Greater Exeter Strategic Plan – where are we? In trouble!

All change on the Planning Front for East Devon.

Ever since David Cameron’s coalition government’s efforts to provide local communities with a say in local planning decisions with the “Localism Act” in 2011 (giving communities the power to draft “Neighbourhood Plans,” designed to provide a degree of self-determination to how local communities could be developed in the future) the powerful developers and landowners lobby has been active to reclaim their powerful grip on developing our communities.

First was the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012 which threw out the old planning regulations and provided a “developer-driven” new planning policy, with just a “nod” to the Localism Act, Neighboured Plans and District wide plans.

The new NPPF introduced a policy that if the District or Neighbourhood Plan was not “up to date” then there would be a presumption of allowing any proposed development from a developer. Therefore, Councils and local communities quickly set about drawing up their Neighbourhood Plans and District Plans to plug the gap created by the new 2012 NPPF policies.

East Devon District Council who had been dragging their feet for years to complete their Local Plan, finally managed to obtain the approval of the Planning Inspectorate in January 2016 to cover the period up to 2031. Lympstone had got its Neighbourhood Plan approved in 2015 and since then over 30 Neighbourhood Plans are either approved or in the process of being drafted by community groups within East Devon.

It was therefore thought that East Devon and its communities had substantial protection from greedy landowners and developers up to 2031 and with the extra protection of the East Devon Villages Plan, approved in July 2018 (which gave further defined policies for larger Villages and some large Business Parks) residents and developers appeared to understand where development would or would not be allowed.

However, in late 2016 Exeter City Council, whose Chief Executive Karime Hassan (previously East Devon’s District Council officer who created and developed the concept of the new town of Cranbrook) proposed a joint “Strategic Plan”, along with neighbouring councils East Devon, Teignbridge, and Mid Devon.

The four councils then started a joint over-riding masterplan for Exeter and the surrounding area known as the GESP (the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan).

It was clear that Exeter was almost completely built-out and the infrastructure in roads and transport required for further city centre and commercial growth was urgently required if the continued success known as the “Exeter Growth Point” was to continue. Without a joint plan for infrastructure, the commute into the City would become intolerable and hinder the targeted housebuilding requirements set by the Government for each of the 4 separate councils.

In October 2018 the Government draw up yet another updated version of the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) very much on the lines of the 2012 Policies, but with various tweaks to assist in the over-riding government strategy of encouraging developers to build many more dwellings.

The new 2018 NPPF provided clearer guidance that if an individual Council was unable to provide enough development land for extra dwellings required by the government’s growth targets, neighbouring councils may be allowed to build out extra housing for their partner and other neighbouring authorities.

According to East Devon District Councils Strategic Planning Committees agenda item 12 for discussion on the 29th January 2019:

“Timetable for production of a new East Devon Local Plan”

Within the introduction to the agenda item it states:

…given changing circumstances and other factors, that a “light touch” review of the currently adopted local plan is unlikely to be a practical option for a new local plan.”

What the changing circumstances and other factors are, is not explained but it is clear from the report it is clearly in relation to GESP.

Because the GESP Strategic Plan policies will over-ride the East Devon Local Plan policies, the report seems to suggests that the “changing circumstances and other factors” relate to the new GESP policies which override the Local Plan, Village Plan and probably most Neighbourhood Plans – affecting a large area of East Devon! So much so that, rather than the GESP plan dovetailing into the 3-year-old approved East Devon Local Plan and 1-year-old Villages Plan with all the years of public consulting, Council debate and literally years of work by the planning team, it will be jettisoned for a brand-new Local Plan to dovetail into the strategies of the GESP plan!

Although the GESP plan has been in preparation for 2 years, no formal discussion or meeting has been held at any Council Chamber at any of the four Councils involved. Meetings have taken place to consider the 700 plus sites throughout the Greater Exeter area submitted for assessment by what is known as the “Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) panel” The Panel is made up of “key stakeholders”, with a recognised interest in the development of land for housing and employment, and housing and economic development sector, including housebuilders, social landlords, local property agents and other related professionals together with local community representatives and other agencies. The membership of these meeting has been confidential and there has there been no publication of their deliberations or recommendations.

To be clear: meetings between two lead councillors from each Authority, plus officers have kept the draft policies and site options totally under lock and key – with none of the meetings been reported or minuted.

However, all is to be revealed AFTER the local council elections in May 2019 – consultation has always been scheduled to begin no earlier than June 2019.

This suggests that the draft policies and site options affecting East Devon will be so radical and so totally at variance to the East Devon Local Plan and Villages Plan that they will all require total re-writing, with a brand-new Local Plan (subsidiary to GESP) and all the costs and uncertainties this will bring.

