Too many homes

As the Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel meets to consider the planning proposals for the future of East Devon, its chair, Councillor Mike Allen, wisely acknowledges the difficulties his panel faces in trying to balance the needs of the region for more houses with those of the people living here who wish to protect the beauty of their countryside.

And it is clear where his own opinions tend when he acknowledges that opposition to the LDF ‘shows us just how hard we have to work to convince the public that a degree of growth is not only healthy, but essential’ (EDDC press release, August 4, 2011).

But he goes on: ‘EDDC has come in for a lot of flack in recent months from people who frankly wish to see very little new development in the district and do not seem to care whether our young people and families are able to afford homes to enable them to stay in the area where they grew up’.

And here his argument collapses, for he must know, perfectly well, that people who oppose the wholesale development of valuable parts of the countryside (for instance, the ‘St John’s Wood’ area on the north-east of Exmouth, threatened with thousands of new houses) do not, therefore, automatically deny the need for affordable housing for local people.

Why does he place these two positions in such stark opposition, if not to discredit those who disagree with him?

As a resident in a threatened area, I am very much against the – as I see it – unnecessary and damaging proposal to build too many homes in East Devon over the coming years. (The figures are, after all, contested. EDDC ignores advice from Devon County Council warning that its proposed numbers are inflated.) I am also against building them in the wrong places. It is as simple – and as complicated – as that.

This does not, however, mean that I oppose development, and I don’t know anyone else on my side of this argument that does.

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Of course, it is vital to build affordable homes for the young people who grow up here and want to remain here to raise their families. It is our social responsibility to do so, if we are to remain a good society, and we need to work with developers to achieve this necessary social project. We must never, however, let them run recklessly over our environment for their own profit.

It is to prevent this happening that we voted in a council to represent the needs of the community, all of it, and to be meticulous in judging the rights and wrongs of proposals for new development. Councillor Allen rightly stresses the need for an evidence-based approach to this complex and difficult task. However, over-simplifying the argument, as he seems to have done, is the least helpful way of achieving this.

Mike Newby

Wilderness House,

St John’s Road, Exmouth.