EDDC Local Plan coming together as preparation is in progress for the next stage in the long-running Local Plan process, designed to provide a planning blueprint for the District to 2026 and beyond, as six years of work nears fruition.
The District Council has started to discuss feedback received from a six-week consultation that ended on 31 January.
The Council’s Planning Policy Team have been analysing the feedback and reported to a meeting of the Local Plan Panel when it re-convened on Tuesday 28 February.
A final version of the draft Local Plan will be discussed at the Panel’s next meeting on 20 March, after which time it will go to EDDC’s Development Management Committee and full Council for endorsement before submission to the Government in June.
The latest situation on Uplyme, Combpyne-Rousdon and Axmouth together with a summary of responses submitted can be viewed online.
Among the official bodies that have commented is Devon County Council, which has given a comprehensive set of responses to the document. County Hall broadly supports the thrust of the Local Plan and the general principles it proposes for planning policy in the District for the next 14 years to 2026.
The County’s response letter calls the latest draft of the document “an important step towards the adoption of a comprehensive planning policy framework which will provide a sound basis for the future development of the District”.
The County Council says it “broadly supports the overall scale of housing provision and employment land allocation”, although all proposed development will need to be effectively phased, “to ensure the best advantage is taken of existing and planned infrastructure investment”.
EDDC latest draft policy document is designed to support and complement East Devon’s Economic Strategy, Environment Strategy and Homes and Communities Strategy.
It sets out a framework for how East Devon could develop over the next 14 years in terms of providing homes (including the all-important affordable housing), jobs and infrastructure to encourage a thriving economy, whilst protecting and enhancing East Devon’s unique environment.
The latest document lists the number of homes that could be built in each of East Devon’s seven towns over the period of the plan, although these are upper limits to provide guidance when dealing with planning applications rather than hard and fast targets.
Likewise, it shows where employment land could be encouraged – and how big this element should be in each town. The focus is on higher paid jobs and on homes that people can afford, while sustaining our outstanding environment.
There are separate sections showing limited development in rural areas, balanced by a drive for much higher levels of development concentrated near the border with Exeter at the West End of the District.
Councillor Andrew Moulding, EDDC’s Cabinet Member for Strategic Development and Partnerships, said: “Whilst some people like to assume that the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) is no longer relevant, it is still there and continues to provide a pretty accurate guide to the kind of growth we can expect to see in the coming years. At a total of around 15,000 homes, our own predictions steer a middle course between the two extremes – the RSS upper limit of 17,000 homes and the lower aspirations put forward by some for 12,000. That could easily change up or down in the next five years and we will review it as we go along”.
In terms of specific towns, EDDC is keeping a watching brief on negotiations between Clinton Devon Estates and Exmouth Town Council on housing numbers at the proposed Plumb Park development. There is also general agreement that the extension to Dinan Way should be built as soon as practicable.
At Ottery St Mary, there remains a slight discrepancy between the number of homes proposed in the draft Local Plan – 350 – and the aspirations of Ottery Town Council at 300.
At Sidmouth the only major loose end that needs tying up is the allocation of employment land that needs to be allocated to ensure local people have the option of local jobs, whilst enabling affordable homes to be built for young families.
There remains some work to be done for Axminster, where the allocation of 650 new homes is tied in with the aspiration for a half-hourly train service.
Councillor Mike Allen, Chairman of the Local Plan Panel, said: “There is some encouraging news on the house-building front nationally, with the numbers of new private housing improving at the back end of 2011, due in part to better weather conditions. But social housing builds nationally are still stagnant and there seems likely to be a shrinking number of new builds due to sustained cuts in the public sector.
“Once we have our draft Local Plan in place, we will be much better positioned to not only seek growth in the right areas but deter growth in the wrong areas. That is the importance of getting a robust Local Plan in place at the earliest opportunity. We are closing in on that objective and I’d like to thank everyone – Officers, Members, Partners and Public – for their help and patience during this pains-taking process”.
EDDC has been analysing data and consulting with communities for over five years, with the aim of producing a document that started out as the Local Development Framework (LDF).
Under the new Coalition Government, the name of the document that every council must devise has now changed to the Local Plan.
But the aims and the challenges remain the same – to draw up a policy that provides the jobs and homes that people need and supports a thriving local economy, whilst protecting East Devon’s uniquely beautiful environment, much of which is officially labelled as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, for residents and visitors to enjoy.
Overseeing this work and making policy recommendations is a group of EDDC Members called the Local Plan Panel.