Real Zorro

Mission - to challenge in East Devon. To hold elected representatives & their officials to account.

Monday, 25 January 2016

An Inspectors Calls! EDDC leaders play "Get Out of Jail" card

The East Devon Local Plan is back in the headlines...again. This time it re-emerges having been considered by Mr Thickett the Planning Inspector. So, now there is a new villain to add to the mix of (the majority group of) East Devon District Council Councillors and Officers!

The Local Plan and the Planning Inspector’s views on it have now been published by EDDC ahead of their consideration by the Council at its meeting on 28 January. The details of the Local Plan & the Planning Inspector’s report were published on 19 January via this link –

For ease the main reports are accessible here –

Final Report on the Examination of the Local Plan (26 page Inspector’s report);

Main Modifications (99 page set of amendments to the Local Plan);

new clean base copy of the plan text (264 page original version of the Local Plan that the Main Modifications relate to).

In the email notification that Zorro received from the kind Planning Policy Manger at EDDC he introduced the main issues associated with the Local Plan, which has in part been amended by the Planning Inspector, by saying –

“The Inspector concludes that the Local Plan is sound subject to ‘main modifications’, details of which can be viewed with copies of the report. Key matters highlighted in the Inspector’s report, that relates to the plan as submitted for examination and includes main modifications, include that:

a)         the plan should cover the 2013  to 2031 period;

b)         it is appropriate for the plan to provide for 17,100 new homes over this time period – this equates to 950 per year;

c)         the strategy for distribution of development, with a focus on the West End, is appropriate;

d)         the Council can show a five year housing land supply;

e)         the plan makes appropriate provision for affordable housing;

f)          the plan makes appropriate provision for jobs growth (noting links between job growth and housing provision);

g)         the plan provides for protection of the natural environment and highlights that  habitat mitigation is critical in respect of accommodating housing growth;

h)         the Sidford employment land allocation should remain in the plan;

i)          residential development at the Council offices site (at the Knowle) is appropriate as is the allocation boundary;

j)          the plan should provide for gypsies and travellers at Cranbrook;

k)         Chardstock and Dunkeswell should not feature in Strategy 27 of the plan; they should not be identified as villages to have a Built-up Area Boundary;

l)          Land should not be safeguarded for a rail head at the Intermodal Interchange site.

Adoption of the Local Plan is due to be considered at a meeting of the Full Council on 28th January 2016”.

Local press coverage has cranked up again on this matter with the Sidmouth Herald giving it a high degree of prominence in last Friday’s (22 January) edition, as did the Express & Echo at the weekend.

 The contributors to the Sidmouth Herald’s local online Streetlife, where people can have their say on local issues, have generated a plethora of comments about the outcome of the Inspector’s deliberations over the Local Plan. It does seem that Inspector Mr Thickett is not popular as a result of his deliberations. EDDC leaders don’t come out of it too well either.

Zorro wonders whether Mr Thickett was given a poor hand to play with. Surely, the starting point for any criticism over the Local plan rests at the door of the Knowle (something that can’t say that for too much longer!). Here the ultimate criticism must rest with the previous EDDC administration (oh! the same people are still in charge!) for submitting a Local Plan that did not have the vision that their electors had or wanted.

Mr Thickett therefore in part was in a very difficult position e.g. Paragraphs 88 – 95 Sidford (Employment); one created by EDDC. These paragraphs related to the proposals for a Business Park in Sidford; something that Sid Valley residents are very concerned and unhappy about, still.

Paragraph 88 of the Inspector’s report makes it clear to Zorro that EDDC knew that its decision to vote to exclude the Sidford Business Park from the Local Plan, so late in the day, was not going to be upheld by the Inspector.

 Paragraph 88 says –

“The Local Plan proposes the allocation of 5 ha of land on the northern edge of

Sidford for employment use. At a meeting on 26 March 2015 the Council

resolved to delete this allocation from the Local Plan. However, the allocation

was part of the plan submitted for examination and following submission for

examination the Council cannot make any further changes to the Local Plan.

Any further changes can only come about through a recommendation made in

this report. As stated above the starting point for the examination is the

assumption that the Council has submitted what it considers to be a sound

plan. The Council considered the allocation to be sound when the plan was

submitted for examination and it defended the allocation at the Hearing in

February 2014. No new evidence has been submitted by the Council to

support its volte face”.

Zorro is cynical enough to believe that Clr Diviani & the Conservative majority on EDDC knew what they were doing when they, at the eleventh minute, excluded the Business Park from the Local Plan. They thought that with local elections coming up in May 2015 that in order to look as if they were being responsive to the vocal local concerns about the sitting of the Business Park they agreed to exclude it from the Plan.

In so doing they knew full well what the Inspector has now said – surely the inclusion must have been deemed “sound” enough to be included in the Plan by EDDC and when it defended the Plan in February 2014. And without any “new evidence has been submitted by the Council to support its volte face” how or why could the inspector overturn the original decision.

Bravo Clr Diviani et al! A great piece of political skulduggery! You tried to look like the good guys and now the Inspector is to be seen as the bad guy!! A plot straight of the satirical political tv show “The Thick of IT”.

It seems to Zorro that the Local Plan puts local politics and democracy back on the front page. The question now is how will electors react? Will it be in the same way as reported in the Sidmouth Herald headline this week said ...”the future’s looking considerably brighter”. Or will it be more in the vein of the Letters page in this week’s Sidmouth Herald?

No comments:

Post a Comment