Masterplans: EDDC’s new Achilles heels

Exmouth, Axminster and Cranbrook – all needing new Masterplans in our new Local Plan, according to the Inspector. And Sidmouth needing one at its eastern end according to EDDC.

Given the omnishambles EDDC has made of the new local plan – at least 8 years in the making, one false start wasting more than two years, and two rejected drafts plus the interference of the East Devon Business Forum – what are the odds of our current councillors and officers getting these new Masterplans right?

Below are the challenges they face. It will take more than crossed fingers to see these through … especially as, with so many of them, the councillors and officers are at odds with the electorate about what is acceptable and appropriate.

A new commuter town, a rural town massively expanding , and two seaside towns fighting to retain their identities … and all with AONBs, important wildlife sites and the World Heritage Coast to accommodate, not to mention thousands of homes and industries and their infrastructure to create under an “asset sweating” ruling party.


On Cranbrook, Diviani says this in a press release today:

“The Cranbrook masterplan, which is currently in production, will put some meat on the bones of these policies and will provide a strong vision and guide to future development at Cranbrook to ensure that it becomes an attractive, vibrant and sustainable modern town.”

Remember that the first plan of Cranbrook neglected to plan for appropriate health facilities, it did not include enough shops, not enough green spaces and a football pitch that could not be used in the evenings because it was no-one’s responsibility to pay for or maintain floodlights and where roads are still unadopted.

The highly critical DCC report is here:


On Axminster, he says:

“a North South relief road for the town will be delivered as part of this development linking Chard Road (A358) to Lyme Road (B261). A Masterplan will be required for this site and development will be subject to improved public transport provision.”


Prior to the granting of planning permission for any major residential schemes at Axminster, the Council will agree, with the Environment Agency and Natural England, a timetable for the review or development of a Nutrient Management Plan for the River Axe.

This plan will set out detailed actions that allow for new growth at Axminster to progress with adequate mitigation in place to negate the additional phosphate load that would be caused. The Nutrient Management Plan will work in collaboration with the diffuse Water Pollution Plan, and will seek to restore water quality for the River Axe SAC to enable it to meet its conservation objectives within a specified timescale, and in accordance with commitments to European Directives.

Depending on the findings of the plan, growth will only proceed in accordance with the mitigation delivery set out within that plan. Growth at Axminster will also be informed by the current status of the relevant discharge consents for waste water treatment works, and any upgrade required to support new growth will be the subject of Habitats Regulations Assessment prior to planning permission being given. The determination of such development applications will be informed by Habitat Regulations Assessment that takes account of the consent requirements.”


Oh, where to start with Exmouth. Suffice to say the Inspector says:

The Exmouth Seafront is recognised as a key asset for the town and the Council is a key driver in its further enhancement. To this end, along with Devon County Council, the District Council appointed LDA Design to undertake a town centre and waterfront design study to identify opportunities for renewal and improvement in the physical, economic and environmental quality of the town.

The Final LDA study5 and recommendations and conclusion have been endorsed by the Council. The implementation of some projects in the Masterplan is underway but the Council also recognises that it is time to re-evaluate the Masterplan. The future intention is that a new or refreshed Masterplan will be produced with this becoming a Supplementary planning Document (SPD).”

Hard to see how this can be worked into what seems now to be a fait accompli with the developer (though the Inspector fired several warning shots about protecting the environs of the Exe Estuary.


Mr Thickett says:

Land at Port Royal Site – Land for residential use is allocated for 30 homes (site ED03 (this site will incorporate mixed use redevelopment to include housing and community, commercial, recreation and other uses).”

COVOP summary: The state of planning today

Planning Situation: Background

There is very strong evidence to show that across England the Planning system is badly broken and that communities are being left to pick up the mess. The NPPF has resulted in planning-through-appeal and, in areas where Local Plans can’t get through the inspection process, the developers are having a field day. The common practice is to pick off sites that haven’t been identified for strategic development and take local authority decisions through appeal. The sites that have been identified for strategic development can then be picked off at leisure later on. Developers are building up magnificent stockpiles of permissions and their profits have shot up since the inception of the NPPF.

