Devon and Somerset – a new Klondike gold rush?

The LEP housing numbers, anticipating 50,000 new households in Devon, are almost certainly driven in part by the heroic assumptions about the local economy, as Owl has pointed out many times.

As we know, the LEP assumption is 4% growth per annum for the next 18 years. Such a sustained economic boom would invoke a ‘Klondike’ style immigration rush into Devon and Somerset, as the economies of all of the rest of the western world failed to compete with us at that level.

East Devon’s current Local Plan is based upon an anticipated annual UK economic growth rate of 3% from 2007, which has turned out to be just over 1%.

This, of course, is why many of our employment sites are dormant (and one of the many reasons why we do not need a new site in Sidford), and all our town centres are struggling – there simply isn’t demand.

Even if economic growth was to average 3% growth from now until the end of the Plan period, which looks incredibly optimistic, we would still have 33% more employment land than we need, according to East Devon’s own numbers.

The LEP’s projections have been laughed at by everyone – especially, Owl gathers, in Whitehall.

But they feed into a whole raft of housing and economic projections, that will ultimately emerge as policy around the region.

What assumption will be used for the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) projections, Owl wonders? Now delayed until after the next local council elections in 2019?

Will the GESP team dare to condemn the LEP numbers, or will they adopt them, even when they must know they are nonsense?

What might happen if those without vested interests in the growth of expensive housing in the area were for once denied a say due to conflict of interest?

And where are the signs of the revisions of our Local Plan, based on current realities, that are required every 5 years?

Expansion of Cranbrook not going down well with – Cranbrook

“A total of 138 consultation responses were received from town and parish councils, councillors, specialist bodies, developers and the public. A wide range of issues were raised, including technical concerns about transport issues, such as problems providing vehicle access to some parts of the proposed expansion areas and how rail services can be improved to deliver a half hourly service into Exeter.

It was also noted that some additional land had been put forward by landowners for development through the consultation and this now had to be considered for inclusion in the plan.

… People were mainly concerned about the location and extent of development to the south of the London Road, particularly where this intrudes into Rockbeare parish and the Green wedge that was designated to prevent settlement coalescence (joining up) between Cranbrook and the village.

The community at Rockbeare raised strong concerns with these proposals, which also conflict with the emerging Rockbeare Neighbourhood Plan that has recently been out to consultation. Members were advised that this development was important for bringing the London Road into the town, as well as for creating a sense of place along the road as an entrance to Cranbrook….”

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/news/2018/03/councillors-review-report-on-cranbrook-plan-development-plan-document-dpd/

Risk of green wedge between Cranbrook and Rockbeare being swallowed up despite Local Plan rules

“Cllr Rob Longhurst said: “The main thing I would be concerned with is the idea that a green wedge could be disposed of if it doesn’t fit. It was put there for a reason after long debate and I think it is wrong to suddenly discard it as being inconvenient.”

Cllr Mark Williamson said: “It is so clear in the strategy of the Local Plan that it only takes up a single sentence, saying within green wedges, development will not be permitted. There are six green wedges in the Local Plan so if this was allowed then there will be sleepless nights around the district, where the other green wedges are, particularly around Seaton and Colyton.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/concerns-raised-building-green-wedges-1400152

Blackill Engineering Extension – is this an excuse to drive a new industrial site into the heart of the Pebblebed Heaths?

These days most large developers pay for pre-application advice before submitting a planning application. A recent Freedom of Information request has uncovered the advice that was offered to someone (name redacted) seeking such advice on proposed business units at Blackhill Quarry, Woodbury in early October 2017.

Specifically this proposal was for the erection of AN ADDITIONAL industrial building to support the existing business, Blackhill Engineering, being operated form the site together with the erection of FIVE ADDITIONAL industrial buildings for use by other businesses.

In summary the advice given was that this would not comply with the protective policies that cover this sensitive site. A much stronger employment benefit case regarding the expansion of the existing business to justify a departure from these policies would be needed. The five speculative industrial buildings would not justify a policy departure.

On 20 December 2017, within three months of this advice, planning application 17/3022/MOUT was submitted for outline application seeking approval of access for construction of up to 3251 sqm (35,000 sq ft) of B2 (general industrial) floor space with access, parking and associated infrastructure.

