Local Plan delayed until next year
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A blueprint for future development in East Devon is unlikely to be in place until ‘early 2015’, district council planners have confirmed.
In addition to the delay, the number of homes to be built in towns and villages may have to be revised when new housing need figures are finalised later this year.
The draft East Devon Local Plan earmarks 150 houses for Sidmouth and 300 for Ottery St Mary until 2026.
But during a public examination in February, a government inspector identified ‘serious failings’ with the out-of-date evidence used to arrive at the numbers.
Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett also highlighted concerns over EDDC’s blanket five per cent growth target for villages in the district, saying that each settlement should be judged on its ability to accommodate new homes.
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Updating councillors on an ‘action plan’ to address the issues raised by Mr Thickett, planning policy manager Matthew Dickins said that work was underway to produce up-to-date evidence, which he hoped would be ready ‘later in the year’.
He added: “We aim to be coming back to [the planning] committee in early July if possible.
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“We would then be looking at some form of consultation with a view to re-examine with the planning inspector in October.
“If the inspector is satisfied with the council’s position, we would be looking at an early 2015 adoption date.”
Councillor Susie Bond, district representative for Feniton and Buckerell, said she was concerned East Devon would remain ‘vulnerable to inappropriate development’ until the Local Plan is in place.
“Are we stuck with a first-come, first-served approach favoured by developers, without the tools to rebuff them?” she asked.
Mr Dickins admitted the region would be under threat until the plan is adopted, but he cited recent appeals at Tipton St John and Feniton as examples where inspectors have turned down applications for new homes on sustainability grounds.
The delay in finishing the Local Plan is expected to cost taxpayers a further £12,000 in consultants’ fees in addition to an ‘inspection budget’ for 2013/14 of £110,000.