Why have these Councils been so secretive on the GESP proposed development site considerations for proposed strategies for commercial and housing development for this part of Devon? Could it be that Tory controlled East Devon, Teignbridge, and Mid Devon Councils have elections on May 2nd this year (Labour Exeter elects only one-third of its council this year) and a brand new super-growth plan – superseding their Local Plans – will not be considered much of vote-grabber?

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

“Say NO to Sidford Business Park” campaign newsletter and fundraising event

“We hope that you had a good Christmas and wish you a very Happy New Year!

In this newsletter –
v Approaching any potential planning appeal
v A fundraising event on 23 February
v Opening a Campaign bank account

Approaching any potential planning appeal
We still don’t know whether the applicants who submitted the planning application to build the Business Park in Sidford intend to appeal against the District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for this site, the second application in as many years. Should the applicants want to appeal they have up to 6 months from when the District Council made its decision to do so.

The applicants therefore have until 18 April to lodge any appeal. Should the applicants decide not to appeal it would be nice to think that they would announce this so that local residents can be put out of their misery as otherwise this matter sits uneasily over us all.

We have had to assume that without any evidence to the contrary, the applicants will at some point submit an appeal. We are therefore preparing ourselves should an appeal happen.

At an appeal the District Council will have to defend its decision to refuse the planning application. As its grounds for refusing planning permission were restricted to the narrow issue of the highway not being suitable for the anticipated size and volume of traffic that the Business Park could be expected to generate, we have decided that we would want the Campaign to be a party to the appeal process.

The Campaign, and many of you who have supported it, have cited broader reasons, than those put forward by the District Council, for opposing the proposed Business Park. Therefore, the Campaign would want to become a formally registered party which could fully participate at an appeal. We believe that the District Council was wrong to only rely upon highways arguments for its refusal, hence the reason why we feel the need to be a party to any appeal hearing.

However, if the Campaign is going to do all of this effectively, we believe that we are going to have to employ a planning professional to make the arguments and to cross examine the applicants’ representatives and witnesses for us. As you can imagine to do this won’t come cheaply. Potentially, we would need to raise several tens of thousands of pounds to be professionally represented. We are in the process of contacting various people with the intention of identifying such a professional and a likely cost.

It is also our hope that other organisations who submitted objections to the planning application would also want to be a party to any appeal process. In particular, we would encourage the Town Council, which submitted a broad set of objections, would make its arguments at any appeal hearing. Indeed, there is no reason why other organisations such as the County Council couldn’t do likewise.

As we say, we are having to assume that we will need to be professionally represented at an appeal if one is held. That means that we have to think about how we might raise many thousands of pounds. One way will be to seek pledges of funds from our supporters. This is something that we will return to in a future newsletter.

A fundraising event on 23 February
In the meantime we are holding a fundraising ceilidh on the evening of Saturday 23 February in Sidford Hall. Tickets will be £5.00 and you will be able to bring your own drink. We will be holding a raffle and inviting donations of prizes for it. Further information about this event will be circulated soon and, in the meantime, we are approaching several businesses in Sidford and Sidbury to see whether they would agree to sell tickets.

If you are willing to donate a prize for the raffle please let us know! Please put this date in your diary!

Opening a Campaign bank account
So far, we have managed to run this Campaign on the basis of raising cash from you, our supporters. At our last public meeting we explained how much we had raised and what we had spent it on. On several occasions we have been asked whether we have a bank account to allow supporters to give donations by cheque. We have resisted opening a bank account as frankly it’s a time-consuming process.

But as we may now have to possibly raise a significant amount of money to pay for professional representation at an appeal, we have started the process of opening a Lloyds Bank account. Once this process has been finalised, we will circulate its details.

As we said at the beginning of this newsletter, we wish you a Happy New Year. Let’s hope that our wishes for this matter to come to a quick conclusion come to fruition.

Best wishes

Campaign Team”

“Grenfell warning over creation of ‘a new generation of slums’ “

“The lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire risk being ignored because developers can convert office blocks into homes without full local authority checks, a former housing minister has warned.

Nick Raynsford said that “a new generation of slums” was being created in Britain because developers did not have to submit a planning application when converting old commercial properties into flats. The policy leaves councils with limited power to ensure that the buildings adhere to national standards.

Mr Raynsford said that “permitted development” rules were designed to minimise bureaucracy when making “modest adaptations” to existing properties, but developers were using them to create thousands of new homes in old commercial buildings.

“The council doesn’t have the power [to force developers] to comply with minimum standards on space, lighting, children’s play facilities, or fire safety,” said Mr Raynsford, who was a housing minister under Tony Blair.

