extension to the period it covers, from April 2013 to March 2031.

And, as a result of the long-awaited SHMA, the council has said that, based on job projection growth, 17,100 homes should be built across East Devon over the next 18 years – 950 per year, and 200 more per year than originally projected.

The council has now launched an eight-week public consultation and as part of this information gathering phase, the inspector has submitted a number of questions, the answers of which will help him inform his conclusions.

Despite the council having already sought to address any issues raised by the inspector last year, a council spokesperson said it was “usual practice” for inspectors to raise challenges to Local Plans at this evidence reviewing stage.

But one East Devon resident, David Daniel, from Budleigh Salterton, has raised concerns that the plan could be set to fail again because the questions that the inspector has asked, echo clarification that he sought over a year ago and which formed the basis for the failure of the plan.

For example, a year ago, the inspector instructed the council to make more progress assessing the need for gypsy and traveller sites and to identify locations where sites could be created – but, now a year on, Mr Thickett has said the council has “failed” to allocate land to gypsies and travellers in the Local Plan which therefore, “does not accord with national policy and is unsound”.

He asks how the failing can be rectified. The inspector also asks whether the council has “robust and reliable” evidence to support the revised housing target of a minimum of 17,100 new homes between 2013 and 2031. He goes on to ask: “Assuming 17,100 is the right number; does the plan make adequate provision for its delivery?”

The council spokesperson would not confirm whether the inspector’s questions suggested that the issues he has raised have not been adequately answered.

But one East Devon resident, David Daniel, from Budleigh Salterton, has raised concerns that the plan could be set to fail again because the questions that the inspector has asked, echo clarification that he sought over a year ago and which formed the basis for the failure of the plan.

For example, a year ago, the inspector instructed the council to make more progress assessing the need for gypsy and traveller sites and to identify locations where sites could be created – but, now a year on, Mr Thickett has said the council has “failed” to allocate land to gypsies and travellers in the Local Plan which therefore, “does not accord with national policy and is unsound”.

He asks how the failing can be rectified. The inspector also asks whether the council has “robust and reliable” evidence to support the revised housing target of a minimum of 17,100 new homes between 2013 and 2031. He goes on to ask: “Assuming 17,100 is the right number; does the plan make adequate provision for its delivery?”

The council spokesperson would not confirm whether the inspector’s questions suggested that the issues he has raised have not been adequately answered.

Mr Daniel, said: “The questions make devastating reading and there is a very real possibility that the council’s revised plan will be rejected for the second time.

“His principal reasons for throwing out the last plan were: That the housing targets were not based on empirical evidence; there was no five year land supply; that the plan period was too short; and there was no plan for gypsies and travellers.

“When reading the inspector’s latest comments, as consultation questions, it seems as if the council has failed in the past year to provide satisfactory answers to any of these.

“Without an adopted Local Plan we are at the mercy of uncontrolled development.”

A council spokesman said: “We have sought to address all the issues in the draft local plan and the inspector is now reviewing the evidence and seeking public opinion.

“It is usual practice for inspectors to raise challenges on Local Plans, which is what Mr Thickett is doing. Housing is invariably the highest profile issue. The purpose of the inspector’s questions is to gather more information to help inform his conclusions on the Local Plan.”

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Inspector-challenges-East-Devon-council-questions/story-26435085-detail/story.html