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Bert gets ready to make another move

21 Jun

Hello All,

Greetings from Airpark – though I wonder how long THAT greeting will last I don’t know – honestly, sometimes I wonder whether we will ever get a quiet life at the council offices. Just when I thought the dust had settled and all was well, officers happy in their bunkers, councillors happy in the Michelin-star restaurant something comes along that threatens to begger it all up.

We really were totally settled. The quadruple glazing was just about shutting out the noise of the Jumbo jets (did I tell you they decided to add a second runway) and no-one except developers ever visited us. (Though, goodness, were the residents of Cranberry upset when the jets started going over their gardens about 50 feet above their heads and let’s not mention that unfortunate incident when the toilet flange fell off just before landing. Then they read the small print in their deeds and found that it had all been covered and they had no comeback and were even more upset).

So, things had gone along nicely for a few months as we shared our business park with the call centre and the gas production unit. It was a bit difficult getting our lunches – the dash across the runway never got any easier but we managed. Then the bombshell. We read in the papers that the owners of the business park, fed up with not getting any tenants for years and years, decided to change things about. Next thing we know we have a planning application for a “hydraulic fracturing facility and associated refinery”.

At first, none of us were too worried – we all thought it was a pharmaceutical factory making pills and the refinery sounded like just making sure the pills were A1 quality. Could be worse we thought – and if we were lucky it would be the kind of pills we could get wholesale from next door for problems that many of us gentlemen have through no fault of our own – nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Then someone (I think it was one of those Greens) said: “You do realise that what they are going to do is fracking don’t you? 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year and then turning it into petrol on site – cars, lorries, drill heads, noise, radioactive water, toxic chemicals – you name it And they can go under your building without your permission – is it earthquake proofed?”

Well, you could have knocked the planners and the councillors down with a feather! All this time we’d expected that eventually the landlord would get tired of trying to let all that spare space and just green it over and plant some mature trees and within a few months, except for the Jumbos, it would be almost like being at our old HQ in Widemouth.

Now, the nightmare began to sink in (literally). It sent our planners into overdrive! I’ve never seen them work so hard. They didn’t burn any midnight oil (sorry for the pun) about the Local Plan – very laid back they were for some reason – but here they were working day and night to try and find a way of stopping it.

They tried EVERYTHING! They said the floodlights would make it dangerous to land the aircraft until someone pointed out that there are floodlights all around Heathrow and Gatwick and no Jumbos seem to have landed on them. They tried saying that the site would have to be surrounded by so many trees that it would look like a small forest but that went down like a lead balloon when someone pointed out that we are chopping trees down left, right and centre everywhere else and shoving in industrial sheds up instead because the NPPF says we can. And someone mentioned the mega-industry complex in Sidford where it just used to be green fields for example, so we can’t easily win that argument at a planning appeal either. They started to talk about water contamination, water being cut off to our HQ if it got really bad, the frackers going under our building, the tremors that might happen, the lorries, the smells – etc. etc. Then again someone pointed out (think it was that pesky EDA mob) that our national government had just said that fracking anywhere, anytime is absolutely fine by them and unless the Leader wanted to abandon his hopes of a knighthood they had just better knuckle under. Someone said that there was a new group – the East Devon Fracking Forum – and they would be taking over from now on and to like it or lump it – I thought I recognised some of them from before but I just couldn’t remember where.

That was when the real planning started. Suddenly, someone had a great idea and decided that they must have yet another new HQ (we’ve only been here for a year) and started looking around for a suitable site. Beggar again – all the best sites grabbed for housing because we still have no local plan and Pickles says now that we have to build on brownfield sites.

They thought about Honiton but the best bit has just been sold to a Premier Inn and a supermarket. Exmouth they thought: but the consultants have told them that they have already flogged most of that off to Butlins and another supermarket. Ottery St Mary said someone else – no, everything gone to housing and supermarket there too. Axminster: no Cloakham Lawns took that option out. Seaton? Oh come on, let’s not get silly.

Honestly, they searched everywhere – no suitable brownfield sites at all. No, nothing for it – it had to be greenfield. What they really needed was a lovely building in beautiful park land surrounded by trees. Again, some killjoy worked out that they had just moved from Widemouth and that was already a McCarthy and Stone retirement village, so that was out.

Only one thing for it said the Regeneration people: we have to move into Exeter – but somewhere nice and green and not too far from a Waitrose. So they called up Exeter Council, got them to cancel the Ikea planning permission (something about bats) and what do you know, we are upping sticks again.

On the bright side, our residents will be able to get to us more easily (oh, sorry, that’s the dark side) and we will be able to get to the rugby (where we already have a VIP box) and we can call ourselves “The Greater Exeter Conurbation Administration”. With any luck, no-one will realise what our old name was and who we really are and we can be left to get on with what we do best – nothing!

Hope all is well down on the farm, though Daisy tells me that we don’t have a farm these days as it is now a big housing estate and the old farmhouse is now just our fourth home after New York (with its lovely view of Central Park, Paris (right next to the Eiffel Tower) and London (a 2 bed semi in Deptford, wherever that is).

