The report presented to Members’ provided an update on site submissions into the East Devon call for sites process. There had been a total of 359 site submissions received which included 194 new sites and 165 sites already received summarised in paragraph 2.2 in the report. The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised a lot of work was currently underway in assessing the new sites and reviewing the other sites.
Members’ noted a series of plans of the district appended to the report which showed the sites that had come forward. The sites in blue represented the new sites that had come forward in 2021 and the sites in red represented those that previously come forward in 2017.
Members’ agreement was sought to a number of minor amendments to be made to the HELAA methodology to bring it in line with recent updates to Government guidance. The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management referred to paragraph 4.2 which detailed a summary of the proposed main changes.
Comments made by Non-Committee Members included:
· The need to resist any change from employment land to housing land.
· It was noted under paragraph 4.2 – amended guidance to clarify how to consider flood zones in stage A assessment where no data on functional floodplains exist. Concerns raised about the floodplain in Sidford and the consequences for local residents as the brook was being widened to pass the water further downstream. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management assured Members that flooding as a constraint was considered throughout the process in terms of which sites are to come forward for development and Government guidance is clear that housing development should not be allocated on land liable to flood.
Comments and questions raised by Committee Members included:
· Comment made that there was not enough information about who would be sitting on the HELAA panel. It was advised the panel would be a group of key stakeholders who would give advice on the achievability of sites.
· Clarification sought on the balance between developers, landowners and community representatives on the panel. A suggestion was made to include a recommendation that requires further information on the panel be brought back to committee before the panel starts work.
· Concerns raised about Devon County Highways being unable to commit to providing feedback by a particular date and that the proposed solution was to ask Devon County Highways to prioritise on the larger sites. This would be difficult bearing in mind how many sites there are and all the work that had to be done. It was questioned whether there was another way to get their feedback more quickly. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management emphasised that Devon County Council and other consultees’ had limited resources that were overly stretched and to be mindful that may delay the process.
· Clarification sought on whether brownfield sites were considered. In response it was advised it was government policy that brownfield sites should be considered first but emphasised that there are few brownfield sites in East Devon with the majority in urban areas and these were picked up in the urban capacity study previously reported to committee and would only make a small contribution.
· Concerns raised that a lot of commercial sites may become redundant due to Covid-19 and clarification sought on whether these sites could be used for housing.
· Reference was made to the membership of the panel which consisted of builders, social landlords, estate agents and other related professionals, community representatives and concerns raised about the need for more detail. In response the Chair clarified the role of the panel is only advisory to offer their expert opinion on the sites that have come forward.
· The need for greater openness and transparency on the makeup of the panel. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management could not confirm who the panel members at this time but guided Members’ to the former GESP website for the published HELAA methodology and previous panel report which includes the constitution and terms of reference of the last panel which would hopefully provide some reassurance.
· The need to look at taking an overview of where we build rather than what we build. In response the Chair advised that East Devon Members would get the final decision on what is built and where.
· The need for specific guidance to the constitution of the HELAA panel to make sure a properly balanced membership from this council is involved.
It was proposed by Councillor Jess Bailey, seconded by Councillor Philip Skinner to include a fourth recommendation to read:
That further information on the composition of the HELAA panel is brought back to Committee before the HELAA panel’s first meeting to be set out including the role of the local members on the panel.
1. That the detail of the report be noted.
2. That the proposed next steps and amendments to the HELAA methodology detailed in sections 3 and 4 of the report be agreed.
3. That delegated authority be granted to the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning to make any further minor changes that might arise from a review of the methodology by the panel.
4. That further information on the composition of the HELAA panel is brought back to Committee before the HELAA panel’s first meeting to be set out including the role of local members on the panel.