Flaws in Local Plan Consultation by East Devon District Councillor Mike Allen

By Kate Baxter

24th Feb 2023 | Readers Letters

By Mike Allen, Past Chair of Scrutiny Committee

Failure of democracy over plans for new houses

East Devon District Council Council voted on February 22 to continue developing its plan for homes and jobs despite admitting to serious flaws in the evidence and software used in the recent consultation and despite deciding to "pause" its development of the Plan at its own Strategic Planning Committee.

The reason given was that it would cost too much to do it properly. As one Councillor retorted: "If it's wrong, it's wrong. "

The recent plans put to our population of East Devon were completely flawed for the following reasons:

Jobs: The evidence base for industrial development is nearly a decade out of date. To assess recent information, a report this month stated that the Council's own Economic Development team have "substantive" disagreements with a survey to look at jobs in East Devon.

The Council should not be proposing policies at this stage without sound evidence.

By the Council's own admission, the 'Scale of Development' of homes and jobs will be determined by the disputed information new changes to planning regulations will change everything the Consultation proposed a target of 940 homes per year and a new town. This huge scale would not be needed if the Government relaxes its rules because our local population is actually shrinking.

The need for an extra town be eliminated if the Government's new proposals go ahead.

Missing evidence in the Consultation: The allocations of new housing and industrial land, and the policies in the plan were put forward although there was no : 1. economic needs assessment (EDNA), 2. no water cycle study, 3. inadequate assessment of health, education and transport needed 4. and no environmental impact reports.

The consultation software was faulty this system was deficient in three ways. Usability was cumbersome and obtuse, the questions posed were restrictive and, for example, there was no option to reject the concept of the new town suggested. Third, the failure to use emojis defaulted each answer to "neutral" despite what the person intended. In other words, the result will be fatally flawed.

Evidence for the type of housing type needed was ignored In the ORS study I commissioned in 2020-21 by the EDDC. There was considerable work done to define the householder characteristics and needs which particularly affected young buyers and those with health issues. Yet in the Consultation, no special recommendations were made for young buyers or the disabled.

The Government's reform of Health and Adult Social Care is underpinned by the principle of sustaining people at home for as long as possible. This was reflected in their changes to building regulations relating to adaptations and wheelchair-accessible homes that were published in the Building Regulations 2010.

Based on the projected household growth and the changing demographics of the area, an additional 12,959 households either need adaptations to their existing housing or suitable new housing which is needed to be provided by 2040.

ORS suggested that at least 30% of the need for adapted housing could not be met by adaptation of existing homes; a total of 5,119 new households would be needed but the proposed plan did not include any such recommendations thus rendering it in breach of Government guidelines for sustainable homes suitable for the population Neighbourhood Plans Councils have been involved for many years in drawing up detailed Neighbourhood Plans which appear to have been sidelined in the allocation of land.

Neighbourhood Plans are proposed to reflect the democratic wishes of the place they cover. After all their hard work, glancing references found in the proposed document did not clarify where deviations from these Neighbourhood Plans were intended In view of the very serious reactions by residents and the admission of flaws by East Devon District Council, I am calling for a new consultation to put these key factors right.

Mike Allen, St. Michael's Ward Honiton Devon


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