Tories of East Devon – You just don’t get it, do you?

Wednesday 3rd June

The motion to delay the Knowle Sale by 6 months was placed before Full Council by Cllr Cathy Gardner and Cllr Matt Booth.  They both presented very reasoned cases for the delay and were conciliatory in their approach.  They stressed Transparency to the residents of East Devon and in particular Sidmouth.  They did not oppose the move merely asked for more time to allow greater consultation to ensure that the Council made the right decision.

The reaction was set by Cllr Williamson who insisted that as the decision had already been validated by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (with a set of “independent” auditors) there was no need to delay – in fact he maintained that there was a need for greater speed.  Other speakers opposing the motion spoke of the need to move and how inappropriate the current building was.

Tories – you just don’t get it!  It is recognised that the current buildings are not fit for purpose AND SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE – but what that is and how due process is applied is the central issue in this motion.

Previous Committees and Councils sanctioned a move to Sky Park – not a mention of that! Then a sudden concept of two premises – why the change?

The appeal to the Freedom of Information request was scathing of the Council – no acceptance of that or any explanation of what was so important within the papers that they could not be released – I doubt most Tory members had even read (or been able to read) them.

Reference to election results and other “facts” but no concept of the Perception of the public – they rightly feel marginalised.

Tories – you seem to have forgotten that you serve your community – these assets are not yours – they are not even EDDC’s – they are owned by the Council Tax Payers of East Devon – you merely act as temporary custodians in the passage of time.  You MUST consult with your Community – you have failed to do this as on other occasions.  You were given the opportunity last night to make a fresh start with Openness and Transparency – you rejected that offer with your customary arrogance.

The motion was defeated by a recorded vote – this may come back to bite you!

Owl

 

East Devon housing numbers: near 25% increase in yearly quota over next 18 years

No wonder they wanted to keep the numbers under wraps until after district council elections in May!

And just where will we put these homes? And will this number be increased by 20% because we have no 5-6 year land supply?

The press release and consultants’ reports are here:

http://new.eastdevon.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/emerging-plans-and-policies/the-new-local-plan/publication-and-submission-of-the-local-plan/plan-changes-and-new-evidence-march-2015

WHY are the consultants reports on housing to remain secret until after district elections?

We know what the Leader of East Devon District Council gives as his “reason”

We are very much aware of the need to finalise our Local Plan, but at the same time we have to take the reports with proposed changes to the Plan to our members for consideration and consultation. We had envisaged that the earliest we would have been able to take the reports to our members would be March or early April 2015. The process of consultation would then take around six-weeks.

“However, because of the forthcoming local and national elections this would not appear to be a viable route to follow, as there is concern that the process could be seen as politically motivated, which would overshadow the soundness of the plan.

“While mindful of the need to progress quickly, the significance to the process of members consideration and consultation should not be overlooked, and consequently it is unlikely that we will take the report to our members until shortly after the May election.”

but let us look at this forensically.

The Planning Inspector, when he looked at the Draft Local Plan, threw it out.  A main reason was that the number of houses to be built had no evidence to support the figure.  What slight evidence given was very old, based on out of date information and therefore not to be trusted.  He basically told EDDC to go back to the drawing board and give him hard evidence for his figures.

Under the National Planning Policy Framework, EDDC had a “duty to co-operate” with adjoining local authorities in case those authorities had housing needs that could not be met within their areas and must therefore be shared.  For reasons never explained, although this meant in practice liaising with Exeter City Council and West Dorset, EDDC took the decision (where? when?) to extend the area to include Teignbridge, Mid Devon and Dartmoor National Park.  This meant that consultants had more information to gather and more situations to take into account.  It should be noted that the “duty to co-operate” is NOT a duty to agree – only to be seen to be consulting with neighbouring authorities on their needs.

So, two sets of consultants were employed.  Edge Analytics were employed to look at the link between housing and employment, Ash Futures Limited were employed to look at future job growth levels in East Devon only.  It appears now that both companies have produced their reports.