The accompanying justification reads:

“There is considerable and clearly identified need for the existing business at Blackhill Engineering to expand as a result of that business having grown considerably over recent years and with its existing premises now at full capacity. The provision of additional facilities on the application site would allow the company to continue its expansion and so deliver additional economic and employment benefits to the local area…. With the winding down of the existing quarry use of the site, there is a short and fortuitous window of opportunity in which to address BESL’s growth requirements with the reuse of an area of former minerals processing site….It is a crucial part of both local and national employment strategy to protect existing businesses and to encourage their expansion. If approved, the scheme would allow the existing business not to only remain at the site but also to expand. The resulting investment will enable a substantial increase in the provision of highly skilled jobs in the area, increased training opportunities for apprentices and added value to the local economy. Furthermore, the expansion of the Blackhill Engineering will help reinforce the vitality of its parent organisation…”

So, is this application all about the needs of Blackhill Engineering to expand, having already designed flood defence gates for New York City Hospital, worked for the European Space Agency and the pier at Hinkley Point, which in October seemed to require only one building; or more about Clinton Devon Estates trying to generate rent from a new industrial park? Restoration provides no income.

For those interested here is the detailed pre-application advice, given on an informal basis and without prejudice, in about half the words:

The extant planning permission on the site requires a restoration and aftercare scheme to be implemented following cessation of the quarrying operations. As part of this condition, alternative schemes (subject to planning permission) can be considered but two policies are of particular relevance:

East Devon Local Plan- Strategy 7 – Development in the Countryside.

This strategy states that development in the countryside “will only be permitted where it is in accordance with a specific Local or Neighbourhood Plan policy that explicitly permits such development”. In this instance, there is no local or neighbourhood plan which would permit the proposal and, therefore, it is considered that it would not comply with Strategy 7.

East Devon Local Plan- Policy E5 – Small scale Economic Development in Rural Areas.

This policy states that the expansion of existing businesses designed to provide jobs for local people will be permitted where

1. it involves the conversion of existing buildings. Or

2. if new buildings are involved, it is on previously developed land. Or

3. if on a greenfield site, shall be well related in scale and form and in sustainability terms to the village and surrounding areas.

In this instance, the Local Planning Authority recognise the previously developed nature of the site, however, in the ‘Glossary of Terms’ section of the Local Plan (which echoes those contained in the National Planning Policy Framework) previously developed land specifically excludes land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill purposes where provision for restoration has been made through development control procedures.

Accordingly, the land would be considered as greenfield.
In terms of Policy E5, as the site would not be well related in sustainability terms to Woodbury or surrounding areas, the proposal would be contrary to policy.

However, if sufficient justification can be made in terms of the needs of the existing business being operated from the site to expand into an additional building, then the economic benefits may outweigh the environmental harm, of the unsustainable location as a departure from the Local Plan.

For this purpose, an economic benefits statement would need to be submitted as part of an application.

The five speculative units being located in an unsustainable location would not be acceptable.”

EDDC to help unauthorised Greendale businesses to relocate

Owl says: Here is EDDC’s version of the Greendale High Court decision.

With hindsight, EDDC might have been better served by not allowing the unauthorised businesses on to the site in the first place. And if the owners allowed businesses on an unauthorised site, maybe the owners and the businesses should be paying for specialists when those businesses have to move this time, not availing themselves of a free service from EDDC – especially as the rest of us are paying more and more for OUR EDDC services.

EDDC PRESS RELEASE

21 February 2018
Enforcement action taken to remove unauthorised development at Greendale Business Park
Council will work with park owners to find alternative locations for businesses

East Devon District Council has successfully fought a planning appeal by Greendale Business Park against an enforcement notice requiring the park owners to remove an unauthorised extension.

The business park has been extended into the countryside after four fenced compounds were created, concreted over and were used variously for the storage of mobile homes, shipping containers, portakabins and, in the case of one of the compounds, had two permanent buildings on it.

Following the latest High Court hearing, it now means that the owners of Greendale Business Park, FWS Carter and Sons, must comply with the enforcement notice, remove the extension and return the land to countryside within six months of the court’s decision.

Councillor Mike Howe, chairman of the district council’s development management committee, said that the council will work with the park owners to find alternative locations for businesses on the unauthorised site affected by the enforcement notice.

“This case demonstrates that we take unauthorised development very seriously and as a local authority are charged with using our enforcement powers to ensure that development carried out without planning permission is removed.

“We will work hard with the site owners to find alternative locations for the businesses currently operating from this unauthorised area.

“We’re pleased that the courts have now stopped this appeal from proceeding any further and the enforcement notice to get these works removed has now taken effect.”

The works were all carried out without planning permission and a subsequent planning application was refused due to the harm that the extension caused to the countryside and the visual amenity of the area.

Following the refusal of planning permission, the council served an enforcement notice on the owners requiring the uses to cease and the land returned to its former condition including the removal of temporary and permanent buildings, fencing and hard surfacing.

Although the owners appealed against the enforcement notice, a planning inspector ruled in favour of the council and directed the owners to stop using the land in the way it was and return it to its former condition within six months.

