Archive | December, 2012

Why we may soon be needing a TAFF to look at TAFFs!

22 Dec

Our Beloved Leader, Councillor Diviani, is in yesterday’s Sidmouth Herald attempting to justify the view of the Chief Executive of the EDDC that Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Task and Finish Forum should not be allowed to discuss the influence of the East Devon Business Forum on planning policy.  He reiterates what was in a recent press release from EDDC last week, that “the TAFF is not designed to look at allegations that the EDBF might have had an undue or improper influence over employment land allocation in the Local Plan.  Any allegation is a matter for an independent planning inspector, who will examine the proposals in public next year“.

The Plannning Inspector’s job is NOT to look into allegations of undue or improper influence over any aspect of the Local Plan – that is the job of the Loca Authority BEFORE  it submits its Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate.

This is borne out by a posting on an influential planning blog site, Decisions, Decisions hosted by a planning expert, Andrew Lainton.  He points out that in the Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Document [prepared to guide Local Authorities through the Local Plan submission process] para 7 says

Local Planning Authoritiess should rigorously assess the DPD [Draft Planning Document] before it is published under Regulation 27 [i.e. before it is submitted to the Planning Inspector] to ensure that it is a plan which they think is sound. The document published should be the document they intend to submit under Regulation 30 to the Inspectorate. The 2004 Act specifically provides that a LPA must not submit the DPD unless it considers the document is ready for examination. Changes after submission by the LPA should be unnecessary and may be disregarded by the Inspector unless there are exceptional reasons that justify them.

Note the phrase “rigorously assess”.  It is up to the Local Authority to do all its homework BEFORE the Planning Inspector gets the Local Plan document as the Planning Inspector does not expect it to be in a form that needs changing.  This homework includes dealing with HOW policy was formulated, WHO formulated it, WHY it was formulated and whether it is the BEST evidence that could be presented.

If  a Local Planning Authority has ANY doubt whatsoever about such a process and its effect on the Local Plan it should NOT submit the document.

The public (and some councillors) have expressed grave and serious doubt about the draft Local Plan.  The TAFF was put together because of that doubt.  It should be allowed (and, indeed, encouraged) to do its work BEFORE any Local Plan is submitted to the Planning Inspector to ensure that the draft which is presented is completely sound.

If this TAFF is not allowed to do its work we have to ask the question:  WHY?  And what do we need for that?

A TAFF on the influence of the Chief Executive and the Leader on TAFFs!


Letter in Sidmouth Herald – why it is not necessary to build at the Knowle

21 Dec

There is a very long letter in today’s Sidmouth Herald from a Mr Gavin Cook of Sidbury.  Basically, he makes the point that homes have to go somewhere, so why not the Knowle.

Good point.  The reason why not the Knowle is because there are now so many houses being built and soon to be built in East Devon (thanks to EDDC having failed to prove that it has a five year land supply and the recent planning appeal in Ottery St Mary) that there will be absolutely no need to build on the Knowle at all.  It is already happening in Ottery St Mary, Seaton, Axminster and Feniton – hundreds upon hundreds of houses never planned for.

Watch:  within the next 6-9 months you will see a stampede of planning applications which will be agreed on the back of our having no 5 year land supply and, possibly, then an even greater stampede if our current draft Local Plan is found to be unsound – particularly on the amount of employment land put forward by EDDC.  It will be in built-up areas, outside local boundaries, on green wedges, on flood plains, on high-grade agricultural land – you name it, it will be concreted over.  With GP’s surgeries unable to take more patients, schools unable to take more pupils and roads unable to take more cars and heavy goods vehicles.  In the meantime, flood problems will go unsolved, the new residents will have no access to community facilities and big supermarkets will jump in to fill in the new need for more consumer products.

We will be building housing not just for East Devon and Devon but for all those metropolitan cities which are not building enough houses for their own citizens.

And as for some of these houses being “affordable” – well, let’s just say that EDDC’s affordable may well turn out to be everyone else’s unaffordable.

What price common sense?

21 Dec

When Independent Councillor Claire Wright suggested that second home owners in East Devon should pay full council tax and not 90% she was shot down in flames.

Now we see that Plymouth (Labour) and South Hams (Conservative) have decided to charge second home owners 100% council tax on homes which are in use and 150% council tax on homes unoccupied for more than 2 years.

It seems that in East Devon, political point scoring is more important than revenue raising or common sense.

The case of the disappearing placards

20 Dec

Remember all those SOS placards at November’s Mass March? Anyone know where they are?  They are needed particularly now, and especially in the New Year, when a BIG PUBLICITY drive is planned.

