Goodbye Communities Before Developers …

Communities Before Developers (CBD) was launched in October 2010 to raise the profile of the large amount of development proposed in East Devon District Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) planning strategy.

CBD held two high profile public demonstrations against the LDF, attracting over one hundred people at the first last November and almost that many again during March this year. 

The campaign was successful in bringing home the true picture of damaging large-scale development proposed for East Devon and attracted significant and regular media coverage, including a slot on the BBC’s Inside Out programme in February. 

A staggering 2000 of you wrote in and objected to EDDC’s plans for over-development.  Democracy in action.

After being initially thwarted by EDDC, we finally achieved the publication (now available on the EDDC website) of over three years worth of secret and rather illuminating LDF Panel minutes, some of which are now being used as evidence in a Judicial Review of the Cloakham Lawns, Axminster, planning approval for 400 houses and business units.

As a result of our campaign, in March East Devon District Council promised to have another look at its LDF and hand it over to consultants for checking. 

The process for reviewing the LDF is now well underway and will continue until October or November.  The document will be submitted to the Planning Inspector sometime next year.

Sadly, after much thought and deliberation we have decided to dissolve CBD.  As a campaign group we largely achieved our aims (although not all) in terms of getting the LDF reviewed. 

Unfortunately, some councillors appear to be using CBD for political point-scoring purposes which is very sad when one considers that we live in a democracy, where free speech is supposed to be encouraged.

Perhaps after the next election there will be a more diverse council in East Devon.

To follow the Local Development Framework progress you can visit:

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/planning-nextstagescorestrategy

All the meetings are now held with the press and public present.  If you wish to speak you will need to make your representations in writing around a week in advance.  Information on how to do this is available via this link. 

Please stay involved.

NB.  Sandra Semple has set up her own blog so she can write about her views of the Local Development Framework process and East Devon generally.  

Visit www.eastdevonflora.blogspot.com

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 4 Comments

Lawyers estimate 95% of councils will be vulnerable to speculative applications

From Building Magazine – August 2011

Developers are lining up to take advantage of the planned presumption in favour of sustainable development, amid estimates that new rules will leave up to 95% of councils vulnerable to speculative applications. 

Planning consultants have told Building they are being contacted by numerous developers looking to see if the planned change may aid the acquisition of new planning permissions.

Under draft proposals launched by the government last week, councils will, when local plans are out of date, have to prove that the negative impacts of a development “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh its benefits, in order to be able to turn down an application.

Planning lawyer Jay Das, partner at Wedlake Bell, estimates just 5% of planning authorities would have up-to-date plans by April next year – the point at which the new measures in last week’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are set to come into force. 

The figure is based on the fact that 70% of planning authorities have failed to put new-style plans in place since the last overhaul of the planning system in 2004.

Of the remaining 30%, Das said that so many councils were in the process of making revisions to the number of homes they were planning, only those recently approved were likely to pass.  She said the situation left UK green spaces under threat. “Developers are waiting for the window to take advantage of it.”

Ian Tant, partner at consultant Barton Willmore, said: “Even those councils who have recently reviewed their plans could find themselves out of date, because the abolition of regional strategies means they have to re-examine their housing requirements.” 

Roger Hepher, head of planning at Savills, said: “A lot of developers are getting quite interested in this. [The NPPF] introduces a decisive shift towards promoting development and prioritising economic growth.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

More reaction to Government’s overhaul of planning laws

From the Campaign for Better Transport’s website …

The Government has come under severe criticism for its changes to the planning system but has accused its critics of misleading the public. But there are very good reasons why we think the changes will lead to more sprawl and damage the environment.

One of the main concerns is the new presumption in favour of sustainable development in the National Planning Policy Framework. Greg Clark has said today that the presumption in favour of sustainable development means development should be approved “if it does not give rise to any problems”. If this was true, then we wouldn’t be worried. But the reality the presumption in favour of development will mean that development will go ahead unless a local authority can prove that it gives rise to many problems across all of the areas covered by the NPPF.

This is a very different proposition to that claimed by Greg Clark. In addition, the threshold for rejecting development is set at a demanding height: ‘these policies should apply unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole‘.

And the NPPF as a whole is lacking in clear and unequivocal statements, except for statements that would make development easier. The Government’s line is that this does not matter as local plans will provide it and planning applications will be assessed against them. However, existing local development plans will not be deemed ‘sound’, or valid, until they have a certificate of conformity with the new NPPF – until then planning applications will be assessed against the NPPF.

A recent estimate by a planning lawyer was that only 5% of areas would be covered by a valid plan in conformity with the NPPF when it comes into force.

This will give developers too much leeway. And there are specific changes to planning policy too that will impact on the ability to create a more sustainable transport system: Parking standards are missing – but this will do little to help high streets compete with out of town shopping Office development is now exempt from the town centre first policy, meaning that business parks can be developed in locations inaccessible by public transport or located next to motorway junctions where they would add to congestion Consistent density standards go – meaning that the creation of high quality, compact and walkable developments will become much less likely Greg Clark says that the NPPF is a big chance to make Britain better for future generations as well as our own. We’d support that – but as it currently stands, it sounds like we’ll be compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs by allowing a short-term window where pretty much anything goes in terms of development.

If you want to read more detail about why we’re concerned about the NPPF, please have a look at our analysis http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/system/files/What-NPPF-means-for-sustainable-transport.pdf

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 2 Comments

East Devon District Council’s version …

Latest press release from EDDC…

IS East Devon District Council proposing too many homes for the future – or is it not building enough?

That’s the dilemma facing the Council as it tries to tackle the backlog of affordable housing in the district amidst opposition to all but minimal new development. Just a day after a panel of EDDC Members set a target figure for discussion on future housing development in East Devon, the Council has been mentioned in a national report encouraging local authorities to build more rural housing.

Councillor Mike Allen, Chairman of EDDC’s Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel, said: “This underlines the problem that councils like us face – and shows us just how hard we have to work to convince the public that a degree of growth is not only healthy, but essential”.

He was referring to a report issued by the Countryside Alliance criticising councils for failing to provide the level of housing that rural communities need.

Councillor Allen went on: “EDDC has come in for a lot of flack in recent months from people who frankly wish to see very little new development in the District and do not seem to care whether our young people and families are able to afford homes to enable them to stay in the area where they grew up.

Conflicting pressures

“We have opened up our LDF Panel meetings to the Press and Public and we are quite clear about the methodical way we are trying to deal with the conflicting pressures we face on development over the next 15 years and beyond. Yet we are under fire before we have even had a chance to formulate a draft policy.

“We have been absolutely open with all residents of East Devon about what we are doing. We have sent a leaflet to every home and all evidence is being put on our website for people to submit their own evidence-based proposals for us to consider.

“We are not going to be driven by ill-judged and negative views, but by the wishes of the people of East Devon”.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the LDF Panel, some Parish Council representatives said they wished to see significant numbers of new homes to ensure their communities and local services survive, demonstrating that some people accept the need for growth. Earlier this week, EDDC responded to a draft Government policy (NPPF) that encourages councils to say Yes to sustainable development.

The Council has assessed data for predicted growth in East Devon and will rigorously test a figure of 15,000 new homes over the next 15 years to meet those expectations. More consultation The 15,000 homes is not a final figure.

It is a realistic idea of the volume of homes that may need to be spread across the district. After studying each town and community in turn, the details will be looked at again and a final figure arrived at. This will then be the subject of even more public consultation.

Councillor Allen said there were other important facts the public should know. “When we talk about a target figure of 15,000, that is not only 1,400 lower than the figure we suggested last year, but 2,500 less than the RSS figure the previous Government wanted us to deliver.

“The 15,000 baseline figure also includes homes already built since 2006, when the LDF process started, and homes that have since been granted permission. So, taking away the 2,900 proposed homes at Cranbrook for example brings this down to 12,100.

he total goes still lower after taking into account other homes already planned or built – so the figure of projected new builds is nearer 10,000”.

Posted in EDDC | 2 Comments

‘Revised’ East Devon housing figures slammed

An East Devon District Councillor has reacted angrily to a decision by EDDC`s Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel to stick with its decision for very high levels of housing provision in the face of massive public opposition.

At yesterday`s (2 August) LDF Panel meeting, compelling evidence was provided by Devon County Council stating that longer-term population projection forecasts, which resulted in lower housing figures, were more reliable.  But Head of Planning Kate Little and Chairman of the LDF Panel Cllr Mike Allen dismissed DCC`s report in favour of their consultant`s report, which used short-term `volatile` forecasting methods instead.

Despite three LDF Panel members, including Cllrs Claire Wright and Ray Bloxham, arguing strongly that DCC`s local and longer-term forecasting evidence should be used, their proposal for around 12,000 houses (based on DCC`s report) was voted down by four votes to three.

Ottery St Mary Independent Councillor Roger Giles, who spoke at the meeting, slammed the decision:

He said: “The LDF Core Strategy was a thoroughly discredited piece of work, not least because all the meetings were held in private, and the minutes were not made available to the public at the time. There was massive opposition to the proposed housing figures from the general public in very large numbers, and also from many statutory consultees, concerned about the damage that would be wreaked on our beautiful countryside.”

“The proposal agreed yesterday was 15,000 dwellings (at least) so I doubt that the final proposal will be different from the LDF original proposal.  The majority of the LDF Panel members have shown their total disregard for the people of East Devon and their clearly expressed views.  They have gone along with an apparent determination of the EDDC officers and the LDF Panel Chairman to have many more houses, many more people, and much more development in East Devon.”

“Of course we need some housing, especially for our younger and less well-off residents.  But 15,000 (and more) is far too many and is unjustifiable.”

“This decision is regrettable.  But it is also incomprehensible.  The four Panel members who voted for 15,000 houses did so before they had agreed a strategy for development across the District; before they had completed the second of their series of six meetings; and before they had even talked to the Town Councils of East Devon (the session is due to take place on 6 September).”

“Once again East Devon District Council has made a perverse strategic planning decision.  Once again the wishes of the residents of East Devon who elect councillors have been placed second to the desires of developers, and to the determination of the Government to see development at any cost.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 4 Comments

This localism bill will sacrifice our countryside to market forces

From The Guardian – Thursday 28 July

By Simon Jenkins

The government’s ‘sustainable’ new planning policy invites corruption and will sink us in urban sprawl

With parliament in recess the government this week sneaked out the most astonishing change to the face of England in half a century. A “national planning policy framework” replaces all previous regulation and encourages building wherever the market takes it, crucially in the two-thirds of rural England outside national parks, green belts and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Farms, forests, hills, valleys, estuaries and coasts will be at the mercy of a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. The “default response” to any planning application is to be “yes”.

The word sustainable should never appear in an act of parliament. It is a weasel word, an adjective not qualifying a noun but lightly dusting it with vague political approval. Sustainability is the sort of Blairism that gave us downsizing for sacking and humanitarian intervention for war. The only sustainable meadow is a meadow. Sustainable development is a contradiction in terms. It means development.

The localism bill now before parliament is a straight developers’ ramp. Drafted by the local government secretary, Eric Pickles, and the business secretary, Vince Cable, it stresses business and “national economic policy” over conservation at every turn. It is the outcome of intense lobbying by the construction industry. Pickles and Cable are mere purveyors of building plots to the capitalist classes. The words development and business occur in the bill 340 times, the word countryside just four.

The bill and addendum breach the core principle of planning, that the long-term use of land, the scarcest of resources, should take precedence over an owner’s right to profit. That is why there are no bungalows on the white cliffs of Dover and no wind farms on the Chilterns. It is why, when you look out over the Severn valley, you do not see Bristol merged with Gloucester.

Great champions of the countryside, such as Octavia Hill, Oliver Rackham, Clough Williams-Ellis and Marion Shoard, sought a regime in which rural England kept its head above the tide of urbanisation. Protection was embodied in the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and a presumption, given the irreversibility of urbanisation, against building on green land.

I have read parliamentary bills all my life, but the localism one is the most wretched capitulation to a single lobby I know. It is a junk heap of cliche. It asserts that building must be allowable “for prosperity … for people … and for places”. It need only be economically, socially or environmentally sustainable – “components to be pursued in an integrated way, looking for solutions which deliver multiple goals”, whatever that means. Development need only show it is “planned and undertaken responsibly”. There is no definition of “responsibly”. Such vagueness puts every rural acre in play as “worth a try”.

Planning, once proudly independent, is now effectively an arm of Cable’s department. It is told that it “must not act as an impediment to growth”. This stands on its head the purpose of planning, which is to guard the public interest irrespective of market forces. Its whole point is to be an impediment.

Under the bill the old upper-tier regional targets and spatial strategies are scrapped, with local authorities to write new ones based on what “local people” want. These are to be guided by parish councils and “business forums”. The latter can be any group of 21 people who “live or work” locally. These shadowy, self-selected people are charged not with ascertaining local opinion, but with allocating plots for building and even promoting “more development than is set out in the local plan”. In particular they must help “deliver” a 20% increase in land available for housing.

Should a neighbourhood be so reckless as to want to protect its environment, the planning authority is obligated to “meet local development needs” with “sufficient flexibility to respond to rapid shifts in demand”. This confusion of need and demand is an elementary economic howler.

Worse follows. Half the councils in England have no strategy plans at all. In this case, planning approval is to be assumed. It is also to be assumed “wherever the plan is silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date”, a stunning Orwellian phrase.

This bill is philistine, an abuse of local democracy and an invitation to corruption. Its impact statement accepts that local electors may “resist development proposals that are not in line with their aspirations”, in other words they may opt for conservation. Yet when developers appeal, inspectors are told that their duty is to concede on grounds of overriding national policy. The bias is shameless.

Two groups, apart from developers, will benefit. One is planning lawyers, who will be rubbing their hands in glee and saluting St Eric and St Vincent. The other will be a new army of “Swampies”, who will defend rural England with the same anarchy as Pickles is attacking it. With the countryside facing a return to the ribbon-and-sprawl of the 1930s, litigation and direct action will be conservation’s only defence.

There is no argument that planning is too slow. That does not justify throwing out baby, bath water and all. There is no evidence that a shortage of green land is impeding growth. House-builders and hypermarkets already hold large land banks. There is no “need” to build on green-field sites anywhere in Britain. There is merely a “demand” from those wishing to profit from it.

There is now probably more developable land left over from manufacture and lying unused in England than ever in history. It is mostly serviced, with infrastructure, housing, schools and a working population to hand. By definition it is more sustainable than virgin countryside. It is there that planning should direct development.

Countryside needs no sentimental defence. Most Britons find it beautiful and want it preserved. When the Chipping Norton set see what they have unleashed on their rolling acres they will doubtless be appalled. But we are back to the NHS, forests and student fees, to ministers in a hurry being exploited by lobbyists on the make.

This time it really matters. For the unprotected countryside to become the lasting victim of the credit crunch is tragic. Vince Cable last week patronised America for being in thrall to “a few rightwing nutters”. So is he.

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 2 Comments

Lobby your MP now to protect our countryside from uncontrolled development

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

For decades our planning system has protected much loved places from harmful development. The Government’s reforms turn this on its head, using it as a tool primarily to promote economic growth instead.

We believe in growth – but not at all costs. Planning for people combines long-term growth with other important things like local character and space to breathe, tranquillity and beauty. We need a system that serves all our interests, from commerce to communities.

The Government’s reforms fail this test- they need to stop and think again.

Why do we care?

The Government’s planning reforms, could lead to unchecked and damaging development in the undesignated countryside on a scale not seen since the 1930s.

New plans published by the Government contains a core presumption that the default answer to development will be ‘yes’.

We are deeply concerned that the Government’s proposals allow financial considerations to dominate, which could result in a green-light for poor quality or development in the wrong place, threatening the local places valued by you, while failing to deliver wider benefits to your community.

The National Trust is an applicant in the planning system, and also speaks up, for and against, development proposals put forward by others. We know from our own experience that new development can combine economic benefit with great results for people and the environment.

We call on the Government to ensure that the economic, environmental and social benefits of development go hand in hand and that in the future it will not become possible to see damaging development pushed through on narrow economic ground alone.

Help us to send a message to Government that planning is for people not for profit.

The only way to fight this new Developer’s Charter of a planning system is to contact your MP (for East Devon, either Hugo Swire or Neil Parish) and tell them that this planning policy will destroy our countryside and bankrupt our planning authorities as they are bombarded with appeals, which will probably be successful.

Far from being good economics, it is barmy short-sighted economics, based on the benefits of profits of a few, to the immense detriment of the many.

The consultation ends on 17 October.   Please stand up and be counted for the countryside.

Don’t leave it too late.

Hugo Swire – swireh@parliament.co.uk  

or Neil Parish neil.parish.mp@parliament.uk

 

Posted in Communities Before Developers | Leave a comment

National Trust slams Government’s new planning legislation

‘Planning is for people, not for profit,’ says Director-General, Dame Fiona Reynolds

The National Trust today signalled grave concerns over the Government’s planning reforms, warning that the proposed changes could lead to unchecked and damaging development in the undesignated countryside on a scale not seen since the 1930s.

The draft of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published by the Government yesterday, contains a core presumption that the default answer to any proposed development will be ‘yes’.

This finally sounds the death-knell to the principle established in the 1940s that the planning system should be used to protect what is most special in the landscape, creating a tool to promote economic growth in its stead.

We have criticised the Government’s focus throughout its consultation document on economic growth, which sends the message that schemes which deliver this alone will be enough to get planning permission. This will focus developers’ and local authorities’ attention on the narrow grounds of short-term financial gain, rather than delivering the wider public benefit that good planning can deliver.

We believe that the town and country planning system, as a whole, has served the country well.

It has enabled growth by guiding development to the places that need it, while protecting open countryside, preventing sprawl and safeguarding designated areas and historic buildings.

‘Those planning principles remain as necessary today as when they were first established. Weakening protection now risks a return to the threat of sprawl and uncontrolled development that so dominated public debate in the 1930s.’

‘The National Trust believes in growth as we all do – but not at any cost. Development that works must pass a triple bottom line test – by showing that it meets the needs of people and the environment as well as the economy.

‘Despite some warm words to this effect, the document makes it clear that development is to be encouraged, even urging local authorities to promote more development than is in the plan and over-allocate land for housing.’ 

Fiona Reynolds, National Trust Director-General.

‘The Government’s proposals allow financial considerations to dominate, and with this comes huge risk to our countryside, historic environment and the precious local places that people value.’

We believe the tone and language of the NPPF and consultation document is wrong on several counts:

the reversal of development controls in the public interest comes at too high a price. The NPPF’s concept of sustainable development puts too little weight on benefiting people and the environment

  • the removal of much detailed guidance to local authorities leaves too much power in the hands of developers who will only need to show that their proposals will deliver growth for other important considerations – for example impact on communities, nature and landscape, and the environment – to be pushed aside.
  • local people will have to rely on a development plan to protect what they treasure and shape where development should go. Yet only some local authorities have development plans in place and many local authorities and neighbourhood groups do not have the resources and specialist skills to create plans that genuinely integrate social, environmental and economic considerations. If there is no up to date development plan, planning applications will automatically get consent.

Fiona Reynolds concluded:
‘The National Trust shares the Government’s commitment to localism but it has got the changes to planning wrong. We urge a rethink of the NPPF before we throw the baby out with the bathwater.’

