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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.

“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.

Misconduct in public office

18 Feb

Readers who have been following the scandals in Wales where 2 chief executives were given special pension deals, beautifully blogged here

http://cneifiwr-emlyn.blogspot.co.uk/

and here

http://carmarthenplanning.blogspot.co.uk/

will be interested to read here that three officers have been charged with misconduct in public office, see here

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/two-top-officials-caerphilly-council-6722998

Local authority: public service or business?

18 Feb

Councillor Diviani says he is running a business.  Read this and see if you agree:

http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2013/04/04/you-cannot-run-a-public-service-like-a-business-and-heres-why/

A business sells you sandbags; a public service provides them to you without charge (though you do, of course, pay for them through your council tax).

 

Paul Diviani’s “explanation” / excuse about the lack of 5 year land supply

6 Jun

HERE.  Presumably he is expecting a lot of people to ask the question: “why are we in this mess? and has had this template put together in an attempt to justify the council’s omnishambles.

One of many, many questions immediately springs to mind:  how come this situation was predicted by your own Overview and Scrutiny Committee YEARS ago (see  many earlier SIN posts on this subject) and why did you and your councillors (particulary Councillor Brown and the East Devon Business Forum) spend SO MUCH time discussing and increasing the employment land supply (which was not a critical issue) and no time at all on the shortage of housing in the Local Plan?

Perhaps you have more questions – the letter certainly begs them.

Will EDDC’s Chief Executive sit as a full member at Tuesday’s TAFF meeting?

9 Mar

… and if so, why?  Surely the whole point of Scrutiny is that everyone is scrutinised without fear or favour.  Witness, we can understand:  equal partner, we don’t understand.   No doubt the Chairman of the TAFF will ask him to enlighten us as to why he is a member of the panel scrutinising officer conduct, including his.

Or perhaps the TAFF has been reconstituted as a “joint body” with EDDC proper whilst our backs were turned!  Speaking of which:  can anyone tell us when, where and why, if at all, a resolution to treat EDBF as a “joint body” was ever discussed, debated and agreed by EDDC (which committee, what date, what number resolution)?  Maybe a reference to a chapter and page in Cross on Local Authority Law would help!

Which reminds us, we still haven’t had the page or chapter reference from that same book as to why the TAFF cannot discuss planning and planning applications because it would be “unlawful” according to the Chief Executive (see posts below between a resident and the Chief Executive Officer of EDDC on this) when it appears from internet research that other TAFFs in other councils seem able to do so.

And remember:  the Localism Act gave councils a general power of competence which, according to the government is a new power available to local authorities in England that will allow them to do “anything that individuals generally may do”.

The guidance document quoted on this above goes on …..

…. we will expand the scope for local democracy. Instead of local councillors never being completely sure what is permitted and what is ultra vires, we shall give a power of general competence to all local authoritie sto carry out whatever activities are not expressly forbidden by statute.”

…..It is both patronising and absurd that councils can only act on a local issue if they have a specific mandate to do so. We’re going to change that by trusting local authorities with a “general power of competence” that will free them to carry out any lawful activity on behalf of their community. That way, instead of endlessly looking up to Whitehall for permission, our councils will be looking to local people for direction. ….

….. We will therefore introduce [and have now introduced] a new general power of competence which gives local authorities an explicit freedom to act in the best interests of their voters, unhindered by the absence of specific legislation supporting their actions. No action – except raising taxes, which requires specific parliamentary approval – will any longer be ‘beyond the powers’ of local government in England, unless the local authority is prevented from taking that action by the common law, specific legislation or statutory guidance. …..

Mr Williams has so far failed to prove that the TAFF’s actions would be unlawful as he has pointed to no common law, specific legislation or statutory guidance that substantiates his advice.  To do this, he must give the TAFF and the public the specific source of his advice.  Simply saying that it is so does not make it so.

News … Independence … Sidmouth, the Sid Valley and beyond

18 Oct
The authorship of this blog has no connection with any EDDC councillor, past or present nor any employee, past or present, of East Devon District Council  nor is it authored by anyone with any past or present connection to Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce or other Sidmouth campaign groups.   It is intended to give an independent voice to local public opinion, and does not necessarily represent the views of any other body.  This site may offer information, national or global, which could be relevant to local issues and concerns.  Its focus is however, and will remain – Sidmouth, Independence and News.  We believe that the overwhelming majority of the employees of East Devon District Council are hardworking and honourable people and it is unfortunate for them and us that they are embroiled in the difficulties brought upon them by our council.

12  November, 2014. Police investigation into ex-councillor Graham Brown has been closed, with insufficient evidence to pursue the matter further.  http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Police-drop-investigation-East-Devon-councillor/story-24517531-detail/story.html

 

trees

Note from SIN  It is not illegal for councillors to work as paid consultants
For those not familiar with the events, this has been a high profile case because Graham Brown  was a former EDDC Councillor and its erstwhile Chairman of the Council’s Local Development Framework Panel and simultaneously Chairman of the now defunct East Devon Business Forum (which was supported financially and with dedicated officer time by East Devon District Council). The local Conservative Party withdrew his membership shortly after  he had told an undercover journalist from the Daily Telegraoh  If I can’t get planning permission, nobody will..but I don’t come cheap”

STORY HERE 

Some months before the above  story broke, East Devon District Council had set up a  Task and Finish Forum (a sub-group of its Overview and Scrutiny Committee) to scrutinise the relationship between the Council and Business. The Chief Executive has since advised that it cannot investigate any planning matters.  A key witness, due to be Lead Officer on the Business TAFF (which had been stalled while the police investigation was in progress), resigned a few weeks before the police inquiry ended. (He is Nigel Harrison, EDDC’s Economic Development Manager who had simultaneously been Honorary Secretary of the East Devon Business Forum.)

On 12 November 2014, in  a letter to councillors, the Chief Executive accused campaign groups and an opposition councillor, of undue influence on the Business TAFF.   http://eastdevonalliance.org/2014/11/12/eda-intense-disquiet-with-chief-executives-letter-to-councillors/

 

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Dates for your diary:

A full list of dates and agendas of forthcoming EDDC public meetings with agendas and minutes of past meetings can be found HERE.
The weekly digest of news circulated by EDDC to its Councillors (The Knowledge) can be found HERE.

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OTHER BLOGS REPORTING ON MATTERS OF INTEREST TO SIDMOUTH AND THE WIDER EAST DEVON AREA

http://eastdevonalliance.org/

and/or

http://saveoursidmouth.com/

and/or

www.claire-wright.org

Contact SIN at:      sidmouthindependentnews@gmail.com
Contact East Devon Alliance at: info@eastdevonalliance.org
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