Permissions can last for a minimum of three years and on bigger sites this can be extended. All the developer has to do to secure the permission is to put a spade in the ground. He or she doesn’t have to build-out. Build-out rates are appallingly slow. In the midst of massive claims about housing need, the market, other than in London and the south east, is sluggish. Here in Cheshire East we have permissions coming out of our ears, but the builders churn out approximately 30 houses per annum, even on big sites. This is big business and neither councils nor communities can afford the level of legal expertise that is required to negotiate their way through the minefield. The cards are stacked against them, anyway. The NPPF is deliberately written to ensure that housing gets built, and sustainability, which is supposed to prevent adverse development is neither properly defined nor properly applied.

Developers have their own standard housing designs and they have finely tuned their businesses so that they build to those stock patterns and only build sufficient quantities to keep demand and prices high. That is why affordable housing is not built in the quantities that are needed and why the big builders won’t build things like bungalows. Land-owners have got in on the act and now only want to sell their land for housing because this brings in a bigger return than infrastructure or commerce.

Local authorities are being kicked by both government and their communities. In fact, their hands are tied because getting a local plan through an inspection is difficult and because the law has been constructed in such a way that opposition is neutered. The so-called objectively-assessed housing need is always based on figures that assume enormous levels of growth for the whole of the twenty-year plan period. Add in the Liverpool and Sedgefield decisions, which are ways of providing an extra provision to supplement the five year housing supply, and areas are stuck with unrealistic housing expectations. Which the builders argue for, but then don’t bother to supply.

The NPPF was compiled by four people, three of whom had interests in the construction industry and one of whom was an officer in the RSPB. It is considered by most communities to be a developers’ charter. The lead figure in pushing for this was a woman from the Treasury called Kate Barker who is now a director of Taylor Wimpey. I once carried out an assessment of a group of members of the House of Lords who were in a debate on housing and who were all demanding further deregulation of the planning regime. They all had some kind of personal pecuniary interest in the industry.

All this might be forgivable if housing for those who need it was being supplied. It is not. Generally speaking, the housing that is being built is often in the luxury end of the market and such unnecessary provision as second homes. There are now more private landlords than in the public or housing association sector. Evidence shows that the latter are not going to be building much more property for several years because they are having to make up the shortfall, in some instances by making staff redundant, as a result of the current changes to the welfare regime. The right-to-buy is also seen by them as a threat and makes them reluctant to invest in more property.

There are some useful studies about all these things, in addition to the evidence presented by communities to the Review that was held by the Committee for Communities and Local Development last year. They made recommendations that might have been really helpful and the Government chose to ignore these. The Secretaries of State and the Planning Ministers seem to be in total denial about the failure of their policy. Across England there are action groups in communities that feel bruised and damaged by the fall-out from all this. Because the emphasis has been on a kind of scorched-earth, build-at-any-cost, programme the basic infrastructure provision that underpins all development is being eroded or omitted. The gladiatorial contests in major planning appeals now include spirited attempts to get away with not making any contributions to community infrastructure. The government is complicit in this. All political parties, and many charities make statements about the quantity of housing need but they rarely present the evidence that supports these claims.

At local level, we know that our local association has no method of working out housing need because they allow multiple registration (the same person can apply for as many different kinds of accommodation as they want. Every time they apply, this counts as housing need. It doesn’t matter whether they are already housed. A member of their household can also register in the same way).

​(Jenny Unsworth, CoVoP and Protect Congleton)

Developer? Planning permission? No worries!

From Community Voice on Planning:

“We have just been notified that Persimmon have been advertising a site in Kingswood without submitting a planning application, while this might not be illegal it is definitely immoral see the link below:

We believe that this may not be an isolated incident and would advise you to check all developer websites for advertising about your area. If you find anything please let us know but also contact the advertising standards and complain.”


Community Voice on Planning

Housing targets like “Alice in Wonderland”

By the chair of “Community Voice on Planning” and echoes a very similar situation in her district to ours – all you would need to do is change the names.

by Julie Mabberley
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group campaign manager

This week is the first week of the examination for the Vale of the White Horse District Council Local Plan.

Planning Inspector Malcolm Rivett is hearing views from the great and good, answering the question: “Is the identified objectively assessed need for housing of 20,560 new dwellings (an average of 1,028 per year), for the Vale of the White Horse, soundly based and supported by robust and credible evidence?”