To coincide with the Government’s consultation today we are launching a campaign to show what people value about their local places and the importance of strong planning principles. A twitter feed will ask people to tweet their views with #NTlocal to build up a national picture.

Sign up to our petition at:  http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/

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CPRE: New planning framework is ‘open season on the countryside’

From the CPRE website (their reaction to Government new planning framework) …

The Government has today (Monday) published a highly sensitive draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for public consultation [1][2]. This represents the biggest shake-up of planning for over 50 years and CPRE believes it will place the countryside under increasing threat as the economy recovers.

An earlier leaked copy of the NPPF received a hostile reception from conservation and environmental groups. The Government has made some welcome improvements, for example proposals to curb light pollution. But many elements of the new draft are deeply worrying. In particular, Ministers have failed to commit to the principle that the countryside should be protected for its own intrinsic character, beauty and heritage.

Shaun Spiers, CPRE Chief Executive, says: “The draft planning framework is an improvement on the version we saw earlier this month, but major problems remain. The new framework will make the countryside and local character much less safe from damaging and unnecessary development. If it is not amended, there will be battles against development across the country that will make the public revolt against the sale of the forests look like a tea party.”

CPRE fears pressure on the countryside from damaging development will grow due to:

  • Loss of emphasis on brownfield regeneration – as a result of the removal of the national brownfield target [3] and the failure to promote efficient use of land
  • Over-allocation of land for new housing – the draft NPPF requires local councils to allocate at least 20% additional sites for housing over and above the existing five year supply [4]
  • Weakening of the ‘town centre first’ policy by removing office development from the sequential test [5]
  • Pressure for increased car use – by removing the requirement to set maximum parking standards for non-residential parking [6] in major development
  • Abolition of exceptions policy which allows small scale affordable housing to be built in rural settlements, which is likely to add to pressure for market housing and reduce the supply of affordable housing [7]
  • Weakening of controls over outdoor advertisements, including no mention of billboards being inappropriate in the countryside [8]
  • Changes to Green Belt policy which would allow local communities to support building which would previously have been restricted [9]

Shaun Spiers continues: “The Government admits that policy changes, such as removing priority for brownfield development and allowing ‘Community Right to Build’ schemes could lead to greater development on greenfield land [10]. Although they say protected landscapes, like Green Belts and AONBs, will still be protected, and that is to be welcomed, it seems it is open season for the rest of the countryside, including some of our finest agricultural land. We are fear that in reality what is proposed will weaken Green Belt protection, in spite of Ministers’ intentions. [11].

“CPRE welcomes much of the thinking behind the Government’s reform of the planning system. We do need more people engaging with planning, and its complexity has become a barrier. But with their crude focus on economic growth and default ‘yes’ to development, Ministers are storing up plenty of unintended consequences for the future.

“Over the next few months the Government needs to listen and make further improvements or the consequences for the English countryside and the character of our towns and villages will be grave.”

End

Notes to Editors
[1] Department of Communities and Local Government, Draft National Planning Policy Framework, 27 July 2011. http://bit.ly/pNluxz
[2] Greg Clark, Minister of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Forward to the National Planning Policy Framework, 25 July 2011. http://bit.ly/o4Qu24
[3] Department of Communities and Local Government, Draft National Planning Policy Framework: Impact assessment, 25 July 2011, page 95. http://bit.ly/rg13GX
[4] See 1 page 30
[5] See 1 page 45
[6] See 3 page 39
[7] See 3 page 97
[8] See 1 page 34
[9] See 3 page 72
[10] See 3 page 95]
[11] See 3: “there is a risk there could be a small-scale loss of Green Belt” page 75
“Including Community Right to Build schemes could lead to greater development in the GB” page 73

Posted in Campaign to Protect Rural England | Leave a comment

Planning system under attack!

From the Campaign to Protect Rural England website (CPRE)… www.cpre.org.uk

We started the year feeling optimistic about reforms to planning.

The Government’s Localism Bill promised to rebalance the system in favour of local communities and Ministers seemed genuinely committed to the role of planning in protecting the environment. Now the mood has changed.

As the Government’s agenda unfolds, it is clear the planning system is under attack. We urgently need your help to fight back.

Last week, we were alarmed to see a leaked Government document which shows that crucial national planning policies are being watered down so that the default answer to development is ‘yes’. This follows amendments to the Localism Bill which mean planning decisions could be influenced by financial considerations, rather than long term environmental objectives. If these proposals are carried through, local communities and planning authorities would be largely powerless in the face of development pressure. This could put huge swathes of our countryside up for grabs.

It started with the Chancellor’s Budget Statement in March where planning was described as an ‘obstacle to economic growth’. Of course we all want to see economic recovery but this need not be at the expense of the countryside – or sensible planning. We can have the development we need and protect the countryside for future generations but we need a robust and effective planning system to achieve that.

All of us who care about the countryside – as well as the vitality of our towns and cities – need to stand up for what we value. With the economy in the doldrums, the threat may not seem particularly urgent. But, unless we act now, when we emerge from the recession there will be uproar across the country as local communities discover that the planning system and its ability to shape development, protect the countryside and promote urban regeneration has been undermined by the reforms currently being pushed through.

We are gearing up for a major campaign to make the Government think again. We have been working hard behind the scenes to shape emerging legislation, but progress is slow and time is running out. We need to step up our efforts if we are to make a real difference. This will not be an easy campaign to win but with your support we still stand a chance.

Take action – write to your MP
As a start, please write to your local MP now to ask him or her to write to the relevant Minister, Greg Clark MP, and urge him to:

  • stand up for the countryside and the integrity of the planning system;
  • ensure the countryside as a whole, not just our best landscapes, is protected from damaging development in national planning policies; and
  • give local planning authorities the ability to require new development to reuse previously developed land before building on greenfield sites.

Posted in Campaign to Protect Rural England | Leave a comment

New ‘default yes to development’ government planning policy launched

From Planning Resource website…

The coalition Government has published its long-awaited draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for consultation.

The Department for Communities and Local Government described the document as “a key part of our reforms to make the planning system less complex and more accessible, and to promote sustainable growth.”

Decentralisation and planning minister Greg Clark said: “By replacing over a thousand pages of national policy with around fifty, written simply and clearly, we are allowing people and communities back into planning.”

Speaking to Planning this morning, Clark dismissed concerns raised by the Royal Town Planning Institute that the framework could undermine local plans by stipulating that applications that do not run demonstrably counter to the national framework should be approved.

He said: “We think we have advantaged plan-making. If you have an up-to-date, sound plan, you should expect to see decisions in conformity with that”.

He made it clear that by a sound plan he meant one that had not only been adopted but issued with one of the Government’s new certificates of conformity.
 
The minister also stressed that the document was a draft. “We have taken 1300 pages down to 52, and we want to check very carefully nothing has been left out that should be in,” he said.

Clark added that the Department for Communities and Local Government was committed to adopting the framework in April next year.

A 12-week consultation on the document will close on 17 October 2011.

As part of the consultation, the DCLG said it would be holding four planning reform events in London on Wednesday 7 September, Leeds on Thursday 8 September, Birmingham on Tuesday 13 September, and Bristol on Thursday 15 September.

The Draft National Planning Policy Framework Consultation can be read here.

The Royal Town Planning Institute President Richard Summers said: “The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is a missed opportunity.

“We are concerned that the draft NPPF will not secure balanced economic and housing growth across England.  It fails to set out a vision for the development that is needed to support a growing population and to promote economic growth across the country and that is effectively linked with infrastructure to redress existing and potential geographical and social disparities.

“Economic growth is generally set to trump the aspirations of local communities expressed in local and neighbourhood plans. The relationship between the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the primacy of locally-led development plans is not clear.  It appears that the NPPF could direct local policies to be set aside to deliver the government’s growth agenda in response to market-led demands rather than to promote truly sustainable development for neighbourhoods and for local and wider than local areas.”

“However, it does begin to go in the right direction towards a National Spatial Planning Framework for England that the RTPI has campaigned for over more than ten years.  The Institute looks forward to continuing its dialogue with the government during the NPPF consultation period and beyond to help secure truly sustainable development policies and a workable planning system for the future.”

Posted in Planning | 1 Comment

Schedule of Future Local Development Framework Panel Meetings

From EDDC’s website…

Set out below is a draft schedule of subject matters for discussion at future LDF Panel meetings.  The Council will typically prepare a draft technical paper or report for the Panel meeting for each subject matter which will be refined and added to in the coming months.  The papers will become evidence based reports to justify policy choices.  

The Panel considerations and evidence presented by the public and other bodies will help inform the final papers. The final papers will also be on the Council web site alongside/referenced to in future policy documents.

The list of subject matters to be discussed can be extended, please email Matt Dickins at mdickins@eastdevon.gov.uk if you want to suggest additional subjects.

Schedule Updated/Reviewed – 22 July 2011

2 August 2011 (agenda to be sent out 22 July – public papers to be received on/by 29July)

•Housing and Employment Study;

•Rural Areas Policy Paper and Neighbourhood Plans;

•Renewable Energy and Climate Change;

•Coastal Erosion;

•Undeveloped Coast;

•Green Infrastructure.

16 August 2011 (agenda to be sent out 5 August – public papers to be received on/by 4 August)

•Affordable Housing Study and Proposed Policy;

•Elderly Person Housing.

30 August 2011 (agenda to be sent out 19 August – public papers to be received on/by 18 August)

•Employment and Tourism Paper

6 September 2011 (agenda to be sent out 26 August – public papers to be received on/by 25 August)

•Sidmouth;

•Seaton;

•Ottery St Mary;

•Honiton;

•Exmouth;

•Budleigh Salterton;

•Axminster;

The towns will be a preliminary session and further meetings will consider each town in more depth.

13 September 2011 (agenda to be sent out 2 September – public papers to be received on/by 1 September)

•West End development;

•Villages and Rural Areas development.

Future Panel Sessions

There will be a need for future LDF Panel Sessions to be organised in September and October.  A number of the draft papers presented to the Panel in earlier sessions will need to come back to the Panel in revised/fuller format.  In addition further subject matters (with associated papers) will also be added to the agenda.  These are to include:

•Biodiversity and Habitat Regulations;

•Landscape issues and policy;

•Transport issues;

•Recreation issues;

•Housing Land Assessment Paper and 5 Year Supply Update;

•Infrastructure Provision and Links to 106 and CIL;

•Consultation Strategy for Core Strategy Document.

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

Who guards the guards? And why? And how?

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

East Devon District Council used to have several Overview and Scrutiny committees  but with the new regime this has now been reduced to just one.   On the EDDC website, its role is described as:

This committee supports the work of the Cabinet and the Council as a whole.  It allows citizens to have a greater day in Council matters by holding public enquiries into matters of local concern.

These lead to reports and recommendations which advise the Cabinet and Council as a whole on its policies, budget and service delivery.  It also monitors the decisions of the Cabinet.  It can call-in a decision which has been made by Cabinet or one of its members but not yet implemented.  

It enables them to consider whether the decision is appropriate.  It may recommend that the Cabinet reconsider the decision.  It may also be consulted by the Cabinet or Council on forthcoming decisions and the development of policy.

So, we can see that it is an important committee. However,  it is NOT (as it says above) the role of an Overview and Scrutiny committee to support the work of the Cabinet and Council – its role is to SCRUTINISE it, MONITOR it and CALL in decisions which it feels have not been given appropriate consideration..

It first met on 9th June 2011 but that meeting was mostly bureaucratic, since the new council had only just been elected.  Its agenda included noting the Cabinet agenda, being informed about the Sustainable Communities Act, the officers Quarterly Monitoring Report and the Council’s Forward Plan.   

It then met on 7 July 2011 and discussed the Cabinet Agenda, a review of the Joint Integration Committee (you know, the one that cost us electors in the hundreds of thousands of pounds to discuss how we could save money by sharing services with South Somerset District Council and which resulted only in the sharing of our Chief Executive), the new Management Structure of the officers of the council (already decided at this point), an update from the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Business (ah, the East Devon Business Forum in the shadows there, methinks), and again discussion of the Forward Plan

Big stuff.  So why has the next meeting of this committee (scheduled for 28 July 2011 and remember, the only one scrutinising the council), been cancelled.

Ah, you might think, this is Sandra being paranoid – it’s the holidays, lots of meetings are cancelled because of holidays.  But this committee has 21 members (most of them, of course, from the ruling party) – don’t tell me they are ALL on holiday!

Either it is a toothless tiger, in which case meetings of it are pointless (and if its only role is to support the Cabinet then that would be understandable), it doesn’t have anything important to scrutinise (but there has been a Cabinet meeting to scrutinise and many things happening with the Local Development Framework, for example) that ought to be brought into the public arena.  Or, there are things that need discussing but some people have decided that if the meeting is cancelled they will be past scrutiny by the time the next one comes along. 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention - the committee chairman and vice-chairman are both conservatives!  A conservative-run scrutiny committee, ‘supporting’ a conservative-run council. 

Perhaps it should be renamed the ‘Overview and Support Committee’?

Posted in EDDC | Leave a comment

Ministers deploy an Imperius Curse on England’s countryside

From the CPRE’s website…dated 14 July

The Government is expected to publish a new approach to how development is planned before Parliament’s summer break begins next week. The publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for public consultation follows heavy criticism of earlier leaked drafts, with many people concerned how the plans will affect the Green Belt and the wider countryside.

CPRE is calling on the Government to recognise, in the NPPF, that good planning is about far more than pushing new development. Often planners do most to promote economic growth by making England an attractive place in which to live, work and invest. They do this by safeguarding and promoting beauty in town and country, addressing climate change, and making effective use of previously built on (brownfield) land. This often means saying ‘no’ to the wrong development in the wrong places rather than a default ‘yes’ as Ministers seem to want.

Paul Miner, Senior Planning Campaigner for CPRE, says: “At present, all local authorities are hearing from the Government is ‘build, build, build’.  This is like a real-life Imperius Curse from Harry Potter, which places the victim completely under the control of the person who casts the spell.  Only someone with exceptional strength of will is capable of resisting it.

“With the repeated exhortations from government to approve development at almost any cost, it will take a very strong local authority to resist destructive planning applications. We look to Ministers to make clear that protection of the places people love won’t be overridden by their understandable desire to get the economy moving.

Paul Miner concluded: “The UK has led the world in protecting the countryside for its own sake. A clear and concise planning framework is essential if communities are to get involved in planning the shape of their local areas, as we hope they will.  But in cutting the number of words in planning guidance, it is essential that the Government does not reduce the protection it gives the countryside and other green spaces.”  

The Campaign to Protect Rural England is today (Thursday) publishing three key tests for judging the new National Planning Policy Framework.

Key tests
Putting truly sustainable development at the heart of planning: Ministers have made it clear that they want to use the planning system to deliver economic growth and new housing and so the definition of ‘sustainable development’ within the NPPF has become pivotal [1].

Local communities should be empowered to insist on strong links between new development, energy efficiency and sustainable forms of transport. And it should be made clear that the presumption in favour of sustainable development allows local authorities to refuse development when it would damage the quality of the natural environment or breach environmental limits.

A presumption against building in the Green Belt and in favour of brownfield: previous government policy called for developers to look at brownfield land and derelict sites before considering greenfield and Green Belt land for development, with a presumption against building in the Green Belt. These policies have not featured in early drafts of the NPPF [1].

Intrinsic value of the countryside: the Government committed in the Coalition Agreement to protecting areas that have been designated as important. While we welcome the protection of ‘valued landscapes’ we are concerned about the loss of a principle that the countryside should be protected for its own intrinsic character, beauty, heritage, wildlife and the wealth of its natural resources. Such a loss in protection would be particularly worrying as the Government’s own Natural Environment White Paper has set out a vision for protecting the countryside as a whole and making it better for nature.

End

Notes to Editors
[1] In his Budget, George Osborne said: “We will introduce a new presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that the default answer to development is ‘yes’.”
[2] In 1995 a national target for building at least 50% of all new homes on brownfield sites was introduced by the then Environment Minister John Gummer. Between then and 2007 117 square miles of brownfield land have been redeveloped for housing. (Source: Department for Communities and Local Government, Land Use Change Statistics, live table 226.) If this housing had been built on greenfield land instead, an area of countryside at least six times the size of Southampton (Southampton City Council’s area is 19 square miles) would have been lost to housing.

Posted in Campaign to Protect Rural England | 3 Comments

Brighton withdraws core strategy from examination

Brighton and Hove City Council is to redraw its key planning document for the next two decades to take into account the planning changes proposed in the Localism Bill.

The Green Party-controlled council has withdrawn its core strategy from the examination process and says that it plans to revise the document so that it reflects the Localism Bill’s new approach to housing and planning.

Amy Kennedy, cabinet member for planning, employment, economy and regeneration, said the plan would “reflect the actual needs of the city”.
 
She said: “It should take into account recent changes such as the abolition of regional housing targets, the new South Downs National Park, and proposals for neighbourhood planning.”
 
The council also hopes it will lead to renewed investment, provide affordable housing and jobs and create sustainable buildings, Kennedy said.

“It will also place significant emphasis on sustainable development and high quality design,” she added.

Meanwhile, the council has launched a new requirement for developers to submit calculations for the amount of carbon embodied in materials used for new developments as a condition of planning permission.

This is thought to be the first time a council has required developers to give such an estimate.

The new rule, which comes into effect this week, is part of the council’s updated sustainability checklist which covers a series of questions that need to be completed when developers submit a planning application.

Posted in Communities Before Developers | Leave a comment

A Landmark Day!

Local Development Framework Panel

12 July 2011

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

This is necessarily a long posting for which I apologise …

The first meeting of the LDF Panel. Thank you, Claire Wright (member of the Panel) – without you we would never have seen this day! Around 30 members of the public finally getting to see things they had never been allowed to see before, most of them CBD supporters, I think, and a few developers! 

The PROS: that this is happening at all, that the new Panel is asking important and trenchant questions in public and that there is an element of transparency (I can’t go so far as to say full transparency – there is still the problem of the Panel meeting in secret to protect “sensitive commercial interests” and exactly how that is determined).

The CONS:  some difficulty amongst officers in understanding the difference between opinion, information, interpretation and evidence – EDDC officers, it would seem, can provide any of these but the public must provide only EVIDENCE for their submissions to the Panel.  Too much reliance on one consultant for “evidence” on their part.

The Chairman made a pretty little speech about allowing members of the public, just this once to ask questions not submitted in advance with a stern warning that this would NOT be allowed in future.  Only questions submitted in writing, in advance and with supporting EVIDENCE would be allowed.  No evidence, no question. 

So, people, make sure you have your evidence with you (although this does not apply to EDDC officers – see later).  It seems to me that the Panel then went on to give opinions because at this point (see below) they didn’t actually have any new evidence before them!  Just a bit confusing.

A lot of the meeting was taken up with the minutiae of bureaucracy but my two personal highlights:

•Councillor Philip Skinner querying whether members of the Development Management Committee should be allowed to be on the LDF Panel because of conflict of interest.  Funny that – ALL BUT ONE of the previous LDF Panel were also on the Development Management Committee and I never heard him voice any concerns about it then, even though he attended nearly every (secret) meeting.   Wonder why he finds it difficult that only one member of the LDF is now in this situation when it used to be five of them but it concerns him more than it did then.  Could it be because this person is a Lib Dem and not  a Conservative?  No, surely not!