Your loving son,
Bert

Now, about disgraced ex-councillor Brown ….

9 May

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-27335373

Not, of course, a fixed penalty notice, but pehaps some action?

Spot the difference

17 Apr

See Sidford ‘before and after’ pics on the SOS website: http://saveoursidmouth.com/2014/04/16/sidford-fields-possible-visual-impact-from-the-a-3052-of-the-proposed-5-hectare-business-park/

EDDC “agrees” to look at business accommodation on sale of Heathpark

11 Apr

Shouldn’t this say: “forced” to look at business accommodation because those businesses at the East Devon Business Centre will face eviction uf the site is sold to Asda.

Still, at least one “business” will not need reaccomodating: the East Devon Business Forum used to meet there on a regular basis for free!  Officer in charge of the Centre: Nigel Harrison, Economic Development Officer and Hon Sec of EDBF.

Come to think of it:  where is he these days?  He used to comment on all the large planning applications (including those of EDBF members) but seems to have been totally silent recently.  Well, no doubt he will reappear at the EDBF Task and Finish meetings, soon to be re-started (pause for cynical laughter)

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/communications_and_consultation.htm?newsid=1062

The East Devon District Council press release on the failure of the Local Plan, dissected

6 Apr

Enough time for reflection, it is now time to dissect EDDC’s travesty of an explanation for the humungous cock-up that was the submission of its Local Plan for inspection.

Here is the press release (c0mments in BOLD):

East Devon is not an island so its future is linked to neighbours

This has absolutely NOTHING to do with the cock-up which was entirely because EDDC did not submit the right evidence or up-to-date evidence. It relied on old policies that had been replaced in the National Planning Policy Framework. EDDC’s housing evidence was so out-of-date and such poor quality that the Inspector refused to deal with any other aspect of the Local Plan until this basic major mistake is corrected.

How on earth the Development Management officers and the councillors who passed on the draft Local Plan to the Inspector ever expected this not to be noticed is beyond belief. Nor from the bits we saw of the Inspector’s public meetings did they make any effort whatsoever to either excuse themselves or defend themselves for the mistake.

EDDC is to be given more time to provide additional evidence as to the volume of housing that is right for the district looking ahead over the next two decades. That’s the key message from a preliminary letter to the council from a planning inspector examining East Devon’s draft Local Plan.

EDDC is NOT being given time to provide additional evidence. It is being ordered to provide NEW and CONVINCING evidence rather than the “suck it and see” figures it submitted this time around.

The council’s efforts to protect East Devon’s unique environment will continue – but against a background of acknowledging the national and regional pressures for new homes.

Translation: well, guess we will have to go back to the drawing board but no sweat – the developers can just tell us what they want and we will give it to them for as long as it takes. And we all know how long things take at EDDC – laid-back council that it is.

Members of the Planning Policy Team will now produce an action plan showing the extra work it intends to do and the timing of each stage that will take these tasks through to completion.

Members of the Planning Policy team that remain in post after this total cock-up should be burning midnight oil 24 hours a day 7 days a week to provide the Inspector with what he has instructed them to provide not “producing a new action plan showing the work they intend to do”. Do the work: don’t talk about doing the work. Though, of course, once again, it will probably be handed out to consultants.

Aware that the council has for some months been working on a joint exercise to look at housing need into the future, Planning Inspector Anthony Thickett says he wants to see the results of that exercise to help him decide if EDDC has forecast the right level of housing.

Er, anyone here aware of anything that EDDC has been working on about housing needs in the future? Anyone seen a press release or a working party or a committee doing this. No, thought not. This again is an excuse for inertia.

Until that data is available, and until several other important matters are resolved, he cannot sign off the plan or – to use the technical term – find it sound.

And until several other important matters are resolved…”. What other important matters?

In August 2013, around the time that East Devon’s draft Local Plan was first submitted to the Inspector, the council agreed to work with Devon County Council, Exeter City Council, Mid Devon District Council and Teignbridge District Council on a Strategic Housing Marketing Assessment (SHMA).

Here is what Mid-Devon has to say about this:#

In August 2013, DCA was commissioned to carry out a joint strategic housing market assessment for the partner authorities of Mid Devon District Council, East Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council, Exeter City Council and Dartmoor National Park.

This assessment, once completed, will be posted on this webpage, hopefully at the beginning of 2014. [April 2014:  no sign of it]

Source: http://www.middevon.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=7839

And here is how Exeter has already done its updating of its Local Plan’s SHLA in May 2013 in case EDDC spends too much time reinventing this particular wheel:

http://www.exeter.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=19382&p=0

And no mention of what was also in the Inspector’s letter: a woeful inability to work with West Dorset! What are the plans for working with them?

Accurate

It is the outcome of this exercise – expected in the next few months – that the inspector feels will provide more accurate data on which to set a longer term housing target for East Devon.

Months! Months? You have already wasted 5 years! This should be days or weeks, not months! Although, of course, months or years will keep the developers very happy!

