NEW LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATION –Why are representations not flooding in?

From a correspondent:

From a personal perspective having spent hours, days, weeks . . . . no actually . . . . . seven years voluntarily taking an interest in representing and contributing the views of the community on the future development in our village to the East Devon District Council for the Local Plan 2013-2031, the Villages Plan (including BUABs) and our Neighbourhood Plan – may I suggest that (even with much prompting on Facebook and social media from District Councillors to remind us that time is running out for making representations for the New Local Plan)  – the reason why many previously interested parties in our communities do not wish to comment on the new Local Plan going forward is that after multitudinous  time spent and huge efforts in the past  – one local community found that inappropriate development was approved by the Planning Committee recently (in spite of hundreds of local residents’ objections) on green fields, on high risk flood areas with proposals supported that will  increase traffic substantially in an area which already suffers with massive traffic congestion!

There was approval for 54 new homes on an agricultural greenfield outside of the Local Plan, the BUAB and the Neighbourhood Plan;

There was approval for a change of proposals from a supportable, modest amount of homes shown at a Public Consultation to a block of 40 two-three storey apartments overlooking existing residents’ homes directly opposite to a Grade II* Listed Building when, surprisingly, proposals for blocks of two/three storey apartments were not included in the Neighbourhood Plan for an historic, rural village;

There was approval for increased provision of multiple commercial uses, in tandem with adding 94 dwellings to the mix, in a countryside location because the developers’ viability reports maintained that the whole masterplan would be financially unviable without building homes on green fields;

There was approval for a significant increase in traffic (with no extra provision for public transport) in an area that already suffers with major gridlock, noise and air pollution. . . when most of us are trying to improve our carbon footprint and EDDC state they are committed to policies to improve climate change;

There was approval for a large impermeable car park on green, agricultural fields adjacent to a watercourse that is within an area of high flood risk.

It must be remembered that the preparation of the current Local Plan 2013-2031 incurred exorbitant costs, magnified by the need for a Planning Inspector to advise  for many months to ensure that the Plan was sound, with copious, administration costs that accumulated over ‘eons’ – so it is fair to say that Local Plans cost East Devon tax payers very highly!!

However, when all local representations have been taken into account and the policies have been written and the Local Plan is adopted and in place – the bad news is that around 16 elected Local Authority Councillors (as the ultimate decision makers) with recommendations from Planning Officers  can ignore the Local Plan, BUAB, the Neighbourhood Plan and National Planning Policies  and  approve an application that offers substantial economical growth to the entire district, which in their opinion, outweighs the social and environmental policies set down for the protection of a village community in East Devon!

There is little point in giving people confidence that planning policies will protect their areas with Local Plans or pretend that local democracy and community involvement has any value  in decision making when, in fact, such policies can be overridden and the local people’s representations ignored!

There were, indeed, a great deal of positive aspects attached to the approved development  that were hugely innovative and supportable – but sadly planners deemed that environmental and social aspects within their Local Plan could be ignored for the greater good of providing economic benefits for the entire district to fill a funding gap black hole!

The electorate had sent a clear message to the Council that after five decades of Conservative dominance, they wanted change and they were hoping for a reformed and improved council whose administration would bring stability and direction for the benefit of all its residents.   In this context all residents must be interpreted as some residents because some residents have had to tolerate a build, build, build policy because East Devon has vast swathes of protected Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – so some communities in the planning lottery will have to draw ‘the short straw’ resulting in an historic, rural village being sacrificed and residents’ views being brushed aside!

And that’s why many people have lost faith in the local planning system and will not waste any more of their precious time responding to a new East Devon Local Plan Consultation that can equally be ignored if it suits the decision makers!

The Localism Act sought to decentralise power away from Whitehall and back into the hands of local councils, communities and individuals to act on local priorities and this concept is applauded.

The pandemic has shown us that our personal choices and decisions can have huge impacts on other peoples’ lives – flippancy is not supported and there will be no hand- clapping for planners in this community!

However, in an effort to end on a positive note – us ‘minions’ have all been assured by our elected members that this is the way democracy works – we elect them to be our representatives and they make the decisions – Mmmmmm!

5 thoughts on “NEW LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATION –Why are representations not flooding in?

  1. From experience, Mid Devon is the same. Hours spent looking over planning applications, discussed at great length at the parish meetings, voted for what was considered the best for the village. It all got to the Mid Devon Planning Committee and our views were held in contempt. All those hours wasted. That is why so little interest is taken in the Neighbourhood Plans etc. Life is too short.

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  2. Please add to your list, below, the reduction of the approved number of affordable homes in a development.

    Planning Officers can ignore the Local Plan, BUAB, the Neighbourhood Plan and National Planning Policies and approve an application that offers substantial economical growth to the entire district, which in their opinion, outweighs the social and environmental policies set down for the protection of a village community in East Devon!

    We have been repeatedly told that East Devon needs affordable housing to find planning officers recommend, and the 16 wise councillors vote for, a reduced number. So more and more development to obtain a pitiful number of affordables. eg in Budleigh Salterton 30 affordable homes became FIVE, outside the BUAB and in the AONB!

    Concrete here we come.

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  3. I have spent over two hours reading the documents and filling out the survey. Maybe naive, reading the comments above, but if I don’t try, how can I hope to be heard? When I came to submit the comments, the survey site told me that my comments had not been saved and I’d been logged out. I did intend to spend another two hours to re enter everything, manually saving as I go…but you know, doing it twice????

    Very unhelpful system. No warning that everything is going to be lost as you progress through the survey.

    Could this be a not-so-subtle way of excluding comments?

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  4. I have spoken to another Worzel recently, and heard her shocking opinions…In summary here’s her message…

    “Have we not not been urged to ‘Take Back Control’? Are we not now the free-est of the free? If the powers that govern us lose our consent, most surely we are now licensed to act for ourselves. Hang the regulations, we must ditch them as we have been urged to do, as the government itself does. How dare the petty fogging laws of the land get in the way of our freedom to act – a more incendiary approach must surely be the way forward to fight for local power – todays vigil is tomorrows riot, and who can do other than welcome that?”

    I counselled extreme caution and the urgent need for democracy to do its subtle work. But she railed at me yet more and warned me that the current increasing restrictions on ‘demonstrations’ was just the latest assault on our freedom. She reminded me the first thing that Boris did on becoming mayor of London was to buy three water cannons for fear of his constituents. She claimed his freedom message was just for him and his pals and not for worzels.

    I was at a total loss to reply in cogent measure and repaired to my post for much longer thought on matters of freedom and democracy.

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  5. Owl,
    it’s clear why views are not flooding in: local and EDDC Cllrs and Officials show arrogance and dismissal of others views, and appear to act in their own interest. Support for the Community is long considered gone, decades gone, by locals who have long given up.
    A lot needs cleaning up in East Devon, it’s towns and villages.

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