•Councillor Claire Wright asking why EDDC had deemed it necessary to add two extra Conservative members to the Panel in future.  Some waffling from the Chairman about “the composition of the panel to represent the composition of the Council”.  Again, not something that has come up in the past!  My take on this:  the desperate realisation that they need to have “safe hands” in there because there just might be too many people capable of independent thought.  Heaven forbid!  Better to have at least a couple of people there who can be trusted to totally toe the party line and apply the Whip there and then if needed!

Lots of discussion about whether the figures of the Labour Government’s Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which set out 17,100 houses for East Devon, should be used to inform the LDF?  Tricky one this:  Coaliton Government originally said No, but then lost a legal case brought by developers so it had to be Yes.  Further complicated by the fact that, even though it is Yes now, it will be changed to No when the Localism Bill has passed through the Houses of Lords and Commons. 

So, Panel has to assume that they must use these figures in the full knowledge that by the time their report goes to the Inspector they will not be needing to use them.  Work that one out!  Interestingly, Mrs Little (Head of Economy) was VERY, VERY keen that the high figures of the (unadopted) RSS should be continue to be used (and perhaps even increased) but seemingly without any of the evidence for this view that she required from others and which, she says, is still in the hands of the consultants who have not yet reported back to her.

An admission that there had not been enough coverage of climate change, habitat regulations, employment issues (too much reliance on industrial jobs) and not enough about tourism (at last someone has noticed – though I do think it was the objectors to the former LDF and NOT EDDC’s officers who brought this out, otherwise they would have been in the old LDF.

We were told that the report from consultants retained to examine the RSS figures had not yet come through and so their important evidence could not yet be discussed.  Watch this space:  anticipated for some time in August.  Councillor Wright made a plea for “timely sight” of this document for councillors so that they could think about it and formulate their questions before the meeting where it would be discussed.  Somehow this turned from a simple request into the Chairman asking with great anxiety:  “Do you want this document by email or other means – you have to make a decision NOW”.  The somewhat bemused councillors settled for email.

Some discussion about cross-boundary working (EDDC, Exeter, Teignbridge) particularly because of the East of Exeter Growth Point (Skypark, Science Park, Airport, etc) but absolutely no idea how this would be achieved or by whom and to what extent.

Councillor Claire Wright informed the panel that the Devon County Council had carried out its own local housing projections which were more up-to-date (by several years) and most importantly, significantly lower than RSS/LDF figures.  This appeared to be a most inconvenient piece of Evidence for Mrs Little who did her best to wave it aside.

Councillor Wright voiced her concern about the possibility of East Devon being “covered in industrial sheds” and made a plea for employment land to be called what it really is:  industrial land.  The Chairman was not happy about this and gave her a bit of a slap on the wrists but she seemed to survive it!

Mrs Little made the point several times that any housing figures that would appear in the LDF would be “indicative minimums” and NOT maximums.  That doesn’t bode well for the future!

Tourism and the economy were completely glossed over.  Mrs Little said that there would “verbal reports”on this at the meeting but just said “There will be reports”!  When asked by Councillor Wright what evidence it would use, she was somewhat vague in her reply.  Same with “Forward programme to resolve farming, food and green infrastructure issues” – there will be a report in future.  Makes you wonder why they put it on the agenda at all.  I did point out in public questions that I thought “verbal reports” should not be allowed as we needed to how and why policy evolved and for this we would need a paper trail.

Then a REALLY interesting bit (page 15 of the agenda referred to above).  A position paper offered with the agenda gave three options about how to proceed with the actual LDF document (and here I paraphrase Bureacrat-ese):

(a)    Tinker about the edges of the old LDF.

(b)   Tinker about with a bit of the LDF but not much.

(c)    Rip it up and start again.

It seemed to my untrained ear that the Chairman and Mrs Little were pressing very hard to get the Panel to commit to either Option A or Option B. 

It was perfectly easy to see that this would not be possible.  Until more evidence comes up, the Panel will not be able to decide what approach it wants to take and that evidence has not yet been received.  Most councillors saw this for what it was:  an attempt to get them into a straitjacket much too soon and refused to be drawn on this at this early stage.  Well done, councillors.

There then followed an interesting little vignette:  Councillor Bloxham asked: Why had Budleigh Salterton been classified as a village when it was in fact a town?  As a “village hub” it would have only an extra 50 homes when in fact there were already planning applications in the pipeline for many more than that and, as a town, it would expect to have more anyway, especially as a town where the average age was on the very high side to put it politely and which needed opportunities for local youngsters to stay in the area. 

It seems, according to Mrs Little, that the reason that Budleigh Salterton was designated as a village was because “that was what they had wanted”.  And why was Budleigh Salterton allowed to do this when other towns and villages had got nothing like what they wanted – no real answer, except to say that if other town and villages wanted to be redesignated they had to (a) ask for it and (b) provide evidence for the change. 

I’m still bemused: why WAS it designated a village then when it is as big as Seaton and Ottery St Mary?  I really must try to seek out ex-Councillor Franklin to pick his brains about that one – I’m sure he will be able to give me the background, having been on the Development Control Committee AND the LDF Panel in the past and who also represented Budleigh Salterton.  Always useful to have these people around to be able to talk to them about how these things happen.

Will “hub villages” remain part of the LDF?  No answer.

IMPORTANT:  how are towns and parishes going to input into the new LDF?

Well, it seems that representatives of towns can attend the meeting on Tuesday 6 September 2011 and tell the LDF Panel what they want, why they want it and provide evidence to show why the LDF should believe them.  BUT, this is after the housing figures for the district have been nicely sewn up.

Parishes:  they can send in their evidence after meeting within their parishes and provided they send the same evidence along to the Panel.

What evidence?  Well, that’s up to the towns and parishes.  Will this evidence influence the Panel:  not necessarily as they will decide what is “good” evidence and what isn’t, without actually telling the towns and parishes what they actually want in terms of strong evidence.  And with only a month for councils to meet and decide this, with the new RSS evidence not available to them!  Cart and horse sprung to mind here.

Towards the end, Councillor Wright asked that the Panel should ensure that the panel gives equal weight to (views they were called by Mrs Little) evidence from statutory consultees Devon County Council and Natural England, as well as the consultant’s reports, which worringly appear to be relied by Mrs Little as the only evidence needed. 

Natural England and Devon County Council both were very critical of the old LDF, particularly Devon County Council which had warned that elements of it were likely to be found unsound by an inspector – housing and industrial land. 

The Chairman assured her that all evidence (views – oh dear, I am confused) would be taken into account.

So, if you are a town councillor, you need to tell your Chairman, Town Clerk and Chair of Planning that your only chance to give EVIDENCE on what your town wants/needs will be at the LDF Panel meeting of Tuesday 6 September 2011 and if you are a parish, you need to get your EVIDENCE in by that date too.  Oh, and if you want to talk about it in advance, Mrs Little said that Matt Dickens would be happy to talk to you about this (even though it seems that he has thousands of other things to do).

SUMMARY: A good start but a long way to go.  And none of this would have happened without CBD!  Pat ourselves on the backs. 

 Next meeting is on TUESDAY 2 AUGUST to discuss consultant’s report on housing and industrial land.  Also  habitat regulations, renewable energy and climate change, green infrastructure and transport. 

The full programme of meetings is published here:

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/combined_ldf_agenda_120711.pdf

(page 33 onwards)

Posted in Communities Before Developers, EDDC | 2 Comments

Concern remains over housing numbers and East Devon environment

By Emily McIvor, East Devon Green Party Spokesman

East Devon District Council`s Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel is to meet on 12 July (2pm at The Knowle, Sidmouth) to review the highly controversial level of development planned for the District to 2026, as outlined in last year’s draft LDF document.

There was massive public opposition to the proposals (for additional 19,420 dwellings) in the LDF Core Strategy Consultation which took place for three months at the end of 2010.  The Communities Before Developers Group (CBD), which included members of the East Devon Green Party, organised two very large demonstrations against the proposals at The Knowle.

Thousands of individuals and very many organisations objected to the LDF Plans.  Now the process of considering those objections begins.

Previous meetings of the LDF Panel were held in private.  The agendas and minutes of the LDF Panel meetings were not made available to the public.  There was real concern about what developers had been saying in those secret meetings.

Now, as a result of pressure by CBD, the meetings are to be held in public.

The LDF Panel meetings should have been held in the public domain.  The amount of development in East Devon over the next two decades is a vitally important issue.  It was quite wrong that discussions between developers and the Council over the future of East Devon took place in secret; the public had a right to hear those discussions taking place. 

We very much welcome the change that the press and public will now be able to attend and participate in the coming meetings.

The East Devon Green Party continues to have concerns over several key issues, including the amount of development proposed, and the absence of policies to protect the environment and the countryside.

The agenda papers say: “The Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) housing allocation and employment provision evidence is the baseline for the District`s Plan in default of any other subsequent evidence”. 

We feel that the housing figures in the RSS are far too high, and would be very damaging.

We are also concerned that protection of the environment and countryside – something that the vast majority of East Devon residents are very concerned about – has not been properly addressed in the agenda papers for the 12 July meeting.

There is overwhelming evidence that the East Devon landscape is highly valued by residents, and that conservation generates income for the whole district.  The baseline must acknowledge the importance of preserving and protecting our natural assets.

Posted in EDDC | 3 Comments

Key neighbourhood planning amendment proposed

From the Royal Town Planning Institute website

Civic Voice and the RTPI have suggested an amendment to the Localism Bill to ensure a neighbourhood planning forum cannot focus solely on just one aspect – promoting business in an area.

The amendment has the support of Baroness Whittaker and is set to be considered this week.

Civic Voice Director Tony Burton, said:

“Business has an important role in planning the future but it should never be at the expense of the community’s quality of life or the health of the environment. The Localism Bill needs to change if it is to live up to its ambitions of a power shift which will put communities in control.”

Trudi Elliott, RTPI Chief Executive, said:

“We hope ministers will think again and respond positively so that local people genuinely feel able to influence the places where they live and work and do not find that their neighbourhood plan is being driven solely by the needs of businesses.”

Civic Voice and the RTPI have called on peers to support the Whittaker amendment so that the original broad purpose for neighbourhood forums is reintroduced into the Bill.

Both Civic Voice and the RTPI, who are strong supporters of neighbourhood planning,  are concerned that a late Government amendment to Schedule 9 of the Localism Bill in the House of Commons will, if unaltered, have a serious effect what was intended to be a comprehensive approach to effective and proper planning and, in particular, the nature of neighbourhood plans. The purpose of planning, as consistently emphasised in Government guidance and statements, is to address the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development.  This clause, as amended, runs entirely counter to that by encouraging a type of planning which focuses solely on just one aspect – promoting business.

Schedule 9, 61F (5) [page 306, line 17] was amended  in the House of Commons to read:
(5) A local planning authority may designate an organisation or body as a neighbourhood forum if the authority are satisfied that it meets the following conditions—
(a) it is established expressly for either or both of the following purposes—
(i) furthering the social, economic and environmental well-being of individuals living, or wanting to live, in an area that consists of or includes the neighbourhood area concerned,
(ii) promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses in such an area.

Civic Voice and the RTPI are concerned that the inclusion of the phrase ‘either or both’ in (a) means that a Neighbourhood Forum may be set up for – and, thus, a neighbourhood plan done purely for – ‘promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses in such an area’ rather than being required to take into account wider ‘social, economic and environmental well-being’.

Amendment 148AZZC tabled by Baroness Whitaker

Page 306, leave out lines 20 to 27 and insert—
“(a) it is established expressly for the purpose of furthering the social, economic and environmental well-being of individuals living, working, or wanting to live, in an area that consists of or includes the neighbourhood area concerned, including, if relevant, promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses in such an area,”

Posted in Housing | 1 Comment

New development proposed at Woodbury

By Wendy Spicer, Woodbury resident

The developers are at it again.

On June 14th, a handful of people in Woodbury received notification from Bell Cornwell of an exhibition to be held in Woodbury Village Hall re a proposal to build 24 houses on Town Lane. The letters advising of this were posted by hand through properties opposite the proposed site but no general notices were posted in the village.

The agents mistakenly supposed that only those living closest would care. Think again.

There were plenty of team members in the village hall but none wore badges and most seemed to know very little about the project. For example, I asked the name of the developer and two men in blue scratched their heads before a third was found to tell me it was Badger Homes.

I asked which primary school the new entrants to the village would use which also seemed perplexing as did my question about the proposed sale price of the houses and the ratio of rented to owner occupied properties.

My query about the status of the land also received blank looks until someone admitted it was a greenfield site.

Badger Homes made a similar bid in 1997 but permission was refused because of the proximity of Grade 11 listed buildings. As we know, EDDC planning department is now a different beast.

At the exhibition, I was offered an A4 handout with the heading ‘Woodbury Local Housing Needs Report’. It was a report purporting to summarise a survey conducted by the Community Council of Devon in 2008 and, according to the leaflet, had been commissioned by the parish council. The implication was that the parish council backed this current proposal which I have subsequently discovered is not the case.

The handout claimed that 13% of the inhabitants of Woodbury had identified a need for additional housing but, in fact, only 458 survey forms had been returned and they claimed to have distributed 1200 questionnaires so my arithmetic calculates that 4.9% thought there was a need. A straw poll amongst my acquaintance revealed no one who remembered completing a questionnaire.

I am not a statistician but surveys are only as good as the questions posed. If you ask an eighteen year old living at home with parents if s/he would like a place of his/her own, the default response is surely yes.  Some houses might well have two or three generations living within but sometimes that is personal choice.

Today, the Rightmove site says that 699 houses and 235 flats are for sale within a three mile radius of Woodbury village green and 42 houses and 19 flats are available for rental.

I think this poses an ideological question.  Do we continue to desecrate the green spaces within our communities or do we suggest to those who say we need these additional houses that they should perhaps look at what is already available?

The cynic within me says that these questions are merely rhetorical as one of the men in blue informed me that the agents had already had several meeting with the planning west team.

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Local Development Framework Panel meeting papers published – the first EDDC LDF Panel meeting to be held in the public domain

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/combined_ldf_agenda_120711.pdf

Click on the link above to view the agenda paperwork for the first LDF Panel meeting to be held with the press and public present.  It was only as a result of intense campaigning by CBD that this came about – you may remember that previous meetings were all held with the press and public excluded and the minutes were not circulated widely, even within the council.

There is now a new panel of councillors – Mike Allen, Ray Bloxham,  Peter Bowden, Andrew Moulding, Steve Wragg and Claire Wright.  They will be directing the future of the LDF. 

The councillors and officers need to know that people still care very much about what happens to this document – and of course – the countryside as a result.

Up for debate over the coming weeks is:

- Numbers and distribution of housing across East Devon

- The amount of industrial land

- Where farming and tourism feature in plans

- Environmental considerations and proposals

- Infrastructure policies

- Affordable housing policies

The first meeting will be held on Tuesday 12 July at 2pm in EDDC’s council chamber, Knowle, Sidmouth.  If you are free, please do come along.

Posted in Communities Before Developers | Leave a comment

Govt is risking an ‘environmental disaster’ with planning reforms

From Planning website …

The Government is risking an ‘environmental disaster’ by putting the economic aims of the planning system ahead of its social and environmental purposes, according to lobby group the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Speaking ahead of a national conference on England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said AONBs are at risk from “damaging and inappropriate developments at a time when Government policy risks further weakening the protection of the countryside”.

Spiers said: “The threats facing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are particularly worrying because these contain many of the country’s finest landscapes and are meant to have the strongest planning protection.  

“If the planning system cannot safeguard AONBs – iconic landscapes such as Dedham Vale, the Forest of Bowland and the Cornwall coast – it should be strengthened.  

“However, we are deeply concerned that far from strengthening the planning system, the Government is proposing to make ‘yes’ the default answer to development proposals.”

CPRE has published a map showing areas which it says are under threat due to the Government’s planning reforms.

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | Leave a comment

Work starts on East Devon’s new town of Cranbrook

From EDDC’s press release …

TEN YEARS of planning paid off yesterday (Wednesday 29 June) when partners behind the new community of Cranbrook celebrated an official turf-cutting ceremony, marking the start of work on the site off London Road (old A30) near Rockbeare in East Devon.

Attendees witnessed the start of work on the access road to Phase One of Cranbrook, toured the site and viewed a 3D interactive model of the whole Exeter and East Devon Growth Point Area.

The vision for Cranbrook is to create a low-carbon new community close to skilled employment opportunities, encouraging residents to use sustainable modes of transport.

Phase One of Cranbrook will see 1,120 homes built, 300 of which will be affordable homes to be managed by Sovereign Housing Association and Tor Homes. A further 100 homes will be designed to be affordable open market housing. A range of house types will be built to meet the needs of local families.

There will be a new school, community facilities, new railway station and a unique environmentally friendly district heating system.

Cranbrook will be the first free-standing new settlement in Devon since the Middle Ages. Designed as a modern market town, services and facilities are provided within the community for residents to use.

Throughout the planning stages it has been agreed that vital services are to be delivered alongside the housing. For example, the new primary school will be ready for occupation of the first 300 homes, together with a multi-purpose community building, supported by Growth Point Grant Funding of £1.5 million, that will host a range of services such as a doctor’s surgery, library, town council offices and a hall for activities such a parent and toddler classes and provide a place to meet.

National First

Cranbrook will be built to a high standard of sustainability and by doing so become a model for low-carbon mass open market housing developments. Uniquely, residents at Cranbrook and businesses on the planned neighbouring Skypark Business Park, developed by St. Modwen in partnership with Devon County Council, will be served by an Energy Centre supplying them with both heat and hot water. This will be run using biomass fuel in the future. The £25 million Energy Centre, which will be run by energy company E.ON, is the first of this scale in the UK.

It is estimated that the biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP), which will also generate electricity for the national grid, will provide an estimated 10,000 tonnes of CO2 saving per year for the first 2,900 homes at Cranbrook. In addition residents will benefit from reduced energy bills, unlimited hot water, no boiler to maintain and no hot water cylinder. When this is achieved, Cranbrook will be the first mass open market development in the country to provide a district heating scheme on this scale.

Partnership Success

Cranbrook and the other major projects in the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point are evidence of what can be achieved through successful partnership between the public and private sector. Planning approval for the first phase of Cranbrook unlocked a £16.6 million investment from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). These funds allow developer partners Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Hallam Land in conjunction with Sovereign housing association and Tor Homes to start work to improve access to affordable housing in East Devon, where statistics show that house prices are more than 12 times the average household income for the area.

Funding from the South West RDA through the Regional Infrastructure Fund (RIF) of £12 million has helped to secure the early provision of the primary school and the delivery of the Clyst Honiton Bypass (which also received funding of £4.5 million from the Growth Point Grant) and the access road to Cranbrook (Main Local Route). The award of RIF funding was conditional on the Combined Heat and Power system being installed.

Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council said: “This is a real red letter day for Exeter and East Devon. It signals a massive investment and vote of confidence in the future economy of this wonderful area, offering hope to our many families who need homes and jobs in the district. It also represents the successful outcome of a long-standing partnership of local authorities, other public bodies and the private sector in bringing forward a scheme of such magnitude and vision in what continues to be such a difficult economic environment”.

Steve Jackson, HCA area manager, who has worked closely with the consortium and Local Authority partners on developing the investment package, said: “A broad range of partners from both public and private sectors have come together to really add value to the Cranbrook project, and are creating a high quality new and distinctive place that people will choose to live and work in. “It is really excellent to be here on site to see this important step in the first phase of the development, which includes a range of high quality new housing, including 300 affordable homes, with attractive streets and green spaces, close to new job opportunities. I look forward to welcoming the first residents into their new homes next year”.

Ian Piper South West RDA, Director of Development and Regeneration said: “I am delighted to see the start of the Cranbrook new community which represents the culmination of years of partnership working. Cranbrook will set new standards in terms of environmental performance and help to promote more sustainable ways of living. By deploying the Regional Infrastructure Fund alongside the RDA‟s major investments in the nearby Exeter Science Park and Flybe Training Academy, future residents of Cranbrook will have the opportunity to both live and work in the same area. This will help to develop the role of the Growth Point as a major economic driver for the South West and ensure the South West RDA leaves a significant legacy for the area”.

The New Community Partners (Hallam Land / Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey) are delighted that works are finally to commence on the Cranbrook development after many, many years of planning and procurement.

Nick Duckworth of Hallam Land said: “The commencement of the New Town of Cranbrook is the culmination of many shared dreams and bears testimony to the dedication, commitment and partnership that has been required by all the stakeholder groups and development partners; not least amongst these are EDDC, DCC, the HCA, the Growth Point Board and the South West RDA. We look forward to celebrating the occupation of the first residential units and to the delivery of key infrastructure elements, including the Clyst Honiton Bypass, which will also support and enable the opening up of other major development areas within the East of Exeter area”.

Simon Perks of Persimmon Homes added: “Not only do we celebrate the commencement of a new settlement, the largest project in the whole of the South West, but we are also proud to be delivering a scheme with high sustainability credentials. Through the Consortium‟s partnership with E.ON, a district heating system will be built for the whole of the development that will place Cranbrook on the map at a national level!”.

Colin Palmer of Taylor Wimpey noted that: “It is genuinely exciting to see the commencement of this project against the back-drop of a fully funded infrastructure package and to be secure in the knowledge that as our first purchasers move into their new homes the delivery of key community elements such as the first primary school, the community centre and areas of public open space will be delivered at an early date to ensure that Cranbrook will swiftly become a vibrant and vital community”.

Councillor William Mumford, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy, Enterprise and Employment said: “The creation of a brand new vibrant, dynamic and low carbon community is an exciting prospect, not just for Exeter but the whole of the county. The new development will set a benchmark for future towns and villages, with pioneering new technology to reduce the environmental impact alongside business and science parks offering high value, knowledge based employment. By creating the right conditions for businesses to develop and flourish, and good, safe and attractive places to live, we can help transform Devon’s economy and bring opportunities for growth to the region”.

Ian Guy, Senior Development Manager for St. Modwen, the UK’s leading regeneration specialist and the developer of Skypark, said: “Cranbrook, as a neighbouring community to Skypark, will play an integral part in our long-term plans allowing people to live close to the place they work, as we establish a thriving business community providing 1.4 million sq ft of commercial space and around 7,000 jobs at Skypark. This milestone, together with the M5 J29 improvements underway and now the Clyst Honiton bypass about to start, is great news for both projects and the wider Growth Point area as it delivers jobs and homes for Exeter and East Devon”.

The start of work on the new community of Cranbrook follows a series of good news events within the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point, the construction of the Redhayes Bridge over the M5, the opening of the Flybe Training Academy, improvement works to Junction 29 of the M5 underway, Sainsbury’s confirming their plans to create 450 jobs at the Exeter Gateway facility and major construction due to begin on the Clyst Honiton Bypass are just some of the projects moving forward during 2011.

An online interactive 3D masterplan for Exeter & East Devon Growth Point has been created of all the major developments planned for the region. To view this and for more information about the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point, visit the website: www.exeterandeastdevon.gov.uk

ENDS

Caption

•Watched by many of the partners in the new community project, Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of EDDC, and Ray Franklin, formerly Chairman of the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point Board, cutting the first turf on Wednesday afternoon.

To visit the 3D interactive model, click here: http://www.iviewer3d.co.uk/eed/index.htm

Funding:

The development of Cranbrook is being directly supported by a funding package from the HCA, which includes £16.6m from the National Affordable Housing Programme and £3.6m from the Low Carbon Infrastructure Fund.

The other major developments planned to the east of Exeter include Exeter Science Park, Skypark, Exeter Gateway (inter-modal freight terminal) and the ongoing development of Exeter Airport. This is supported by a wider package of infrastructure improvements including the upgrading of Junction 29 of the M5, the new Redhayes Bridge and the Clyst Honiton Bypass.

The HCA investment in Cranbrook includes: Section 106 Agreement for Cranbrook The legal agreement accompanying the planning permission sets out the triggers for providing a range of community faculties and services to support the future residents of Cranbrook. These include for instance:-

Provision of annual bus service contributions following the occupation of the 50th dwelling;

Provision of the multi-purpose building prior to the occupation of 150 dwellings;

The provision of the primary school prior to the occupation of the 300th dwelling;

The provision of agreed contributions in relation to off-site minor highways, footpaths and cycleways, youth facilities, community development worker and the town council contribution.

Of the affordable homes, 199 will be available to rent and 101 will be available to buy or part-own.

Growth Point Grant Funding

Clyst Honiton Bypass £4.5 million Cranbrook Multi-Purpose Community Building £1.5 million

Exeter and East Devon Growth Point is a partnership between East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council, to deliver a number of strategic developments in the Exeter and East Devon area. The vision for Exeter and East Devon Growth Point is to help Exeter and East Devon realise its full economic potential by providing a range of employment opportunities alongside new communities where people will have the ability to live close to where the majority of jobs will be provided. Since being recognised by the Government as a Growth Point in 2006, Exeter and East Devon have made good progress with their strategic developments. A dedicated Delivery Team has been established and is being hosted by East Devon District Council. Their purpose is to remove obstacles to the delivery of the developments and progress critical studies.

In total over £50 million worth of public funding has been made available to deliver sustainable development and once completed the value of these developments is likely to top £1 billion.

This illustrates the commitment being made by all the partner organisations and their desire to help Exeter and East Devon reach its full potential. For more information visit: www.exeterandeastdevon.gov.uk

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is the single, national housing and regeneration delivery agency for England. Our vision is to create opportunity for people to live in homes they can afford in places they want to live, by enabling local authorities and communities to deliver the ambition they have for their own areas. For more information visit: www.homesandcommunities.co.uk

Posted in Cranbrook | 2 Comments

Budleigh council’s hands were ‘tied’

From the Budleigh Journal …

A move made by the town council to back controversial plans to build up to 48 homes on allotments at Greenway Lane was made to buy the town more time.

Budleigh Salterton ward member Councillor Steve Hall said Budleigh Salterton Town Council’s hands were ‘tied’ on Monday, when the members voted in favour of supporting the outline planning application.

Cllr Hall said the town council backed the early-stage application because, if faced with an appeal, the proposal was unlikely to fail.

The district councillor said the town’s next move was for ward members to present alternative sites to build.

He said the aim was to move the town’s building boundary line to include new parcels of land identified as suitable for development.

Cllr Hall said: “Greenway Lane is not the ideal site. We know that, in our hearts.

“There are alternative sites which are even further way from the building development line which we would prefer, but first we have to change the Local Development Framework

“The three district councillors need to go and attack with a view to exploring these sites.

“We feel we have the power to influence the Local Development Framework panel to say which land would be better for Budleigh.”

Cllr Hall urged the town to back Budleigh’s three district councillors in their quest by lodging any objections against Clinton Devon Estate’s application to the district council by July 15.

Councillors Hall, Tom Wright and Alan Dent say the objections could help the trio when they face the Local Development Framework panel to request moving the town’s building boundary.

Cllr Hall said the hope was to save the Greenway Lane allotments by securing more favourable plots of land.

He said: “It’s vital and critical that the three district councillors attack the LDF policy and are able to incorporate that land for future development – which we feel would make a much better site for Budleigh.

“The LDF looks forward 20 years and, if we have got places coming forward, that would be it for Budleigh for the next 20 years.

“It’s not an open door because we, as a town, would be filling our quota for affordable housing.”

The Greenway Lane allotments fall outside the town’s building line, within an exemption site, and, as a result, the council can impose stricter restrictions on developers should the build get the go-ahead, added Cllr Hall.

Cllr Hall said: “Isn’t it better to think forward that we can partly change things they will contain, giving us breathing space.”

Posted in Budleigh Salterton | 3 Comments

Referendum proposals in Localism Bill get watered down

Click here to find out more!Story taken from Planning website

Fresh government amendments to the Localism Bill will allow councils to refuse to hold referendums if there is already a process available for consultation, appeal or review of the matter in question.

Provisions in the original drafting of the Localism Bill included a new right for local people to require their council to put local issues to a referendum where there is a strong call through a local petition.

But government amendments, tabled by Baroness Hanham as the Bill’s committee stage continues in the House of Lords, stipulate “special cases” in which the holding of a referendum can be discretionary.

The amendment would allow authorities to vote to refuse to hold a referendum if its officers think it is too expensive to hold, it has already been the subject of a similar referendum in the last four years, or if there is already a process available for consultation, appeal or review of the matter in question.

Angus Walker, partner at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said that the proposed government amendments would give local authorities “considerable scope for refusing to allow referendums that they don’t like to take place”.

“It will become much more difficult for local people to force a referendum to be held that is not welcomed by the local authority,” Walker said. “The devil is in the detail of converting a concept such as localism into statutory language, as this and nearly 400 government amendments since the Bill was introduced attest.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 2 Comments

Budleigh’s Longboat Cafe gets reprieve, despite planning granted for two-storey glass restaurant on seafront

By David Daniel, Budleigh Salterton resident

In 2007 an application was made to demolish what we now know is the last Admiralty Coastguard Longboat House in the country and the adjoining public amenity shelter in order to build a two storey contemporary glass fronted restaurant. The site on the beach in Budleigh Salterton lies within the footprint of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the AONB.

Despite the sensitivity of the site and formal objections from: Natural England; the Jurassic Coast Management Team; the Town Council and an overwhelming number of residents; the scheme was eventually approved. However, the issue of an approval certificate was delayed whilst English Heritage were asked to consider a listed building application.

Eventually English Heritage agreed to list the Coastguard cottages, and rocket apparatus shed on the cliff above and access steps leading to the boathouse citing these as being amongst the most complete examples in the country, but excluded the boathouse.

The exclusion of the boathouse was on two counts: despite being the only example, it was considered a poor one; and the dates on the Admiralty plans differed from those on the coastguard complex by a matter of six months throwing any connection between the two in doubt. However, EDDC’s planning function is quite separate from its asset management responsibility.

EDDC Cabinet/Executive Board Minutes published on “EDDC Knowledge” website 17 June 2011 report that: At the EDDC Executive Board meeting held on 15 June 2011 the Principal Estates Surveyor set out the background in respect of the Longboat Cafe, Marine Parade, Budleigh Salterton. Planning permission had been granted in June to demolish an existing cafe/store (and shelter) and construct a new cafe/restaurant facility.

The development was dependent on the cafe owner/developer acquiring land owned by Clinton Devon Estates and leased to the Council. The importance of the shelter, both in position and physical appearance, was clearly set out by the Ward Members (Steve Hall and Tom Wright).

Other examples were raised by Members of local opposition to removing shelters, including the shelter at West Walk in Seaton which had finally reached a positive conclusion as recounted by Councillor Stephanie Jones.

RESOLVED that the Council confirms as land owner that it does not wish to dispose of its interest to facilitate redevelopment of the Longboat Cafe (as per the approved planning application).

Obviously the news that EDDC are not going to dispose of the shelter is good news at last for all those in Budleigh Salterton who do not wish to lose this much used, and strategically sited, public shelter and who do not want to see a major two storey restaurant development on the seafront.

Clearly our local ward councillors Steve Hall and Tom Wright, who are very much in touch with local opinion, made a convincing case of the overwhelming local view and EDDC have listened to them with a very positive result.

Steve Hall has consistently opposed this development and it can be no coincidence that he was returned in the May election with the highest percentage vote of any councillor in East Devon (62%).

The Budleigh Longboat Association, formed to fight this development, had also found underwriters to fund a formal application to buy the shelter for the Town should the Council be inclined to dispose of it, but this would no longer seem to be necessary.

Posted in Budleigh Salterton | 5 Comments

154 homes proposed for Lympstone on grade one agricultural land

By Hywel Parry-Jones, Lympstone resident

In April 2010, Strategic Land Partnerships (SLP) of Clyst St Mary submitted a planning application for a large mixed-use development covering some 4 fields (25 acres) on Grade 1 agricultural land in the green wedge between Exmouth and Lympstone.

The East Devon Way passes through the centre of the site and the western boundary of the site is 400 metres from the Exe Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (pictured above).

The strength of feeling the community, and wider afield, against this planning application resulted in 633 letters of objection. The planning department at East Devon District Council recommended that the proposal should be refused on nine points, citing conflict with some 10 policies.

At a Council meeting on Ist June 2010 Members of the Development Management Committee voted unanimously to reject the developer’s proposal.

Having made minor changes to the original design proposal, SLP has now lodged a second planning application with East Devon District Council.

The Proposal includes – access arrangements and layout for mixed use development comprising residential development of 154 dwellings, business units, doctors’ surgery, shop/café, crèche/nursery, community facilities together with associated open space and infrastructure. The detail can be found online at www.eastdevon.gov.uk/publicaccess/ using the planning reference number – 11/1293/MOUT. Perversely, the Economy and Development office at EDDC appears to have been advising SLP on a revised submission in late 2010!

File:Lympstone8cx6c.jpg

Undoubtedly the Parish of Lympstone (pictured above) will rise up to vigorously defend itself from encroachment of the Exmouth urban boundary and hopefully it can muster the support it enjoyed in June 2010.

If you are concerned about yet another assault on our precious landscape and ecosystems, please object to this planning application by writing to the West Team at EDDC or lodging an objection online at the Council website referred to above. The closing date for all comments to the Council is 6 July 2011.

For the Lympstone community view click on this link – http://www.lympstone.org/parish-council/courtlands-cross-proposed-development/

Posted in Exmouth | 2 Comments

Sustainable development – or a planning-free-for-all?

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

The coalition government has been talking about “sustainable development” but few people have understood what they mean by it.  Now they have clarified their position – and it should strike fear into anyone who values their street, neighbourhood, parish, town or city – urban, metropolitan or rural. 

The government (earlier this week) defined their “presumption in favour of sustainable development” below (it is shown in full):

“There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development at the heart of the planning system, which should be central to the approach taken to both plan-making and decision-taking. Local planning authorities should plan positively for new development, and approve all individual proposals wherever possible.

Local planning authorities should:

  • Prepare local plans on the basis that objectively assessed development needs should be met, and with sufficient flexibility to respond to rapid shifts in demand or other economic changes
  • Approve development proposals that accord with statutory plans without delay and
  • Grant permission where the plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date 

All of these policies should apply unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policy objectives in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole.”

Does anyone see the danger in this statement?  Hint:  the bold type should help!

Neighbourhood plans are a plank of this government.  They will NOT allow neighbourhoods to refuse development but will allow them to permit it – and permit it fast.  A neighbourhood plan cannot contradict a Local Development Framework, Local Plan or national planning policy – it can only fill gaps in them.

A neighbourhood can be anything:  a town or village, an industrial estate, an airport – you name it.  If the local council does NOT take responsibility for a neighbourhood plan within its boundary ANYONE is then free to do their own for their bit of it or all of it. 

A neighbourhood plan will NOT be organised or financed by central government and it is not an obligation for district councils to fund them.  The suggestion has been made by the Department for Communities and Local Government that developers will be happy to fund such plans – you bet they will! 

What it means in practice is that unless every square centimetre of YOUR neighbourhood is “zoned” (industrial, employment, housing, open space, etc) and that zoning is continued then it will AUTOMATICALLY be assumed that it can be developed by anyone AND the local planning authority will face sanctions (as yet undetermined)  if they do not deal with the planning application flexibly and speedily.

Can you see the danger here?  Let’s say for arguments sake that a local planning authority decides to only zone one-third of its area for various activities or public open space or whatever.  If local people do not then zone the remaining two-thirds in such a way that it is sacrosanct it will be assumed to be development land.

So, if you live in a chocolate-box village with thatched houses with roses around the door and you neglect to protect your village green and duckpond it will be assumed to be fair game for developers.

Now, you will say, everyone will ensure that such daft things don’t happen.  Well, maybe where the village green is concerned, if there are enough wealth y or well-connected people they may well be lucky. 

However, what if you are, say, a small market town with a nice piece of land which has always been used by the local cricket club in summer.  It is leased from the local planning authority but the lease is about to expire.  A developer realises that you have not covered it in an LDF or Neighbourhood Plan and so it is now automatically in the development pot. 

The developer puts in a planning application.  The local planning authority cannot refuse it – the definition of sustainable development forbids that.  It is up to the people of the town to prove that “development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policy objectives in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole.”

How do you prove that the cricket pitch significantly and demonstrably outweighs the benefit of a supermarket on the site?  After all, supermarkets are experts at “proving” that you are wrong.  They will cite such things as “too many out of town journeys”, “leakage from the town to the next town which has a supermarket”, etc – and they expect to win the argument and usually do.

What can you do? 

  • Ensure that your local parish or town council aresponsible for developing a neighbourhood plan for their area.
  • Have input into that plan actively and loudly.
  • Ensure that it is high quality, with lots of evidence for what you want.
  • Include every bit of land in the neighbourhood that hasn’t been covered by anyone else.
  • Give those areas the highest protection that you can get them:  village green status, protected public open space, site of special scientific interest – anything you can think of – and make sure it is the highest level that you can get.  If you need time to get that highest level, get it at ANY level for the time being.
  • Lobby your planning authority and councillors and tell the latter what you think and how it may influence you to vote next time around

However, even if you do all this – don’t be complacent.  So, you have your neighbourhood plan, you have stitched up every bit of land you can.  It now has to go to referendum.  What is the minimum number of people whose votes will be taken as gospel for the plan:  3.  Yes, 3.

And even then you have another hurdle.  Your plan will then go to an independent inspector who can agree with it or disagree with it.  So, they agree with it – you are home and dry you think.  NO!  The local planning authority does NOT have to take the results of the referendum OR the independent inspector’s report into account if it does not wish to do so.  So, back to square one.

Oh, and don’t forget that the government has unveiled plans to change the Town and Country Planning Act to make “local finance considerations” a material consideration in planning applications…

The Town and Country Planning Association has said of this:  that it will mean “direct cash payments will become the first amongst equals of considerations for new development”, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has said that it would mean “cash for sprawl” and the Royal Town Planning Institute has said it was “completely unacceptable”.   Add that to the mix and you can see where we are heading.

