Archive | December, 2012

Creative cartography at EDDC?

17 Dec

The fight to save yet another historic East Devon landmark, namely the Longboat house at Budleigh Salterton, has brought to light another flawed EDDC document. This time it is an erroneous map, as leading opponent, David Daniel, explains.

He writes, ‘ What numeracy skills EDDC may lack to count staff and do arithmetic, it makes up for with its creative abilities. For example, in January 2012 EDDC published a map, just in time for the February DMC, purporting to show that the Longboat in Budleigh Salterton did not lie within the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (WHS) footprint. The agreement protocol on the precise definition of the boundary was drawn up between UK Government and UNESCO. The formal protocol uses words to define the WHS boundary, rather than maps, in recognition that as cliffs fall so the precise boundary may change. Budleigh Salterton is unusual in that the whole of its beach, unlike most town beaches, is not excluded and lies within the site. The words defining the site in the agreed protocol are as follows: 

Budleigh Salterton Cliffs is an SSSI notified only for its geological interests, and is covered by two GCR sites (1507 Budleigh Salterton, Permian – Triassic and 1837 Budleigh Salterton, Coastal Geomorphology of England). The boundary of the Site (WHS) at Budleigh Salterton is taken as coinciding with the boundary of the SSSI that covers the cliffs fronting the town. 

The SSSI boundary includes the Longboat and both the Jurassic Coast Management Team and Natural England agree that the WHS does indeed encompass the Longboat. But EDDC, at ratepayers’ expense, have not drawn the WHS boundary coincident with the SSSI at this point (it gets in the way of the planning proposal). 

Only the Government and UNESCO can change the protocol but this does not seem to have deterred EDDC drawing their own interpretation. It is very difficult for councillors to challenge this sort of “evidence” presented by officials at a DMC. After all they should be relied on to be unbiased.’

Mr Daniel goes on to say,‘ You may be aware that a group of us in Budleigh Salterton are seeking to take EDDC to a Judicial Review on procedural grounds, with a preliminary oral hearing scheduled for late February. That a group of individuals is prepared to hazard substantial sums if costs are awarded against them, should be seen as a measure of the scale of the discontent felt at the way that EDDC push the boundaries of the planning process to force through decisions in the face of local opposition, using these sorts of devices.  We think this discontent is widespread throughout East Devon and councillors should wake up and take note.’

 

New town for Blackdown Hills

16 Dec

Would anyone like to join a new group to campaign for a new town in the Blackdown Hills?

We’re all in this together…

16 Dec
Yet-another battle against EDDC planners is being waged in Exmouth. See SIN  14 Dec  Exmouth or East Berlin..(before the Wall came down, that is…)
Here’s an update, just received from the Friends of Elizabeth Hall:
 
The EDDC has now confirmed receipt of the FoEH complaints and have agreed to reply within 4 weeks, Christmas permitting.
The basis of the complaints fall under two categories – The “code of conduct” rules and the EDDC “constitutional” rules.
Because Code of Conduct investigations are confidential, we cannot let you know their contents just now, but we can let you know the details of the process complaint as follows:-
1) We have questioned the inclusion on the bid recommendations panel of an EDDC officer, the inclusion of councillors who expressed a prior preference and the inclusion of councillors from the Exmouth Regeneration Board, responsible for helping to draft the Masterplan, so providing evidence that 60% of the panel members had a prior bias against the FoEH bid before the tender was put in, so breaking the EDDC constitutional rules governing impartiality.
2) We have questioned the validity of the consultation processes used by the EDDC to justify local support for the sale, with evidence showing that the methodology used was out of date, that it was not recommended by the Audit Commission as good practice, as was implied by one EDDC officer, and shown (using maths) that the results were publicly spun in the media in order to make them look more conclusive than they really were.
We have provided evidence that shows respondents to the consultation complained of being misled, rushed and not permitted to express ‘negative’ views. We have argued that whilst 75% of the Community Associations who took part in the consultation wanted to retain the Elizabeth Hall and older quality buildings, these results were ignored by the EDDC because the ‘conservative estimate of £600k from the sale’ was already included in their capital receipt estimates as early as 2009.
We have provided evidence that shows the EDDC broke Freedom of Information Laws by withholding information when asked to release the source materials and qualifications of the people involved in the consultation analysis, so preventing an independent analysis to take place.
3) We have disputed the public claim on the EDDC’s website that the FoEH group asked the EDDC for funding and have provided evidence which confirms we did not. We have asked them to acknowledge this mistake and to thoroughly investigate when and where this erroneous information came from, by whom and to whom it was disseminated, and to ask why it is being publicly used as a reason to reject our bid, since this reason was not given when the FoEH asked for clarification on why our bid failed. That the dissemination of this erroneous information amongst the bid panel members, the EDDC cabinet, councillors and officers, would have unfairly prejudiced our bid, so invalidating the EDDC bid processes.
We have asked the EDDC to investigate how thoroughly the panel scrutinised our tender, since their recommendation was based upon erroneous information, despite the figures in the tender clearly showing the bid to be self-financing.
4) We have argued that the EDDC is wrong to dismiss public concerns over the potential commercial conflict of interest between Jones Lang LaSalle and Whitbreads and have provided evidence which shows the depth of Jones Lang LaSalle’s involvement at every stage in the bid tendering process, which opportunity for undue influence over the panels decision, breaches the EDDC’s constitutional rules on bid tendering.
Different issues have been raised within the ‘code of conduct’ complaint, so please don’t worry if a particular issue doesn’t appear to have been covered in any of the above.
We will let you know their response in due course,
In the meantime, all the best,
Nicky King – FoEH Supporters Co-Ordinator.

