Day 5 of the marathon enquiry was largely devoted to cross examination of the developers’ main witness, David Seaton. He was grilled, and probed, and quizzed over endless fine details of county and district plans, housing allocation policies and numbers, and much more. This was often dry and gave us hope as some of the developers’ case lost its shine.
Villagers had a chance to ask questions, and Don Mildenhall made the case for how little connection the site has with Exmouth, and how the green wedge would become a green sliver. Mark Robertson took up complaints about poor consultation by the developer, but was eventually stopped by the inspector, as he cannot take these into account in making his decision. Helen Dimond added two questions about the so called ‘defensible’ new boundary and Cllr Eastley rounded off with a ‘what’s in it for Lympstone?’ question. (The answer to this last one appears to be not a lot at all – see below.)
There was then discussion about ‘planning obligations’ which are things the developer agrees to commit to do or to pay for if the appeal is allowed. This is known as a ‘section 106 agreement’ and is an agreement between the developer and EDDC – they have already ‘done the deal’! This includes affordable housing (and how it would be administered – priority to Lympstone & Exmouth residents), money for schools, sports facilities (Phear Park improvements suggested; nothing for Lympstone at all) and other things like £61,000 to the RSPB to help the cirl buntings (even though the bulldozers would frighten them away).
Tomorrow it ends – finishing the 106 details and hearing closing submissions. Then the inspector will make his own further site visit, particularly to visit a dozen or more viewpoints he has been asked to look at and from by ourselves and the EDDC landscape officer.
After that, it will all go quiet for at least 6-8 weeks whilst the inspector weighs what he has heard and read, prepares his report and decides whether to dismiss or allow the appeal. Both we and EDDC officers see this decision as critical to the future of housing planning, not just for us, but across East Devon.