“Queen’s Drive. Is it a full planning application or not?”

Press Release 31.1.17

A most heated debate took place at Exmouth Town Council’s Planning Committee meeting last night.

Cllr Megan Armstrong, an EDA Independent District Councillor for Exmouth explained at some length that the “Reserved Matters Application” they were about to debate was in effect a “Full Planning Application” for phases 2 and 3 for the Queen’s Drive development.

The Chairman however interjected half way through her 3 minute allocated time and stated she wished to make a point clear. She then explained that East Devon District Council (the Applicant) has not allocated funding for the project, and therefore was not in a position to proceed.

NOTE (The consideration that an applicant has funds to deliver a project is not a consideration for a planning committee to debate).

Cllr Megan Armstrong was then allowed to proceed and stated she hoped the committee would consider the planning application without reference to the press releases and documents sent to each councillor by the applicant.
“Forget the promise of further consultations and further promises of more planning applications, don’t be confused by the press releases and further information sent to you, they are inadmissible.”

“You have to consider this application on its own merits from the documents and plans presented and anything else you have been told is irrelevant and should not be a consideration.”

NOTE (Planning regulations state that an applicant can apply in one of two ways. To submit a “Full Planning Application”, or if the application is substantial or problematic the applicant can submit an “Outline Planning Application” reserving all the detailed drawings and details to be submitted if the outline application is approved within a 3 year time period. This is known as a “Reserved Matters Application”).

Following the representations from a number of local residents and Cllr Armstrong the Chairman opened the debate to the planning committee.
Cllr Bill Nash (Conservative) started the proceedings explaining to the committee that Cllr Armstrong was incorrect and referring to the press release and documents sent by the applicant, explained that the application was merely an extension to the outline, and that there will be further planning applications and consultations for Phases 2 and 3.

At no time during the whole debate were the plans explained or shown on the large screen. The only document shown throughout the debate on the overhead projector was a flowchart of the possible suggested consultations and planning applications that may be brought forward at a later date.

In fact one councillor stated he looked forward to the plans for the “Watersports Centre” in phase 2 and another councillor was most interested in seeing the proposals for the hotel plans in phase 3.

This simply demonstrated that some of the planning committee members had not seen the full list of documents that they were now discussing.

The local authority planning portal has all the detailed plans for the application, and it is standard practice for major planning applications for the local authority to provide paper copies as well as providing the information online to assist councillors to understand the proposal that they were required to debate and on which they should agree a proposal.
Within the documents provided were very detailed drawings of both the proposed hotel and full details of the watersports centre, showing every aspect including the positions of the tables and chairs and the cycle store layout!

The public who are not allowed to comment or interject during the debate were at times most vocal to the discussion and content of the debate, demonstrating their displeasure as much as they were able.

The whole debate centred on the issue that it was a “mere exercise” in extending an outline application (this is not permitted in National Planning Policy). The other issues debated were the further consultations and further planning applications.

NOTE. (A planning application should be considered in its entirety with only the planning documents presented by the applicant and separate from any other planning application).

Without a single explanation of the design and layout and without a single illustration of the proposal the chair asked for a vote and the decision was carried 6 votes to 3.

The decision demonstrates the change in opinion as the previous outline application was not supported by the Town Council and in fact Cllr Bill Nash wrote a very strong letter of objection regarding the outline proposal in 2013 on behalf of his constituents living on Trefusis Terrace overlooking the proposed development.

Cllr Megan Armstrong when asked about the decision said:

“I was not surprised by the inconsistencies and change in opinion. It is unfortunate that such an important decision seems to have been turned into a party political game which is so sad. Party politics should not be an issue for such a momentous decision for the people of Exmouth.”

“However the town council planning committee is simply a consultee and the final decision will be made at East Devon’s Development Management Committee meeting at Sidmouth in a few months’ time.”

“Let us all hope that the facts will be explained without any spin and the decision is agreed democratically by the members on the district council committee.”