The Committee considered the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management’s report outlining a summary proposal for a new local plan for East Devon setting out two options for possible timetables.
Members noted the difference between the two options were the resources available and the level of engagement. Option 1 had the fastest timeline with time constraints for consultation and engagement with members through meetings and would also require two additional staff members to help with the workload. Option 2 would add approximately one year to that timescale as it would utilise only existing resources and workshop sessions with Members, Town and Parish Councils are included.
Members noted that at the present time and at least in the short term of engagement sessions would be constrained by Covid-19. Members also noted that the preparation of the last Local Plan was led by a Member Panel enabling greater member involvement albeit this raised concerns about probity and was time consuming.
The Chairman welcomed comments from non-committee members:
· The Committee was urged to get on with the process and to choose the speedier option;
· Clarification was sought on the HELAA process and the need to go out to consultation again on work already done. The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised the intention was not to get rid of the previous HELAA but to be mindful that there is a need to make sure the assessments as part of that examination were up-to-date. It was also advised the GESP was focused on large strategic sites and to be mindful of small sites that may not have been put forward previously.
Committee Members discussions covered:
· A hybrid option should be considered because we should not proceed without community engagement;
· Suggestion was made to combine elements from Option 2 into Option 1;
· Clarification was sought on why Option 2 timeline had a 4 months fallow period from January 22 to April 22. The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Planning Development advised they were not fallow months, it would be used for gathering evidence and preparation of reports;
· This is set up to look identical to GESP which it should not and must not;
· Numerous concerns were raised throughout the document;
· Neighbourhood Plans need to be upheld and supported;
· We need a review of the existing Local Plan not a new Local Plan;
· Concerns raised about the need for 3 months for community engagement. Effective online engagement should be considered;
· The new Local Plan should include more green infrastructure to assist the move to sustainable communities;
· An alternative proposal for a hybrid option was discussed that Members were supportive of;
· Support was expressed for the recruitment of two additional Planning Officers. Discussions included recruiting as a matter of urgency.
The following amendment to the recommendation was proposed by Councillor Ben Ingham and seconded by Councillor Phil Skinner.
Members to consider a review of a hybrid option between Option 1 and Option 2.
The further amendment to the recommendation was proposed by Councillor Arnott.
1. To recommend to Cabinet that the staff budget for the Planning Policy Team be increased to enable the recruitment of two additional Planning Officers.
4. That a further report on timescales be brought back to the December Strategic Planning Committee.
The proposer of the motion, Councillor Ben Ingham and the seconder, Councillor Phil Skinner confirmed they were in agreement.
The motion was put to Committee and was carried with no abstentions.
1. Recommend to Cabinet that the staffing budget for the Planning Policy Team be increased be approved to enable the recruitment of two additional Planning Officers.
2. The production of a local plan issues and options report to come back to Committee in December 2020 with a view to consultation in January 2021 be endorsed.
3. Recommend to Cabinet to support in-principle the production of a joint non-statutory plan to include a joint strategy and infrastructure plan for the Greater Exeter area in partnership with Exeter, Mid Devon, Teignbridge and Devon County Councils be approved subject to agreement of details of the scope of the plan, a timetable for its production, the resources required, government arrangements etc.
4. A further report on timescale be brought back to December Strategic Planning Committee be agreed.