EDDC aims to bridge gap between wages and house prices

Local Development Framework sets out vision for right balance of homes, job creation and protection of East Devon’s landscape.

A key aim of East Devon District Council’s planning blueprint for the next 15 years will be to narrow the gap between local wages and house prices.

The council’s Local Development Framework Panel, made up of 15 councillors, has now set out its vision for the right balance of homes, job creation and protection of the landscape in a volatile economic environment.

And it believes the gap can be narrowed by attracting higher paid jobs and building more affordable homes near to employment sites to help local families.

The panel is creating a set of strategic policies against what it describes as “a worldwide climate of downwardly revised forecasts, wildly gyrating stock markets, lower consumer spending and weak business confidence. Government policies are also altering in major ways”.

The council is preparing the ground for the right level of expected growth, based on the best evidence available. It says: “This means realistic expansion of housing and employment sites to ensure that, when the upturn comes, East Devon is best placed to play its part and gain the maximum advantage for local people.”

In a presentation to the panel, its chairman, Mike Allen, summarised the approach being written into the draft Local Plan that will be the subject of a final public review in December and January.

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Councillor Allen said the journey started in 2006 and had continued for five years with a series of evidence-gathering initiatives - meetings with local parishioners, school pupils, public agencies and other councils, combined with extensive questionnaires and public responses both direct and over the internet.

He quoted Sir John Egan’s Review of Skills for Sustainable Communities and stressed the internationally accepted Brundtland definition of sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

He said: “After several years of research and many hours of community participation and debate, we are approaching a final draft of the Local Plan.

“This will be shown to EDDC’s Development Management Committee first and will then be shared with the public over eight weeks before and after Christmas before the final document is lodged with the Government for examination.”

Councillor Allen explained how the various strands of the Local Plan strategy together aimed to ensure East Devon was a good place to live, combining the right mix of thriving economy, housing and built environment, transport and connectivity (including broadband services), social and cultural facilities and fair access for all.

Account would be taken of the global changes leading to the overriding need for food and energy security and sustainability of the food chain. Adaptations to increased climate change would need to be reflected in local policies for water, flood avoidance and waste management. This, he said, was what the Local Plan was about achieving.

New technologies and advances in life sciences will have a profound positive impact on the global economy and this is why EDDC wants to encourage knowledge-based industries to set up in East Devon. Exeter Science Park is an example of catering for this need and the aim of the Local Plan should be to ensure that homes for these workers are built within easy range of the employment sites. Hence the development of Cranbrook to put 6,000 homes and top quality jobs close together.

Not only would this enable East Devon to exploit the latest technology advances, but should increase average salaries and help reduce house prices, so closing the affordability gap and making it easier for your people to stay in the area where they grew up.

His review continued: “Our close working relationship with Exeter is creating not only a new town at Cranbrook, but a critically important cluster of employment land, Science Park and airport with multi-modal freight terminal to reduce carbon in transportation.

“In the rest of Devon, our plans for strategic allocations for housing have largely been agreed with local communities’ own proposals. Next week, we will agree where workspace will be sited in the best places to create the jobs. Exmouth and Axminster will grow, whilst other towns and villages will expand to a lesser extent. Most housing growth will occur at the West End of the District and within the Exeter border at that point”.

Panel nembers stressed that EDDC would still safeguard rural and coastal landscapes for the enjoyment of residents and visitors. The Local Plan policies recommended will ensure that each community and settlement in East Devon retains its distinctive character by careful attention to Local Plan allocations and Development policies.

Panel members agreed a priority of developing brownfield sites first – except at the West End – and to protect Grade 1 and 2 farmland wherever possible, to sustain local food production. While they aimed to encourage more local jobs to cut down commuting in cars, they stressed that improving East Devon’s transport and infrastructure will require considerable partnership working.

The LDF Panel will spend the next meeting on November 1 defining how the type and amount of employment land expansion will be at the West End growth sites and along the A303, with some increase in Exmouth. They have studied a key report outlining ways to help diversify the business sectors in all areas.