‘Rumour mill’ challenge over future vision

SIDMOUTH residents who question the district council’s propriety have been challenged to ‘make it formal rather than resort to the rumour mill’.

All of East Devon is being urged to have its say on the draft Local Plan - as its final consultation reaches the half-way point.

The blueprint sets out how homes and jobs will be delivered in the next 15 years.

If approved by an independent planning inspector next year, and adopted by full council, the document will become the area’s main evidence base for determining planning applications and negotiating with developers.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is asking anyone with comments about policies or allocations in the Local Plan to make their concerns or support known through the consultation.

This reminder follows the launch of a Task and Finish Forum (TAFF) where six councillors are examining the council’s relationship with East Devon Business Forum (EDBF).

The group was established by EDDC to act as a regular consultation and engagement link with the district’s business community.

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The TAFF will assess and recommend how, in its view, the council might improve upon or replace the existing arrangements.

However, the TAFF is not designed to look at allegations that the EDBF might have had an undue or improper influence over employment land allocation in the Local Plan.

Any allegation is a matter for an independent planning inspector, who will examine the proposals in public next year, says EDDC.

Nor will the TAFF directly investigate any allegations about influence on specific planning applications in the past, as any complaints of this sort should properly be dealt with through formal procedures involving the Local Government Ombudsman.

Now the council is asking those saying they believe something wrong has happened to make it formal - if they actually have a specific complaint.

The inspector’s public investigation is a standard part of the Local Plan process.

EDDC leader, Councillor Paul Diviani, said: “If people wish to question the evidence behind employment land allocation in our draft Local Plan, it is most appropriate to respond to the consultation so that the independent inspector can consider it.

“The TAFF is not independent of the Council and not the right place for it, and I would hope that encouraging formal reporting will reassure everyone that we take any complaints seriously. We co-operate fully with formal external investigations.”

The latest and final round of consultation on the Local Plan will end at noon on Monday, January 14.

l Comment on the plan at www.eastdevon.gov.uk/localplan.

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