A studio in Newbury House, a former office block in Ilford, east London, was planned with 13 sq m of space. The minimum standard is 37 sq m. Windowless flats have been marketed in a former office block in Brixton, south London, illuminated only by light wells that channel light from flats above.

More than 100,000 homes have been built under permitted development since 2013, accounting for up to 40 per cent of new homes in some areas. The Local Government Association found that 92 per cent of councils were “moderately or very concerned” about the quality of these homes, with 59 per cent worried about safety.

Many standards, including on space, are not compulsory and only apply to plans that go via the planning system.

Julia Park, of Levitt Bernstein architects, said such developments “tend to be occupied by vulnerable people” and were often used as temporary housing.

Mr Raynsford said: “There should be early engagement by planning authorities with the fire and rescue authority when an application for a high-rise residential development is submitted. That runs counter to the whole ‘permitted development’ approach, where obligations on developers are minimal and the council does not have the resources to explore the implications, to ensure fire engines can access the site, for example.”

The government is consulting on whether to extend the rules.

Mr Raynsford referred to evidence emerging from the Grenfell inquiry, after the fire in June last year in which 72 people died. “It seems to be extraordinary that one arm of government is pushing in a direction that’s very different to the conclusions emerging from the public inquiry in which failings, in terms of preparations for coping with serious problems, have been highlighted,” he said.

Hugh Ellis of the Town and Country Planning Association said the conditions in some developments were “Dickensian”, and added: “It is some of the most appalling slum housing this country has seen in the post-war era.”

Kit Malthouse, the housing minister, said: “All developments, including offices converted into homes, remain subject to strict fire safety rules.”

It is understood the government will look at permitted development when considering recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt’s Grenfell report. …”

Source: Times, pay wall

“Developers Have Used A Legal Loophole To Dodge Building 10,000 Affordable Homes”

“Developers have dodged providing more than 10,000 affordable homes due to the government’s failure to close a loophole in the law, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Using ‘permitted development rights’, builders have sidestepped their duty to provide affordable homes when they convert non-residential buildings like office blocks.

The rules were designed to speed up the planning process, as they allow developers to transform a property without having to apply for town halls’ planning permission – something which could see council chiefs demand social housing as part of planning conditions.

Housing charity Shelter handed an analysis to HuffPost which shows that 10,340 affordable homes have been lost over the last three years in England as a result.

Polly Neate, chief executive, said: “With hundreds of thousands of people homeless today, it’s obvious that we need as many social homes as we can get. But despite this, the government is now considering new plans that could supercharge a social housing get out clause for developers.

“Developers shouldn’t have a license to dodge social housing when so many are without a home they can afford. Instead of creating a social housing black hole, the government should halt these plans and bring down the cost of land to build the social homes we need.”

The government says the rules simplify the planning process, but for every 10 homes built using the conversion rules, three affordable homes have been lost.

As the housing crisis deepens, ministers are now considering a new plan which could allow developers to further exploit the rules.

Using the same legal mechanism, developers may be able to demolish and replace commercial buildings.

Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey said the government must act.

“We can’t make housing more affordable if we don’t build more affordable homes, but Conservative ministers are letting developers cash in without making any contribution to the community,” he said.

We can’t make housing more affordable if we don’t build more affordable homes Labour shadow housing minister, John Healey
“These changes have given developers a free hand to dodge their duty to build homes that are affordable to local people.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government underlined that more than 32,000 homes had been provided using permitted development rights.

“We’re committed to speeding up the planning system to help deliver the homes the country needs,” she said.

“By introducing additional permitted development rules we’re providing flexibility, reducing bureaucracy and making the most effective use of existing buildings.

“Our £9bn affordable homes programme is set to deliver 250,000 affordable homes by March 2022 and we’re scrapping councils’ borrowing caps, setting them free to build a new generation of council housing.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/exclusive-legal-loophole-let-developers-dodge-building-10000-affordable-homes_uk_5c0a5b6ee4b0de79357bc719

Raynsford Report on planning: hot on problems, cold on solutions!

Executive summary here:
https://www.tcpa.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx

Honestly, Owl can barely raise a talon. Nothing new, so let’s just stick with this paragraph:

” …The defining challenge for the future of planning is not to be found in any technical fix, but in the degree to which there is consensus in favour of an effective and democratic system to manage the future development of our communities and our nation.

The institutional and technical changes are possible and achievable.

The question is whether we have the will and foresight to secure the health and wellbeing of all our communities now and for the future …”

… rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb….

Yeah, right, ok …. zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Yet Another Planning Saga at Greendale!

Clearly FWS Carter and Sons, the owners of Greendale Business Park are not taking “no” for an answer!

