Tuesday, April 15, 2014
‘SHAMBOLIC’ East Devon District Council’s latest Local Plan knockback has prompted calls by campaigners for a ‘root and branch reform’ of the authority.
Save Our Sidmouth (SOS) says the council has left the region ‘dangerously exposed’ to developers after the document was rejected by a Government inspector – for the second time of asking – following a public inquiry.
The warning came last week after the inspector, Anthony Thickett, told EDDC bosses: “I do not consider that the Local Plan is sound – nor at this stage can it be made so by main modifications.”
Mr Thickett’s criticisms highlighted a lack of justification for the number of houses proposed, unreliable support documents, a failure to comply with the national guidelines, inappropriate and out of date evidence, a failure to co-operate with neighbouring authorities and to assess the necessary five-year supply of housing land.
The plan, five years in the making, was also only valid for 12 years – instead of the 15 asked for by the Government.
Issues such as the contentious employment site at Sidford will not be commented upon by the inspector until EDDC resubmits its housing proposals.
SOS chairman Richard Thurlow said EDDC’s ‘incompetence’ – on the plan and its relocation project – has cost tax-payers’ cash, adding: “The Local Plan has been rejected in its entirety.
“The district is dangerously exposed for the next year or so to the depredations of developers, since we don’t have a plan in place.
“The Local Plan preparation demonstrates EDDC’s shambolic and woeful performance. They have had five years to produce their plan, and now they are back to square one. We need a root and branch reform of EDDC.”
Mr Thurlow also accused council bosses of ‘a considerable glossing over of the truth’ by saying they expected more information would be required for the plan.
Without a Local Plan in place, national guidelines point in favour of planning development.
East Devon Alliance vice-chairman, Dr John Withrington said: “We should not be surprised if the Local Plan has to recommend many more houses than it does at present, to recommend substantially more growth in villages in East Devon, and for developers to be even more aggressive in their proposals as a result. And all this could have been avoided had EDDC got its act together.
“Given the seriousness of the situation, the starkly complacent comment by council leader Paul Diviani, that he is ‘very relaxed’ about starting work again on the Local Plan, is incomprehensible.”