Who DOES benefit if the Local Plan is found unsound?

16 Dec

EDDC is encouraging us to tell the Planning Inspector just what we think of their relationship with East Devon Business Forum and says that if there is anything at all we want to see aired about this matter only the Planning Inspector is able to deal with it.

RUBBISH!

An Overview and Scrutiny TAFF (already formed) has every right to look into this matter but EDDC Chief Executive Mark Williams has “advised” that it should not do so as he says that it cannot discuss planning poliyc (see examples of this in posts below).  Why?  Back to the circular argument that only the Planning Inspector can do this – though we have been provided with nolegal or other evidence to back up this claim.  The Planning Inspectorate has said that it is not its job to explore planning policy, it is only interested in the plan in front of it and any comments about it that might them to find it sound or unsound.

So, let’s say we all provide our evidence not to a Task and Finish Forum but to the Planning Inspectorate  and he or she finds the Local Plan unsound. What then?  Well, we already have a free-for-all because EDDC has not been able to show that it has a 5 year land supply throughout the district and, if the Local Plan is also found unsound, then the free-for-all continues completely unfettered for years and years to come until another attempt is made to get a Local Plan agreed.  Until then just about every planning application in East Devon could be successful and developers may swoop in on every town and village in this area, secure in the knowledge that they almost certainly on to a winner.

Any sensible local authority would, at this point, be doing anything and everything it could to rescue its Local Plan from the possibility of being found unsound.  After all, why would you work on it for years and years to see it fail?  Though, of course, at least 2 years of the meetings in jast Devon were behind closed doors with secret and then later published (thank you Councillor Wright) jeavily redacted minutes so at least half of this process has been hidden from us and we will never know just how much time was wasted, what it was wasted on and why.

If it meant re-visiting and possibly revising figures, even at this late stage, any sensible local authority would be doing this.  If this meant having controversial decisions scrutinised, then that is what it would be doing.

But East Devon District Council is doing quite the opposite – encouraging us to give evidence to the Planning Inspector that might lead to the failure of the Local Plan?  Why?  We will never know, because the TAFF is not allowed to investigate and find out.

Will we benefit from a development free-for-all?

16 Dec

No.

Benefits from development can come from two sources:  Section 106 agreements and a Community Infrastructure Levy.

Section 106 agreements have to be based close to the development and include such things as play areas, leisure facilities, community buildings – it also includes payments to the county council for school expansion and such like.  They seem like a good idea – except that they often do not pan out as residents expect them to.  For example, a new development in Axminster was promised play facilities in a particular area.  The developer has now built on that area and says that they are going to build the play facilities”elsewhere”.  They are still in discussion with EDDC about this.  Also Section 106 agreements can be cancelled if the district council and the developer agree to the cancellation.  This does not need consultation with the public in the area involved.  Another little known problem is that if a S106 improvement has not taken place within 10 years the developer never, ever has to honour it.

The only other way a community can benefit is from something called the “Community Infrastructure Levy” (CIL).  This is set by each district council at an amount of money per square metre of development.  It can be paid on anything from a large extension (100 sq m) to a complete new town.  It can be charged in bands so that people who do a one-off extension can pay less per square metre than a big developer.

In this case, the money does not go to the area being developed but goes into a district-wide pot.

East Devon set up a committee to consider CIL.  It met a few times and then stopped meeting, with no reason being given as to why the meetings ended.  No CIL has been set in East Devon so developers will not have to pay it.  Imagine how much could have come into the district pot from Cranbrook.  Imagine how much could come in from the 50 houses here and the 180 there which are springing up all over the district.

