Duty to co-operate

12 Feb

It is interesting that, on Day 1, the Planning Inspector for EDDC’s Local Plan has picked up on EDDC’s failure to co-operate with adjacent authorities – in this case Exeter and West Dorset.  In the case of the latter it appears that only one meeting has ever taken place.

It should be stressed that the duty to co-operate is NOT a duty to agree – but councils have to show that they have had enough discussion with adjacent authorities to make them fully aware of their constraints or needs and to acknowledge these when building their own local plans.

What this shows quite clearly is, firstly, how difficult it is to co-operate with East Devon District Council!  We, as residents, have found that EDDC really does not like having to talk to others about what is going on in the district:  they prefer to have everything kept “in house” and officers guard their information like it is a hoard of precious gems rather than something to be transparently shared.

It also shows that EDDC relies on “old boy networks” to dispense what little information it allows to get out and to receive what information it gets in.  In the case of employment land, it relied far too much on formal and informal contacts with the East Devon Business Forum.  We should also bear in mind that former senior EDDC officers are now very senior officers with planning duties in Teignbridge and at Exeter City Council.  It may be that the unconscious transfer of information between these authorities (the information already in the heads of said officers) may not always make it to the written word, it being assumed that because they KNOW they have co-operated that should be enough.  Good, transparent record keeping and dissemination of information is the key here.

If EDDC falls at this hurdle, it means that we are in free-for-all developer land for many more months and possibly years and a number of local plans of other authorities have already shown how important this step is.  EDDC knows this and has known it throughout the lifetime of the production of the Local Plan.  Falling at this hurdle will mean some very serious questions about how this could have been allowed to happen.

Of course, there would be many, many people who would be very happy to see falling at this first hurdle happen, just as the problems of bringing the plan to this stage which allowed the current free-for-all must have also made them very happy.



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