THIS IS A DEFINITION OF ‘SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT’ THAT IS BEING CONSULTED ON SO THERE IS STILL TIME TO ACT…

PLEASE TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS.  IT WORKED FOR FORESTS AND THIS IS ABOUT MUCH MORE EVEN THAN FORESTS – IT IS ABOUT EVERY PART OF EVERY NEIGHBOURHOOD AND WHO MAKES THE DECISIONS ABOUT THEM. 

MAKE YOUR VIEWS KNOWN LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY AND WITH YOUR MPs.  IT COULD BE THE GREATEST DANGER THAT WE HAVE FACED SINCE THE “WILD WEST” PLANNING FREE-FOR-ALL IN THE 1960s – IT COULD MAKE THAT LOOK LIKE A VICAR’S TEA PARTY …..

Posted in Communities Before Developers | Leave a comment

60 new homes proposed for Budleigh

Story taken from online Budleigh Journal …

Most of a new major 60-home development planned for the town will be ‘affordable’ – with priority given to Budleigh Salterton familes.

Squirrel Design unveiled their intention to build 54 houses and six flats at a recent town council meeting.

The project will be on a wedge of land owned by Doctor David Evans, sandwiched between the B3178 and Hooker Close.

And now the architects are inviting residents to have their say on the development, which will consist of 40 two-bedroom houses, 14 three-bedroom houses and six flats.

While the project is only at concept stage and formal discussions with East Devon planners have only just begun, Squirrel Design say they intend a series of public consultations before applying for planning approval.

Michael O’Connor, principal of Squirrel Design Consultants Limited, said: “Any comments from the readers of the Budleigh Journal would be welcome at this concept stage.”

The development will be built on a ‘gentle slope’ and Mr O’Connor said it would enable the homes to ‘nestle into the existing townscape and landscape’.

The development will have a network of paved avenues with a central line of trees and shrubs to ‘provide a pleasant and verdant outlook’.

Every home will have its own off-road parking space. All houses will have a back garden with storage for bicycles and garden tools, as well as solar hot water heating panels.

Mr O’Connor added: “The majority of the units will be affordable houses with priority for occupation given to local people who live and work in the area.

“The houses will be within walking distance of schools, shops, bus routes and the town’s facilities. The National Cycle Network route NCN2 could be extended along the north west border of the site to provide a much wider environmentally sustainable access to other areas.”

Posted in Affordable Homes, Budleigh Salterton | 4 Comments

50 new homes proposed on allotments at Budleigh Salterton

Story taken from last week’s Exmouth Journal …

An outline planning application has been submitted by Clinton Devon Estates, who propose to build up to 50 homes on allotments at Greenway Lane.

Community views have helped shape outline plans to build affordable homes on allotments at Greenway Lane.

When Clinton Devon Estates announced it proposed to build up to 50 homes on the site, some affordable, the community rallied round to save the existing allotments.

Clinton Devon Estates and architects Lacey Hickie Caley said community views had been reflected in outline plans, where the landowner proposes to retain more than half the current plots.

The new designs, which form an outline planning application submitted to East Devon District Council, propose up to 50 sustainable new homes, with 40 per cent earmarked as affordable for local families.

Clinton Devon Estates said the plans had been developed from the most preferred option from the public consultation.

Included in the submitted plans are:

l The retention of more than half of the allotments in their current location with replacement and additional high-quality allotments being created to the north.

l Provision of an average of two private parking spaces per dwelling.

l Provision of a number of community parking spaces along the access drive to ease the existing parking situation along Greenway Lane.

l Proposed new homes along the street frontage featuring a ‘gateway’ into the site allowing green views over the allotments.

Leigh Rix, head of property and land at Clinton Devon Estates, said: “The valuable feedback we have received from the community and from allotment gardeners has played a very important part in influencing this layout.

“We have listened to what people had to say and, in response, we have retained in situ as many of the allotments as possible.

“We will also be creating new and additional high-quality allotments on land to the north of the existing site, which will, hopefully, help to ease the long waiting list and provide raised beds for those who need them.

“Most importantly, we hope this scheme will provide much-needed affordable housing for some of the young local families we have heard from, who are struggling to find a home in the town they were brought up.”

The affordable homes will be managed by Cornerstone housing association.

Posted in Budleigh Salterton | Leave a comment

Axminster homes plan still faces legal challenge

Story taken from this week’s Midweek Herald …

ENVIRONMENT campaigners have taken over the legal challenge to the building of up to 400 homes on a greenfield site at Axminster.

The Save Our Parkland group stepped in after town councillors abandoned their case against the planning authority for approving the Cloakham Lawns development.

They pulled out after a barrister warned them they did not have a cast-iron case.

But the parkland group say they are confident a judicial review into East Devon District Council decision to allow development of the Axminster Carpets-owned site will rule in their favour.

Leader Fred Wells told The Herald they had been prepared for the town council’s pull out and had already advised the district council of their own pending legal action.

He continued: “It is particularly disappointing that the town council appear to not be able to give any substantive support to the required action .

“If Save Our Parkland is to proceed with the action it will now have to act in isolation.

“This is unfortunate as, although the town council has objected strongly to EDDC concerning the proposed development, and the majority of the town, when consulted, are opposed to it, an action in the High Court which included the town council would have been preferred.

“Nevertheless, our own specialist legal team comprising a locally based planning consultant, a specialist London firm of solicitors and a barrister from Matrix Chambers are confident of a positive result in a Judicial Review and are in the process of finalising the necessary paperwork.

“This process will require some more funding and we seek assistance through financial donations from all concerned members of the public.

“As it is vitally important to the townspeople of Axminster that we preserve our last remaining parkland and that we fight for development on the East side of Axminster to help facilitate a North /South relief road to ease our traffic problems we ask those people who have not already done so to give generously.

“If the Cloakham development goes ahead we believe there will be no chance of a relief road for the town for another generation.”

The Save Our Parkland appeal address is : c/o Nat. West Bank, Victoria Place, Axminster, EX13 5AR. Bank Account 72553022 Sort Code 51-61-23. Cheques should be made to “Save our Parkland Appeal Ltd”.

Posted in Axminster | Leave a comment

122 houses and business units proposed for Feniton

Story taken from Wednesday’s Midweek Herald …

FENITON residents are expressing concerns about plans for 122 new homes in the village.

Andy Thompson, of The Signals, set up a website, Fight for Feniton’s Future, in protest against the plans, which attracted 1,489 hits between last Thursday and Monday this week.

Mr Thompson, who is a freelance IT trainer, set up the website after finding out about proposals to build 122 new houses on Ottery Road and hopes the website will be able to gage opinion in the village and encourage debate among residents,

Mr Thompson told the Midweek Herald that he was not expecting the response he received so quickly.

He said: “I was not expecting these responses so quickly.”

He added: “I have lived here for 13 years and I have seen the place get busier.

“The plan is ridiculous. It has wound lots of people up.

“The plans are not appropriate and are not going to fit. We have not got the infrastructure for it. We don’t want it here and a lot of people are saying they are prepared to stand up and be counted.”

Comments submitted on the website have raised concerns over the impact the development could have on the existing road and sewerage systems, as well as the impact on local schools and services in the village.

Simon Steele-Perkins, a chartered surveyor for developers the Strategic Land Partnership, said: “There are always immediate neighbours who will object and that is their prerogative.

“We would like to think that people will come along to the exhibition and listen to what we have got to say and think about the benefits and make a decision then.

“The evidence has shown a strong need for affordable housing and provision of housing, particularly in the Exeter area.

“Young people wanting to get on the housing ladder can’t, because the housing is not there.”

Mr Steele-Perkins told the Midweek Herald that the provision of affordable housing was a national issue and the substantial need had not yet been met. Although it is unclear what percentage of the proposed development will be affordable housing, Mr Steele-Perkins said it would be a big proportion.

He added: “The development would bring affordable housing. It can also increase viability of existing services and, with more people living in the area, there will be more people to sustain local shops.

“We will be providing business space on the site, bringing local employment.

“We want the application to respond to issues in the village and people’s concerns and help meet needs and overall sustainability. People are always concerned about change but, if people are prepared to listen and engage in the process, we can try to secure the best advantage for the village.”

The consultation is being held tomorrow (Thursday)at Feniton Sports and Social Club, from 12pm until 8pm.

Posted in Ottery St Mary | 2 Comments

Localism Bill gets tepid response in Lords

Taken from today’s update on the Planning Blog website…  a fascinating account of what the Lords make of the Localism Bill…

The general response from the House of Lords during yesterday’s Localism Bill debate seemed to be ‘it’s a nice idea. But…’

The Bill got quite a rough ride throughout the debate which lasted for over six hours (no, I didn’t sit through the whole thing).

It kicked off with comments from Baroness Hanham who promised to amend the bill “if possible” but made only a passing mention of the controversial clause 124 on local finance considerations.

However clause 124 didn’t go unnoticed, as peer after peer lined up to raise concern over the issue.

Lord Beecham said the change “could be regarded in effect as an inducement to sell planning permissions by the local authority”.

While English Heritage chair Baroness Andrews said she had “grave concerns about the clause”.

“We have for the first time in planning legislation an explicit priority given to financial incentives in the planning system. This is a major distortion of what planning is there to do. It has set many alarm bells ringing, because it could lead to grave consequences. Where is the wider planning interest in this? Where is the interest which compensates for sustainability or affordability? Much wider issues should be taken into account.”

Andrews also raised concerns about the lack of complete local development frameworks across the country and the knock on implications of this.

“We are told that the key planning document will now be the local development frameworks. Barely a third of them have been completed, but the neighbourhood development orders, these radical new powers, are required to conform with them.

“What will happen where there is no LDF in place? How many neighbourhood forums does the Minister anticipate? I have seen a figure of 25,000. Can she confirm what has already been put about, that some of them could cost as much as £200,000? But the crucial question is what exactly they will be free to plan for. If they do not cover housing allocations, waste or minerals, what are they left to do?” Good questions.

Not wanting to pass up on a chance to have a pop at the communities secretary Eric Pickles, Labour’s Lord McKenzie of Luton described the planning reforms as a “major untested upheaval, made worse by the blundering approach of the Secretary of State, who had to be restrained by the courts but not before creating confusion and chaos for the local planning authorities, developers and communities alike.”

Elsewhere Labour peer Viscount Simon gave a stirring speech on the need for planning: “The post-war Labour Government are often remembered as the Government who created the National Health Service, yet another of their initiatives, the Town and Country Planning Act, has become one of the central cornerstones of our democracy. This Act established the principle that public bodies should have powers in deciding issues of land use in order to protect the wider public interest and not for any particular sector or short-term interest.

“Since that Act’s passage, although Governments of different parties have reformed the planning system, none have departed from this key principle. It is this principle that needs to be upheld in our current debates over planning reform arising from the provisions of the Localism Bill. As with the NHS, the planning system currently faces an uncertain future as a result of significant reforms proposed by the Government.

Summing up the general response from the Lords, he added: “The central theme of localism that runs through this Bill is to be welcomed. The Bill hails the end of the regionally imposed, unrealistic and arbitrary housing targets for local councils, which had few friends, and introduces a new system for neighbourhoods to create plans for their areas that will form part of local development plan if they are approved by referendum.

“However, I am concerned that, in a move signalled in the March Budget Statement, which described the planning system as a chronic obstacle to growth, the Bill has been amended to give short-term, economic interests undue weight in the planning process.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 1 Comment

Ministers bid to stem nature loss

This story is taken from the BBC News website.

The government has published proposals aimed at curbing loss of nature across England and strengthening links between people and the wild.

The Natural Environment White Paper aims to put a value on nature, and use economic levers to conserve it.

Opens Natural Environment White Paper (PDF) document

Communities will be able to preserve green space they consider valuable.

The government will establish accounts of “natural capital”, to sit beside GDP and the new index of well-being as markers of society’s health.

Last week, the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) concluded that nature was worth billions of pounds to the UK each year through providing “ecosystem services” such as clean water, pollination and fertile soil.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman (pictured below) said society would pay a “terrible price” if it neglected to care for nature.

Caroline head shot

“Nature belongs to us all, and we’ve all got a vested interest in protecting it,” she said.

“That’s why the true value of nature should be built into the decisions we make – as individuals, organisations, businesses and governments – so that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it.”

The NEA found that 30% of the ecological zones across the country were in decline, with only 20% improving.

Lord Deben – former Environment Secretary John Gummer (pictured below) who has advocated the use of natural capital accounting for years, described the plans as “sensible and practical”, following to some extent the model of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the government’s statutory advisers.

“You set up an independent committee, and that ensures accounting is done properly, not twisted for some party political reason,” he told BBC News.

“It doesn’t have the statutory place that the CCC has – but if you have an independent committee charged with making these recommendations, it’s very difficult for the government not to accept their advice.

“We are the first major country to do this, and it does put Britain in the lead on biodiversity and the natural world.”

The White Paper calls for the establishment of 12 “Nature Improvement Areas” in places where ecological health has been degraded.

Public funding of £7.5m is available to kick-start their development. But businesses and community groups are expected to raise additional money and lead the process.

The UN recognises four basic categories of ecosystem service that nature provides to humanity:
  • Provisioning - providing timber, wheat, fish, etc
  • Regulating - disposing of pollutants, regulating rainfall, storing carbon
  • Cultural - sacred sites, tourism, enjoyment of countryside
  • Supporting - maintaining soils and plant growth

NIAs are intended to meet a criticism contained in a government-commissioned report, Making Space for Nature.

Published last year, it found that the existing network of protected areas was too fragmented and failed to offer long-term stability and protection to wildlife.

In addition, Local Natural Partnerships will be established to improve co-ordination between agencies, with an initial £1m available.

Businesses will be encouraged to buy “biodiversity offsets” when their activities impact on nature.

This will involve them paying for enhancement, probably in a neighbouring area.

But offsetting will not be compulsory, as some lobby groups had advocated. Instead, voluntary schemes will be piloted over the next three years.

Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh (above) suggested the white paper was short on detail, and provided “few clues” about government plans.

“It fails to set out a clear plan for major challenges such as reforestation or biodiversity loss, or deal with concerns about planning policy,” she said.

“The government needs to do better if it wants the public to believe it has the best interests of nature at heart.”

Although conservation organisations have largely welcomed the white paper, some have also called for the government to be more specific.

“There is much to welcome in this White Paper: it’s the first of its kind for 20 years in England, and we are pleased its recognises woods and trees as cost-effective vehicles for delivering a range of services to society,” said Sue Holden, chief executive of the Woodland Trust.

“What it lacks, however, is a tree planting target for England. All other parts of the UK have set a planting figure, so why not England?

Gillham's Wood. Photo: WTPL (00498/0006) Nick Spurling © Woodland Trust. (click to enlarge)

“We need an ambitious target and a timetable for action, to match the scale of the challenge in one of the least wooded countries in Europe.”

Other measures in the white paper include:

  • an 80% increase in funding for the Higher-Level Stewardship Scheme, which rewards farmers for wildlife-friendly management
  • establishment of a Green Economy Council and an Ecosystem Market Taskforce, linking business interests to ecological health
  • eliminating the use of peat in horticulture by 2030.

The paper also includes tweaks to planning regulations, although more profound reforms are to follow.

Unsustainable use of water, meanwhile, will receive further attention in another White Paper due out later this year.

“In many ways, publishing the White Paper was the easy part; now the real challenge begins,” commented Paul Wilkinson, chair of Wildlife and Countryside Link, an umbrella group representing 35 conservation organisations across the UK

“Driving forward the many commitments set out within the White Paper will need the active support and involvement of departments across government, and strong leadership from Number 10.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 1 Comment

The first Local Development Framework Panel meeting date is set

The new LDF Panel will meet for the first time at 2pm on Tuesday 12 July at the Knowle, Sidmouth.  Reports from consultants who are checking the facts and figures of the existing LDF, are expected to be on the agenda, for debate.

For the first time, the press and public will be welcome to attend the meeting.

Posted in EDDC | 3 Comments

CBD Members Out & About

CBD (Communities Before Developers) founders Claire Wright & Roger Giles will be speaking at the following meetings this June:

The Vision Group for Sidmouth AGM on Wed 22nd June at 7.3opm at Kennaway House, Sidmouth – please print off a poster if you can and advertise the event in your area http://www.visionforsidmouth.org/sites/default/files/agm_22_june2011.pdf

Seaton Development Trust AGM on Thurs 30 June, starting at 7pm at The United Reformed Church, Cross Street, Seaton – see http://www.seatondevtrust.org.uk/agm

Posted in Communities Before Developers, Seaton, Sidmouth | Leave a comment

Devon Pensioners oppose building on AONBs

Here’s a recent email we received, please add your own comments for Michael.

I am treasurer of the DPAF (Devon Pensioners’ Action Forum) and live in Sidmouth. I am horrified at the use of AONBs for housing especially as there seems to have been no thought given to the effect of yet more & more residents needing to use our overcrowded facilities, especially roads and parking!

I have studied the planning proposals for 2,000 more homes at Cranbrook, the new town east of Exeter, and whilst much thought has been given to Exeter access by the new residents, absolutely no thought has emerged as to the effect of traffic on the A3052 through Tipton St John and Sidford which are already seriously congested much of the time. Will none of the new residents want to drive to Sidmouth, Beer, Seaton, Lyme or anywhere along the coast – or will they simply be banned now that the Sidford bypass land has been sold? (are the LibDems not wholly responsible for this?)

There should be absolutely no question about AONB land being used for development and any such applications should be rejected automatically …….

Michael Rose

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Cranbrook, Sidmouth | 2 Comments

Nature ‘is worth billions’ to UK

This story is taken from the BBC News website …

The UK’s parks, lakes, forests and wildlife are worth billions of pounds to the economy, says a major report.

The health benefits of merely living close to a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year, it concludes.

The National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) says that for decades, the emphasis has been on producing more food and other goods – but this has harmed other parts of nature that generate hidden wealth.

Ministers who commissioned the NEA will use it to re-shape planning policy.

“The natural world is vital to our existence, providing us with essentials such as food, water and clean air – but also cultural and health benefits not always fully appreciated because we get them for free,” said Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

“The UK NEA is a vital step forward in our ability to understand the true value of nature and how to sustain the benefits it gives us.”

The economic benefits of nature are seen most clearly in food production, which depends on organisms such as soil microbes, earthworms and pollinating insects.

If their health declines – as is currently happening in the UK with bees – either farmers produce less food, or have to spend more to produce the same amount.

Either way there is an economic impact; and on average, the costs are growing over time.

Degrading report

“Humans rely on the way ecosystems services control our climate – pollution, water quality, pollination – and we’re finding out that many of these regulating services are degrading,” said Bob Watson, chief scientific adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and co-chairman of the NEA.

“About 30% of the key ecosystem services that we rely on are degrading.

“About 20% are getting better, however – our air quality has improved a lot – and what this report says is that we can do a lot better across the board,” he told BBC News.

The 1940s saw the beginning of a national drive to increase production of food and other products such as timber.

Although that was successful, the NEA finds there was a price to pay – England, for example, has the smallest percentage of forest cover anywhere in Europe, while many fish stocks are below optimum levels.

The report says the problem arises largely because currently, only material products such as food carry a pricetag in the market.

