Archive | October, 2012

Government to relax planning laws and building regulations further

27 Oct

Current building regulations are to be slashed according to stories appearing in daily newspapers today.  It is feared that regulations covering wheelchair access, space, fire and security, structural requirements and energy savings and other regulations such as those covering safety and water conservation will be ripped up.   Housebuilders will be free to self-regulate and pick and choose what they incorporate into the houses they build.

A four man “challenge panel” is to suggest ways of cutting regulations to make housebuilding easier.  Housebuilders generally have welcomed the news (they will be represented on the “challenge panel”) but some developers have said that building regulations are a relatively unimportant barrier to growth, it is the lack of finance for schemes which is holding them back.

One big builder/developer – Crest Nicolson – has said not been quite so enthusiastic, a spokesperson saying,  “None of us want to go back to poor design, poor building standards and low energy efficiency.  It might be good for reducing costs but this industry needs to be taking a view that a house needs to last 100 years – there why shouldn’t society demand very high standards”.

And all just in time for the Knowle redevelopment.

What does EDDC know that we don’t?

26 Oct

On the bottom of all the advertisments for EDDC jobs in this week’s Sidmouth Herald is the sentance: “It is proposed that the main Council offices will relocate from Sidmouth to Honiton in early 2015”.  Isn’t it supposed to be dependent on it being a cost-neutral exercise and not at all certain that this may be the case until all the numbers are in and the pros and cons have been weighed up by councillors at a later date?

Should it not read “It is possible that the main Council offices may relocate from Sidmouth at some point in the future”?  Or should it even be there at all?

Conservative MP objects to 800 homes next to Anne Hathaway’s cottage

26 Oct

Full story in the Stratford Herald here.  [This story will also appear in tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph but as yet there is no web link to the story].  Yet another Conservative MP willing to speak up for his constituency.

Stratford-on-Avon District Council rejected the plans partly because it would affect the character of the area and damage tourism.  It was sent to Mr Pickles at the Department of Local Government and Local Communities on appeal by the developer and was waved through by Nick Boles the planning minister on behalf of Mr Pickles under the new “presumption in favour of sustainable development” clause in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Local Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi said that he was “shocked to learn of the approval agains the clear wishes of local residents, their elected representatives and the planning policy direction of the Government “.  The MP went on to criticise Mr Pickles because he had simply gone along with the advice of his civil servants and had not himself visited the site and also said “The appeal system clearly made us vulnerable, which does seem against the Government’s objectives of localism”.

So, if as Mr Swire points out, EDDC must follow the same procedures as a private applicant, if the decision of councillors is NOT to approve the planning application will officers then appeal the decision and get it passed in the same way as this one?  An interesting conundrum.

The Knowle … Hugo Swire is … neutral.

26 Oct

According to today’s Sidmouth Herald (which has some excellent readers’ letters) our MP Hugo Swire is neutral about EDDC’s move from the Knowle but, just to be sure that the proper processes are used he has written to Eric Pickles (Department of Communities and Local Government) to ask him to be sure that this is the case.  Eric has written back and said due to all the correspondence he might possibly call the decision in when it has been made but only if it is of regional or national importance [well, then, it depends on what you call regional one assumes].  But Mr Pickles is also sure that proper processes will be followed but does add that if they are not then constituents have recourse to the courts.  So, not very reassuring so far when basically he is saying – well, if they do something wrong and we don’t pick it up you can always pay very, very expensive lawyers to fight your case in the very, very expensive legal system.

But let us get back to Mr Swire.  He is neutral.  Why?  Irrespective of whether or not the planning application procedure is followed what we have here is a major employer in his constituency planning to up sticks and take all its jobs to another constituency.  What is there to be neutral about that?  True the jobs are going to an adjacent Conservative constituency but surely that is not the point – they are leaving his constituency.  He should be fighting tooth and nail to keep the jobs here – that’s his job as our MP.

To declare or not to declare?That is the question….

26 Oct

Sent in by correspondent Hercules:

Council leader Paul Diviani proudly admits that he is a founder-member of the East Devon Business Forum, and has attended 27 of their meetings. He often declares an interest in the AONB in council meetings.  But strangely he failed to declare an interest in the EDBF when he was chairman of the planning committee in 2009-10 which approved 5 major applications by fellow EDBF members. Puzzling!

New revised outline plans for Knowle, better or much worse?

26 Oct

See post, and following comments, under heading ‘EDDC’s new revised outline plan for Knowle. Should public resubmit objections? ‘

How did Totnes stop Costa Coffee?

26 Oct

Well, one reason is that local MP Sarah Wollaston and Totnes Mayor Pruw Boswell met the Costa Chairman and after that discussion Costa pulled out, even though they had signed a lease on the shop.  Yet another example of a Conservative MP putting the constituency first.  Totnes said in its petition that they wanted to “strengthen the local economy, reduce the cost of living and prepare for a future with less oil and a changing climate.

The town’s Action Manager added “The idea of communities standing up and saying ‘you’re not right for us has got a lot more traction than it had before”

How refreshing!  And how true.

Councillor Diviani ‘speaks frankly’.

25 Oct
An observer at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the Knowle this evening (25/10/12) writes:
‘The Chair, Cllr Stuart Hughes, asked The Leader about his reported claim that access to the Alexandria Road was “too problematic”. Cllr Paul Diviani said he would have liked more notice of the question. He then said he had no recollection of making any such statement to the reporter from the Sidmouth Herald.’
So the reporter ‘obviously misreported him, or misinterpreted him, or misheard him!’
The observer has written to the Herald to ask, ‘Will you publish an apology and clarification next week, or will you ask Diviani to give us all a clarification of what he really said? There are several other clarifications needed from Cllr Diviani but I will save them for later. The claim that the Herald cannot be relied on to tell us what councillors say is the most important point I am sure you will agree.’

Conservative Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport opposes government on her borough’s Local Plan

25 Oct

Alas, not a story about Hugo Swire!  Basingstoke Conservative MP and Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller has written to her local council opposing the number of houses they intend to put in their Local Plan because she fears that the Borough’s natural environment may suffer.  Full story here

She says “Local people have said clearly that they want to see fewer houses built in future years, and it should be for them to shape the future of the borough” and goes on “Housing numbers should be based on evidence not just of population growth and household size, but also of the impact housing development has had on our environment and water quality, and the ability of our infrastructure and water supply to cope with more.  It is about getting the balance right – the right number of homes for our community, built in a sustainable way. What I have is a question mark if more could be done to understand that impact.  We are guardians of our community, and we need to protect it for the next generation.”

Yet another example of how some local constituency MPs are prepared to put their constituents first.

Leading from behind?

25 Oct

Some results from the 2011 EDDC elections:

% of votes cast in each case : 81% for Roger Giles, with 1, 546 votes; 67% for Cllr Claire Wright, with 1,364 votes; 0% for Cllr P. Diviani… no election, as unopposed.