West Devon Borough Council has completed its review into the outline planning permission for a development on Plymouth Road. The review makes strong recommendations to the Council, detailing how it should improve management of Major Planning Applications in the future.

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The review was set up after West Devon Borough Council granted outline planning permission for the development of land at Plymouth Road, Tavistock.

This development was for 250 homes and land for commercial use.  After the Council approved the outline planning application, local councillors and residents raised concerns about how the decision was made. 

As a result, the Chief Executive, Andy Bates, and the Council Leader Cllr Neil Jory, agreed that a review should be carried out by one of the Council's Senior Legal Specialists.

The review is now complete and a report, which will be discussed by the Council's Development Management and Licencing Committee on 27 October, has now been published.

The Leader of West Devon Borough Council, Cllr Neil Jory Said: "As the Leader of the Council, I was very troubled when councillors and local residents made their concerns known to me.  

"We strive to deliver a robust and transparent planning service and the local ward members expressed their concerns to me with such strength of feeling, that I was adamant we should thoroughly review what had happened.

"I believe that it is important as a planning authority that we do review our processes, address concerns and constantly seek to improve how we work.

"I would firstly like to make it clear that Cllrs Adam Bridgewater and Mandy Ewings the local ward members for Tavistock South West,  in allowing the application under the scheme of delegation, did make the only decision that they could have with the information that they were given.  I also acknowledge that the Dartmoor ward Cllr Mark Renders was never consulted about the application and therefore could not represent his electorate for this application. All of the Councillors involved have now received an apology from officers for shortcoming in our internal processes, which are now being addressed.

"However, whilst it is clear from the review that there are things which could have been done differently, I am pleased to say that we have learnt a lot from this review. I am also confident that we now have a way forward that will significantly improve the planning service that we offer for the future."

The Review concludes that the concerns raised by ward members were valid and it makes a number of recommendations for how the service might improve:  The recommendations are aimed at: 

•       giving Members more detailed information about planning applications;
•       ensuring that decisions on planning applications are taken on a sound basis;
•       making the Council's decision-making arrangements clearer and more accountable; and
•       encouraging proactive and constructive working with town and parish councils on planning applications.

In addition to reviewing the handling of the planning application, the report makes recommendations for the next steps in the development of the Plymouth Road site.

To address some of the concerns raised, the report recommends changes be negotiated with those parties involved in the development's draft planning document, known as a section 106 agreement.  A Section 106 agreement is an agreement between a local planning authority, such as the Council and the owners of the land to be developed.  Section 106 agreements, or more simply planning agreements, can:

•       restrict the development or use of land eg a house to be used by a person as their only or main home; 

•       require works to be carried out in, on, under or over land eg open space to be laid out and maintained;

•       require land to be used in a particular way eg used only for affordable housing; or

•       require money to be paid to a local planning authority eg contributions for primary school or road infrastructure. 

The report suggests that the changes to be sought should mainly be about how the contributions towards primary school and transport are to be calculated and how they can be spent.

 

Issued:  22/10/2020