AN East Devon District Council committee on friday unanimously voted to defer a decision on a proposal for up to 300 new homes off Hayne Lane, Honiton, in the parish of Gittisham.

The decision came after late submissions from official bodies asked to comment on the possible impact of the new homes.

EDDC’s Development Management Committee (DMC) had referred the application to the Site Inspections Committee on April 3 and later that month the latter committee resolved to approve the proposal.

Since then, concerns have been raised by the EDDC ward member, Councillor Susie Bond, and by Gittisham Parish Council about the degree of consideration given to the possible impact on Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

EDDC’s Chief Executive ruled that the resolution should not be acted upon and that the Site Inspections Committee should meet again on July 11 to address the particular concerns.

Impact In the days running up to the new meeting, comments were received from a number of bodies that had been asked to assess the impact of the application on their particular area of expertise – known as Statutory Consultees. These include Natural England and the NHS *.

These comments were all received much later than the official deadline, but planning officers advised the committee that whilst this was “regrettable”, the council was legally obliged to take their comments into account.

On 10 July, EDDC also received a letter from the Department of Communities and Local Government, which oversees local authority procedures, directing the council to refer any decision on the proposal to the Department.

EDDC’s Development Manager, Ed Freeman, read a statement* to the committee on 11 July, informing members of all the latest developments affecting the proposal.

In the light of this, committee chairman Councillor Helen Parr, proposed from the chair that a decision on the application should be deferred to give officers time to prepare a full updated report for members.

Speakers She invited Councillor Bond, Councillor David Fallows, Chairman of Gittisham Parish Council, and the agent for the applicants, Mr John Baird, to speak.

Councillors Bond and Fallows supported the deferral, but asked that the decision be deferred back to DMC, which the chairman was advised is not procedurally possible under the council’s constitution.

The applicant’s agent opposed the deferral and argued that the new comments did not constitute objections and were not sufficient reason to put off making a decision.

The six members of the Inspections Sub Committee voted unamously to defer a decision on the application to a later date, to allow officers to prepare a new report.

Mrs Parr said the late submissions from some statutory consultees were “unhelpful and regrettable”.

Councillor Alan Dent, acting vice chairman of the committee, said the decision to defer “demonstrates democracy at work”. Councillor Geoff Pook said the purpose of the committee was to “deliver good planning decisions for the benefit of East Devon”.

Editor’s Notes *Below is the full statement read to the committee by Development Manager Ed Freeman: As Members will be aware this application was reported to the Development Management Committee on the April 3 and deferred for consideration by the Planning Inspections Committee to consider the sustainability of the location and the impact on the highway network. Having done so this committee resolved to approve the application on the April 25.

Following this resolution concerns were raised by the ward member and parish council among others that the report did not specifically consider Policy EN1(Developments Affecting Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) of the adopted Local Plan. A number of other concerns were also raised.

As a result of this the Chief Executive has determined that this resolution would not be acted upon and that the matter be brought back to the committee to reconsider following amendments to the report to address these points. Such a report is provided within the agenda papers.

Since the report that appears in the agenda was written and indeed in the last few days a number of consultees on this matter have very belatedly submitted comments in respect to this application that we did not have the benefit of when writing the report that is before Members today. These are: • A last minute letter of concern from Natural England regarding the potential significant impact of the development on the purposes of the designation of the East Devon and Blackdown Hills AONB’s • Late comments from both the Blackdown Hills and East Devon AONB partnerships regarding the potential impacts on their respective AONB’s.

• Only yesterday a letter from the NHS was received regarding the additional healthcare infrastructure that may be required to serve the needs of the increased population in the area. They suggest that further discussions are necessary to “....understand the scope and intention of the development understand what mitigating actions would be required”.

• Further comments this week from Devon County Council as Education authority regarding the demands that this development would place and school place provision at Honiton Primary in future years due to demographic changes in the town.

In addition to these comments we have also received yesterday a direction from DCLG not to grant permission for this development without specific authorisation from the Secretary of State. This means that any resolution to grant permission for this development would have to be referred to the Secretary of State for him to determine if the application should be called in for consideration.

While the comments from Natural England and the AONB teams do not constitute formal objections they do warrant further consideration of the issues raised. Furthermore the comments from the NHS raise new issues of which we were not previously aware. It is regretable that some of the consultees mentioned have waited until the eleventh hour before making us aware of the views on this case, however we have a legal obligation to consider their comments regardless of when they were submitted. It is therefore considered that officers are no longer in a position to make a recommendation to Members today regarding how this application should be determined.

Further consideration and discussion needs to take place. As a result I would like to recommend that Members defer this application to enable this further work to be carried out. The matter to then be reported back to the committee at a future date when all of the necessary information and professional advice can be made available to Members in the officer’s report so that a fully informed decision can be made.

The applicants and their agent have been informed of this change in recommendation and have asked me to make Members aware that they do not believe that the matters I have mentioned constitute grounds for a deferral. They believe these matters could be addressed through a resolution subject to certain matters being resolved. If deferred they have stated that they will have to consider their position with regards to an appeal for non-determination and an application for an award of costs in the event of an appeal.

I am however convinced that we are not in a position today to make a sound decision on this matter and that the risks associated with making an unsound decision today significantly outweigh the risks of deferral. I would therefore ask Members to consider the recommendation of deferral.