Save our Sidmouth campaigner, Alan Weaver, sends this request:

Prior to the March we had somewhere in the region of 80/90 placards. Marchers were asked to take these and place them in prominent positions around Sidmouth, Sidford and Sidbury to keep the campaign in the minds of passers by.

 Try as I might I have not been able to locate more than 20 in prominent places. Therefore if anyone has one lurking in a garage or shed please put it on display, or ask someone else you know who’s willing to do so.
Alternatively, please tell any SOS member you may know, or leave a message at  (CONTACT US ), so that the placard can be collected and placed somewhere else.
The purpose of the BIG PUBLICITY drive is to alert people to the January 14th deadline. Public  reponses to EDDC’s revised Local Plan must be sent in by that date.  EDDC is then obliged to present the  Government Inspector, due in Summer 2013, with all registered public comments. The more there are, the sooner the Inspector’s attention will be drawn to the Plan’s serious flaws.
Advice on how to respond to EDDC will be posted on the SOS and SIN websites from the first week in January. Meanwhile, see reminder, and DOCUMENTS on

East Devon’s Economic Development Strategy

20 Dec

Search for “East Devon District Council Economic Development Strategy” and you will find a link to one single page on the EDDC website.

It says there:  The Economic Unit seeks to collaborate with employers, businesses, local communities and other stakeholders to identify issues and outcomes that can be influenced by local action.  Efforts are made to strengthen the work and influence of the East Devon Business Forum and to identify other means of improving dialogue between the Council and internal and external stakeholders. Further information available online via ED Business Forum or

So, we can all see how it intended to do its work, hand in glove with EDBF.

We can, however, find a link to a document called the “East Devon Economy and Development Service Plan 2010-2013 here.  It is useful to look at this document to see what its aim was and whether it achieved them  It listed key outcomes for the service:

• Deliver strategic economic and housing growth in the West End of the district

• Secure an increased supply of affordable housing

• Enhance the role of the market and coastal towns

• Improve accessibility to economic activity

• Secure effective and targeted regeneration in Exmouth and Seaton

• Overcome potential delivery constraints

• Support high standards of sustainable development

• Promote measures to deliver low carbon economic development

• Management of the Council’s assets to deliver corporate priorities and services

Just how many of those aims do you think EDDC has achieved?

A really good bit, under Priority 7″An Inspirational Council” (!) states that EDDC intends” to produce a Development Framework (Local LDF), with the finalisation of the Core Strategy by the end of the 2010 for subsequent submission to the Secretary of State in 2011. So, it’s nowthe very end of  2012 and, at the very earliest, the Local Plan (as it is now called) may be submitted to the Planning Inspector in 2013 and might take until 2014 to be agreed or found unsound.

How can EDDC get it so wrong?  How could it set itself targets and achievements that it showed it had no ability to reach and no intention to reach?  Will any heads roll?

Perhaps some questioning of the Economy Portfolio Holder (Councillor Godbeer) is in order,

50 shades of Pickles

19 Dec

Sometimes, a blog post just writes itself.  Department of Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles has just published a document entitled “50 ways to save: Examples of sensible savings in Local Government.  This is a MUST READ for East Devon residents!

My pick of the crop?  Definitely number 37:

37:  Cease funding “sock puppets” and “fake charities”.  Many pressure groups – which do not deliver srvices or help the vulnerable – are now funded by state bodies.  In turn, these nominally “independent” groups lobby and call for more state regulation and more state funding.  A 2009 survey found that £37 million a year was spent on taxpayer-funded lobbying and political campaigning across the public sector.  Many of these causes may be worthy, but why should they be funded by taxpayers? …..

Now, if that isn’t a justification, from the Minister himself, for the East Devon Business Forum to stop sponging on the taxpayer and starting to pay their own way.  These big companies, landowners and developers at EDBF have said that they “can’t afford” subscriptions to pay for their lobbying so we, the taxpayers of East Devon, are doing it instead.  Way to go Mr Pickles!!!

Others that catch the eye when you live in East Devon.

Number 17:  hot desking, rationalisation and sub-letting. Well, a lot of EDDC officers don’t seem to be at their desks when we ring in … and Friday is rather dead at the Knowle with all those people working at home.

Number 18 and 19:  open pop-up shops in spare office space (18) and find that spare office space by closing your subsidised canteen (no 19).  And while you are at it, make yours staff pay the same parking charges for parking at the Knowle as you charge us for parking in your towns.