In a letter to the council’s planning policy team, to be released at 5pm on Thursday 3 April, Inspector Anthony Thickett explains that the information he collected in a three-week enquiry at the beginning of the year did not fully cover all the bases.

And exactly why was it released exactly four days after EDDC received it? EDDC gave the impression that it was because Mr Thickett insisted on it but there is no mention of this in his letter. Was it because it took that long to find a spin on the blunder? I bet someone burned the midnight oil on that!

He cannot therefore find the current version of the Local Plan to be ‘sound’. In addition to the SHMA work, he also wants EDDC to make more progress than it has done so far in assessing the need for gypsy and traveller sites – and, if there is a demonstrable need, to identify locations where such sites could be created.

He can’t find it sound because you sent in such a lousy document it fell at the first hurdle! Even after he picked up 53 mistakes in it last year.

So far as housing volume is concerned, there needs to be a clear picture as to how many homes are to be built on land in East Devon for the benefit of the district and how many may be needed to satisfy demand in Exeter – which has a dire shortage of housing land. Within East Devon, the inspector also wants more work to be done allocating volumes of housing around the district to get the distribution right.

But that is the whole point of a Local Plan! Anyone would think that EDDC had only just been told of this requirement. It is the fact that they DID IT ALL WRONG that is the problem! And let us not forget: if this plan had been passed BEFORE the NPPF (as it could have done if it had not been hijacked by members of the East Devon Business Forum) it would now have been passed into law without having to take anything at all into account and without a developer building frenzy!

Reacting to the news, Paul Diviani, Leader of EDDC, said: “This is pretty much what we expected. It is quite common for an inspector to ask for more information before finding a local plan to be sound. Neighbouring councils in Teignbridge, West Dorset and West Somerset have all had similar delays for similar reasons.

This really takes the biscuit! Well, it really doesn’t matter because everyone in this area is cocking up so why worry … How come Exeter has had a plan in place for a couple of years then? The Inspector asked for more information last year. This year he has told EDDC: you totally bungled this. Rather different. And if you expected it – why did you expect it. Did you know it was a mess? If so, why submit it?

“This is such a complex subject that it is difficult to get all the boxes ticked in one go. After spending so long refining our plans and consulting on them, at some point you have to jump in and say: ‘OK – let’s see how close we are to what the Government wants to see’.

It is NOT such a complex subject! It MIGHT have been if you had been the first local authority to submit a Local Plan but scores of authorities have had their plans submitted AND passed as sound. You don’t “get close to what the government wants”: you give the government what it wants!

Moving target

“This is especially so when there is a moving target. Our original plan was based on the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which the Coalition has since scrapped. Now the plan has to conform to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and, just within the past few weeks, that framework’s set of guidelines (NPPG).

See above: every local authority seems to have understood that the RSS would not work and that the NPPF was king. And as for the guidelines: they have no effect at all on putting in Local Plans and what strategy you use – that is totally clear in the NPPF!

“In the circumstances I am relaxed about the extra work we have to do. We will now put together an action plan showing what we will be doing and when. We hope to go back to the inspector in the autumn with the extra information he needs.

Relaxed! Relaxed! Action Plan! Oh, God, do these people NEVER learn! “We hope” to go back in autumn. And which autumn would that be. Or perhaps you are waiting for Nu-EDBF to be reborn so that it can tell you what it wants first!

“In the meantime, our planning procedures will carry on as they have done up to now, with proposals looked at on merit and tested for sustainability, as well as taking into account the issue of land supply.

Pull the other one: Feniton, Gittisham, Newton Poppleford, Old Park Farm … the list is endless – all because you have no idea what “sustainability” is because the NPPF doesn’t define it well enough for anyone to make a judgment call. So, developers, scenting the wounded beast, pounce in and trash the idea.

“One of the important things to remember is that in planning terms East Devon is not an island – and the communities within it cannot be taken in isolation either. We are all a part of the Exeter sub-region and as such the future shape of our district is closely coupled with the needs of our neighbours”.

So, there you are. We are no longer “East Devon” we are the “Exeter Sub-Region”. Well, we knew that really. Otherwise, why move to Skypark!

Farewell EDDC, hail ESR!

Heads? Roll? Never! If anything more heads will be recruited … oh, aren’t we lucky …..

 

‘The State of Devon’s Nature’ (2013) “should concern us”

18 Mar

And yet, yet- another Green Wedge is under threat of extinction,  this time in East Devon’s Westend.

See our earlier post   https://sidmouthindependentnews.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/the-special-development-management-committee-meeting-express-and-echo/

and related  information here  http://eastdevonalliance.org/2014/03/18/theyre-not-making-new-farmland-warns-nfu/

The State of Devon’s Nature full report can be found at http://www.naturaldevon.org.uk

 

East Devon employment land: Green Party challenges figures

2 Mar

http://eastdevon.greenparty.org.uk/news/east-devon-green-party-challenges-employment-land-provision-at-local-plan-hearing.html