Usually, when consultants have produced reports, they are circulated to councillors who then have the opportunity to comment on them.  Unfortunately, in East Devon, this has often been misinterpreted as an opportunity to rewrite them almost in their entirety.  When EDDC doesn’t like numbers, it likes to have them changed, rather than accepting that they might be right!  Take the employment land figures that were produced by two consultants for the Draft Local Plan.  EDDC (or rather the East Devon Business Forum under its Chairman, disgraced ex-councillor Graham Brown) decided the figure was too low, gave their own much higher figure and this was the one which EDDC chose to go with.

Now, here we are with two reports and the Leader has decided that their contents are too politically sensitive for the public (and councillors not in the “need to know” group?) to have sight of.

What is politically sensitive about consultants reporting hard facts and evidence?

As we noted earlier, there are only two possible explanations:

1.  The number of houses is below that which EDDC put in its Draft Local Plan.  In this case, EDDC has egg on its face.  Not only does it have egg on its face, all the current developments rushed through because we have no Local Plan would be surplus to requirements.

2.  The number of houses is higher than that which EDDC put in its Draft Local Plan, either because:

(a) they just got the number wrong or

and this is more likely

(b) now that they are having to take the housing needs of not only Exeter and West Dorset into account but also Teignbridge, Mid Devon and Dartmoor National Park, EDDC will have to commit itself to taking overload from all these areas into its own area (for example, by making Cranbrook even larger than planned).

THIS IS NOT POLITICALLY SENSITIVE IT IS PARTY POLITICAL SENSITIVE AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE LOCAL PLAN PROCESS

AND THE DELAY IN PUBLISHING CAN ONLY BE SEEN AS A WAY OF ENSURING THAT BAD NEWS DOES NOT COST THE CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY MORE VOTES AT THE FORTHCOMING DISTRICT ELECTION

 

 

 

Local Plan – further setbacks – “complexities” cause delays

Full story, Page 6, Sidmouth Herald: Development blueprint suffers further setback

Our comment:

Why the delay? Councils need to show that they have co-operated with but not necessarily agreed with) adjacent authorities.

For us this means Exeter (and inevitably mopping up some of their housing need) and West Dorset – but EDDC decided, for no obvious reason, to add Mid- Devon, Teignbridge AND Dartmoor National Park into the mix. So we have to take into account the needs of Dartmoor National Park where almost no new building is allowed! Still, Exeter and Dartmoor have ex-EDDC planners at the helm, both of whom were very enthusiastic supporters of the East Devon Business Forum, so it will make for nice cosy chats.

AND Teignbridge and East Devon CEOs know each other well – having both been dragged before a Parliamentary Committee on Voter Engagement in December 2014 to explain why they had not been registering voters in their areas. Perhaps they shared a first-class railway carriage there and back!

The Planning Inspector who threw out the first draft Local Plan in March 2014 anticipated a re-hearing in October 2014 and cleared his diary in anticipation.

Looks like it won’t be going in his 2015 diary either.

The £750,000 already spent on relocation consultants (the figure not including officer time) could have had this wrapped up within the Inspector’s timeframe.

What was it Councillor Halse said about relocation: the council had “fallen flat on its face”? Seems to be making a habit of it.

Important issues being debated this week: today (Tuesday) and Thursday

See above for details of the DMC meeting this afternoon where the lack of a 5 (and 6) year land supply will be “debated”

note that you can video, record, photograph, tweet or email about this meeting in real time, provided that you do not upset the participants

and

check out the First Tier tribunal case:

Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council,

Thursdy 28 August 2014 at 10 am in Court 3 of Exeter Magistrates Court

(taking notes at this meeting is allowed but no other form of recording)

where the important decision on how much information EDDC can keep secret about its relocation to Skypark will be (eventually) decided

A public authority, the requester or both can appeal against the Information Commissioner’s decision notice. [This is what EDDC has done].