The owners subsequently appealed against the decision in the High Court arguing that the planning inspector had made an error in law by concluding that the East Devon Local Plan specifically covered the issue of development at Greendale Business Park.

In responding, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government argued that FWS Carter and Sons had misinterpreted the Local Plan and that their interpretation was “patently wrong”. Ultimately, the court did not grant the owners a further opportunity to proceed with an appeal and they will have to pay all costs arising from the case.”

Greendale Business Centre: FWS Carter and Sons application fails at the High Court

PRESS RELEASE:

“After 3 years challenging the planning system, Greendale Business Park owners are required to return an area back to Agricultural use.

It may have taken 3 years but finally the Planning Department at East Devon District Council (EDDC) has succeeded in winning a long running planning and legal challenge.

It was the 8th Feb 2015 when earth moving and general building works were first reported to EDDC Enforcement Officers by neighbours of Greendale Business Park. This was on a 3.5Ha site, east of the existing permitted development area at the Business Park near the village of Woodbury Salterton.

Following investigation, the Local Planning Authority (EDDC) served an Enforcement Notice to the owners FWS Carter and Sons, but they chose to ignore the notice and carried on developing the site at “their own risk”.

A planning application was submitted nine months later (06/11/2015 15/2592/MOUT) but the development was considered to lie outside the agreed development area for Greendale Business Park and it was refused by EDDC. A second attempt was made with a similar proposal split into 2 separate planning applications the following December but this was also refused (06/12/2016 16/2597/FUL and 16/2598/MFUL).

The Local Planning Authority then issued the owners with an Enforcement Notice, requesting the removal of the industrial concrete hardstanding, fences, buildings and the return of the land to agricultural use. The company then appealed to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate in March 2017 for the decision to be revoked.

on Dec 7th, 2017 the Inspector found in favour of the Local Authority and upheld their enforcement decision, but within days the Company lodged an appeal with the High Court. Last week 08/02/2018 the Judge ruled that there was no case to answer and therefore the decision by the Local Authority was upheld and costs of £3998 was set against the applicants, FWS Carter and Sons.

The Company now has 6 months to remove all industrial activity and return the land to agricultural use. This work will be monitored very closely

Another section of the Business Park (an area approximately 1Ha) south of the Greendale Business Park and just off Hogsbrook Lane, has also been developed without planning consent. The owners FWS Carter and Sons claimed in Oct 2017 that this land has been in “unlawful” industrial use for more than 10 years and they applied for a little-known planning regulation loophole known as a “Certificate of Lawfulness ” (17/2441/CPE) to enable the area to continue to be used without requiring further planning approval.

However, the Local Planning Authority followed Legal Advice and concluded that the land had not been used “unlawfully” for 10 years because there was lawful permitted development with a gas pipeline contractor occupying the site for 3 years. Because of this, the Certificate of Lawfulness was refused and it is expected that an Enforcement Notice will be served on the Company for this breach of planning shortly.

Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC Ward Councillor for Raleigh Ward which includes Greendale Business Park says, “It is a great shame that the Company started to develop this area prior to any planning permission being in place. The efforts and costs incurred by the company in developing the site, including the cost of architects, planning consultants, barristers, solicitors, court costs, contractors’ costs and everyone’s time has all been wasted.”

“Add to that the considerable costs to the local authorities` planning, enforcement and legal teams in endeavouring to provide a sound and fair case.”

“It’s quite clear the Planning System has moved on enormously in the last 15 years, with much more openness and clarity, mainly down to modern technology. Planning applications and official documents are now open to scrutiny at the touch of a button and can be viewed without leaving your house.”

“Previously documents were available only at District and Town Halls, for interested parties to view but now the internet and Local Authority Planning Portals provide everyone with a better understanding of the planning regulations and legal issues involved.”

“I look forward to the day when all developers will follow the normal planning procedures and not proceed in such a cavalier way. This may have been the way it was done in the past but its proving much more difficult now.”

“I would like to thank the many local people who have frequently written to the Planning Authority to comment whenever it was required, as well as the Planning and Legal Team at East Devon District Council who ensured that the Planning Regulations were correctly upheld”

Infrastructure: Shortfall of £270m over period of Local Plan says external auditor

“Appendix A page 39

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/papers/auditgovernance/180118bpauditgovernaceoperationalrisk.pdf

“Current estimates show that there will be a £270 million shortfall in infrastructure over the period of the Local Plan. Changes in legislation are needed to address this albeit a CIL charging schedule review is underway and may improve the situation. Fundamentally the current system relies on funding from other sources and infrastructure providers and so pressure needs to be put in bodies such as DCC, NHS etc to help fund infrastructure projects in the district.”