Search results for 'Skypark'

EDDC stoops to new low

27 Feb

Democracy plummeted at East Devon District Council last night,  at a full council meeting crowded with the public. The main business was to consider the budget, including expenses incurred by Cabinet’s decision to relocate the District’s HQ to Skypark ( a vast new  business site outside Exeter).

In public questions, a  series of local residents questioned the incomprehensible choice of a site on the edge of the District, with serious problems of accessibility for most residents, and the rocketing cost of the project in a time of desperate austerity.

None of their questions was answered. As usual it was left to a few Independents and Lib Dems to represent the public interest.

Cllr Claire Wright reminded the councillors that the watchdog Scrutiny Committee on January 30 had recommended that the project  be put on hold pending an independent survey of the existing council offices. She proposed a motion that the council should accept this.

This provoked a clearly co-ordinated outbreak of personal abuse on Cllr Wright from the Tories led by Deputy Leader Andrew Moulding. Incredibly, Scrutiny Committee member Mike Allen who had previously described the leadership’s “lemming” style of financial management, now changed his tune. Obsequiously, he towed the party line, with his own disrespectful jibes towards Claire.

Council Leader  Diviani added his usual economies with the truth, claiming that Skypark was a vibrant new business pole, only recently marketed.

The wonders of modern technology enabled his rosy claim  to be scotched almost immediately with an ipad email showing that the agents had been marketing it since 2010, with only two takers  so far, an EON Energy Centre (2012) and an Ambulance Operations Centre (2014).

The vote on the motion surprised no one. Nor did the fact that a named recorded vote was refused.

The Minority Independents and Lib Dems for, and serried ranks of Tory Majority sheep against –with the honourable exception of Sidmouth Cllr Graham Troman.

With that challenge out of the way and, before most people realised, Cabinet minutes were nodded through which means that land at Skypark can be bought and the the Knowle can be marketed –all without serious debate.

More comment at

“Planning Impossible” – on TV this evening

26 Feb

Best put it on record, as you will be at the EDDC meeting which decides what happens about Knowle/Skypark, won’t you!

BBC2 7 pm

Advertised as:

“Residents protest against a housing development on a greenfield site in Cheshire and an architect tries to get approval to extend a Turkish restaurant in Hertfordshire.  Continues tomorrow”

Episode 1 is still on iPlayer HERE 

and contains some bits that are of direct relevance in our area

Duration: 1 hour

In this episode of Permission Impossible: Britain’s Planners, one of Britain’s biggest house builders is proposing to build 1,500 homes near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. While many local objectors are concerned about losing the green fields, one couple stand not just to lose their business but the home they’ve lived in for 22 years.

In Denbigh, North Wales head of planning, Graham Boase is on a mission to save a Grade II listed building. Denbigh Hospital was built in 1848 to care for mentally ill patients. Now the building is in the hands of private developers who have let it fall into disrepair. The planners want to issue a compulsory purchase order forcing the owners to sell them the building, but they need the full backing of the planning committee. Will permission be granted to save this historic building?

In the sleepy hamlet of Butterow in the Cotswolds, a landowner has applied for planning permission for a builders’ yard at the end of a residential lane. For local residents and objectors, the prospect of having their quiet country idyll interrupted by heavy goods vehicles hasn’t gone down well. And in Frodsham, Cheshire, a property developer has plans to build two new and contemporary design homes. But will the objectors stop the scheme from going ahead?

