Archive | May, 2013

Lobbying …..

31 May

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/10091781/Patrick-Mercer-MP-signed-a-contract-with-a-bogus-lobbying-company-undercover-photographs-show.html

Guardians of our heritage

31 May

In case you missed it, SIN would like to highlight this comment left by Professor Mark Horton (see What price Britain’s Heritage?post 28 May), with thanks to him:

‘The saga of the longboat house is one of monstrous incompetence and willful neglect of our world heritage by various organisations that have been entrusted with the protection of our heritage and environment. Much of the blame lies with English Heritage, who failed to list the building despite an overwhelming intellectual and historical case to do so. This is the last remaining example of this type of building, and on those grounds alone, it should have been protected. The fact it is also in the WHS, and connected to existing Grade 2 buildings strengthens the case. I am afraid that their failure to list is based on crass ignorance of our maritime heritage, and a basic failure of their competence as guardians of our heritage.

The district council have not come out well either, showing themselves to be supine is a very clear case of an application that both fails to follow their own planning guidance, and WHS management panning, and which would have been clearly thrown out at Public Inquiry.

Please continue to support this campaign. I would love to feature the longboat house on Coast – its a fabulous story and one that needs telling to the wider world.’

What price Britain’s heritage (part 2) ?

31 May

Not only natural forces are changing East Devon’s coastline. The unspoilt seafronts, and individual character of its seaside resorts, which attract tourists and locals alike, are fast being eroded.  One case in point is at Budleigh Salterton (see SIN post for 28 May). There’s another at Exmouth, where  10.000 signatures to save Elizabeth Hall have been ignored. Today’s letter, copied below,  to the Friends of Elizabeth Hall, tells the story:

 

Dear Friends

 

 

The Premier Inn Planning Application goes before the EDDC’s Development Management Committee on Tuesday the 11th of June at 10am, at the Knowle in Sidmouth.

 

 

This will be our last chance to save the Elizabeth Hall, so please tell all of your family, friends and neighbours, as it’s vitally important for us to get as many people as possible to attend and put forward their objections.

 

 

We have already prepared 23 separate material objections which will need to be put forward by volunteers who are willing to stand up and speak for a maximum of 3 minutes. The objections range from the size of the building to the lack of provision for bicycles, so please let us know if you would be willing to participate, as this will help us to cover every objection and argue how each one contravenes the EDDC’s own planning policies.

 

 

By approaching it in this way, we hope to give enough weight and credibility to each objection before the timer runs out, so that the DMC has no choice but to take them into account during their considerations. We know we will be up against those who will be speaking in support of the application, so our task is to make our objections as strong and effective as possible and our arguments far more convincing than theirs.

 

 

It’s been just over a year since the EDDC announced it was putting the Elizabeth Hall up for sale and we have achieved a remarkable amount during that time. We raised a petition of 12,429 names, had 300 supporters attend the Musical March, wrote over 130 letters to the Journal, made an untold number of contributions to the Exmouth Vision Website and other Media and sent hundreds of emails and letters to local & district councillors, MP’s, the Communities secretaries, the Prime Minister, even Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II.

 

 

We attended consultations and exhibitions, made numerous representations at local and district council meetings and uncovered the true costs to the local taxpayers of the lifting of the Seafront Covenants. We challenged the deliberately ambiguous language and the ‘spin’ that was put on the Masterplan consultation results and supported other East Devon Campaigns, such as the Fight for Feniton’s Future and, ‘The Stroll to the Knowle’, which saw almost 4,000 people protesting against the EDDC. We compiled a 38 page bid tender which raised £280,000 in local support and was impressive enough to gain the backing of the Exmouth Town Council and get through to the final stage of the EDDC’s bid interviews. We have given TV and radio interviews, held public meetings and events and helped raise money for other local charitable causes.

 

 

After the announcement in October last year that the Premier Inn had won the bid, we discovered there was a £100 million pound partner-ship deal between the EDDC’s estate agents, Jones Lang LaSalle, and the bid winners Whitbreads, a blatent commercial conflict of interest which the EDDC has refused to even acknowledge or address. More than 80 of us submitted objections to the proposed application, only to see them ignored and the amendments not worth the paper they were written on. We got the EDDC to finally admit the monies from the sale would not be ring-fenced for the benefit of the community of Exmouth, nor see a promised replacement for the loss of our community facilites. Even the section 106 community contribution of £186,000, is a mere 75% of the promised £250,000 and represents yet another loss to the local taxpayer of £64,000.

 

We made formal complaints to the EDDC which were rejected without adequate explanation or a promise to improve their processes. We had Freedom of Information requests unlawfully refused, which led the Information Commissioners Office to start monitoring the EDDC procedures. We managed to obtain an investigation into the sale by the Local Government Ombudsman, which results are due within the next two weeks. And last, but by no means least, we have seen the launch of a police investigation into the planning processes at the EDDC after the forced resignation of Conservative Councillor for Feniton, Graham Brown, amid allegations that EDDC planning permission can be bought “for a price” at a measly £20,000 a pop.

 

 

None of this would have been possible without all of your hard work, support and encouragement over the past year and for your tenacity and determination to continue with the campaign in the face of impossible and unfairly stacked odds. Without you, the EDDC would not have been placed under ever-increasing scrutiny from higher authorities or seen it’s wrong-doers brought to book.

