East Devon: Lack of access to schools and healthcare among the concerns raised during talks to agree sites for new homes in Exmouth, Sidmouth and Honiton

Talks have been held to identify fresh sites for new homes in East Devon when the district council this week met to agree potential locations in Exmouth, Honiton and Sidmouth.

East Devon is pressing ahead with its local plan 2020-2040 with recommendations to endorse the sites suggested for development, despite protests from several strategic planning committee members, writes local democracy reporter Georgia Cornish.

On Tuesday (September 6) the committee at East Devon District Council (EDDC) discussed a report outlining a number of preferred and “second best” sites for what they call tier one and two settlements around the district that may be suitable for development.

The tier system references a hierarchy of settlements being discussed, with tier one indicating places in Exmouth, tier two being Honiton and Sidmouth, three covering Axminster, Seaton, Ottery St Mary, Budleigh Salterton and Cranbrook and finally, tier four which includes Clyst St Mary, Uplyme, Colyton, Beer, Broadclyst, Lympstone, Woodbury and Dunkeswell.

Concerns raised in the report included the current plan failing to reach the desired number of new homes – it is currently expected to be 1,899 properties short.

Allocating additional “second best” sites could alleviate the shortfall in tiers one and two, with additional housing planned for tiers three and four once assessments have begun at that level.  Housing density, currently being modelled at “reasonably typical standard density levels,” could be increased too.  Other adjustments could limit the shortfall, as could expanding Cranbrook.

While some objections were raised about the locations of the proposed developments, more concern was expressed about the lack of infrastructure to support these new settlements.

Councillor Jess Bailey [Independent, West Hill and Aylesbeare] said the target for housing was “incredibly burdensome,” and that she feared the manner in which the proposed sites have been assessed is “too anecdotal”.

She called for more refined assessments, ones that outline what would happen should infrastructure such as schools and healthcare provision be lacking.

The lack of infrastructure across Devon has been highlighted recently in a BBC survey finding that no dental practices in the county are accepting adult NHS patients. The waiting list is reported to have reached 78,000 patients last summer, with an increasing number of dentists dropping patients from their NHS lists.

The recommendations, backed by the majority of committee members, will be applied to future plans and revisited at future meeting.

The strategic planning committee will meet again on Friday (September 9) to discuss plans for tier three and four settlements.

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