There are many people across the Vale who say it is not.b The logic is very simple. The number of jobs which theoretically could be created between now and 2031 was calculated. They then used these figures to estimate how many houses would be needed if these jobs materialised.

The problem is that if the jobs projection is fantasy, as many people think it is, then the “objectively assessed” housing number is also fantasy.

The employment forecasts were pulled together by Cambridge Econometrics to justify bids for Government money for the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP). These employment forecasts were optimistic figures based on how many jobs might be created across Oxfordshire with lots of investment by the Government, European Union and other organisations by 2031.

A company called GL Hearn was then commissioned by our district councils to estimate housing need, assuming that all of these forecast jobs will actually exist. This is the Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment, or SHMA. There are many who believe that this is a story worthy of LewisCarroll himself.

Take the agricultural industry, for example. In the Vale of the White Horse, the Government statistics show that in 2011 there were about 600 people working in agriculture. Cambridge Econometrics says that by 2031 there will be about 1,500 people working in agriculture.

Even the National Farmers’ Union says that agricultural employment is actually declining. So that’s about 750 new homes which supposedly will be needed for additional agricultural workers by 2031.

A more realistic assessment might be that there may be agricultural workers looking for new jobs. Actual employment figures across the Vale of the White Horse haven’t changed much since 2000.

In 2000, according to Government statistics, there were 63,000 jobs and by 2014 there were 62,700 jobs. So overall employment is static, but Cambridge Econometrics thinks that over the next 15 years employment will grow by 22,982 jobs. Based on figures for the last 15 years, employment may not grow at all.

This forecast of 22,982 new jobs translates into 20,560 houses across the Vale by 2031, in among the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Oxford Green Belt, the flood plains and, of course, the land earmarked for the new Thames Valley reservoir.

This means building more than 1,000 houses a year every year. We haven’t achieved that at any time in recent history. In fact, during the past 20 years, there have been an average of 392 houses built every year in the Vale.

Now we all know we need more houses, particularly houses that our children can afford to buy or rent, but the identified objectively assessed need for housing of 20,560 new dwellings (an average of 1,028 per year) for the Vale of the White Horse is totally unrealistic.

The law states that the district council must approve enough new planning applications to meet the ‘objectively assessed need for housing’ for the next five years, plus a 20 per cent margin. If they don’t, then the developers can appeal to a planning inspector who will approve them, because the local plan says we need them.

Developers won’t start building houses unless they will make enough profit to satisfy their shareholders. That means keeping prices high.

Great Western Park in Didcot is years behind the planned development schedule, because not enough people want to buy the houses. Yet people working at Harwell, on public sector salaries, can’t afford them.

The problem is that approving a housing development like Grove Airfield – with 2,500 new homes, a new commercial centre for the village, a secondary school and two primary schools – isn’t working. This was recommended for approval in 2013, yet the legal agreements with the developers and landowners still aren’t signed and detailed plans haven’t been submitted.

Something is wrong with the planning system. Silly housing targets let developers get permission to build executive homes in rural villages where little, if any, expensive infrastructure, like new roads and schools, has to be paid for. Few existing residents can afford them and it isn’t going to create homes for our children.

The Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment is fantasy and not soundly-based or supported by robust and credible evidence.

Community Voice on Planning (CoVoP) announces regional meeting – 10 October 2015

Community Voice on Planning (CoVoP), a nationwide network of groups concerned with planning issues, we should like to invite you to a workshop in the South West (Cornwall to Avon) to be held at

The Cat & Fiddle

just a mile from Junction 30 of the M5 (near Exeter), towards Sidmouth on the A3052
(Lunches/snacks available from 12pm).

The meeting will take place from
1.30pm till 4.30pm on
Saturday 10 October 2015.

The theme of the workshop will be:

How to Make the Planning System Work for Local Communities, Environment and Sustainability,

and they are keen to focus on practical solutions.

Details here:

CoVoP SW Workshop Invite

Lies,, damned lies – and Party Manifestos!

Interesting discussion on the Today programme about Party Manifestos and promises.

Three well-known historians agreed that they count for nothing and should be seen at best as aspirational and at worst as fantasies.

Is this aspirational or fantasy?

Is the Party cat going up the the stairs or down or Photoshopped!

Housing ‘crisis’ based on shaky foundations?

Simon Jenkins believes so. For those who missed it first time round, here’s his evidence…