This report seeks to give a gentle reminder to the past, ongoing and future work on producing the new local plan.
The Assistant Director – Planning Strategy and Development Management presented an update report on the East Devon local plan that provided Members with an overview of the work that had been done to date on the local plan and an explanation to why the standard methodology for housing numbers figure had changed since the committee had last met.
Members were advised that the draft local plan was currently at the Regulation 18 stage in which the council needed to prepare its strategy and approach following the public consultation earlier this year. Members noted that a further detailed report on the issues raised during that consultation would be brought to Committee in July for further consideration.
The Assistant Director – Planning Strategy and Development Management also addressed the housing numbers confirming that the present standard methodology housing number figure for East Devon now stood at 910 homes per year compared to 946 homes per year as previously advised. This was a consequence of an update to the affordability ratio between house prices and household income. Members were warned that there was a high possibility that these figures could change due to further updates in the future and potential changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.
In relation to these potential changes Members’ attention was drawn to the current local plan making timetable detailed in paragraph 6.1 of the report where Members were advised that these dates were no longer achievable and that an updated timetable would be brought to committee in July or August 2023.
Questions raised by Members included:
· Clarification was sought on the proposed NPPF changes. Members were guided to a useful summary detailed in the 14 February 2023 agenda.
· There was a need for the Council to change its attitude when considering its housing stock to ensure that all houses built over the next 10 years address housing need and climate change. In response the Assistant Director – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that the council was bound to current government planning guidance and legislation in terms of its planning process and that suitable land was needed first before housing stock and this depended on landowners bringing forward land for development. The Assistant Director – Planning Strategy and Development Management referred to Councillor Jung’s statement and advised Members that although East Devon was heavily constrained the Inspector, when examining the local plan, would not be likely to consider this as sufficient justification for not meeting our housing need.
· Several members expressed a view that they did not want to accept the Government’s Standard Methodology figure and that the council should take a stand and say no.
· Reference was made to the significant number of houses being developed in Cranbrook and a question was raised about how that would fit in with the five year land supply figure. The Assistant Director – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that housing numbers can only be counted if they had either been granted full planning permission or reserved matters approval.
· It was suggested that restrictions should be put on houses to ensure only people living in East Devon could purchase these houses.
· Reference was made to paragraph 3.10 and the duty to cooperate and a concern was raised about whether this meant that this council had to accommodate neighbouring authorities housing numbers as well as its own housing numbers. Where does this council stand if our duty to cooperate means that our housing numbers could increase to 1,000 instead of 910 houses?
· It was suggested that there was a requirement for different housing types to maintain a well-balanced community. Cranbrook has mostly two or three bed houses and does not take into account other requirements for larger families.
· It was suggested there was a demand for one bed flats. Members were advised that policies could be put in place to secure different house types through the new Local Plan but until this had been adopted the policies in the current local plan had to be complied with.
· When considering the housing numbers it is important to consider that a proportion of people in East Devon are over the age of 65 which has a greater impact on the health sector.
· There was a need to consider the impact on our water and waste water and sewage services particularly when our water company is one of the worst performing in the country. This impact is further increased by East Devon being a coastal region as well as being a tourist region.
· Clarification was sought about the implications if the council did not comply with the standard method for calculating the housing need. Members were advised that if the local plan was found unsound the consequence would be that the council would have to start at the beginning again which was not a good position to be in. The Assistant Director – Planning Strategy and Development Management acknowledged Members concerns about the housing numbers and suggested that if Members wished a further report to consider these issues could be brought to a future meeting.
The following motion was proposed by Councillor Todd Olive and seconded by Councillor Yehudi Levine:
‘That a further detailed report outlining the risks associated with trying to present a case that there are fundamental constraints in a local planning authority areas that the required numbers cannot be acceptably accommodated be brought to a future Strategic Planning Committee meeting.’
Discussions related to the proposed motion included:
· It was suggested that there was a need to hear about the other options that the council could choose to take and the risk involved with those options;
· It was suggested that the report would need to be comprehensive with everything on the table so that Members could have a broad debate to help them reach an informed decision. Members did not want this to be a pointless exercise.
· It was suggested that the report should be brought back to committee as quickly as possible.
Following discussions Councillor Todd Olive and seconder Councillor Yehudi Levine were happy to amend their motion to read:
‘Following consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of Strategic Planning Committee a further detailed report outlining the risks associated with trying to present a case that there are fundamental constraints in a local planning authority areas that the required numbers cannot be acceptably accommodated and the options that the Strategic Planning Committee may take on board when considering appropriate housing need be brought to committee as soon as possible.’
1. That the ongoing and future work on preparation of the East Devon local plan be noted.
2. That the housing need figure in East Devon generated from the Government standard methodology, now stands at 910 new homes a year and that this figure is lower than the 946 homes per year that was reported on in 2022 be noted.
3. Following consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of Strategic Planning Committee a further detailed report outlining the risks associated with trying to present a case that there are fundamental constraints in a local planning authority areas that the required numbers cannot be acceptably accommodated be brought to a future Strategic Planning Committee meeting and the options that the Strategic Planning Committee may take on board when considering appropriate housing need be brought to committee as soon as possible be agreed.