Number 22:  cut senior pay.  Nuff said – I know where I would start!  “Open up middle management and senior pay to greater public scrutiny”.  So, how much is the Economic Development Manager being paid paid then and how much of his time is spent on EDBF business?

Number 23 Share senior staff and/or (no 24) scrap the Chief Executive post entirely.  Well, we already share our Chief Executive with South Somerset (total population of both districts around 284,000) but the example given is of a Chief Executive shared by Breckland, Luton and South Holland districts (total population of all three districts around 382,000) – now that is a much bigger area in every sense than East Devon and South Somerset so we should be finding somewhere else to take its share of our Chief Executive’s hefty salary.  However, if we don’t want a Chief Executive at all DGLC is making it easier to abolish such posts without councils having to fork out “golden goodbye” payoffs – Leicester City Council believes it will save £175,000 a year from scrapping the post there.

Number 28:  freeze district councillor allowances and end councillor pensions.  Now, I didn’t even KNOW that some (all?) councillors got pension contributions.  What a scandal.  No wonder these people want to keep getting re-elected …. for some of them it is probably just about the money not about representing their electors.

No 38/39/40/41/42/:  Scrap the Town Hall Pravda newspapers, stop providing free food and drink for meetings (DGLC suggests no food and drink for meetings of less than 4 hours and no meetings spanning a lunchtime), reduce first class travel, cut mileage payments and video conference instead of travel.  Well, we are all making sacrifices, so perhaps so should our councillors and officers.

Anyone else got any other ideas for saving money?  Doing away with our district council totally and just having county, towns and parishes perhaps?  Back on the table thanks to Lord Heseltine’s recent report.

Imagine …..

19 Dec

Imagine that an inquiry has been set up to look into the relationship between the government and newspapers.  The government appoints MPs of all parties to participate in an internal inquiry and the date of the first meeting is set.

Members of the public turn up and what do they see?  Sitting with MPs on this inquiry committee are Rupert Murdoch and his son James!  Not in the public gallery, not even with their bevvy of lawyers in ther main room – actually sitting with the committee.  Surely this is a mistake?  You can’t have the very people you are investigating sitting with you!  It gets worse.  Then Rupert Murdoch reads out a statement about why the internal inquiry committee cannot look into his relationship with the government.  Why:  Because the government is giving evidence to another inquiry – an independent one –  looking into the relationship of the press to all sorts of people – the police, people who have been hacked, people on a list who might have been hacked, reporters who may or may not have taken bribe – they are just one element of that public inquiry which might take years to come to a conclusion and, even if it does come to a conclusion, the government doesn’t have to abide by its recommendations.

So, because the government has provided information to one set of people it is not allowed to scrutinise its own procedures or even examine its own evidence to those people put to the inquiry to test its validity  (it is the only body that can do this) and ensure that its own house is in order and its hands are sqeaky clean in the matter.

Rupert then goes on to pretty much run the meeting, dominating throughout the whole meeting.  He instructs themas to what they can and cannot investigate, he tells them who they can call as witnesses.  Thesays the people who believe they have suffered problems with this relationship should DEFINITELY not be called – only people who have benefitted from it.  Meanwhile, son James sits in the shadow of his Dad not saying anything.  However, suddenly a member of the committee pipes up and says:  “Hey, James, that wasn’t a very good article you wrote for us on the role of the press – surely with your expert knowledge you could have written something better?”  James looks VERY annoyed and says “But I didn’t write that article”.  The committee member says “But we asked you to do it and it has your name here, at the end of it” and James says: “Maybe it does, but I didn’t write it”.  So the committee member asks who did.  “Ah, that was my secretary, she wrote it.”    And the committee member says:  “But your name is on it as author”.  James is adamant, “Even though my name is on it, I didn’t write it”.  And the comment is not even in the notes which come out after the meeting.

A committee member asks Rupert Murdoch whether it is usually the case that a newspaper mogul’s son should work for the government and the press  – sitting in David Cameron’s office, being paid by David Cameron but spending most of his time there editing a newspaper (though the newspaper IS supportive of the current government, of course) .  Through gritted teeth Rupert says “Well, no not normally”.

Substitute Mark Williams for Murdoch and Nigel Harrison for his son James, the committee Chairman for the anonymous questioner about the paper and Councillor Mike Allen asking about James and what his job is, and you get the idea.  This is what we have – the very people to be investigated running the whole show and dictating the terms under which the committee does its work. – and writing up the notes!

And it wasn’t even the equivalent of Rebekkah Brooks who wrote the offending article!

Some History of Knowle : 2. The Veitch connection

18 Dec

Old Monty (known locally as King of the Knowle) may be one of the oldest Monterey Pines in England. 