Carbon tyre prints

18 Feb
One way journeys
Skypark – Central Exeter – 6 miles

Skypark – Seaton 18 miles, to Sidmouth 10.5 mile – extra 7.5 miles to Skypark

Skypark – Sidmouth 11 miles – Sidmouth 0 miles  – extra 11 miles to Skypark

Skypark – Axminster 23 miles – to Sidmouth 15 miles – extra 8 miles to Skypark
Skypark – Uplyme 28 miles, to Sidmouth 16 miles – extra 12 miles to Skypark
Skypark – Exmouth  11 miles –  to Sidmouth 14 miles – 3 miles less
Skypark – Ottery St Mary 8 miles – to Sidmouth 6 miles – extra 1.5 miles
Skypark – Honiton 13 miles – to Sidmouth 9 miles – extra 4 miles

Reckless …

17 Feb

Letter from Beryl Temple:

East Devon District Council’s cabinet decision to re-locate its offices to Skypark (or else ClystHouse which is larger than Knowle although its offices are older than the purpose-built ones at Knowle) represents yet another phase of an ill-thought-out project taken in the face of common sense, in direct opposition to the wishes of the people of East Devon and in reckless disregard of the financial risks and costs involved.Public assets are to be sold off right left and centre to fund a move to an area which is almost outside the limits of the district – these include Knowle, with its historic house and precious community asset, its purpose-built modern offices, together with the best of its heritage park, plus the Manstone site and the Heath Park site at Honiton; and hubs are to be set up around the district, all adding to the enormous costs incurred so far, not to mention the huge borrowing costs over the next few years.No doubt, too, building costs will rise as in nearby Dorchester, North Somerset and elsewhere. Moreover, jobs will almost certainly be lost to East Devon residents, these being taken by people nearby in Exeter. (I gather, too, that in a recent “survey”, current staff did not vote for the move to Skypark and they were not even allowed to vote for the option of staying at Sidmouth).And what is all this for? EDDC claims it will save council-tax payers money. And if it doesn’t, who will pay? You got it – we the taxpayers. Perhaps, if the Cabinet, the leader and Mr Cohen, for instance, were prepared to underwrite any loss, we might be convinced, but we see no reason to trust their maths, especially as they were unable even to count the number of jobs that would be lost to workers from Sidmouth and have signally failed to estimate the costs of renovating the purpose-built 1980s offices at Knowle or to consider selling/renting the historic hotel building to fund this.

Why has there been no independent survey done on the current offices?

In the meantime the EDDC has failed in its duty of care in maintaining its present offices over the past few years with the result that it has inflated the costs of repairs. Was this deliberate or sheer neglect?

It was clear, when EDDC announced the optional sites for re-location, that a key consideration was the “need” for a business centre which presumably will be incorporated into the new offices.

Why is this?

Read more:

Asda for Honiton Heathpark? That would explain EDDC not choosing the site

16 Feb

Interesting bit on the Midweek Herald local chat sidebar from Colin


Today’s Mid Week report certainly mentions a supermarket interested in EDDC’s site on Heathpark. I doubt that it’s been sold for a ‘nominal sum’ though, the report also alludes to EDDC looking to the sale to defray their costs in relocating to Skypark which seems to be the most likely new site now.
Lots of wheeling/dealing going on behind closed doors, that’s democracy – UK style.
“Welcome to Honiton, the supermarket, antique shops, charity shops centre of the UK.”

My ‘source’ tells me £3 million has been agreed, and it’s already a done deal.

Only time will tell if it’s true or not.


That might explain the haste to go to Skypark, where rumour has it tenants are very much needed.

EDDC Leader “not fit for purpose”?

15 Feb

SIN hears from reliable sources that Leader, Paul Diviani’s poor performance on Good Morning Devon this week, has alarmed councillors.

Cllr Diviani was clearly rattled by Matt Woodley’s reference to the “relocation fiasco” and floundered badly when trying to justify the Cabinet’s proposal to move to a business park on the edge of Exeter.

He failed to address Cllr Claire Wright’s comments on the same programme that it was a reckless suggestion at a time of austerity that would export East Devon jobs to Exeter and make it more difficult for residents to visit the offices.

“It is a business that we run”, he said and made the promise that if people can’t visit the new HQ “we will visit them” (SIN –How much will that cost?) His only comment on the financial aspect of the move was that “the cost has shifted around a bit”!

He bumbled on, seeming to argue that because he had to travel a long way from his Yarcombe home to Skypark, lesser mortals could be expected to bear some hardship as well.