If the Tribunal decides that the Commissioner’s decision was wrong in law, or that he exercised his discretion wrongly, it can overturn the decision and issue a substitute decision notice. This decision notice has the same legal status as the first one. Like the Commissioner, the Tribunal can only consider questions relevant to the Act, not any wider dispute that may arise from the request.

Appeals may be by oral hearing, where witnesses give evidence in person. If the evidence can be presented entirely in writing, the appeal will be decided on the basis of those documents.

Source: http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/freedom_of_information/guide/complaints#what-happens-when-someone-complains-6

Local Plan : The ” duty to co-operate” – easy peasy!

EDDC has said that our Local Plan is held up because they have to co-operate with other councils and authorities in the “greater Exeter” area, naming Exeter City Council, Mid Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council and Dartmoor National Park Authority.

This should be made easier by the fact that former EDDC Deputy Director and Head of Regeneration, Kareem Hassan is now Chief Executive of Exeter City Council.

Stephen Belli, a former Senior Planning Officer at EDDC, is now Director of Planning at Dartmoor National Park Local Plan adopted in July 2013, so all its figures available:

http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/planning/pl-forwardplanning/pl-localdevframework/pl-development_management_and_delivery_development_plan_document

That should help to get things off to a quick start, EDDC, Exeter and Dartmoor senior planners having worked together for several years.

Oh, and the Teignbridge Local Plan was adopted in May 2014 so their up-to-date figures are there for everyone to see, which also makes things easier:

http://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/planteignbridge

Oh, and lookee- here: Mid Devon’s Local Plan was also found sound with some modifications in May 2014

http://www.middevon.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=20157&p=0

Hold up, what hold up?

The delayed Local Plan – the missing document tracked down and a commentary on it (“What the Dickins”)

An EDA correspondent has tracked down the elusive “attachment” to the agenda of the Development Management Committee regarding the delay to the Local Plan (see post below)

DM260814-Emerging Housing Numbers

and a critique of this document is given below by the same correspondent:

What the Dickins?

A paper by Matt Dickins, EDDC’s Planning Policy Manager, to be presented to Development Mgmt Committee on 26 August  (see link above) makes for depressing reading. Residents of East Devon hoping that EDDC will finally be getting its act together on housing land provision will be deeply disappointed.

As many will know, EDDC is obliged to prove that it has an objective evaluation of housing land provision. The absence of such an evaluation, and EDDC’s failure to prove both a five-year land supply and have a Local Plan in place, means that it remains open season for developers. An objective evaluation of housing land need is achieved through the production of a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA). In his scathing review of EDDC’s draft Local Plan earlier this year Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett called the absence of an up to date SHMA a “serious failing” on the part of the Council. (He also found that EDDC’s argument for 4,000 ‘overspill’ migration numbers, mostly from Exeter, had “no empirical basis”.)

Does Mr Dickins come bearing good news for EDDC and the people of East Devon that the day of the SHMA is at hand? Not at all. His paper comprises six pages of complacent waffle. Notwithstanding that some research should have already been done, “unfortunately there have been delays”. There may need to be discussions with adjacent authorities. (We know that, Mr Dickins. Exeter CC is looking to appropriate East Devon countryside.) While Mr Dickins’ paper points out that demographically East Devon is likely to see a major increase in population from the over 65s – surely implying a need for more sheltered accommodation in towns with services than new build on greenfield sites – his paper concludes lamely that “at this stage it is not possible to provide a timetable for completion of the full SHMA work”! The consequence? “We can only conclude that we do not have a 5 year housing land supply and continue to consider application [sic] accordingly”.

To translate: EDDC has no idea when the SHMA will be finished, it won’t even venture a guess, and in the meantime the lack of a five-year housing land supply [and Local Plan] means that developers will consider to maintain the upper hand in a district where two-thirds of the land is AONB. This is a woeful paper: DMC should send Mr Dickins to the Naughty Step and require him to try again. Time someone got a grip while there is any countryside left in East Devon.

