Barnstaple councillors says the Government-inspired delay in the Local Plan simply leaves the region open to more development despite what the council and community might say

Brian Greenslade. Picture: Andy KeebleBrian Greenslade. Picture: Andy Keeble

The latest twist in the saga of the Local Plan has left North Devon and Torridge an 'open goal' for developers.

Councillor Brian Greenslade made the claim following a series of public sessions in Barnstaple as the Government's Planning Inspectorate assessed the draft plan - which will be a development blueprint for the area until 2031.

Inspector Wendy Burden suggested more work was needed and recommended the councils adopt a 20 per cent 'buffer' of deliverable development sites - known as the 'five year land supply', for population growth.

The councils had aimed at five per cent. It means more consultation work must be carried out and the plan might not be ready until July.

Without the plan or 'buffer' in place, the councils may find it harder to refuse applications and there is a greater chance of losing at appeal.

North Devon Council's shadow leader Mr Greenslade said he felt the council and its officers had done their jobs.

He said: "Local planning is a nonsense, it's all dictated by central government. These planning inspectors just have far too much power and local democracy comes to nothing.

"It's an open goal for developers."

He said councils' jobs had only been made harder by the Government's recent Planning and Housing Bill, adding: "If authorities try to do their proper job, the developer can say they are being held up so they can use the powers of the bill to demand the planning permission."

Mike Kelly, chief planning officer at North Devon Council, said: "The appointed inspector confirmed the plan represents an aspirational but realistic basis for meeting the area's housing needs through to 2031.

"However, as there has been a shortfall in housing completions since the beginning of the plan period in 2011 due to slow sales rates and market uncertainty, the inspector has recommended that the two councils review the present land availability position."