They have submitted two further retrospective planning applications 18/2661/COU and 18/2660/COU for two compounds on Hogsbrook Lane between Greendale Business Park and their farm at Hogsbrook.

There is a very long history going back 12 years for these two Industrial Compounds known as Compound East 6 at Greendale Business Park.

The area was an agricultural field up to 2007 when a Gas Pipeline Contractor building a new Gas Main through Devon used a “permitted development rights” application to construct a service yard for contractor’s equipment and storage, but with an agreed condition that it had to be returned to agricultural use following the completion of the project.

However, FWS Carter and Sons submitted a planning application APP 09/0099/FUL for the retention of hard standing and security fence for growing fruit! The retention was claimed by the applicant to be justified as fruit growing was an agricultural use and the project needed security fencing and a hard standing.

However, immediately after the approval, the site was used for the storage of scrapped vehicles by Woodbury Carbreakers. As the site did not have the appropriate planning nor Environment Agency permit a court case followed against the tenant and the site was eventually cleared after 3 years.

The Site Owners then used it for commercial and industrial purposes and finally submitted a retrospective planning application App 16/0568/FUL for Storage of HGVs in the Fruit Farm Enclosure. However, this application was refused. East Devon District Council were informed that the applicant would appeal. The applicant had 6 months up to 23/11/2016 to lodge an appeal, but no appeal was submitted, but the industrial use continued.

During this time EDDC Local Plan was approved in 2016 which included Policy E7 which allows extensions to Employment sites (except Greendale and Hill Barton that were considered too large for their rural locations). The East Devon Villages Plans approved in Feb 2018 also included a section on the “Greendale Employment Area” which excludes these specific locations off Hogsbrook Lane.

FWS Carter and sons in 2017 then applied for a Planning Variation order 17/2350/VAR to remove a planning condition to the original 2009 application which required the security fence and hardstanding to be removed if the fruit farm business failed. This application was held up for approximately 12 months due to legal matters. The Application was finally agreed in Oct 2018 but with a condition stating that the use must remain agricultural.
East of Compound 6 and further from the Hogsbrook Lane is an area that over the years has become a storage area for Industrial and agricultural products and equipment. It was originally used for the Gas Pipe line contractors and following their departure in 2009 it has been used by the landowners and their tenants.

In 2017 the owners submitted a Certificate of Lawfulness 17/2441/CPE. These Certificates are used by landowners who have used a specific area for more than 10 years without the correct planning permission and therefore are able to claim that the current use is now “lawful” after 10 years illegal use.

However, it was highlighted to the Planning Authority by the local “Woodbury Salterton Residents Association” that some of the use was agricultural and anyway the Gas Pipe Line Compound was “permitted development”, so the application failed the 10-year time requirement. Therefore, the submission failed.

It is normal practice that a planning Authority would inform landowners that an “Enforcement Notice” would eventually be served in cases like this where there has been breaches in planning regulations.

To presumably delay the Enforcement Notice, FWS Carter and sons have now submitted two further retrospective applications for a change of use application 18/2661/COU at compound East 6 and a further application 18/2660/COU for the compound relating to the failed “Certificate of Lawfulness”

Therefore, the Enforcement Notices will not be served whilst these applications are considered, with the decision to serve the Enforcement Notices being subject to the decision on these latest two applications.

The Saga of Hogsbrook Lane therefore continues!

A parish councillor says planning system is broken

Guardian letters:

“The planning system is broken. At the London launch this week of Nick Raynsford’s Review of Planning in England, speakers described demoralised councillors and planners; frustration over constant changes of policy; and anger that the system is not delivering what people want. Parish councils are at the sharp end of this failure to reform the system. Communities here in Kent and across Britain are facing the threat of opportunistic, unplanned development. Landowners and developers are exploiting the fact that it takes time to prepare, consult on and get approval for a new local plan, to bring forward applications for housing development on unsuitable sites.

Additionally, where a local authority does not have a five-year “housing supply” (an arbitrary figure and a rather nebulous concept as the number of houses in the pipeline fluctuates continually), the new national planning policy framework (NPPF) dictates that councils must grant permission, unless there are overriding reasons to refuse. A developer-led planning process, crude housing targets, no joined-up regional thinking, and flawed “consultation” has resulted in communities being pitted against each other as they try to protect the environment and their health.

The Raynsford review makes 24 recommendations to create a simpler, fairer system. These include strategic regional planning, a (limited) community right to challenge in an attempt to redress the balance of power, and a duty on local authorities to plan for high-quality and genuinely affordable homes. I hope the government will listen carefully to the arguments for reform. Change is desperately needed.
Richard Byatt
Chair, planning committee, West Malling parish council, Kent”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/30/our-broken-housing-market-urgently-needs-fixing