Council denies breaking development plan promise

Claims of a u-turn are “premature to say the least”.

EAST Devon District Council has denied doing a “u- turn” over a promise to scale down development plans for the region.

Communities Before Developers (CBD) last week claimed the authority was backtracking on pledges to dramatically reduce any increase in homes and industry sites.

They accused Leader Sara Randall Johnson of failing to follow through on her commitment to:

• Significantly reduce the numbers of houses.

• Significantly reduce the amount of land for industrial estates.

• Consult the public on the revised document.

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The campaigners plan to march to the council HQ on Tuesday, timed to coincide with a meeting to discuss feedback to the Local Development Framework (LDF) – the council’s new planning blueprint.

But in a statement today the council rejected the protestors claims.

It said: “The meeting at Knowle is to do exactly what Communities Before Developers (CBD) have always requested – to ask members to note and be made aware of the responses to the Local Development Framework Core Strategy consultation which was carried out in 2010. “A wide range of responses were received, including many that felt that there is too much development proposed but others that suggested levels were right.

“The intention is that no decisions or recommendations in respect of future policy will be made at this meeting so to say that the council is doing a U-turn over its pledge to scale back development plans is premature, to say the least. The meeting is there to highlight the range of issues and concerns that consultation generated.

“The feedback from residents, community groups and businesses, plus further evidence gathering and research, will be used to inform a revised plan which will be considered by the council in late summer 2011. We will be commissioning a specific study to examine housing and employment needs and demands. It is likely that the study findings will show a lower need for housing and employment provision than detailed in the Preferred Approach document.

“The economic downturn experience across the country has led to lowering of growth predictions. However it would be wrong to prejudge the study findings by making precise policy decisions now which the evidence may subsequently show to be unfounded.

“If the plan changes then the council will need to consider how and in what form it will undertake further public consultation.

“After this consultation, the council will then enter in to what are the formal ‘submission stages’ of plan production. At this point there is a legal requirement for the plan to be made available so that anyone may comment on it. Comments received will be presented to an Inspector and he or she will consider these comments, and other written or verbal arguments people wish to make, alongside the arguments and the case the council puts forward in defence of the plan.”

Councillor Randall Johnson, added: “We are doing exactly what Communities Before Developers have asked us to do, but they must understand that there is a formal process which needs to be gone through.

“We hear what they are saying and will carry out further analysis of the plan as needed.”