 Sceptics are beginning to wonder if the choice of Skypark for EDDC’s HQ move is an attempt to bale out one of the leader’s pet projects. The huge new business park  site is  rumoured to be rather short of eager tenants.

It’s not going well for Cllr Diviani’s other pet project either. The Thelma Hubert Gallery in Honiton is haemorrhaging money and seems doomed. It might be next in an increasingly long queue of EDDC assets waiting to be flogged off to pay for the relocation.

All of which seems to be stoking criticism of the undemocratic nature of Cabinet Government in East Devon.  If the council staff were asked to list their preferences about where to move (and then ignored!)  why were councillors never asked the same?

Expect more storms at the Full Council meeting at Knowle, on 26 February.  See you there, perhaps….at 6.30 p.m.


Employment Land

14 Feb

Sandra Semple has sent us this note of a meeting she attended in 2010:

31 August 2010

Yesterday, I made yet another forey into “The Woodshed” from whence something nasty comes in the book Cold Comfort Farm (see below), otherwise known as The Knowle, ancient seat of East Devon District Council. My reason: to see how the thorny question of employment would be handled at the Local Development Framework Panel meeting.

I made my small, humble contribution, asking why the only two reports which had ever been submitted to the former LDF Panel managed to reach such different conclusions. One by Atkins (consultants employed by EDDC who have done lots of these things, some in Devon) said that in 2007 (yes, isn’t it a long time ago) there was about 88 hectares of employment land available. This report was savaged by our old friends in the East Devon Business Forum which said there was only 6 ha available not 88 ha and MUCH more industrial land was needed (with EDBF members no doubt happy to help find the land to put in the pot that they say needed filling to the brim).

I pointed out that the EDDC “Task and Finish” group which was set up to examine these two reports was eerily similar to the EDBF membership, Councillor Brown being in both groups (Chairman of EDBF and representing the National Farmers Union not EDDC at the EDBF), Councillor Goddard (EDDC rep to the EDBF) and Councillor Ingham (who seems to have been the only one with no previous connection to the EDBF). Who guards the guards? I am investigating exactly which other councillors were on the TAFF and hope to have the information shortly.

I asked if EDDC could clarify exactly who was on their Task and Finish group, since I can find no documentation that actually lists its members (confusingly, its reports only speaks of councillors present at meetings but does not list which of those councillors were members of the Task and Finish group). I also asked, given the big discrepancy between 88 ha and 6 ha just how much weight was going to be given to each report?

Sad to say, I didn’t really get a straight answert to either question. However, Nigel Harrison (EDDC’s Economic Development Manager and the raporteur for EDBF, (which is mostly if not wholly funded by EDDC, by the way) did provide some clarification of one thing. The 6 ha of the EDBF was (I am paraphrasing very slightly here) “land where if someone rings me up and asks where there is 50,000 sq ft of employment land available now, I can tell them where it is”. So, it’s just a snapshot of what is available on a particular day. Funny then that it should form the basis of evidence for an LDF supposed to last from now to 2026 but no-one mentioned or queried exactly what it represented!

Councillor Brown said that he was upset that I had brought this up as he had “talked to me about it” before. I made it VERY clear to everyone assembled that, to my knowledge, I had NEVER discussed this with him, so one of us obviously has memory problems.

So, here we are, 88 ha and 6 ha. What to do? Fear not, Mrs Little has a plan. ANOTHER report, this time by Roger Tym (the same people who have done the housing report). And will this one be reliable? Well, no-one seemed to be able to say as they could not decide (and had never previously decided it seems) (a) what actually constitutes employment land and (b) whether it should just be square metres or whether location, quality and availability should also be included. It led to a very unsatisfactory decision to basically “wait and see”. I’m not sure what for or how long but that was the decision.

