And why can developers like Eton College put up their plans every five years?

If you have a longish memory you may remember that Lewes District Council adopted a 20 year development plan in 2017 which set out, amongst other things, which sites were suitable for development in the district.

So why are they asking you for your views about development again?

The answer lies in government policies and the government’s desire to get the best deal possible for property developers.  In 2018 the government introduced new rules that said that councils had to review their development plans every five years.  If they were out of date they had to make a new plan.

Here are just some of the things that can make a plan out of date:

  • Changes in the number of houses that the government thinks the Council should allow to be built.
  • Other changes to national planning policy (apart from the change in 2018 Lewes Council says that there were further changes in 2019 and 2021)
  • The council’s inability to identify enough land for housing development to meet the government’s target for homes.

So the government can ensure that the plan is always out of date simply by changing the rules.  It appears that no councils in East Sussex have a plan that is not out of date at the moment.  Conservative controlled Wealden does not have a plan at all.

IF THE GOVERNMENT KEEPS CHANGING THE RULES COUNCILS WILL HAVE TO DRAW UP NEW 20 YEAR PLANS EVERY FIVE YEARS!

This is because, when they come to look at their plans again, government changes will mean that they will always be out of date.

THAT MEANS THAT IF PROPOSALS LIKE THE ETON COLLEGE PROPOSALS IN EAST CHILTINGTON ARE REJECTED THIS TIME THEY CAN COME BACK IN FIVE YEAR’S TIME AND HAVE ANOTHER GO, AND SO ON AD INFINITUM.

Eton College has had its plans rejected before, but each time the plan has to be re-made, one of the first stages is to ask developers to put forward sites for development.  Then the public has to be consulted (as they are now).  So it looks like every 5 years you will be consulted on 20 year plan.

Lewes Council cabinet member for planning Emily O’Brien estimates that the very shortest time to adopt a new plan is 3 years and that the average time is 7 years.  The plan has to be for at least 15 years, even though it is likely to have to be changed in five year’s time.  So there is the prospect that the council will have to start planning for the next plan before it has finished the last one!

Drawing up a plan is not enough.  You have to get it approved by a government inspector.  If the inspector does not agree it is open season for developers.  One of the main reasons for rejection is that the council wants to see fewer houses built but the inspector says that they have not made a case for this.  So there is pressure on councils to agree the maximum number of houses.  If they do not agree to the Eton College plan there is pressure on them to agree sites elsewhere.  The more times you have to put forward a plan the greater the risk of having it rejected and the more pressure there is on you to allow more houses.

The Eye thinks this is why the government has set up the system as it is.

Obviously you should respond to the consultation. You have till 3rd September to do this.  The campaign group  Don’t urbanise the Downs has some suggestions for responses here

But be aware that you may have to do it all again in five year’s time.  This is clearly down to the Government.  You might want to ask our local MP, Maria Caulfield, who is part of that government, what she thinks of this.