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.

What price Britain’s Heritage?

28 May

Budleigh Longboat Site Photos 1 smallOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A unique historic feature, in a World Heritage Site, will be sold to developers, if East Devon District Council has its way. This double-whammy has prompted a plea from Budleigh Salterton residents, for more objectors to write to EDDC about its latest NEW set of plans for the demolition of the Longboathouse (ref. 13/0889/FUL).

David Daniel, of the Budleigh Longboat Association writes:“If you share any of our views we would be grateful for your support” . Please send your objections,  citing 13/0889/FUL, to:

EDDC planning website or e-mail: planningcentral@eastdevon.gov.uk
or write to
EDDC Central Planning Team
Knowle
Sidmouth
EX10 8HL

Here’s David’s summary of what it’s all about:

 
“For six years, the Budleigh Longboat Association, a group of residents, has been fighting a plan to build a two storey restaurant on the beach under the cliffs. A poll conducted last year by the Town Council, in the spirit of localism, showed 78% against a plan almost identical to the present, new, application (1163 voters in a 36% turnout – more votes than 70% of EDDC councillors received).
There are two main issues:
This is the first planning application to be made for development inside the footprint of any UK Natural World Heritage Site (in this case the Jurassic Coast WHS). It exposes the non existence of any meaningful National protection for these sites and, if passed would set a precedent. For years EDDC refused to acknowledge that it was in the WHS, now they say it is “in the setting but has no impact” and have waived the need for any Environmental Impact Assessment. Throughout, Natural England have sustained the following objections (in their words):
As a point of clarification the WHS designation is underpinned by the statutory SSSI designations along the coast, so where SSSIs exist at the coast, as is the case at Budleigh Salterton, the boundary of the WHS and SSSI is contiguous. Therefore the existing longboat building lies within both the SSSI and the WHS boundary.
• Impact upon the ‘setting’ of the World Heritage Site, including views to or from the Site and impacts on the understanding and interpretation of the site due to the location, scale and design of the building and the materials proposed.
• The sustainability of any development in this location and the risk that it may prejudice future decisions regarding the need for coastal defences in the area which would adversely impact upon the unique geomorphological interest of the Budleigh Salterton Cliffs SSSI and hence the WHS.
It also requires the demolition of the last known example of an Admiralty Longboat House belonging to the Grade II listed Coastguard Station on the cliffs above. (Longboats were the utility ship’s boat of Nelson’s fleet, so utilitarian that no examples of any boat remain). BS residents were perplexed that English Heritage failed to include the boathouse on the beach when they listed the coastguard complex on top of the cliff behind, despite having the Admiralty plans. This Victorian coastguard station is one of the most complete examples in the country.
Despite this strong local opposition, East Devon District Council granted permission last year ignoring formal objections from: Natural England, the World heritage Management Team and the Town Council. However, the High Court has granted me a judicial review into claims of errors and misdirections in the process used to force the approval through the planning committee. This review is due to be heard on November 8.
Bizarrely, a new application has now been submitted, which is almost identical to one rejected last year just before the contested approval. The application seems designed to bypass the judicial system. It raises further questions about whether and how EDDC can deal validly with this application. They have a vested interest in approving it to further their legal defence in the judicial review.
This might seem to be a small matter in the general run of EDDC planning applications. To BS residents it represents an attempt to start commercialising the unspoilt charm of our beach, which differentiates it from other beaches. The way EDDC is handling this application in a WHS/SSSI/AONB raises fundamental issues which should be of concern to all. “
East Devon Alliance (EDA) members would certainly agree!

Out of Order

28 May

Whether or not you believe there are “Dinosaurs grazing” at Knowle (See SIN’s previous post, 24 May) , at the recent Full Council Meeting two serious dangers for democracy were shown to be lurking in the undergrowth.

They are:

1. What happens when one Party (whichever it is!) becomes too dominant.

Councillor Andrew Moulding’s comments to Cllr Wright  apparently breached the Code of Conduct. That other Conservative Councillors added further  derisory remarks, in support of what he had said, was not just shameful, but out of order.

2. The reasons why few people, especially the young, are attracted to politics, or even think it’s worthwhile voting.

Yet more candidates of the calibre and courtesy of  e. g. newly-elected Independent Councillor, Susie Bond, would help on both counts.

Dinosaurs grazing at the Knowle?

24 May

An excellent question from a member of the public at last night’s EDDC’s full council meeting asked, “Why do so few people bother to vote in local elections?” There seemed general agreement that it would be good to encourage more participation especially from the young.
And presumably this would mean trying to persuade younger working people- including young mums – to  stand for councils to make them  look more like society as a whole.
By the end of the meeting, however, this message seemed lost on some of the more reactionary members of the Majority
Cllr Claire Wright, recently elected to Devon County Council with the largest majority in the county, asked, reasonably,  if the timing of meetings at the Knowle could take into account time pressures on mothers like herself with young children.
Several Tory gentlemen snapped back that they didn’t have problems, demonstrating their machismo and organising skills.
Then  Deputy  Leader Andrew Moulding rudely commented that he doubted whether Cllr Wright “would be able to cope” with  her new responsibilities.
SIN has no doubts  about Claire, but is a bit worried that the likes of Cllr Moulding might not be able to cope with the 21st Century!