Otterton residents must wait until May 2021 to vote on future vision for village

Residents will have to wait until May 2021 before they can vote on a blueprint that will help shape future developments in Otterton. 

The Neighbourhood Plan aims to ensure the village continues to be an outstanding place to live, work and visit and to preserve and enhance its historical significance and built environment.

It also insists that any new development should meet the needs of the local inhabitants first, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

The document has been declared ‘sound’ by a government planning inspector and a public referendum is needed for it to come into legal force.

However, the Coronavirus Act 2020 says no public votes can be held before May 5, 2021.

Questions were raised about how this would impact the people of Otterton at the July meeting of East Devon District Council (EDDC).

Councillor Paul Hayward said: “This is a referendum-ready version of the plan and, for the people of Otterton, if a planning application in Otterton comes up now, and through no fault of the people of Otterton, will they be able to rely on the plan and the report that has been found referendum-ready?

“Will it receive any legal weight between now and May 2021, or is it simply a piece of paper that counts for nothing?”

EDDC’s service lead for planning Ed Freeman said that the plan would carry ‘significant weight’- but not as much as if it had been through a referendum.

The authority’s chief executive Mark Williams added that there was no provision within the Coronavirus Act to allow for a postal ballot to be held.

He added: “It would be a brave inspector who didn’t give the weight to a Neighbourhood Plan because adoption of it was delayed due to Covid-19.”

The cabinet unanimously agreed to endorse the examiner’s recommendations on the Otterton Neighbourhood Plan and agreed that a ‘referendum version’ of the Plan should proceed to a vote when one can be held.

Reducing the volume and speed of traffic through the village – and heavy goods vehicles – are listed in the blueprint as a priority, as well as resisting any future expansion of the Ladram Bay Holiday Park.

Resisting expansion of popular holiday park and reducing traffic are priorities in future vision for Otterton

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