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East Devon Campaign group hits out at 'ludicrous' plan for 15,000 new homes

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

By Fran McElhone

  • A campaign group has written to Mark Williams

  • A campaign group has written to Mark Williams

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THE East Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England is urging East Devon District Council to reduce the number of houses in its local plan, claiming the authority is using out-of-date figures.

The group has written to council chief executive Mark Williams and is planning on making a formal submission as part of the latest consultation before Monday's deadline.

Under current proposals in the local plan, 15,000 homes are recommended for the district between 2006 and 2026.

But Margaret Hall, campaign branch secretary, has calculated only 11,000 houses need to be built in East Devon up to 2026.

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In the letter to Mr Williams from branch chairman Tim Hale, the group said it has "serious concerns" about the lack of five-year housing land supply.

In a supporting report outlining the reasons for their concerns, the chairman referred to two recent appeals which saw a planning inspectorate overturn the council's objection to 130 homes at Ottery St Mary and another for 50 homes in Feniton.

The main reason for the inspectorate's decision in both cases, was because the council cannot demonstrate it has enough land suitable for the likely demand for houses over the next five years.

"According to the framework, if a council can't demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, all planning policies are out-of-date," said Mrs Hall. "Furthermore there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development. So in the absence of planning policies, as long as a developer can prove his development to be sustainable, it will be harder to object to."

The branch also claims the council's housing prediction numbers are based on incorrect population predictions as per the 2008 Office of National Statistics and Department of Communities and Local Government.

The annual population growth, according to the boards, from 2008-2026 was one per cent, when according to the 2011 census the rate was less than 0.5 per cent.

Mrs Hall also points out that the housing completion rates are "undeliverable".

She points to the planning inspectorate involved in the Ottery appeal who deemed the number of deliverable sites in the district to be far less than predicted by the council.

She called for the phasing of future house building to be shifted to make the housing target "realistic and achievable".

In addition, she said net inward migration, based on the strategic housing market assessment for the housing market areas of Exeter and Torbay – East Devon update 2011, shows a declining rate – another reason to reduce the number of homes in the plan.

"Figures in the local plan are ludicrous," added Mrs Hall. "They are almost treble what's actually been achieved over the last few years. We support the need for affordable homes in East Devon and know that open market homes are needed for this, but it's a question of total numbers.

"The council has got its housing numbers wrong, we believe the figures aren't based on the most up-to-date figures and we are trying to get the numbers reduced and ultimately protect our countryside from being concreted over."

A spokesman for the council said: "The overall housing levels proposed in the local plan to 2026 have been arrived at using the best information we have and have also been influenced by numerous public consultation exercises over a period of six years.

"The views of the group – like the comments of all other parties who make representations – will be included in the package that is submitted to the planning inspectorate later this year.

"It will be for the inspector who holds the East Devon examination to decide whether the council has proposed the correct level of housing supply going forward."

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