Sidmouth resident, Jean Twibell, has been doing some research. Here are some extracts:

‘The Veitch Nurseries are well known in the horticultural world. John Veitch started work at Killerton before setting up the first nursery locally at Budlake (later became St Bridgets).In the 1850s the family started a second one in Chelsea, and the two ran in parallel for several years. They employed many famous plant hunters including William Lobb. He is recorded as bringing seeds of Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) into this country from an expedition 1849-53. Given the local connection and the possible age of the Monterey pines in the Knowle it seems there would be a possibility that these might be amongst the first introduced into this country. ‘

‘I understand the Monterey pine was then fairly widely planted as a shelter tree in British coastal regions. In the climate of its native California it did not grow particularly large and horticulturists were amazed at its performance in Devon where the climate seemed to be far more favourable. When I went on a walk in the Knowle with the two EDDC tree officers, one was asked how old the biggest Monterey was and he replied “probably dating from 1820”- but that it is too early.’

‘I talked to Caradoc Doy who has written a book about plant introductions via Veitch. The title is ‘Hortus Veitchii’, published originally by the Veitch business James Veitch and Sons. In 2006 a limited edition was published by Caradoc Doy as a private publication. During Harry Veitch’s lifetime 1, 659 plants were introduced. ‘  It will be 100 years next year since Harry Veitch moved the RHS ‘Great Spring Show’ to its present location in the Royal Hospital Grounds in Chelsea.’

Jean concludes:

It is tempting to put together the proximity and importance of the Veitch nursery and the date at which the Knowle would have been planted- but there seems to be no chance of documentary evidence.

Mr Doy told me that all of the plant sales records of the Veitch nursery were destroyed when it was sold and became St Bridgets.Hence no chance of a paper trail unless purchasers of the plants kept records.

That takes us back to Sidmouth museum which does not appear to have any records. If you have any suggestions of further lines to pursue I am happy to follow them up.

The fact that William Lobb brought seed of Monterey pine to Britain in 1850 is recorded in Caradoc’s book. I also keep wondering about the rhododendrons in the south west corner of the Knowle as they look extremely old…..’

If anyone can add to this research, Jean would be delighted to hear from you. Please send your information to CONTACT US, at 

Some history of the Knowle: 1. ‘Old Monty’

18 Dec


Knowle trees 2012

The Knowle parkland has the thickest Monterey Pine in the whole of the UK. In 2009, it’s vital statistics were: height 120 ft. girth 20ft 4 ins (source: . The same source gives this description:

Monterey Pine, although now rare in its native California, is one of the world’s most valuable pines and is the most widely commercially planted one especially in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Spain and South Africa. This is due to its rapid growth (up to six feet per year) and adaptability to poor soils.

Monterey pine is also used extensively in landscaping as a windbreak to prevent erosion, and to quickly provide variety and contrast with its attractive foliage. In their native habitat along the Pacific coast, Monterey pines are famous for their wind-swept, picturesque shape. On very hot days the pine cones can burst open emitting a loud snapping sound.

The old & wrinkly gnarled tree situated in this Sidmouth park has its place in record books as having the biggest diameter of its kind in the UK. Some of the large branches are now so heavy that cables have been attached to prevent them from breaking.

Which of our councillors possess courage and spherical appendages?

18 Dec

It seems that now is the time for many of our councillors to show us exactly why they believe we elected them.

Did we simply vote for the party we have always voted for content to leave it and them to run our lives as they deem fit.  Or did we elect them to represent us, the silent or not-so-silent or very vocal majorities?  After all, all these groups at present seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet.  And it isn’t a party one.

At town and parish level it is often said that party politics has no place.  However, probably given the large amounts of money under the control of councils, it is deemed appropriate for party politics to take precedence at district and county level, sometimes, indeed these days often, even if it flies in the face of common sense or honour.

What does a district councillor do then in these circumstances, where his or her conscience says one thing and the party whip says another?  Accept the party whip and say nothing?  Accept the party whip but give the appearance of independent thought whilst all the time behind the scenes doing as he or she is told?  Or, do the decent and honourable thing and say:  No, this is a step too far even for my party and I cannot in all conscience support what is being done in the name of this party. so on thi particular s issue I will defy it?  Or even, perhaps, say -” you know what, stuff it, I am here for the people of my town or village and I will be independent of you sorry and shabby lot, thank you for nothing and goodbye”.

To do anything but the first two options requires courage, a sense of honour and spherical appendages – which of our councillors possess these attributes?