We're still in limbo over homes blueprint
FRESH fears have been voiced about East Devon being in "limbo" and at the mercy of developers after a crucial document, outlining where thousands of homes could be built, was halted by a Government inspector.
Whereas council officials deemed recent changes made to the Local Plan as minor, the inspector recognised them as major.
The document sets out where about 15,000 homes could be built across the district between 2006 and 2026 in addition to employment land.
The draft plan has identified a recommended number of homes for each town and parish across the district following a public consultation process.
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But the inspector advised that he cannot undertake his examination of the report submitted earlier this month because there are 53 changes from an earlier version that should be consulted on first.
The absence of an adopted and current Local Plan – which should demonstrate a supply of land allocated for housing – makes it more difficult for the council to determine speculative planning applications that may challenge the locally-held view of suitable locations or the scale of developments.
The delay has caused uproar among campaigners and residents who say this means there is an "open house" for developers.
The village of Newton Poppleford, for example, is allocated 40 houses in the emerging Local Plan, however two applications by two different developers, for a total of 86 houses, have recently been submitted.
The council is also at risk of having its decisions not to grant planning permission overturned at appeal until the document is passed.
In December, a planning inspectorate overturned district councillors' objection to a 130-home development on fields skirting Ottery St Mary.
The main reason for the inspectorate's decision was because the council cannot demonstrate it can satisfy the Five Year Land Supply criteria – that it has enough land suitable for the likely demand in houses over the next five years.
Reference was made in the report to the decision by another inspectorate to uphold housing developer Wainhomes' appeal against the council's refusal of its plans for 50 homes outside the village boundary at Feniton, for the same reason.
A council spokesperson explained that these are examples of the risk of refusing an application which may then be allowed on appeal.
"We can only refuse permission if there are sound planning reasons that we can defend," he said. "Just saying no to new development is not an option."
Ian McKintosh, chairman of the East Devon Alliance, said: "The delaying of the Local Plan is a total disaster – what it means is the gates are left wide open for any developer to come along and submit plans, it's an open house, that's the trouble."
Matt Coppell, Newton Poppleford resident, added: "A recent village survey showed most residents prefer smaller developments of fewer houses – both applications submitted are for too many on one site.
"We're concerned that because there is no Local Plan in place, both could go through."