Owl says: CDE not getting their own way with highly ontroversial AONB development blames officers and councillors at EDDC – CDE not happy bunnies!
[To] Housing Delivery Task and Finish Forum – Observations on Issues affecting Housing Delivery
“[From]Leigh Rix, Head of Property for Clinton Devon Estates Iestyn John, Partner at Bell Cornwell LLP
Clinton Devon Estates are rural landowners with substantial land and property interests in East Devon, notably in the southern part of the district between Exmouth and Beer. The Estate therefore operates within a large number of rural communities and in an area which is subject to a range of landscape and other sensitivities, all of which have with the potential to affect housing delivery. The Estate seeks to act as a responsible landowner with the principles of sustainability at the heart of all its activities. The Estate takes a long term intergenerational view which takes precedence over short term political and economic interests. It is within this context that its observations on the issues affecting housing delivery are provided.
In the Estate’s experience, there are two types of issues which are frustrating housing delivery:
cultural factors and technical factors
The absence within the Council of a positive, solution focused mindset necessary to properly resolve the undoubted tensions which exist between business, community and local politics, reflecting an agreed vision of how housing delivery will support wider longer term ambitions for the district in the context of an economically, socially and environmentally vibrant community. This absence appears to ‘set the tone’ for the setting of land use policy and decision making and may act as a barrier to investment in the area;
Greater pragmatism is needed, especially with regard to pursuing opportunities for properly considered housing proposals in rural areas. Such opportunities have the potential to act as a source of considerable amounts of additional housing without harming rural character. It is notable that earlier drafts of the Local Plan proposed to allocate 5% extra housing to each village. In individual villages, this would represent very small scale growth but is an approach, which collectively, would have contributed at least 500 more houses to the District’s identified supply than the approved Local Plan. The current approach of relying on neighbourhood plans to deliver local growth, whilst politically expedient, is inherently problematic especially in those areas in which the Estate operates, given the predominance of NIMBY interests which do not typically act in support of traditional local communities or longer term, future generational thinking;
Stronger, more decisive leadership is needed and at all levels. Amongst other things, this will generate certainty for the development industry and confidence that planning applications once supported, will be approved.
There are clear political tensions within the Council which create considerable uncertainties, delays and costs to bringing forward housing supply. The Estates’ experience with their development at King Alfred Way in Newton Poppleford is a clear example. Despite receiving officer support throughout the process, it took five years, four applications and five planning committees to secure a development which is modest in size, provides a high level of affordable housing and a clearly identified community facility in the form of a new doctor’s surgery. It will be understood that such problems do not act as positive signal to those seeking to invest in housing schemes – of any form – in East Devon.
Some officers within the planning teams seek to apply seemingly needless bureaucracy; for example in the scope of the information they ask for to validate or process applications. It is obviously important that properly relevant information be provided, however unnecessary requests generate delay and cost and add little to consideration of the issue. We note the recent application validation list actually seems to make this issue worse. A more pragmatic and proportionate position is needed.
Feedback from statutory consultees is extremely slow. This is partly an issue of under-resourcing of these agencies which is out of the control of the Council. However, such poor responses have the potential to significantly delay decisions on applications. We would suggest that officers need to feel able to come to their own view on issues where specific advice is not forthcoming in a timely manner unless there are fundamental issues such as highways safety under consideration.
Officers need to support schemes which are common sense and where there is unlikely to be any harm to wider objectives. It is notable that there are various schemes in the Cranbrook area – a central part of the Council’s housing delivery strategy – which are not being determined until the Council’s much delayed SPD for the area is approved. In this core location, the Council appear to be getting locked into a planning rather than delivery cycle which prevents certain sizeable schemes e.g. the non-consortium site at Farlands from coming forward with, in that case, an approval for 200 + dwellings.
From the experience of the Estate it would seem that some members of Development Management and other Committees require training in their responsibilities and the planning process as well as more general Committee Management skills. Poor quality, ill informed decisions made by members disregarding legal and planning advice causes increased skills costs for housing projects and local taxpayers as well as a lack of delivery of schemes which meet agreed local plan criteria.”