By calculating the value of less tangible factors such as clean air, clean water and natural flood defences, it hopes to rebalance the equation.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) welcomed the assessment.

“The traditional view of economic growth is based on chasing GDP, but in fact we will all end up richer and happier if we begin to take into account the true value of nature,” said its conservation director, Martin Harper.

“Of course no-one can put a pounds and pence value on everything in nature – but equally we cannot ignore the importance of looking after it when we are striving for economic growth.”

The NEA seeks to include virtually every economic contribution from eight types of landscape, such as woodlands, coasts and urban areas.

It also provides some local flavours by looking at variations across the UK.

Some figures emerge with precision, such as the £430m that pollinating insects are calculated to be worth, or the £1.5bn pricetag on inland wetlands, valued so high because they help to produce clean water.

Other aspects of the evaluation are less precise because the costs and benefits are harder to quantify, and may change over time.

World view

Ian Bateman, an economist from the University of East Anglia who played a principal role in the analysis, said that putting a single price on nature overall was not sensible.

“Without the environment, we’re all dead – so the total value is infinite,” he said.

“What is important is the value of changes – of feasible, policy-relevant changes – and those you can put numbers on.”

The full 2,000-page report is stacked full of such numbers. The government intends to use some of them in its forthcoming Natural Environment White Paper and other initiatives that could reform urban and rural planning.

Professor Watson said this did not imply an end to development, but that costs and benefits of each proposed development could be assessed more accurately in advance.

“Urban green space, for example, is unbelievably important – if affects the value of houses, it affects our mental wellbeing.

“This report is saying ‘this has got incredible value, so before you start converting green space into building, think through what the economic value is of maintaining that green space’ – or the blue space, the ponds and the rivers.”

On the global stage, several countries have previously evaluated the economic worth of specific factors such as forests or fisheries.

And two international studies – the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) – have given broader views of society’s environmental trajectory, and the costs and benefits.

But the UK is the first nation to produce such a detailed assessment across the piece.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Changes afoot on the LDF Panel

By Claire Wright, District Councillor – Ottery St Mary Rural Ward

Last week I put my name forward for the LDF Panel along with Geoff Pook (new Independent Beer and Branscombe councillor).  There was only one Independent position available but instead of both our names going forward and the full council voting to select one which is the normal process, only Geoff’s name appeared on the agenda papers for the Annual Council Meeting. 

All council appointments are ratified at this meeting.

It was unclear why this omission happened and I was a bit fatalistic about it realising that despite my best efforts I could end up taking part of the blame for a horrendous final document.

Cllrs Roger Giles and Trevor Cope (leader of the Independents) followed it up on my behalf and replaced Geoff’s name with mine, based on the fact I have a significant interest in the LDF. 

On the evening of the Annual Council Meeting on Wednesday (25 May), this move was met with opposition by Tory whip, Phil Twiss who claimed I was ineligible for the position after my campaigning. 

This served to strengthen my resolve ten-fold about becoming a member of the panel!

My name went forward for the panel as an amendment to the meeting’s paperwork, after checking with Deputy Chief Executive, Denise Lyon about the legal side of things.  Denise confirmed there would be no problem with me being on the panel, simply a case of declaring my CBD-related interests whenever appropriate.

When Cllr Peter Halse, the new EDDC chairman announced my amendment it was met with much murmuring and muttering around the room. 

Cllr Philip Skinner got up and denounced me as biased and I gave a short reply speech about why I believed I should be on the panel.  Cllr Graham Brown then added that ‘Communities Against Development’ by its very name meant that I should be ruled out.  Cllr Derek Button corrected Cllr Brown about what CBD stood for.

Cllr Mike Allen (new LDF Panel chairman) declared I must have an open mind about the LDF.

But Cllr Tom Wright said he thought it would be a positive thing for me to be on the panel which I thought was quite brave of him considering he is new.

Cllr Skinner got up again and told the meeting that actually he was only concerned for my welfare, nothing more, as he is worried I will get a ‘bashing’ by being on the panel.

The new panel is:

Ray Bloxham

Mike Allen

Andrew Moulding

Steve Wragg

Me

Peter Bowden

There are undoubtedly challenges ahead for me here and there will be many who do not want me on this panel. But I intend to find a constructive way forward to help produce a strategic plan that is acceptable to East Devon residents.

Openness and transparency

Members of the public and press will now be able to attend LDF Panel meetings and residents will also have the opportunity of making representations to the meeting, although it is unclear yet what form this will take.

A far cry from only six months ago, when minutes of meetings were marked confidential and not circulated widely, even within the council.

Perhaps I will see you there!

Posted in EDDC | 19 Comments

Planning inspector rejects Stevenage 20,000 homes core strategy

This article was taken from Masonry First magazine…

Plans to build 20,000 homes in Stevenage have been kicked out after the Planning Inspectorate deemed the council’s draft Core Strategy ‘unsound’.

Stevenage had planned for 20,000 new homes, but 9,600 of these would have been built in North Hertfordshire District Council’s area as urban extensions to the town’s north and west.

But North Herts backed out of the expansion in June 2010 after Eric Pickles said he would abolish regional strategies with the Localism Bill.

The inspector rejected Stevenage Borough Council’s draft core strategy because it depended on housing growth that a neighbouring council will no longer deliver.

Stevenage told the Inspector, Douglas Machin, no local target would make provision for Stevenage’s needs.

Stevenage is designated as a major housing and employment growth point in the regional strategy, the East of England Plan.

Machin’s recommendation to withdraw the draft Core Strategy is binding.

John Gardner, executive member for environment and regeneration at Stevenage Council, said: ‘The contents of the Inspector’s report require careful and detailed consideration.

“Before we decide precisely what we want to do, we would like to see the progress of the Localism Bill, the long-awaited National Planning Framework and the revised Development Plan Regulations.

“The Council will also want to take into account the impending decisions in the High Court on the challenge to the West of Stevenage planning permission and the Court of Appeal decision by Cala Homes.

“We have not made any decisions about the future development of the town following our receipt of the Inspector’s report and we will not do so before the autumn.’

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 1 Comment

TV’s Mary Portas to head high street shops review

The Local Development Framework, with its aggressive proposals for industrial estates in the countryside could seriously damage our town centres, which are vital for providing jobs and attracting tourists. 
 
The news story below was covered by national media last week and this text is taken from the BBC News website.
………………………………………………………………………………………
 
TV retail guru Mary Portas is to carry out a government-backed review aimed at halting the “decline of the High Street” in England.
She will look at the problem of empty shops and how to prevent the growth of “clone towns” dominated by chainstores.

Ms Portas, the star of Mary Queen of Shops and Secret Shopper, is due to present her findings in the autumn.

Labour has also made increasing the diversity of High Street shops a priority in its current policy review.

Leader Ed Miliband has suggested the party could push for changes to planning to law to prevent towns becoming dominated by multinational retailers and to give local people “more of over what happens on their High Street”.

Ms Portas’s review, carried out for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, will involve visits to several town centres and “engagement events” with shopowners and customers.

She said: “With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years the need to take action to save our High Streets has never been starker.

“I am calling on businesses, local authorities and shoppers to contribute their ideas on how we can halt this decline in its tracks and create town centres that we can all be proud of.”

 A report published on Monday by the Ernst & Young Item Club suggests UK High Street spending will not return to pre-recession levels until 2013.

It also said consumer spending is expected to rise by only 2% a year up to 2020.

Ms Portas will present her report to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the aim being “to identify what government, local authorities and businesses can do to promote the development of more prosperous and diverse High Streets”.

Mr Clegg said: “Empty High Streets are a blight on the local economy. Vacant shops are also a wasted opportunity with far reaching consequences.

“When goods and services start to disappear, our sense of community can be weakened and undermined. It is vital therefore that we examine what steps can be taken to revitalise and reinvigorate High Street shopping centres across the country.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The High Street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment; so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive.

“That is why I am delighted that Mary Portas has agreed to take on this review and I am confident that her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach will help us to create vibrant and diverse town centres and bring back the bustle to our High Streets.”

 Labour said people must be able to influence the make-up of High Streets in their areas and proposed legislation on giving local communities more powers currently being debated by MPs could be used to protect small traders and promote retail diversity.

“We need to put the heart back into Britain’s High Streets,” shadow local government minister Jack Dromey said. “Labour wants to give communities a real say over the future of their high street and the power to make the changes they want enshrined in law.”

A former creative director at Harvey Nichols retail group, Ms Portas has since become known as a TV expert on transforming under-performing shops, starring in the BBC’s Mary, Queen of Shops before moving to Channel 4, where she presents Secret Shopper.

Previously Ms Portas has blamed supermarkets for “killing” Britain’s smaller shops by making it impossible for them to compete on price.

The British Retail Consortium said the review must take into consideration the interests of all retailers, whatever their size.

“The government is right to recognise the future of our High Streets cannot be left to chance but it must take a positive approach that supports retailers of all types and sizes,” its director-general Stephen Robertson said.

“Independents are a vital part of an attractive retail mix but so are the big names. This review should not seek to restrict that choice by making life harder for any particular category of retailers.”

You can give your views at http://www.maryportas.com/

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 1 Comment

Pickles rejects 500-dwelling scheme in East Sussex…

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has turned down a major housing scheme which was the subject of a recovered appeal following rejection by Wealden District Council. The secretary of state’s decision was in line with the planning inspector’s recommendation.

The scheme involved plans by Pelham Holdings for up to 520 new dwellings, a primary school, doctors’ surgery and a convenience store at Polegate in East Sussex. The scheme included two bridges for pedestrians and cyclists.

Although the project was in an area with an acknowledged shortage of housing the minister decision letter made it clear there were access problems, amenity issues and concern that the scheme was not in accord with the local development plan and was prejudicial to the Core Strategy (Local Development Framework).

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 2 Comments

Are you a councillor who signed the Candidate’s Pledge?

If you did and you are a district councillor or parish/town councillor it is advisable to declare on the Register of Interests something along the following lines:

“I signed the CBD pledge to uphold the policies of East Devon District Council in relation to development issues.”

If you are on EDDC’s Development Management Committee determining planning applications you may wish to seek further advice, but as it states above, the pledge is simply about upholding existing planning policy.

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 1 Comment

Savills advises landowners to join parish councils

This story appeared in today’s Express & Echo. 

So the message is… if you want to make a killing on your land join the parish council!  

Landowners in Devon need to use the Government’s revamp of planning legislation to develop and improve their rural communities, a group has claimed.

The coalition government plans to devolve power back to local communities, but the proposals have been so far ‘scant on details’, according to Mike Townsend, director of Exeter-based rural consultant Savills.

Savills suggests landowners consider joining the parish council and meet Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Mr Townsend said:  “There is a window of about a year before the new regime comes into effect.  That is time enough to get plans approved under the current system, or reduce the likelihood of land being designated of community value, for example.  It is also time to get moving on existing developments – you don’t want to let current planning permissions lapse as they may not be re-approved.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 6 Comments

EDDC breaches its planning policies to aid economic development in the countryside

This story was published in the Express & Echo last Thursday (5 May). 

CAMPAIGNERS have criticised a district council’s decision to approve an industrial development in East Devon.

Councillors on East Devon District Council’s planning committee have approved plans to turn the now vacant, semi-derelict Enfield Farm at Clyst St Mary, which was formerly used for industrial pig farming, into a light industrial site.

The plans follow the approval of an application in August for a change of use from agricultural to business use.

The latest application to develop the vacant site on the A3052 involved varying the permission that was granted in August including the erection of seven new employment buildings to be used for business and storage purposes.

As previously reported, campaign group, Communities Before Developers (CBD), which was founded to protect East Devon from large-scale development, has said the application is proof that planners put developers before countryside protection.

A council planning report prepared by officers for the application states “the need for the development and the economic benefits arising from the development outweigh its impact on the landscape”.

A CBD spokeswoman, said: “There was no debate at the meeting about the core issues which was very disappointing.

“For example, four planning policies have been breached.

“The discussion focused on minor issues in comparison, such as drainage.

“There seemed to be total acceptance of the need for employment space even though there are two business parks, Greendale and Hill Barton, up the road.

“The development management committee is now a committee of Conservatives since the three Lib Dem members resigned some weeks ago. I think they would have provided a balance to the issue.”

 Bishops Clyst Parish Council also objected to the plans. Members say the proposed development “goes beyond reuse of rural buildings and is effectively an application for new development in the countryside”.

The parish council also believes the plans represent an over-development of the site and its size would “overwhelm the existing character of the village”.

“Our fear is that this application will be used as a precedent for other landowners to redevelop their derelict farms into industrial sites in open countryside,” continued the spokeswoman.

“So it’s not just about a lone planning application but it’s about what could happen in the future elsewhere in East Devon.”

A council spokesperson, said: “The application is contrary to countryside protection policies.

“However, the committee report balances the conflict with policy against the economic benefits of the development, the benefits arising from restoring this derelict site as well as the lack of any significant landscape impact.

“Balancing these issues, members concluded that although contrary to policy, the proposal would not cause significant harm to the intent of policies that seek to protect the countryside.”

He said the proposed development would provide employment space for small to medium sized businesses.

He added: “The council is required to consider all applications as they are made and cannot hold off determining them until the LDF has been adopted. Applications are therefore considered against the current development plan.

“Each case has to be considered on its merits.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 23 Comments

A day of mixed emotions

By Claire Wright, Independent District Councillor – Ottery St Mary Rural Ward

The day started on a high for me with a clear win (by some 500 votes).  Displacing Leader, Sara Randall Johnson was a surprise and I had to rein in my emotions during the result and speeches.

Independent, Roger Giles stormed to victory with a majority of around 950 votes in Ottery St Mary Town ward.

And then the news became less good. 

After a remarkable campaign, Green candidate Sharon Pavey was pipped at the post at Honiton St Michael’s.  Another Green, Emily McIvor also returned a brilliant result in Seaton, just missing out on being elected.  LibDem Jon Underwood also sadly missed out on a seat in Honiton.

On leaving the Knowle, myself and Roger Giles felt quite gloomy about the overall picture at EDDC.  The steamrollering appeared to be highly likely to continue. 

I believe the Conservatives retained the same number of seats overall - an unhealthy 43 out of 59. 

But we cheered up considerably when we heard the news that LibDem Martin Gammell had ousted Conservative, Andrew Dinnis in Whimple!  Well done Martin!

Also, brilliant news on great results for Derek Button, Trevor Cope, Douglas Hull and Peter Burrows! 

Commiserations to Paul Arnott, Mark Hawkins, James Tompkins, Lawrie Brownlee, John Dyson and a whole heap of other excellent candidates, who fought great campaigns but narrowly missed out on success.

Here’s to stopping the EDDC steamroller in its tracks, as well as shoving lots of large, cumbersome objects in its way. 

The Awkward Squad is here to stay!

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 19 Comments

POLLING DAY IS HERE. PLEASE VOTE FOR THE CANDIDATES WHO HAVE SIGNED A PLEDGE FOR YOU!

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE ALL CBD SUPPORTERS USE YOUR VOTE FOR THOSE CANDIDATES WHO HAVE SIGNED THE CBD PLEDGE.  THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IF YOU WANT TO PROTECT EAST DEVON FROM INAPPROPRIATE DEVELOPMENT FOR THE NEXT 15 YEARS. 

LET’S SEND A MESSAGE TO THE RULING CONSERVATIVES (NONE OF WHOM HAVE HAD THE COURAGE TO SIGN THIS PLEDGE) THAT WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THEIR “VISION” OF A CONCRETE JUNGLE FOR OUR MOST PRECIOUS COASTLINE AND COUNTRYSIDE.

AS A REMINDER, THESE ARE THE CANDIDATES WHO HAVE ‘SIGNED THE PLEDGE’:

Douglas Hull – Axminster – Liberal Democrat 

John Stevenson – Axminster – Liberal Democrat 

Lewis Ragbourn – Beer and Branscombe – Liberal Democrat

Derek Button – Broadclyst – Liberal Democrat 

Stephen Schlich – Broadclyst – Liberal Democrat 

Graham Hooker – Budleigh – UK Independence Party

Marion Gammell – Clyst Valley – Liberal Democrat 

Paul Arnott – Coly Valley – Independent 

Sheila Smith – Coly Valley – Independent

Sue Button – Exe Valley – Liberal Democrat

Jeff Trail – Exmouth Brixington – Independent

Trevor Cope – Exmouth Brixington – Independent

John Hone – Exmouth Brixington – UK Independence Party

John Kelly – Exmouth Halsdon – UK Independence Party

Mark Hawkins – Exmouth Littleham – Independent

Lesley Kelly – Exmouth Littleham – UK Independence Party

Paul Bennett – Exmouth Town – The Green Party 

David Wilson – Exmouth Town – UK Independence Party

James Tomkins – Feniton and Buckerell – Liberal Democrat

Jonathan Underwood – Honiton St Michael’s – Liberal Democrat 

Sharon Pavey – Honiton St Michael’s – The Green Party 

Geoff Hucklebridge – Honiton St Michael’s – Liberal Democrat

Bill Foster – Honiton St Michael’s – Liberal Democrat

Roy Coombs – Honiton St Pauls – Liberal Democrat

Claire Wright – Ottery St Mary Rural – Independent 

Roger Giles – Ottery St Mary Town – Independent 

Peter Burrows – Seaton – Liberal Democrat 

Stephen Williams – Seaton – Labour Party 

Emily McIvor – Seaton – The Green Party 

JP Allison – Seaton – UK Independence Party

A Walsh – Seaton – UK Independence Party

Dawn Squire – Seaton – Liberal Democrat

Mark Fisher – Seaton – Liberal Democrat

Sharon Howe – Sidmouth Rural – The Green Party 

Lawrie Brownlee – Sidmouth Town – UK Independence Party

Elizabeth Anstis – Tale Vale – The Green Party

Rob Jordan – Trinity Ward – Liberal Democrat

Martin Gammell – Whimple – Liberal Democrat

VOTING WILL TAKE PLACE FROM 7 AM – 10 PM ON THURSDAY 5 MAY AND YOU DO NOT NEED YOUR POLLING CARD TO VOTE.

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 28 Comments

Promises at election time

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that all advertising and leafleting at election times should be banned.  Why?  Because of the lies, damned lies and statistics that some parties offer up as “evidence” that they have been working hard on our behalf and will continue to do so.

When I thought about writing this post, I was not going to “name and shame” any political party.  I am apolitical and only make up my mind on the day exactly how I will vote.  I have never belonged to a political party in my life.  However, I have to admit I am too annoyed to be able to keep to this.

I have collected a number of Conservative party leaflets from various parts of East Devon and I am gobsmacked at what I read in them.

The leaflets have a generic section, common to all Conservative Party leaflets and a specific section for each particular town. 

First I will deal with the generic section, then a specific section and give my interpretation of what Conservative Party words and phrases actually mean.

First, their “guarantees”.  You know the kind of guarantees you get with some things that are not worth the paper they are written on – when you try to get your money back, there is some small print that means that the supplier has to do nothing?  That’s the kind of guarantee they are offering.