So, how much employment land DO we need? Hectares and hectares if you believe EDDC and EDBF. Councillor Skinner pointed out that these are recession years, so we should not be taking current levels of interest or need into account, since things can only get better. However, this one was swiftly demolished by Councillor Giles (from the floor) who pointed out that in the EDDC agenda documents in front of us all it stated that only 32 h (AVERAGE 2 ha per year) extra of employment land had been required over the last 16 years, some of which have been the boomiest ever!!! This led to a rather odd contribution from the Leader of EDDC, Councillor Diviani who said (paraphrase again) well, if I have 70 seat restaurant I don’t expect it to be a sell out every night but occasionally I might seat 70. Which seems to mean: lets have lots an lots of empty industrial units because one day we might need it! But just because you have a 70 seat restaurant doesn’t mean that you might ever seat 70 – surely it depends on the price and quality of the food and the location of the restaurant! Back to the drawing board, though no-one can decide what the drawing board … no let’s not go there.

Other nuggets: the guy from Skypark said: if you insist on including masses of sites in East Devon like all the people in suits here want we have a problem as the oversupply could mean that we will not be able to develop Skypark! There were quite a few developers or planning agents there in their smart suits, one of whom made a great hit with the Chairman who fulsomely complimented him twice on two different presentations for two local developers.

And what about the airport – where they say they are going to provide 2,500 jobs on 15 ha of land – and the inter-modal freight facility – where they say they might, but only might, have around 400 jobs? Is this employment land? Is it counted by East Devon in the LDF? Er, no. Why? Because it isn’t East Devon that is bringing these project forward! Employment land: it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it looks like a duck, but it isn’t a duck because it’s not OUR duck.

Tip: no point in reading the press release sent out by EDDC after the meeting. In my humble opinion it bore no resemblance to the meeting at all. Indeed, reading it, I am more and more convinced that EDDC and I live in parallel universes!

Roll up, roll up! How much of East Devon is up for sale, depends on the Local Plan.

10 Feb

Knowle trees 2012Knowle Council chamber

The Examination in Public (EiP) of EDDC’s new Local Plan , opens tomorrow morning (11 Feb)  10 a.m at EDDC Head Office at  Knowle, Sidmouth.

(Bet the Inspector’s glad he hasn’t got to spend the next few weeks on an industrial site at Skypark! )

To see how the future of East Devon will be shaped, come along to the meetings that interest you most…

Link to programme, and more info,  here:

P.S. Enjoy the park while you are there! It’s an easy stroll into town from Knowle, if you need a meal or a cuppa, or if you need to do a bit of shopping in  Sidmouth’s well-loved  and friendly small shops. At present, the  renowned Field’s department store isn’t threatened by edge-of-town retail competition, either! (Remember aerial view of proposed 12-acre business-with-retail site,  alongside Sidford-Sidbury country road, in AONB, on a floodplain……)

Save our Sidford FieldsSidfordFields revised local plan Nov 2012Sidford flood Dec 2012 166

Knowle relocation……what do the staff think?

10 Feb

The surprising 149% result from a staff survey on the subject, by  Chief Executive Mark Williams, is explained by its format, copied here:

‘Members have decided to relocate from Knowle and will soon decide where we move to based on various criteria.
‘There have been some staff update sessions to explain the options, if you haven’t been able to go along to one of these to find out more, see the East Devon Extra newsletter linked to the front page of the intranet.

If it were up to you, which of the following would be your preferred locations:
Please tick ALL the locations that you would prefer


Clyst House, Winslade Park



 Save our Sidmouth member, Peter Whitfield, comments :

I see that “None of the above” was not an option. I don’t know how they counted the responses.If someone ticked 3 options this would presumably be added to each one thus giving the over 100% result. We don’t know of course what numbers of staff replied.

Surely,if respondents were asked to indicate more than one “preference” it should have been to indicate order of choice, not just a tick which can give no idea of the individual’s actual real preference for a new work base. Then the count could have been along the lines of PR, dropping the “least preferred” and redistributing any second preferences and so on. The method used tells us only that 21% did not object to Skypark, but presumably that means that 79% did!’

EDDC office relocation fiasco continues

10 Feb

A press release issued by East Devon Alliance today, gives the evidence: