Thousands more homes for region?

Friday, August 22, 2014
6:00 AM

Thousands more homes may have to be built in East Devon than first thought - as more delays loom for a blueprint for the region’s future.

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East Devon District Council (EDDC) currently estimates that 15,000 new dwellings are needed over the next dozen years.

But the authority still has not worked out the final number - six months after a Whitehall inspector first asked for it.

Inspector Anthony Thickett refused to rubberstamp EDDC’s housing estimate up to 2026, in its Local Plan, because of a lack of evidence.

The delay could mean that a final plan will not be agreed until after next year’s general election - and could even influence how local residents vote.

The Government expects all councils to draw up a Local Plan. Many have not, and in those areas development tends to be higher.

The blueprint effectively guards against excessive building on scenic parts of the country - like East Devon – and is based on a ‘guesstimate’ derived from local data, projections and research.

But because EDDC’s last Local Plan expired in 2011, delays to the latest one will mean a total of four years without any locally-set limits being imposed.

Developers would have no official, locally researched ceiling on how homes are too many or too few.

Instead this policy black hole would continue to be filled by a one-size-fits-all national policy. The final estimates are likely to be higher than first thought for three reasons.

The first is that existing projections are largely based on a straightforward comparison with the past 30 years.

But new factors, including homes for workers at sites like SkyPark and Exeter Science Park, now have to be considered.

Secondly, East Devon has not met its affordable housing needs and must now play catch-up - or else local people will be priced out of the area.

And thirdly, Whitehall has told EDDC to make projections beyond 2026, pushing the final figure up even further.

EDDC’s planning policy manager, Matt Dickens, said: “It is likely to be months rather than weeks before we will have an objectively assessed housing need against which to revise our housing land supply figures.

“In the meantime [we will continue] to consider each application accordingly.”

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