 

 

We can never really thank or repay you enough for the boundless energy and time you have given to this campaign and since everything we have worked towards rests on the outcome of the DMC meeting, we need your support this one last time.

 

 

Please help us to make this one last stand in the fight to save The Elizabeth Hall and to go out with a flourish and give it the impetus to deliver a potentially knockout punch.

 

 

If you are happy to deliver one of the objections, or if you need help travelling up to the meeting to deliver your own, please let us know as soon as possible by RSVP at this address or by giving myself or Jilly a ring on 01395 276583 or 01395 227747.

 

 

We look forward to hearing from you,

 

 

Warmest regards,
Nicky King – FoEH Supporters Co-ordinator.

 

 

Tourism in East Devon – or should that be Southern Australia?

31 May

Marker referred below to tourism in East Devon with regard to the Longboat Cafe planning application.  For EDDC’s policy on tourism look no  further than the Out and About section of the East Devon website.  The page was last updated in July 2011.

The description of East Devon’s tourism offer includes 19 words for Sidmouth, 16 words for Exmouth,27 words for Budleigh Salterton, 65 words for Honiton, 33 words for Ottery St Mary and 0 for Axminster and Seaton – unless you count the 2 words “Axe Valley” in which case they have one each plus 74 words on the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.   The page was last revised July 2 2011.

When you click on the link for “Tourism” on the above web page you are taken to what should have been the long-defunct website of South West Tourism in the UK but is now actually a site mostly about Southern Australia and includes tips about buying a caravan!

Now that Tim Borrett, the latest EDDC spin doctor, is leaving after less than a year in post,  (see below) perhaps we could get someone who might be interested in tourism.

The Honest Truth

30 May

SIN has been told that Tim Borrett, who was only appointed as a spin doctor at EDDC a year or so ago, is leaving and his job is being readvertised.

Mr. Borrett is best known for his involvement in the Honest Truth Partnership ( I kid you not ), an award-winning and laudable scheme to improve the behaviour of young drivers. No wonder he is leaving – it can’t be easy reconciling working for the Honest Truth Partnership and EDDC.
His job is being readvertised with a salary c. £35,000. When you add on the extras, the cost to the council taxpayer is at least £50,000 per annum.
With due respect to Mr. Borrett, there is no evidence that things have improved since his arrival last year: the PR stuff emanating from Knowle is as excruciatingly awful as ever. And if anything, the Council’s reputation has deteriorated still further. The Knowle application was an unqualified public relations disaster.
So do we need another spin doctor? Or could the £50,000 per annum be spent more wisely?
EDDC is cash rich, and gets a return on capital of about 3% per annum. This means that to replace Mr. Borrett will require a capital investment of £1.5 million to pay his wages and extras of £50,000 per annum. The cost of repairs required immediately at Knowle is, the Council tells us, £1 million.
So, if we cancel the spin doctor appointment, we will have enough money to do all the repairs required at Knowle, and have half a million pounds left over. Moreover, the repairs will themselves bring significant savings, thus establishing an economic virtuous circle of savings and repairs.
The council taxpayer will be substantially better off, the Knowle will be put in good order, and our historic parkland will be untouched. And, here’s the rub, EDDC will achieve the PR coup that its expensive communications team has always failed to achieve.
Food for thought.

Betting shops and payday loan shops in Sidmouth?

30 May

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22700092

Opaque transparency

30 May

THE Government has told York’s leaders to be “open and transparent” about their city vision or face a public backlash, as a secrecy row intensifies says Andrew Lainton HERE.  The full text:

QUOTE:

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have clashed over the latter’s refusal to make public a consultants’ report, which is said to have been used to justify controversial housing plans.

Labour wants to build 22,000 new homes in York by 2030 and has outlined its proposals in the draft Local Plan. But they say the report by the consultants, Arup, can remain secret for now because it is only a draft report. New laws introduced last year say any background papers on key decisions must be made public.

Lib Dem councillo rNigel Ayre said residents were being “treated with contempt” and said the council may have “a legal as well as a moral case to answer”. He said: “It is a scandal that the publication of this taxpayer-funded report, which is cited as key evidence and should have been published before the cabinet decision was taken to support the draft Local Plan, is still being delayed.”

The Lib Dems are now considering taking the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman. They questioned making key decisions on the basis of a draft document and said a request to council officials and a Freedom of Information Act request had been rejected.

Decisions about what goes into these plans should be open and transparent, including the evidence being used. If local people feel this isn’t the case, they should hold their council to account.”

Andy Docherty, the council’s assistant director of governance, said the authority recognised its legal duty to publish such papers, but said: “Any documents which are only in draft form are ‘excluded’ from this requirement.

“The Arup report is not classed as a background document because it is in draft form. All documents related to the Local Plan will be published as part of the consultation starting on June 5.”

The Labour-run council has launched a public consultation on the plans.

The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) regulations state “background papers must be available for public inspection” and it is illegal for councils to withhold them except in “special cases”.

Former council leader Steve Galloway said the exceptions did not apply as the Arup report was intended for publication, and said it was “not good enough” for it to be published after a decision had been made.

UNQUOTE

Unfortunately, the Department of Communities and Local Government has yet to give us a way of holding our councils to account, having abolished the Standards Board and left it to local government officers employed by the self-same council being complained about to make decisions about what is proper and improper.