Residents across East Devon have been left split over how development should take place and the number and location of new homes to be built in the district.
Earlier this year, the council went out to consultation on its draft Local Plan Issues and Options report, giving residents the chance to comment on a series of topic based sections around how future development across East Devon should be planned.
A report to next Tuesday’s East Devon District Council Strategic Planning Committee outlines the responses from the consultation, with officers set to bring a more detailed feedback report to May’s meeting of the committee.
But the responses reveal a divide among those who took the time to give their thoughts – as while 30 per cent indicated that less than the required 928 new houses a year should be built, the same number backed the options for up to 1,200 homes a year or planning to build considerably more than the Government target.
And in terms of where strategic development should be located, around a third of respondents felt that there should be more of a focus in the ‘West End’ of the district around Cranbrook and the edge of Exeter, a similar percentage wanted less of a focus in the West End, with around one third wanted the existing strategy to be continued.
The responses revealed that 43 per cent wished that new development should be focused around a combination of areas where large scale development will support the delivery of new services and clusters of growth in locations within easy walking and cycling distance of existing services and facilities, although 30 per cent had no preference.
Views were also sought on possible end dates with questions asking whether the council should plan for an end date that was well after 2040, whether or not a new town or a ‘second Cranbrook’ is proposed, with 30 per cent saying yes it should plan for a date further into the future, just under 20 per cent saying that was undesirable, with around 15 per cent saying it should only be done if a new town was being planned.
On the question of the importance of facilities to people in their community, access to full fibre broadband, paths for walking and cycling, open spaces, healthcare facilities and a convenience store/post office scored highest, with a place of worship, a train station and a supermarket bottom of the list.
On future use of town centres, the strongest support was for community uses, followed by mixed commercial use and then leisure uses, with dominance of retail and change of use to housing having the most opposition.
But on preference for locations for future job provision, more home working had the greatest support from those who responded, with the most opposition to a focus on the West End and in villages and countryside. In towns, or close to Exeter, had neither opposition nor support from the consultation.
And the consultation revealed that there was a divide between those who wished to see all the issues addressed in a single local plan covering all policy matters (45 per cent) and those who wished for a strategic plan to come first and then subsequent plans to follow that deal with the detail latter (41 per cent), with the other 14 per cent expressing no preference.
The Strategic Planning Committee, when they meet next Tuesday, are recommended to note the initial feedback received in consultation responses to the Local Plan issues and options report, with the May 2021 meeting set to have a more detailed feedback report from officers, including commentary on matters raised in free text boxes of the questionnaire and in other correspondence.
Councillors will also be asked to consider the proposed options for engaging with developers and site promoters on production of the Local Plan, with five options put in front of them.
They are to have no engagement at all with site promoters and developers, to restrict engagement to written submissions, to have engagement through site specific meetings, engagement via a working party, or engagement through the Strategic Planning Committee only, with officers recommending the latter.
The report says: “The agreed timetable for plan production proposes a debate of potential site options by the committee in November. It is considered that part of this meeting could include providing a time slot for developers and site promoters to present to the committee to aid members’ understanding of the options prior to making decisions regarding which options they wish to put forward for consultation in the draft plan.
“It is considered that this option presents the most open and transparent option given that the presentations would then be given in a public meeting and it would also ensure that all of the committee could hear each presentation whereas this would be difficult to accommodate if separate meetings were to be held for each site.
“It may also cause some frustration among developers and site promoters if they have to wait until much later in the year to engage more fully in the process and they may also not wish to make their plans open to wider public scrutiny but clearly this would be their choice, but if this approach is favoured it is suggested that a special committee meeting be arranged and that each presentation be time limited to ensure parity across all of the sites being presented and to fit the time available.”