Bumper response to EDDC’s planning blueprint

District council full of praise for residents.

THE public has been praised by district council chiefs for its bumper response to highly controversial blueprints for the future of East Devon.

The acclaim comes after more than 150 campaigners descended on East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Knowle headquarters in protest of its Local Development Framework (LDF).

EDDC this week thanked constituents for showing “much improved” interest, adding the response was ‘four times better’ than before.

The authority closed a consultation on the latest stage of its LDF last week.

The document will eventually guide planning policy in East Devon for the next 15 years.

EDDC says its planning policy team will ‘trawl’ through 2,000 comments from the public to create a further new discussion document in 2011.

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Campaigners from around the region last month voiced their opposition in a protest at Knowle. They expressed fears East Devon could become an “urban sprawl” and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty could be “gobbled up”. Plans were labelled “flawed, destructive and short-sighted.”

In response, EDDC leader, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, told the Herald: “That’s democracy at work- and long may it continue.”

She added: “This time around there’s been a really lively debate.

“Having listened to what local people are saying, our job now is to incorporate the learning from this consultation into the next version of the document. There may be major changes to some sections and fine tuning to others.”

An EDDC spokesman expressed the council’s “delight” at the public response. He said: “We appreciate that the nearer this policy gets to the stage where it could directly affect decisions, the more interest people are going to show in it.

“We realise some of the content is controversial – which is inevitable, given the balance we need to strike between providing homes and employment, while protecting the environment for future generations.”

l FACEBOOK and Twitter helped district planners net a best-ever response from ‘younger’ constituents over their 15-year blueprint for East Devon.

Social media was utilised by more than 2,000 people as they responded to the latest stage of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Local Development Framework (LDF) bid.

The council also defended its decision to make a wacky ‘we plan anywhere’ web advert to publicise the LDF- saying it was watched more than 6,000 times on YouTube.

“This had its critics, but did the job of attracting interest in the consultation. We’ve been contacted by other councils keen to learn from our innovative approach,” said an EDDC spokesman.

“We’ve been keen to engage with a younger audience than we’ve achieved in the past. We’re pleased with the response we got from channels like Facebook and Twitter to interact with people. We had around 200 responses via this medium and 2,000 hits on Facebook.”

EDDC took the LDF debate to all six secondary schools in the region and claims it involved more than 1,000 youngsters. Four hundred residents were said to have attended more than a dozen public meetings on the subject.

Leaflets summarising each catchment area were delivered to every home in the district.