Why has EDDC chosen to drag its heels with something that could immediately bring improvements and infrastructure to the district?

You will have to ask them – and the East Devon Business Forum.

Public Meeting this coming Wednesday (19 Dec), for updates on SOS and EDDC Plans

16 Dec

 Time and venue: 7.30 pm, Sidford Social Hall (end of Byes), Weds 19th December

Please remind family, friends and neighbours who may have missed ads. in last Friday’s Herald and around town.

Due to level of interest ( and being well aware it’s a busy time of year for us all, with many people away)  a second Public Meeting has been arranged for January.

Time and venue: 7.30 pm, Knowle, Monday 7th January, 2013.

What our beloved leader promised us in his Christmas 2011 speech

15 Dec

For those who do not speak EDDC-ese, our Beloved Leader, Councillor Diviani, said this in his Christmas message last year:

AT CHRISTMAS, as a New Year approaches, it’s wise to pause for a moment to reflect on how we intend to face a future filled with uncertainty.

What we did not expect was a future of even more uncertainty in East Devon thanks to the various omnishambles created by EDDC this year.

We live in turbulent times. The global economy is in a state of flux, while closer to home there are massive issues in Europe and forecasts of a difficult year ahead for the UK.

Well, he got that right.

What we do here in East Devon always happens against a background of the bigger national and international picture – but never more so than now, when everyone’s future prosperity is inter-linked with the financial affairs of others.

Ah, yes “others”.

All the more reason, then, that we at EDDC should ensure that we have our house in order and that we do everything in our power to ensure that the economy of our distinctive district is in the same good shape as our lovely landscape.

House in order!  It has never been so disordered and our lovely landscape – a great deal of it about to disappear under water or concrete or both!.

That’s why we have drawn up a new Council Plan for the next four years, setting out our proposals for service delivery in the district in these tough times and ensuring our residents have best value for money. We don’t pretend to know all the answers – and that’s why in the spirit of transparency we are asking our residents to comment on the proposals set out in the document “Shaping Our Future”. You can find details of our ideas – and how to comment on them – on our website.

Did he mention the Knowle move and Sidford Fields last year – er, no.  Value for money?  No comment.  Don’t pretend they don’t know all the answers – anyone like to put a percentage on the answers they do have?  Shaping our Future?  Doesn’t he mean Shaping the West End of East Devon and Honiton’s future?

We’re also asking you to help us fine-tune the planning blueprint for East Devon – not just for now, but for the next 15 years. It’s vitally important to have a route-map agreed, our ultimate destination in sight, so that the winds of global recession may buffet us but will not blow us off course. Our Draft Local Plan, for your consideration, is part of that process. Again you will find details on our website.

The route map appears to be out of date rather like one of those sat navs that gets you stuck under a bridge in a narrow road:  someone at EDDC forgot to ensure a five year land supply and attempted to  improve theresultant  figures by splitting the district in two for planning purposes whichcut no ice with the Planning Inspectors  so we have been blown off course big time (see below).  What we need is a wind to blow us BACK on course.  (And doesn’t the “Wind of Global Recession Buffeting Us” sound very North Korean!).

A vibrant East Devon economy, where commerce is thriving and growing and jobs are being created, is the best possible antidote to problems on a national or international scale. Our aim is to provide the right jobs in the right places so that our district prospers and its towns and villages flourish.

A vibrant East Devon for whom?  Commerce thriving for whom?  Jobs being created for whom and exactly where?  And what about the jobs being lost, for example in Sidmouth.  Right jobs, right places – oh, you mean Honiton and Cranbrook!  Towns and villages flourishing – name one (not counting Honitno or the Blackdown Hills, of course).

Our track record so far is pretty good. Despite the recession, there are many examples of improvements across East Devon that have come about through the ingenuity and hard work of EDDC’s Members and Staff and the resilience of our local businesses and communities.

Track record pretty good?  Anyone want to comment on that?  Improvements?  Where?  Resilience of our local businesses and communities?  Has he spoken to anyone outside EDBF about these matters and heard the truth?  Has the Emperor looked down at his “clothes” recently (to mix metaphors and geography – sorry).

Our holding position for 2012 is to ensure that when the UK sneezes, East Devon doesn’t catch a cold.

Opinion: East Devon caught pneumonia in 2012 and may be terminally ill.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

 

Keeping Knowle parkland for posterity…your help needed

15 Dec

If you, or anyone you know, has used the Knowle grounds regularly for at least 20 years,  the Knowle Residents’ Association would like to hear from you. Please contact Kelvin Dent on 01395 514291.

