Sunday, February 24, 2013
SIR - East Devon District Council has spent the last five years producing their new Local Plan, which recommends that 15,000 houses be allowed in the district. This Local Plan, if approved, will not come into effect until the end of this year at the earliest.
Whilst EDDC recognised that overall, their recommendations still did not meet the Government requirement of five years’ housing availability, the eastern part of the district did so, having an allocation of 6.2 years, comfortably in excess of the requirement.
However, EDDC’s meeting on February 5 discussed the recommendation of the planning officer that an additional 2,100 new dwellings be permitted in the district, bringing the total to 17,100 over the next 15 years.
This was because of two recent decisions taken by planning inspectors allowing the application for new housing on the grounds that EDDC did not have a five years supply of housing land.
These decisions apparently came as a shock to the council, prompting a panic reaction, despite the fact that they were informed in 2009 by an EDDC committee that there was likely to be a gap in their plans and Government requirements, which would lead to the situation that we now find ourselves in.
All of us living in the more rural parts of East Devon now find ourselves in the unhappy situation of being sitting targets for developers who will consider it open season on planning applications.
We believe that the recent EDDC decision was wrong; and equally as importantly it was steam-rollered through, with no public discussion allowed. Council taxpayers have been treated with arrogance and disdain, that we have come to expect from EDDC.
It is apparent to all of us who deal with them that the culture of “we know best and what is good for you”, permeates EDDC, like the writing in a stick of seaside rock .It emanates from the top and seeps downwards. Ignoring the public and the bullying of councillors who raise quite legitimate concerns, is the order of the day.
This is compounded by the “Cabinet” style of Local Government management in East Devon, which empowers a few prominent councillors of the dominant party to run their fiefdoms without effective scrutiny. There are in effect two degrees of councillors, the dominant cabinet members, and the rest, who have in reality very little say.
Senior EDDC officers and councillors seem to think that the council is run for their benefit, not those who pay their salaries and expenses.
They believe that public criticism and comments are irrelevant. Any requests for openness and information are met with obfuscation and delays.
We are told that they have an excellent set of carefully collected benchmarks and star ratings to validate their performance; but so had the NHS.
No wonder there is such mistrust of both elected politicians and officers.
All we can plan and hope for is that a number of public minded people will step forward for the next elections, win and change the culture in EDDC. But by then it may be too late to prevent the destruction of our Devon countryside.
Robert Thurlow, Sidmouth