Local Plan delayed again – unlikely to be approved for many months

Recap: our draft Local Plan was thrown out by the Planning Inspector, Mr Thickett, because – oh, so many reasons – mainly because pretty much all of the figures in it were either too old or too unreliable. We were told to go back to the drawing board.

A crucial aspect of a local plan is that there must be a “5 year land supply” – i.e. enough available land to meet the district’s agreed needs for the next 5 years to enable building to start quickly and to keep up with demand. Those local authorities which had persistently underperformed in this area over the previous period were told that they would have to have a 6 year land supply – EDDC was one of those authorities.

Whichever way EDDC seemed to cut it, we never reached that magic 5 or 6 year level. As a result, developers are pretty much given free rein to build anywhere in East Devon unless EDDC can provide very strong reasons that they cannot – this as a result of the Coalition government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which ripped up all previous rules and gave the green light to building just about anywhere.

EDDC thereafter took this to heart and passed pretty much anything and everything that came its way (and is still coming its way) from developers. It was left to local communities (Feniton, Seaton, Newton Poppleford) to argue their own corners and find their own money to fight developers. In Feniton and Seaton the communities rallied and defeated them (only to find that, in both places, it seems the developers are coming back to fight again). In Newton Poppleford there was a perverse decision from the DMC – yes to a Clinton Devon Estates development but no to another developer at Badger Close using the same reasoning, but turned on its head for the latter.

EDDC promised the Planning Inspector that there would be a fast review (which had to include dealing with other local authorities in the area where they said that they had run out of space for their developments and needed us to build to take up their shortfall). The Inspector told EDDC that he would be ready to re-examine the draft local plan in October or November 2014.

Bear in mind that the new draft local plan once again had to go out for public consultation – a project that lasts at least 6 weeks and then demands officer time to collate the results. It became pretty obvious that EDDC was not going to meet this target.

Now we have confirmation that this is the case. At the next

Development Management Committee on Tuesday 26 August 2014 at 2 pm

a report is tabled on the agenda entitled “Objectively Assessed Housing Numbers for East Devon – Emerging Work.

On that agenda, currently (21/8/2014 10.40 am) there is supposed to be a link to that report but the link is missing so anyone attempting to read the report will not be able to find it. However, an eagle-eyed correspondent on Councillor Claire Wright’s blog has traced it (unfortunately the link given does not work) and no amount of searching on the EDDC website brings it up.  However, this is what the document says:

“At this stage it is not possible to provide a timetable for completion of the full SHMA (strategic housing market assessment) work.  There are complexities to the task that will need working through.  However, officers of all the authorities involved in the commission are working together to come to a final set of recommendations on the objectively assessed housing numbers for the SHMA as a whole and for the individual authorities”.

It adds “In the meantime based on the available information we can only conclude that we do not have a 5 year housing land supply and continue to consider applications accordingly”.

It then suggests that the growth point area near Skypark will cause many businesses to set up and as a result housing should be factored in to address the extra jobs (see below for a post on those extra jobs which are mostly self-employment and particularly self-employment in the construction industry – ephemeral jobs).

So, the status quo continues.  No land supply, happy developers, very, very unhappy residents.

 

Uplyme, AONB, and the future of cross-district co-operation

A welcome respose from East Devon District Councillor Ian Thomas inreaction to local and EDA concern about the proposals for 350 houses in the AONB near Uplyme. This would take overspill from West Dorset.
Some of what is included in Ian’s blog is about the grey areas of  Village Plans and the SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments).  Some EDA members have direct experience of these processes being heavily and unduly influenced by councillors not declaring interests.
However, we are where we are. At least there is some evidence  emerging of timescales for presenting properly sourced evidence back to the Planning Inspector.