There is growing and justified alarm in Exeter about the planning “free for all” taking place over the city boundary in East Devon and Teignbridge. This is being felt particularly acutely in Pinhoe and Alphington, where developers have put in proposals for thousands of new homes on East Devon and Teignbridge land just over the Exeter boundary. Our city council has no power to stop these developments and, because neither East Devon nor Teignbridge yet have their local plans in place, developers are more or less free to do what they want in those areas.
Under the coalition Government’s controversial new planning laws local authorities are supposed to draw up local plans as frameworks for development in their areas. Labour Exeter submitted its plan in July 2010 and it was formally approved nearly two years ago in February 2012. But Tory run East Devon and Teignbridge dragged their feet. They finally submitted their local plans in August and June last year respectively, but neither has yet had its plan approved by the Inspector. So, Exeter can control the nature and size of developments within its own borders – as it did recently by turning down a controversial application at Home Farm in Pinhoe. But East Devon and Teignbridge have sparked what is in effect a planning free for all in their areas because of their failure to publish and get approved their local plans. And it’s the people of Alphington, Pinhoe and places like Feniton who are paying the price.
A sensible way to approach our need for more housing is in a planned strategic way, like the new settlement at Cranbrook and sustainable development in the towns and villages of East Devon and Teignbridge, to help them grow and remain viable. It is not to allow an unplanned urban sprawl from Exeter ever outwards.
A cynic might say what’s happening is rather convenient for East Devon and Teignbridge. All this new housing gets plonked on Exeter’s doorstep. East Devon and Teignbridge get all the new council tax income, while we in Exeter get all the new pressure on our roads, schools and other infrastructure and public services. It also takes the pressure off councillors in East Devon and Teignbridge to take the politically difficult but necessary decisions to approve new homes in their own towns and villages.
Even supporters of the current Government are now displaying alarm at the political price they fear they might have to pay for this planning anarchy. See these two recent articles from the Conservative supporting Telegraph:
Under pressure from MPs in cities like Exeter, the Labour Party has pledged it will address these problems if it gets back into Government, including, crucially, allowing growing cities like Exeter to expand their political boundaries giving us long overdue control over what happens on the edge of our cities.