LOCAL PLAN VERDICT: More work needed
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Whitehall has told district authority bosses that their future planning blueprint is inadequate and more evidence is needed before it can be rubber-stamped.
But East Devon District Council (EDDC) chiefs say they expected that the Local Plan would be returned – for the second time – and are looking to submit it again in the autumn.
In a letter released by the authority at 5pm today (Thursday), Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett revealed he could not yet find it sound as he expects a clear assessment of how the housing need in East Devon will be met.
He is awaiting the results of a longer-term, Devon-wide housing survey – which began around the time the Local Plan was first submitted in August 2013 – which could see East Devon help address a ‘dire shortage’ of housing land in Exeter.
The Local Plan sets out EDDC’s plans for housing, employment and the environment until 2026.
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The delay does not mean development will stall, but it will continue against a backdrop of national and regional pressures for new homes.
Mr Thickett has requested more work to be done allocating volumes of housing around the district to get the distribution right.
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He also wants more evidence on the need for gypsy and traveller sites, as well as suggested locations.
EDDC leader Paul Diviani said: “This is pretty much what we expected. It is quite common for an inspector to ask for more information before finding a Local Plan to be sound.
“Neighbouring councils in Teignbridge, West Dorset and West Somerset have all had similar delays for similar reasons.
“This is such a complex subject that it is difficult to get all the boxes ticked in one go.
“After spending so long refining our plans and consulting on them, at some point you have to jump in and say, ‘OK – let’s see how close we are to what the Government wants to see’.
“In the circumstances I am relaxed about the extra work we have to do.
“We will now put together an action plan showing what we will be doing and when.
“We hope to go back to the inspector in the autumn with the extra information he needs.
“In the meantime, our planning procedures will carry on as they have done up to now, with proposals looked at on merit and tested for sustainability, as well as taking into account the issue of land supply.
“One of the important things to remember is that in planning terms, East Devon is not an island – and the communities within it cannot be taken in isolation either.
“We are all a part of the Exeter sub-region and as such the future shape of our district is closely coupled with the needs of our neighbours.”
The Local Plan was submitted to the Planning Inspector for the second time in December last year.
A month-long public examination began in February, in which he heard representations from the various towns and villages, and on topics ranging from employment to green space preservation.
Sidmouth’s section seeks to preserve its historic grandeur and its ‘outstanding natural environment’, while providing for new employment sites and accommodating another 150 homes.
Mr Thickett’s full report has not yet been released.