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SIN takes a break

9 Aug

Sidmouth Independent News is pleased to say that since its inception, others in  East Devon  have established similarly well-informed blogs on EDDC-related issues. To avoid duplication, SIN  is now taking a long pause, but  may well be back on line in early 2015.

Some alternative sites that can be referred to are

http://eastdevonalliance.org  (with useful LINKS list)

the futuresforum blogspot  at http://www.visionforsidmouth.org

http://www.saveoursidmouth.com

and of course the especially informative and  popular blogs by Independent Councillors at these links  http://www.claire-wright.org and https://susiebond.wordpress.com

 

Thanks all SIN-ers for the constant  contributions and hundreds of thousands of hits since SIN”s opening  post  on  27 Sept 2012, Good Morning, Sid Valley.   The website’s  archive will continue to be of use,  not least ,we suspect, in the run-up to the May 2015 elections.

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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

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/

“Flood zone 3A will become Flood Zone 3B by 2025” , Sidmouth hearing told.

26 Feb

Yesterday’s resumed Hearings into EDDC’s Local Plan took a long hard look at the proposal for housing at Sidmouth  and  a 12.5 acre business park at Sidford.

 A score of speakers representing Sidmouth Town Council, Sidmouth  Chamber of Commerce, Save our Sidmouth and Sidmouth and Sidford residents put the case against the Council’s controversial employment land allocation. Some highlights:

1.       The council’s justification for the scale of the proposed development appeared about as robust as a dead duck.

a)      A succession of speakers pointed out the EDDC’s own figures for the number of houses planned (150) would justify  a couple of acres of employment land at most (preferably on several small scale, mostly existing, sites) .

b)      Unemployment in Sidmouth was minimal.

c)       Currently in-commuters exceeded out-commuters: a big new business park  would drag in hundreds more workers defeating the Council’s  aim of reducing commuting.

2.       The Sidford site ticked all the ‘disastrous choice’ boxes.

a)      It would sacrifice a chunk of the AONB in one of the most visible places.

b)      It’s on a flood plain, and would likely  make flooding worse, including lower down the Sid.

c)       It would fatally weaken the  ‘green gap ‘ between Sidford and Sidbury.

d)      It’s not accessible: two lorries can’t pass in School Street leading to the site.

3.       EDDC seem to have looked at alternative sites with a Nelson’s eye, apparently losing one rival landowners proposal, and according to another one, dismissing his offer because of his continuing feud with the council.

4.       EDDC’s plan was valiantly defended by………….the agent for the promoter of the site!

5.       When the Council team put their oar in, it splintered! The planning officer was given the equivalent of six of the best by the Inspector­­- who would make an excellent headmaster- when he confessed, that EDDC had failed to conduct its own flood risk assessment on the Sidford.

Never mind, the Council had complete confidence in the promoter’s consultant’s research which concluded building a business park was the ultimate flood defence!(Expensive business, if Halcrow Report about Flood zone 3A proves right!)

6.       Attention finally turned to the Alexandria Road site which most speakers thought was under-used. The promoter’s agent predictably condemned it as unfit for purpose, and the access impossible to improve.

7.       Some irreverent wag commented that the big supermarket lined up to move in to Alex would quickly solve this problem.

Sidmouth’s Day at the Local Plan inspection – highlights

26 Feb

As anticipated, there was too much to cover in the Sidmouth hearing – many speakers (though as mentioned before not a single EDDC councillor asked to speak – odd that, all of them thinking alike again as they seem to do all the time these days, though they are not, of course whipped).

Day 2 will be Wednesday 12 March.

Inspector Thickett maintained a neutral demeanour throughout, as befits a Planning Inspector!

For further highlights, see

http://saveoursidmouth.com/

and

The Express and Echo report here:

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/8220-Sidmouth-does-need-employment-land-8221/story-20706337-detail/story.html

Richard Eley questioned the absurdity of the commuting calculations, where it is claimed that EDDC, once again, fails to have a firm grip on basic mathematics.

EDDC officers looked uncomfortable when asked to explain their assessments of the relative merits of the four employment sites that had been put forward.

Dr Stephen Wozniak gave an impressive  presentation of flooding issues.

One highlight was when EDDC officer Matt Dickens said that he never expected the Sidford site to be delivered in its entirety because of the need to address the flooding issues, to which Ian Barlow responded: “Does that mean we don’t need 5.5 hectares”!

Flooding: a sobering post

16 Feb

From Independent District Councillor Susie Bond of Feniton – particularly point 4 of the letter from the Aviva Insurance company from today’s Sunday Telegraph:

https://susiebond.wordpress.com/

First large insurer breaks ranks to say new flood insurance deal unfit for purpose

14 Feb

From Western Morning News (link at end of article)

The Government has been urged to re-think its plan to provide insurance for flood-hit properties after a major under-writer warned some in the Westcountry could be left exposed.

Hiscox is the first insurance firm to publicly raise doubts about the planned Flood Re scheme, the deal negotiated by the industry last summer and currently going through Parliament.

Flood Re is designed to put a levy on most households to keep down the premiums of the 2% homes at highest risk.

Hiscox said Flood Re actively excludes one-in-six households in flood-affected areas, including many properties currently under water in Somerset.  Customers would be at the mercy of the open market, which would mean flood insurance is unlikely to be affordable for many of those excluded. Properties excluded included new homes built after 2009, buy-to-let properties, and higher value properties. Businesses will also not be covered by Flood Re.

Bronek Masojada, chief executive of Hiscox, said: “This week’s events show that the Government’s proposed flood insurance scheme would leave many homeowners in a desperate situation.  What made sense in the heat of negotiation just won’t work in the real world.  “Flood Re is great for Britain in concept, but the Government’s proposals fall short in practice. An urgent rethink is needed.  “We absolutely support a sustainable, mutualised solution to the problem of insurance, but the Government must listen to growing concern from insurers and the public.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Government to offer more insurance protection for businesses when floods strike.  Many small businesses in the Westcountry have been severely damaged in the current floods sweeping through the UK. And with the potential of more flooding to come in future years, the FSB has called on the Government to provide better insurance safeguards to flood-threatened firms.

Flood Re places a cap on the  total cost homeowners in high flood risk areas would have to pay. So a householder in the average band D property will pay no more than an estimated £800 a year.  Adrian Penter, chairman of the Cornwall FSB, said: “We feel is it vital that the Government has a rethink and includes small businesses in its Flood Re scheme.  And it would obviously be a very timely and welcome thing for the Government to do at the moment.”

When visiting Exeter on Thursday, Labour leader Ed Miliband warned that the Government’s deal was full of “holes” and could leave many thousands of Westcountry households without cover.  He met a flood-hit family whose insurance premium has rocketed almost eight-fold in recent years.  He said: “There are lots of people worried about the costs of insurance being driven up and up and so we are looking at how the scheme can be improved.”

The deal agreed this summer followed the end of the “statement of principles”. In essence, the industry pledges to insure the properties at the highest risk in return for guarantees from the Government over investment in flood defences and other pledges, such as the state being an insurer of last resort.
Read more: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Government-s-flood-insurance-deal-falls-short/story-20631106-detail/story.html#ixzz2tJTmZfPs