Exeter Express and Echo has the story, linked here http://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/02/25/east-devon-district-council-accused-of-forcing-a-vote-on-controversial-relocation-project-reports-exeter-express-and-echo/
This letter has been sent to the Pullman’s newspapers by a highly-respected planning consultant, in response to an article in the latest edition of View from Axminster:
‘The announcement of further delays to the Local Plan by EDDC’s leader,
Paul Diviani, is quite incredible.
We are told to believe that these delays are “inevitable”, because were
the public to have sight of a housing needs report before the elections
in May the process “could be seen” as being politically motivated.
Could be seen by whom Mr Diviani? The report itself certainly won’t be
seen by anyone except those select few in EDDC, who then take it upon
themselves to decide what the public should know and what they shouldn’t.
When EDDC presented the new Local Plan at the public inquiry a year ago,
last February, they considered that it was in a form acceptable to the
Inspector, who made it clear from Day 1 that it was anything but. A
clearer case of incompetence would be hard to imagine.
We were then assured that revised housing figures could be produced
within a matter of weeks. A year later, still we wait, now to be told,
with much hand wringing, that we must wait even longer because of the
remote possibility that some unspecified, unidentified persons may see
the process as “politically motivated”.
The only reason for withholding the housing needs report is that it is
likely that housing needs will be shown to be higher than the figures
presented by EDDC a year ago. The consequence of this is that villages
and communities in East Devon will be allocated higher housing figures
than previously. This is highly unlikely to go down to well with the
vast majority of communities in East Devon, some of which have already
seen proposals by developers to hugely increase housing on greenfield
sites (think of Feniton, Gittisham, and more recently Clyst St Mary).
If there is political motivation behind delaying the release of these
reports that can only come from the Tory majority on EDDC.
Finally, who benefits from this further delay? An unholy trinity of
landowners and developers, who stand to profit massively in the interim
period before a new Local Plan is in place, and last, but not least,
their chums on EDDC.
As Chair of Save Our Sidmouth, Richard Thurlow, explains in this letter published today in the Sidmouth Herald (13/02/2015):
The Herald published an article last week, confirming that Sidmouth Town Council were adamantly opposed to an EDDC application to “appropriate and dispose” of parkland at the Knowle for housing. Many organisations, (not only in the Town), and members of the public are also horrified at EDDC’s intentions.
The land EDDC wish to sell for housing comprises their own offices, and an area of parkland, which is Public Open Space, and which forms most of the terraces in front of them.
• EDDC acknowledges that the Terrace is Public Open Space but says that it is not required, and wants to build on it.
• They are wrong. It is regularly used by the public as part of the Knowle Parkland and Gardens and its loss would be detrimental to the Public’s enjoyment of this asset.
• Building on the Terrace and other Parkland would have a serious adverse visual effect on the appearance of the Parkland, and destroy many trees.
• One of the reasons why planning permission was refused last year for the earlier scheme was the loss of Public Open Space. It was turned down because it was stated that the land formed an important amenity for the residents of Sidmouth and should be retained for the benefit of the community. The Planning Committee were not satisfied that the land was surplus to requirements. EDDC should respect that decision and not try to take a second bite.
• EDDC show, in the current Local Plan, that all of the Parkland, right up to the buildings is designated as Sports and Open Space land under Policy RE1, and should be retained.
• Footpaths cross the Terraces, and Devon County Council propose to register these as public rights of way subject to the outcome of a Public Inquiry to be held in September. A prior change of use and disposal of the land would prejudice this.
• EDDC will make the decision, but will also have a financial interest in it as they intend to sell it to a Developer. There is no way that they can make a decision in “good faith”.
The public have been ”invited” to comment by EDDC by 20th February, but they alone will make a decision, without any opportunity for challenge.
They have to be stopped. They have already wasted £750,000 on this exercise, which if it goes ahead will see a fine building and immediately surrounding parkland destroyed and replaced with a large Care home and a Retirement complex. All to fund a highly debateable move to Honiton and Exmouth, for which the claimed “costs savings” have already show to be very suspect.
I believe that it is ESSENTIAL, that EDDC receives as many comments on their proposal as possible, and would urge you all to do so.
Please send your comments to EDDC’s Legal Department at the Knowle, Sidmouth EX108HL, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting reference OFF.1-0014/HGL
Comments to EDDC’s Legal Department before 20th February. ref OFF.1-0014/HGL.’