Some hope, eh!

I note that East Devon District Council state that they can “only hope” that the proposed doctor’s surgery at Newton Poppleford will be built following the recent judicial review of the King Alfred Way planning approval.

In fact, relying on hope is all they could ever have done, as that is all the law allows.

To be clear, a planning obligation offering such a blatant inducement is not simply against the wishes of a group of troublemakers or NIMBYs, as EDDC would have people believe, but against the law.

Developers’ offerings can only offset the direct impact of the development, otherwise the council is powerless to force the developer to provide them.

This was always the case – it has not arisen from judicial review. Such a basic premise ought to have been known by planners, yet they told the committee otherwise.

Second time around, following judicial review, councillors were expressly told that the doctor’s surgery could not be enforced.

The planning committee chose to trust in nothing more than a verbal promise to build a surgery, and therefore voluntarily submitted themselves to the “hope” about which they now complain, putting themselves at the mercy of the developer’s whims.

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This is no way to conduct planning decisions. Common sense dictates that a community benefit should only influence the decision if the developer is guaranteed to provide it.

Instead of blaming residents for “causing” this outcome, it is about time that EDDC recognised both the spirit and the letter of the law, and acknowledged their own shortcomings in dealing with this application.

The most tragic aspect of this whole sorry episode is that it represented an opportunity for the council to hold their hands up, acknowledge their mistake and learn from it.

It is now clear that they intend to continue to do whatever suits them, even if this contravenes the law.

Their dogged determination to apportion blame elsewhere at all costs would be laughable were it not such an affront to the idea of integrity in public service.

Emma Coppell

(via email)