With your help, the Knowle could be registered as a Town or Village Green.

Details on http://www.saveoursidmouth.com (14 December post)

Planning free-for-all in East Devon? Almost certainly, yes

14 Dec

And that includes the Knowle.

No wonder Councillor Diviani was on the radio today talking about NIMBYs being the reason why houses have not been built in East Devon as the council has lost yet another planning appeal because it has not been able to prove that it has a five year land supply over the whole district.  He had to quickly deflect blame on to anyone but East Devon District Council and had to ensure that he engaged in damage limitation.

Why?

A planning appeal for 180 houses at Butts Road, Higher Ridgeway, Ottery St. Mary, Devon has been allowed by the Planning Inspector.  The  (layperson’s) summary appears to be:

1.  When it comes to housing figures, the Inspector put more trust in the numbers from the applicant than in those of the council and finds reason to dispute most figures provided by EDDC, particularly those provided for Cranbrook . (para 20, para 28, para 33)

2.  Because there is no agreed Local Plan and no 5 year land supply the Inspector does not have to take into account the built up area boundary at Ottery and therefore in any part of the district (para 40)

3.  Disaggregating numbers to two different parts of East Devon and finding one part over provided (east) and one part underprovided (west) is not a viable way of coming to a workable figure for the whole district.  It has no place in the National Planning Policy Framework and cannot therefore be used to prove anything at all.  The only figure that can be used is a figure for the whole district and it is shown that it does NOT have a five year land supply. (para 12, para 35, para 36)

4.  A number of sites put forward by the council as viable are not considered viable by the Inspector. (para 23)

5.  He disputes the EDDC  revised 5 year land supply figures it produced AFTER the Feniton appeal was allowed. (para 27)

6.  The Inspector says “it is by no means certain that the Local Plan will be adopted in its current form or that the emerging strategy will be found sound.” (para 31)

7.  Even if he is wrong on any issue, the fact that there is no 5 year housing supply is paramount (para 49) and over-rides all other objections.

The effect of this planning appeal:

Because EDDC has no Local Plan and does not have a 5 year land supply just about any planning application that now comes forward from any developer anywhere in East Devon (with the possible exclusion of AONBs but this is by no means certain as it has not yet been tested by the Planning Inspectorate) from now on will be allowed.

Take note:

(a) Had EDDC not wasted two years having secret Local Development Framework meetings that resulted in nothing but sites brought forward early by developers, we might have had a Local Plan which could have afforded us protection.

(b) If the EDDC Planning Department treated the district as a whole rather than splitting it into two, it might have helped to draw attention to the 5 year shortfall and allowed an opportunity to address it BEFORE this situation arose rather than AFTER.

(c) If all the current agreed and proposed planning applications had been brought forward and commenced by developers we might not be in this mess.  The fact that developers have NOT brought them forward makes one wonder if this was a strategic decision on their part.

Questions:

(i) When did EDDC realise that there was not a 5 year land supply?  Whose job was it to check and recheck the figures?  If no-one noticed that there was not a 5 year land supply, why?

(ii) What did it decide to do about it when it found out?

(iii) Whose idea was it to split the district into two parts when calculating the 5 year and supply?  Why did they not check whether this would be allowed under the NPPF?

(iv)Who has ultimate responsibility for this omnishambles?

Exmouth or East Berlin? Premier Inn invites you to have your say, tomorrow (Sat 15 Dec)

14 Dec
The despoilation of East Devon continues. EDDC plans to destroy another unique building, Exmouth’s Elizabeth Hall, and replace it with …..a Premier Inn! So another community centre will be lost to private profit. And another stunning Devon seafront will lose its history and special character. 
Plans on view tomorrow, for PUBLIC CONSULTATION. Exmouth Pavilion, 11am-4 pm) . (More at  SIN post for 11 Dec,  10, 000 signatures )
For a reality check on EDDC’s vision, this e-mail from an Exmouth resident is helpful:
Here is an image of the new Premier inn I saw in the flesh yesterday in Weston super Mare. Looks more like  something out of East Berlin. Note the near blank wall which is one of two such walls. Has the look of a precast, like a massive McDonalds, all corporate image stuff. This is 116 rooms on the sea front and I fear may be similar to what they propose for us though here I think it is 60 beds.
Note, anyone attending their open day on Saturday at Exmouth Pavillion, where they are ‘enlightening us and asking for local views, you  should do so as an individual and not a friend of EH, other wise they will be included as a single response with FoEH (Friends of Elizabeth Hall).
 
http://www.premierinn.com/en/hotel/WESBEA/weston-super-mare-seafront  and look through the images for exterior shots