They will guarantee not to overdevelop the countryside and will radically reduce housing numbers.  ARE THEY HAVING A LAUGH?  This is the party that brought you the Local Development Framework – massive housing numbers and a massively over-developed countryside, which received 2,000 objections and had to be withdrawn.  The people who have foisted hundreds, or possibly thousands of houses, offices and industrial units on Westclyst to the point where this small community is taking its first steps towards a judicial review of the legality of this decision.  The party that builds these houses and then looks to Exeter City Council to provide most of the roads and the schools for them.

They guarantee they will not concrete over open spaces.  Well, I can nail that one straight away.  The “public realm” link between the Tesco store in Seaton and the main road is a concrete monstrosity.  Left to EDDC Conservatives just about the whole of East Devon could be concreted over in a few years time, not just open spaces.

They guarantee they will not reduce street cleaning.  Well, of course they won’t – the street cleaning has already been pared to the bone so they can’t reduce it any further without it becoming a health hazard.  Have a look at the dog muck in your area and see how long it lies there – in some places it will disintegrate over weeks rather than be cleared up.

They guarantee they will not reduce refuse and recycling collections.  Of course not – they have already been told nationally that they are not allowed to reduce them any further – and see the remarks about health hazards above.

They then go on to say what they can deliver.  They say they have a track-record of success.  Who says?  Surely that is up to the voters on 5 May to decide?  How do they measure success?  Does quality of life come into it?  I think not.

They say that they have protected East Devon, yet there has been development on a massive scale on AONB land, on grade 1 agricultural land and on land that electors want left alone (see Cloakham Lawns, Axminster, another town possibly taking a judicial review forward).

 They say they are “retaining front-line services”, yet they have made reductions in spending on maintenance and limiting housing and other asset repairs to essential work only.  They have reduced coastal protection work to monitoring only and restricted flood prevention spend to statutory works only.

They say that they “resisted Labour’s inflated development targets” but, in fact Conservative targets are even higher and have the presumption of saying “Yes” to development.

 They say they consistently delivered a wide range of good value services.  Is this what you feel in your community?  Is this what you have seen in your community?  If so, you are obviously not living where I live.

They promise they will keep council tax low – of course they will, they will be fined nationally if they don’t. 

They promise they will deliver affordable homes for local families – in fact they have delivered only around 100 homes in the last four year, none of which, to my knowledge, were specifically ring-fenced for local families.  They don’t, of course, say how many homes for local families or what their idea of “affordable” is.

They promise to support employment growth, yet they admitted that they got the employment land figures wrong in the first draft of the Local Development Framework.  If they get that wrong, how can they get employment growth right?

They promise they will protect and enhance the local environment – but these are the people who have destroyed it.

And they promise they will continue to work with local communities.  Can you give me any examples of your local district councillor doing something really special for your community that wasn’t funded either by developers contributions (Section 106) or national grants?

Then we get to the phrases that the various candidates themselves are spouting (and these come from several parties, not just one).  Let me give you some examples and my take on what these mean:

I will continue to fight for [this area] – “I’ve had this cushy job now for more years than I can remember and it fills my retirement hours with something to do as well as paying me a bit of pin money and giving me a social life so please don’t upset my apple cart …

We would like to see provision made  – I love this one.  It doesn’t mean ANYTHING AT ALL.  It doesn’t say “I will fight tooth and nail to get the best for this community, even if it means having a pop at someone higher up than me in the pecking order of my party or standing up to officers when they try to foist a policy on me that I disagree with”.  It doesn’t mean “We WILL make provision” – it means NOTHING!

We have positively supported …  We support the delivery of …  We will work in close partnership with  …This means:  our party thinks that it would be good to be on this particular bandwagon as long as it only means attending a few meetings, so even though none of us have had anything at all to do with this, if it goes right we will want to take credit but if it goes wrong we can say that we supported it but, unfortunately, the people who were supposed to be doing the work couldn’t achieve anything, but that’s not down to us.

We have worked hard on your behalf … We have done everything our leader has told us to do.

We are looking at ways of … whatever comes after this phrase you should add your own phrase “and cutting costs to the bone or doing away with the service if at all possible”.

Delivering key regeneration projects … means:  a supermarket has bought the shop/land/option in your area so we will call this “regeneration” and slip quietly away to let them do anything they want. 

Meeting the challenges of the 21st century – “covering as much of East Devon as possible in houses, warehouses and offices.

These are just a few of the choice phrases in one leaflet.  Perhaps you have more and would like to share them with us?

Posted in EDDC | 10 Comments

Some candidates are more equal than others

By Jonathan Underwood, LibDem Parliamentary Spokesman and candidate for Honiton, St Michael’s

I have lodged a formal complaint with EDDC’s Returning Officer (chief executive, Mark Williams) after we heard that preferential treatment will be given to senior members of the old council at the vote count to determine who has been elected this time round.

Portfolio holders will have their wards counted before other candidates.

Presumably this is so they can get on with the urgent business of ruining East Devon.

This decision reveals a lot about the attitudes of East Devon’s rulers. They’ve been in power so long they’ve come to think they are a sort of royalty. Someone needs to remind them that we already have a Queen, and the Divine Right to Rule was abandoned after the Civil War. What’s happened to democracy?

The Returning Officer should regard it as his absolute duty ensure that all candidates are treated equally and seen to be treated equally.”

The “chosen ones” – portfolio holders standing for election again [all Conservatives]

Sara Randall Johnson (Ottery Rural)

Graham Brown (Feniton and Buckerell)

David Cox (Ottery Town)

Jill Elson (Exmouth Halsdon)

Graham Godbeer (Coly Valley)

Andrew Moulding (Axminster Town)

Posted in EDDC | 4 Comments

Campaigners fears over industrial bid

This story appeared in today’s Express & Echo.   The applicant is Chris Down, of Crealy and the applicant of the industrial pig unit in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Venn Ottery.  Mr Down is also a member of East Devon Business Forum. 
 
The application below is supported by Nigel Harrison, Economic Development Manager at East Devon District Council and fellow member of East Devon Business Forum.
 
We note that the planning officer’s report states that the application should be approved ’IN ADVANCE OF THE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK’
 
Why?
 
MOVES  to approve an industrial development in East Devon are proof that planners put development before countryside protections, campaigners have claimed.

An East Devon District Council planning report prepared by officers for an application submitted for a development in Clyst St Mary states “the need for the development and the economic benefits arising from the development outweigh its impact on the landscape”.

And a spokesman for campaign group Communities Before Developers, which is opposing large-scale development in East Devon, said: “We are deeply concerned that an application for agricultural buildings at Clyst St Mary to be turned into commercial units and light industrial use, has been recommended for approval by officers. We are concerned that the authority has breached four of its planning policies in order to recommend approval of this application.

“The council has moved away from its core value to protect the countryside in preference of economic development.”

She added: “The county council is recommending refusal of the application as the road is unsuitable for extra traffic and it contravenes the Devon Structure Plan.

“The parish council has objected, which is included in the planning officers report.

“And so has the Oil Mill Lane Residents Association.”

The application for the now semi-derelict Enfield Farm, which was formerly used for industrial pig farming, follows the approval of an application in August for a change of use from agricultural to business use.

The latest application to develop the vacant pig farm site involves varying the permission that was granted in August including the erection of seven new employment buildings to be used for business and storage purposes.

Bishops Clyst Parish Council has objected to the plans because members say the proposed development “goes beyond reuse of rural buildings and is effectively an application for new development in the countryside”.

Members also believe the plans represent an over-development of the site and its size would “overwhelm the existing character of the village”.

Council chairman Mike Norman said: “It’s our view that we seem to have more industrial units along a road that’s already over subscribed with industry as it is and as the results of a recent survey show, there is a need for affordable housing for the parish.

“We are slowly becoming an island surrounded by industry.”

A district council spokesman said: “The recommendation is just that – a recommendation – and is based on careful analysis of the application and the planning policies that apply to it.

“If any individual or body wishes to object they will have been able to do so through the normal consultation process.

“They can also attend the meeting and make a statement to the committee which makes the final decision.”

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

Dozens of candidates sign up to protect the countryside

Almost one third of candidates hopeful of a seat on East Devon District Council have put their names to our pledge.

Thirty eight candidates have so far signed up to the pledge, which relates in large part to protecting valuable countryside and representing constituents’ views.

The election hopefuls come from all over East Devon, from Axminster in the east, right across to Broadclyst in the far west of the district.

The political make-up of the pledge candidates is as follows:

17    Liberal Democrats

7        Independents

5        Green Party candidates

8        UK Independence Party candidates

1        Labour Party candidate

No Conservative candidates have signed up to the list of seven principles.

Five are existing councillors with many years service on East Devon District Council.

The Candidate’s Pledge was put together at the request of residents who asked us for advice on which would-be councillors might properly represent their views.

Sandra Semple, CBD member, said: “Now residents can look down the list and see for themselves who has signed up to a set of principles in their area, so it doesn’t matter anymore if people don’t know their candidates.

“Residents can be confident that they know who they are voting for and what they stand for, regardless of the political label.”

The Candidate’s Pledge:

v     I will oppose developments which compromise precious environmental resources including the Jurassic Coast, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and grade one farmland.  Or developments that have potential to damage tourism in East Devon. 

v     I agree that development must be proportionate and appropriate to existing local communities and I will make every effort to ensure that this is so in my ward. 

v     I agree that planning permission must be conditional on developers fully covering the costs of infrastructure and service provision associated with a development, and that 40% of housing provided should be affordable. 

v     I will always prioritise the interests of existing residents over those who might move here if more houses were built. 

v     I will listen to and act on my constituents’ concerns. 

v     I will represent the views of my parish or town council at EDDC. 

v     When a major development is proposed I will stage a consultation with existing local residents and give the greatest weight to their views.  If the application is approved I will do my utmost to ensure that my community is adequately compensated for any adverse effects. 

The district council candidates who have signed up to the pledge are:

Douglas Hull – Axminster – Liberal Democrat 

John Stevenson – Axminster – Liberal Democrat 

Lewis Ragbourn – Beer and Branscombe – Liberal Democrat

Derek Button – Broadclyst – Liberal Democrat 

Stephen Schlich – Broadclyst – Liberal Democrat 

Graham Hooker – Budleigh – UK Independence Party

Marion Gammell – Clyst Valley – Liberal Democrat 

Paul Arnott – Coly Valley – Independent 

Sheila Smith – Coly Valley – Independent

Sue Button – Exe Valley – Liberal Democrat

Jeff Trail – Exmouth Brixington – Independent

Trevor Cope – Exmouth Brixington – Independent

John Hone – Exmouth Brixington – UK Independence Party

John Kelly – Exmouth Halsdon – UK Independence Party

Mark Hawkins – Exmouth Littleham – Independent

Lesley Kelly – Exmouth Littleham – UK Independence Party

Paul Bennett – Exmouth Town – The Green Party 

David Wilson – Exmouth Town – UK Independence Party

James Tomkins – Feniton and Buckerell – Liberal Democrat

Jonathan Underwood – Honiton St Michael’s – Liberal Democrat 

Sharon Pavey – Honiton St Michael’s – The Green Party 

Geoff Hucklebridge – Honiton St Michael’s – Liberal Democrat

Bill Foster – Honiton St Michael’s – Liberal Democrat

Roy Coombs – Honiton St Pauls – Liberal Democrat

Claire Wright – Ottery St Mary Rural – Independent 

Roger Giles – Ottery St Mary Town – Independent 

Peter Burrows – Seaton – Liberal Democrat 

Stephen Williams – Seaton – Labour Party 

Emily McIvor – Seaton – The Green Party 

JP Allison – Seaton – UK Independence Party

A Walsh – Seaton – UK Independence Party

Dawn Squire – Seaton – Liberal Democrat

Mark Fisher – Seaton – Liberal Democrat

Sharon Howe – Sidmouth Rural – The Green Party 

Lawrie Brownlee – Sidmouth Town – UK Independence Party

Elizabeth Anstis – Tale Vale – The Green Party

Rob Jordan – Trinity Ward – Liberal Democrat

Martin Gammell – Whimple – Liberal Democrat

Photograph:  Some of the pledge candidates gathered today at Hayne Lane, on the edge of Honiton to draw attention to the threat to countryside there. 

If plans in the Local Development Framework go ahead, Heathpark Industrial Estate will extend half a mile to the west next to 300 extra homes on open countryside.

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 8 Comments

We will fight against over-development. Just as we always have.

By Mark Hawkins, Independent Candidate, Exmouth Littleham

These are Mark’s observations on some of the claims made in the Conservative election literature, relating to protecting the countryside. 

The claims appear to be along similar lines in Conservative literature published across the district.  Quite remarkable when you consider which was the main party behind the Local Development Framework.

*We have worked to reduce the adverse impact of flat developments in The Avenues in respect of quantity, design, and impact on local services.

*We will fight against overdevelopment, particularly development in the Maer valley. (Previously expressed as: we want to continue to work for the protection of the beautiful Maer valley against any LARGE housing or other development). My capitals.

Or, in Brixington:  *With a Conservative East Devon we guarantee there will be no over development of the countryside – we will protect St John’s Wood/Bystock. It is our green lung!

Since a number of the Conservative councillors live in the Avenues, one would have thought they had plenty of reason for keeping things ‘nice’.

Take a walk up Lime Kiln Lane, coming away from Exmouth seafront at the top of Maer Road. On your left, for a considerable length of the lane, the hedge has been chopped down and you can see extent of  the development on the old Hazeldene hall of residence site. Although there are fewer units on the site than the original application, the 0.93 of a hectare looks pretty full. The houses are still very close to the lane at their rear boundary. The block of social housing flats has not yet been built, but its footprint looks substantial.

This is a development whose impact has been reduced, not by a huge amount, but in the way the Conservative group claims it would. This was done not by elected representatives, but by the residents’ association with the unfortunate acronym, Save our Avenues from Despoilation. Sterling work by their members pointed out the holes in the developers’ figures and arguments and ensured that the authority had to take a rigorous attitude to the application. I am not sure that the members and representatives of SAD would be totally happy with the result.

Carry on up to the top of the lane, which is quiet and leafy for the remainder, then turn left along Salterton Road. Then take the second left into Cyprus Road.

You will immediately notice opposite a monstrosity named Villa Maison. This is the proverbial Cuckoo to its neighbours Dartford Warblers. Little wonder that the most obviously overshadowed neighbour, 6b, is for sale. This was hatched on the current incumbents’ watch.

At the bottom of this road turn right into Douglas Avenue. On the opposite side there are a number of overdeveloped blocks of flats, conforming to varying interpretations of taste. There are also two development sites, one freshly demolished, plus yet another former hall of residence, Seacroft, which is subject to a planning application from McCarthy and Stone. The town planners have told the applicants that they are asking for too much on the site, so we are now waiting for the district planners to overrule them. No one seems to have addressed the issue of whether they should be allowed change of use. Despite, as our councillors claim; ‘If re-elected we will continue to press for good quality housing to be built in these locations’.

By now we have the main Rolle College campus on our right. Part of this will be used for education and business start ups etc. in a Big Society project, subject to agreement with the site owners Bovis.

As we enter the conservation area we come upon Rock House, a lovely old house with fine views out to sea, which has been allowed to dilapidate over a number of years. In Sidmouth the owners might have been instructed to maintain it. In Seaton they might already have a breeze block construction on the site. Eagle One have a poster on their boarding showing off 5 very glitzy ‘town houses’. Well worth their wait, I am sure. 

At this point you might wish to carry on to the Carlton Hill roundabout to see how many apartments McCarthy and Stone managed to shoehorn into another old hall of residence site.

Or you might prefer to retrace your steps back up Douglas Avenue to the Rolle College playing fields, which comprise the lower part of the Maer valley, not yet subject to the proposals threatening the National Trust land and farm further up. This land currently has protected status, but did a forward looking company like Eagle One really buy it to lease long term to the Boys Brigade?

Better still turn left down to the seafront, then right at the still unfinished bowling alley and walk along the promenade to the marina. Here you will find a modern café bar, The Point, which used to have a nice view across the channel. This view was courtesy of the last three remaining undeveloped plots on the old docks site. These were filled in one by one. The first, directly opposite the café, was rather higher than the artist’s impression suggested it might be. The second was higher still, and the third, on the estuary side, even higher. A stairway to heaven for the developers.

The people who bought apartments in the initial dock developments were assured that no blocks would be higher than theirs. But this is the reality.

When East Devon published its LDF core strategy document, Exmouth Town Council and many individuals made a robust demolition of  their targets, which were deemed way in excess of either need or available infrastructure. At the forefront of this was Exmouth mayor and Conservative East Devon councillor Darryl Nicholas, who is unfortunately not standing for re-election. 

East Devon responded sympathetically, saying that all targets would be reviewed.

For some reason we haven’t seen the results of this review yet. Did someone tell them there was an election coming?

For more information visit  www.exmouth-independent.blogspot.com

Posted in Exmouth | 2 Comments

Abusive comments

We have just had to delete several abusive remarks posted by one contributor.  Just to make our position absolutely clear - we will not tolerate personal abuse.

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 2 Comments

Our blueprint for green-space law

The latest press release from the Open Spaces Society is below.  Note the reference to Sidmouth…

We have made a bid to save unconsidered scraps and patches of land from development and neglect.

Responding to the government’s proposal for ‘a new designation to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities’(1) the society points out that these are likely to be small and often not very green─but of great value in areas of dense development where there is no other open space nearby.

The society has published A framework for green space setting out what it believes the new designation should achieve.

Marie Louise Gardens, West Didsbury, Manchester Photo: Jonathan Booty

Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary, says: ‘These will be bits of land which have got under the radar of existing protective designations. They won’t be registered commons or town and village greens; and they won’t be in protective ownership, such as by the National Trust or Woodland Trust. But they will be important to people who live close by: kids will kick balls about on them, dogs will be walked on them and sometimes flowers will bloom on them.

‘For all these sorts of reasons they need to be protected and we look to the government’s new designation to do that.’

The society stresses that the designation needs to be simple, transparent and robust.

Says Kate: ‘Ideally there should be a straightforward registration process overseen by the local authority, capable of being initiated at any time either by a number of individuals, owners or tenants of adjoining property, or by local authorities including parish councils.

‘Registration must guarantee permanent protection against adverse development, it must place on the registering local authority a duty to protect the land, and it must provide the essential supporting powers of enforcement, through the courts if necessary.

‘However, it is vital that this designation does not replace the existing process for registering land as a new town or village green where it fulfils the relevant requirements, ie it has been used by local people for 20 years for informal recreation, without being stopped and without permission. We have separately proposed improvements to that process, which involve amending the regulations and practice but not the law.’

Bulwell Hall Park and adjacent Blenheim allotments Photo: Trevor Rose

The society has written to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (both departments are committed to creating the new designation for green spaces), setting out its blueprint for green spaces with examples, provided by our members from throughout England, of green spaces which urgently need the new designation to secure their protection. These are of all types—urban, rural, large and small. The examples include:
• Harlington, near Dunstable in Bedfordshire
• Sidmouth in Devon
• Loughton in Essex
• Testwood, near Totton in Hampshire
• Love Lane Green, London Borough of Croydon
• Gunnersbury Park, London Borough of Hounslow
• Natural History Museum, London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
• King’s Stairs Gardens, Rotherhithe, London Borough of Southwark
• Marie Louise Gardens, West Didsbury, Manchester
• Etling, East Dereham, Norfolk
• Harding’s Pit, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
• Bulwell Hall Park, Nottingham
• Ilketshall St Andrew, Beccles, Suffolk
• Horsham, West Sussex

The society also sets out examples of good practice among local authorities, citing Leicestershire County Council and Elmbridge Borough Council in Surrey.

1. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) included in their Structural Reform Plans a commitment to ‘develop proposals for a new designation to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities’ (due from DCLG by end March 2011). This has still not been done, but a consultation is expected shortly.

Posted in Sidmouth | Leave a comment

Westclyst residents move closer to judicial review over hundreds of homes on grade one agricultural land

By Helen Newman, Westclyst resident

Westclyst, Broadclyst and Poltimore Action Group have had a positive meeting with a local barrister and are starting the process of judicial review.

EDDC (majority Conservative councillors) Development Management Committee made the decision to approve 450 houses, business and retail units and a park and ride on 20 hectares of grade one best quality food producing land against the wishes of over one thousand local residents. 

This development would increase our tiny hamlet in size by 650 per cent.  The land was formally a green wedge considered an important buffer between Exeter and East Devon.

EDDC also want to build hundreds more houses, more retail and business units and YET ANOTHER park and ride directly opposite this site.  Again, all on grade one agricultural land.

We will not stop fighting against this outrageous decision.  It was wrong and EDDC must be held accountable.

Posted in EDDC | 3 Comments

Judicial Review or not for Axminster?

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

I think it is good news that Axminster Town Council has taken the first step towards a judicial review of the Cloakham Lawns planning application.

There may be those who think that spending something like £30,000 on the judicial review process (if they are granted a review) is a waste of money, but it will not be.  I would urge the people of Axminster to view this not as a planning application that some people want to see go ahead and others don’t but as being about whether the people of Axminster decide whether or not they should have a by-pass and more homes or traffic congestion for the next 20 years and fewer homes.  For this is the choice they face.

If I lived in Axminster, I would be wanting to ask a few questions, all of which could be answered by the judicial review process.  Why did the Local Development Framework for 2011-2026 NOT include a by-pass for Axminster?  Whose decision was this, where is it minuted, who was consulted, what was the evidence used for the decision? 

As far as I recall, it was not in the minutes of the LDF Committee which CBD eventually forced EDDC to release.  Why have Persimmon (who control a vast amount of land to the east of Axminster and who may eventually be in a position to build a by-pass) not given the opportunity to put their side of the story to the LDF Committee? 

Was it connected to the fact that Axminster Carpets were already working closely with the district council on their planning application?  Why did both the applicant and the district council rush through this planning application whilst the Development Framework was still in consultation.  Why did the planning committee not check exactly how many jobs MIGHT result in Axminster when the company receives the proceeds of the development (up to 25 only) when it was trumpeted as being something that would be beneficial to the whole town?

Please, people of Axminster, do not see this as solely about Cloakham Lawns – it is about your future and your children’s future.  It is a David and Goliath battle between towns which want to have a say in their future (what the current coalition government calls “localisation”) and a district council which listens to no-one outside its own small, cosy little circle.  If you take this further, you will be doing it not only for the whole of East Devon but for every “small” town that tries to stand up for itself against big business, vested interests and secret decisions behind closed doors.  And we all know who won when David was pitted against Goliath.  David – because he was smarter!

Remember on 5th May 2011 when you put your crosses against district council candidates – this is the council that brought you Cloakham Lawns and Westclyst and could so easily be coming to a town near you – or your town next.

Posted in Axminster | Leave a comment

Sid Vale Association lays down AONB gauntlet to election candidates

An Invitation

to Candidates standing for Election, or re-Election, on May 5, 2011

for East Devon District Council

The East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was designated by Government Order in 1963.  This designation requires planning authorities to uphold and protect the natural countryside within the AONB.

The SVA has just received information that surveyors acting on behalf of a national house builder, have been seen in fields stretching from Green Lane, (Woolbrook) southwards along the B3176, towards Bulverton.  They said this was necessary work preparatory to applying for planning permission.  The area would accommodate hundreds of houses, and wipe out a very large area of countryside landscape to the west of Sidmouth.

Natural landscape is a precious resource.  Once lost it cannot be replaced.  We all have to protect our landscape, so that others – yet unborn – will come to know and quietly enjoy, its fragile natural beauty.  It is a commitment we must not ignore.

We invite all candidates who seek election or re-election on May 5, 2011 to confirm publicly* their determination, when elected, to uphold the statutory legislation, which gives protection against building development of housing estates within the East Devon AONB.  

(Please see below how this may be done)

THE CHAIRMAN

SID VALE ASSOCIATION

* We suggest your commitment could be published in the local press.  Alternatively, all letters of confirmation of candidate commitment may be addressed to: The Sid Vale Association, Hope Cottage, Church Street, Sidmouth, EX10 8LY.  Please mark your envelope ELECTION COMMITMENT.

All names will then appear on a list of candidates determined to protect the East Devon AONB, which will be posted on SVA public notice-boards, and in our Letter of Notification to the local media, before the Election.

The Sid Vale Association was established in 1846.  It has a membership of over 2400, the majority being Life Members.  The SVA is both a Conservation and a Heritage Society, and the oldest civic society in Britain.  Its constitution is focussed on the local community and the environment.  It contributes to the benefit of the local community, especially through financial Awards from the Keith Owen Fund (SVA).  It has no political affiliation

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | 3 Comments

Presumptions

By Mike Newby – Wilderness Residents – Exmouth

Two messages have come my way, one a fact, the second more of a rumour:

The first announces that Government, in the shape of DEFRA (Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs), ‘confirms [its] backing for England’s 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. That’s good!

An AONB is defined as an area which is ‘designated by government to conserve and enhance the UK’s finest countryside … AONBs are locally managed, nationally important, and deal with global issues’. Here’s a website if you want to look into this in more detail:

www.landscapesforlife.org.uk

and for a map of the East Devon AONB, here’s the link:

http://www.aonb.org.uk/wba/naaonb/naaonbpreview.nsf/Web%20Default%20Frameset?OpenFrameSet&Frame=Main&Src=%2Fwba%2Fnaaonb%2Fnaaonbpreview.nsf%2FWebAdvancedSearchPage!OpenForm%26AutoFramed .

Responsibility for funding AONBs moved on April 1st 2011 to a consortium comprising DEFRA, Natural England and the National Association for AONBs. This, says a press release from the third, ‘represents a new era for AONBs, confirming them as valued members of the UK’s protected landscape family.’

It matters that the Coalition Government acknowledges AONBs as ‘strategic national assets’. But does this mark a real ‘step change’, as the press release claims? Certainly, those arguing the case against many of the ideas in the Local Development Framework, currently under discussion in the Planning Committee of EDDC, do so because the Council is considering a strategic choice: to allow population growth to displace the protection of the countryside as a priority (to put it another way, to violate East Devon’s AONB).

Anything which can put pressure on Councillors to resist erosion of our valuable landscapes by allowing developers to build housing estates on them must be a good thing, and here is the Coalition Government announcing solidarity with those who argue for such protection. Hurrah!

However, to look for consistency in the decisions of our legislators, national as well as local, could be a fool’s errand. Apparently, Local Enterprise Partnerships are to displace Regional Development Agencies. Rather as the criminal law rests on an assumption of innocence until proof of guilt is established, the rumour I’m hearing is that Councils will be faced with a ‘presumption in favour of planning’ unless a core strategy is in place for a particular area setting out an alternative neighbourhood plan. Apparently, Dawlish has recently been designated as a ‘vanguard’ area for drawing up such a plan and others are to follow. Unless a neighbourhood plan is in place, then Councils will be expected to assume as the default position that developments can go ahead.

Puzzling questions emerge, should this new dispensation come to pass:

What relationship will Local Enterprise Partnerships have with the Planning Departments in Council Offices?

  • How are neighbourhoods to be defined – and by whom?
  • Who will draw up the neighbourhood plans? Elected Councillors? Other local people, elected or otherwise? Both?
  • Will whoever does so have access to professionals (the people in Council Planning Offices) to help them?
  • What of plans already being considered – like the LDF? Will decisions on them have to be postponed, pending the new arrangements, or rushed through before they come into operation?

No doubt we will, in time, have answers to these (and many other) questions. Meanwhile, it seems we must all get busy writing our neighbourhood plans.

If EDDC is tempted by the presumption in favour of planning unless a neighbourhood plan is already in place, let’s hope it will carefully consider the implications of Government’s newly-announced stance in favour of AONBs. After all, looking at it one way, an AONB is a neighbourhood plan by any other name. So there’s your presumption. Leave it alone.

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | 2 Comments

Town council looks set to seek judicial review over Cloakham Lawn building plans decision

This story has appeared in today’s edition of Pulman’s Weekly News. 

The decision to approve this application on parkland in the town was totally outrageous.  EDDC used the DRAFT Local Development Framework (one week into its consultation) as ‘emerging’ planning policy. 

EDDC ignored the views of the town council and local people.

We wish Axminster Town Council and its supporters the very best of luck!

……………………………………………………………………………………….

AXMINSTER Town Council looks set to seek a judicial review of the decision to grant outline planning permission for up to 400 dwellings and up to 12,000sqft of employment space at Cloakham Lawn.

A definite decision has not been taken, but a weekend meeting behind closed doors saw councillors agree to seek the opinion of a barrister.

A statement issued after the meeting announced that the opinion is sought “with a view” to seek a judicial review.

A judicial review can be described as a legal process to challenge the lawfulness of a decision made by a public authority.

As previously reported, the planning application was submitted by Axminster Carpets — and the issue has led to hefty debate and stormy public meetings.

The town council did not support the application during the planning process, fearing the proposed development would cause traffic chaos.

Pressure group Save our Parkland asked for town council support in mounting a legal challenge, and has since launched an appeal for money.

Town councillors decided to seek independent legal advice from a firm recommended by The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and met with a solicitor on Saturday morning before staging a meeting in the Guildhall at 12.30pm.

Previous meetings have been packed out but last Saturday’s affair could only muster one person to the public gallery.

The meeting had initially been scheduled for Wednesday, April 20th but was switched to Saturday, April 16th.

Following town forum, it was decided to exclude members of the press and public under the provisions of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960.

Axminster Town Council issued a statement on Monday, April 18th, which stated: “It was resolved that Axminster Town Council, acting on advice received from a planning consultant, would, through the consultant, seek the opinion of a barrister with a view to a pre-application letter being sent to East Devon District Council stating that Axminster Town Council would be seeking a judicial review of planning application 10/0816/MOUT.

“In taking this action, Axminster Town Council is acting on its own and completely independently of any other persons or group.”

The statement did not mention the cost involved, but it is understood that a failed judicial review could cost up to £30,000 but nothing if successful.

Posted in Axminster | Leave a comment

Election candidates have two weeks to prove to voters that they will represent their views!

Candidates standing for East Devon District Council have just over two weeks to prove to their electorate that they intend to represent their views, by signing up to the Candidate’s Pledge.

24 candidates – LibDems, Greens, Independents and Labour have added their names so far.

No Conservatives have yet committed to the pledge.

Any candidate interested in putting their name on the list can leave a comment on this website. 

To view the list of names click here:  http://communitiesbeforedevelopers.org/?page_id=963

Posted in EDDC | Leave a comment

Minister announces renewed commitment to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

This was apparently announced on 4 April.  But how does it fit in with Pickles/Osborne’s budget announcement and ‘strong presumption in favour of sustainable development’ policy which is a woolly promise to developers to make it easier for them to build in the countryside? 

If anyone knows the answer to this please tell us!

……………………………………

Picture:  The Sid Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, used with thanks to the Sid Vale Association

Richard Benyon Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries visited the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on Monday 4th April to make an announcement which confirms government backing for England’s 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Minister made the announcement at Berry Head National Nature Reserve, just outside Brixham, a stunning coastal location and internationally-acclaimed heritage site set within the South Devon AONB.

From April 1st 2011 the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is taking over the direct funding of AONBs through a new tripartite agreement between DEFRA, Natural England and National Association for AONBs. This transfer of sponsorship represents a new era for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, confirming them as valued members of the UK’s protected landscape family. By the change of sponsorship, Her Majesty’s coalition government is acknowledging that AONBs are strategic national assets and that local AONB partnerships are key players in managing positive landscape change.

Richard Benyon said “We need AONBs to ensure that our most important and treasured landscapes continue to thrive and are enjoyed by future generations. They are crucial to our environmental objectives. To help AONBs deliver those objectives, today marks the transfer of their national sponsorship from Natural England to Defra and a new agreement between Defra, Natural England and the National Association for AONBs.

This is a new era for AONBs, and a new partnership that can unlock the full potential of our greatest resource – the people that care passionately about these areas”. Peter Stevens, Chairman of the National Association for AONBs commented “Today marks a step-change for the AONB Family. Working closer to government, supported by local authorities, AONBs have been given a renewed confidence in their partnership approach to delivering on the ground.

The new relationship with DEFRA and Natural England will ensure that our AONBs continue to have special relevance to those that live in within them, work within them and visit them”.

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

Just because it’s quiet, it doesn’t mean nothing is happening!

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

For those of you who have followed the saga of EDDC and the Local Development Framework, it might seem that everything has now settled down and, perhaps, the worst is over.  This is not so.

It is always the case that things go quiet in the month before a district council election.  The newspapers should operate a “purdah” system, which means that they should not print anything overtly political and vote-catching and local politicians spend most of their time door-stepping for those votes.

This is just the time you should be asking some questions.  Such as:

Have you signed the CBD pledge?

If not, why not?

If you have not signed it, what is your attitude to development in East Devon?

PLEASE do not be fooled by those people who have replaced the word “development” with the word “growth”. 

When our incumbent politicians talk about “growth” this is not some wonderful thing that we should applaud them for – it means that they have the pound signs in their eyes and that someone, somewhere is going to suffer.  Not, of course, the landowners and big business owners who are hungry for “growth” but local residents for whom the growth of the developments with more roads and more traffic are not being balanced by similar growth in education facilities, green spaces, public transport or infrastructure such as GP practices,dentists and community facilities. 

It does NOT mean more affordable housing – it means that the developer will be driving a hard bargain to ensure that they have to supply as little “planning gain” or “Section 106” benefit as possible. And we know that our councillors and officers have short-changed us with these things – we see the evidence every day.

If you elect the same people to represent you in East Devon you will get the same thing that has happened over the last four years:  rampant development, no thought for sensible planning, enchroachment on AONB areas, a rash of even more enormous supermarkets springing up all over the area, some very rich landowners and some very questionable decisions made either in secret (such as the Local Development Framework meetings), in meetings where councillors wear two hats (such as with the East Devon Business Forum where sometimes they represent the council and sometimes they represent large companies or their own land-holdings) and with no transparency (such as with the Development Management Committee) where efforts to understand the decision-making process of some planning applications can be difficult and confusing.

If you want change – REAL change – you have to have the courage of your convictions and, for perhaps the first time in your adult life, you have to elect new people who have seen what has been going on and want to make a difference for us.  You have to look beyond the normal party political lines and “think local” and think independent and minority parties.

The only way to get the message across that things MUST change is to use your vote on Thursday 5 May 2011 to ensure that they do.

Posted in EDDC | 4 Comments

Show you intend to represent your community by signing up to the Candidate’s Pledge

We have a growing number of candidates who want to show they intend to represent their constituents’ views by signing up to our Candidate’s Pledge.

More than 20 candidates standing in the May elections have already opted to sign up to seven ‘promises.’

Trust in some local councillors appears to be at an all time low, unsurprising when you consider the number of outrageous planning applications being approved by planning officers and councillors on the planning committee.  And some ward members are simply not listening to their residents.

Others, such as those on the Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel, have consciously and deliberately planned mass development in our beautiful district – and although some vague noises are made about the possibility of fewer houses after the LDF emerges from its visit to the consultants – there appears to be no commitment whatsoever to this.

If you are standing for election and you find the LDF objectionable, you now have the option of signing up to the Candidate’s Pledge and letting your potential future constituents know that you intend to represent their views, instead of those of the endlessly hovering developers.

Leave a comment on the site and we will add your name to the list.

View the pledge and the list here – http://communitiesbeforedevelopers.org/?page_id=963

Posted in Communities Before Developers | Leave a comment

Can someone please explain something to me ….?

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

I wanted to check an EDDC planning application.  The Planning Portal said it was received on 2 March 2011 but nothing else – no documents, no nothing on that part of the site.  

I phoned EDDC Planning Department and requested to see the paper file this afternoon as I would be there on other business.  The officer who answered said I would now have to pay £2 for the privilege, so I said I would do that.   The officer told me I couldn’t see it this afternoon as it is out with the officer and documents would be on the Planning Portal “later today” as “it was only validated yesterday”.  So why put it on the website on 2 March 2011?

I said I wanted to see the paper file, I did not want to consult the Planning Portal, so when would it be possible?  She said she couldn’t say – I could look on the Planning Portal this afternoon.  I said I didn’t want to consult the Planning Portal … you get the idea.

I said I was already in dispute with the Planning Department about them not putting important documents on planning applications on the Planning Portal, I therefore did not trust it and wanted to see the paper file. 

What would happen if I did not have access to the internet and wanted to see the application?  No reply.  I asked how long the consultation period would be if there are no documents on the Planning Portal and no-one can see the file.  She said it would start from yesterday.   Then she asked me my name, I told her and the line went dead!

I emailed my query and got the following reply this afternoon from Planning East:

The application was received in this office on 2 March 2011, but we did not receive all the documentation in order to validate it valid until yesterday (4 April 2011).

It is being registered as we speak and will be on the East Devon District Council website by the end of today.  It will not be on the Planning Portal as this is for the submission of applications to the Council.

I trust this information sets your mind at rest.

Could someone PLEASE tell me what this reply means!  It is a planning application.  It has a planning application number.  It is on the Planning Portal, albeit with no documents!  These are the people that have our collective planning future in their hands!

WOULD THAT REPLY PUT YOUR MIND AT REST?

Posted in Planning | 4 Comments

So, the first lists are out for town and district council elections…

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

Some (sad) surprises:  No-one standing against the three conservatives for the district council seat in Sidford so Drew, Hughes and Troman unopposed – I would have liked to see someone stand against them. 

Same with Paul Diviani (Development Management Committee notoriety) and David Key (who threw out Claire Wright and Jonathan Underwood from an LDF meeting which was not advertised as private).

However, let’s look on the bright side.  BIG contests for Honiton St Michael’s ward and Seaton where, in both of the areas, there are no less than ten candidates for three seats.

CBD founder member Claire Wright is contesting Ottery St Mary Rural as an Independent where she will stand against EDDC Leader Sara Randall Johnson and two others. 

Another founder member of CBD, Sharon Pavey, will stand for the Green Party in the Honiton St Michael’s ward along with yet another founder member of CBD, Jon Underwood. 

Supporter Emily McIvor will stand for the Green Party in Seaton. 

CBD member and Independent candidate, Roger Giles, will contest the Ottery St Mary Town ward once again, along with one Conservative and one Labour Party candidate.

Best of luck to you all.

If you want to see a list of all those currently standing for district and council seats (this is not the definitive list yet as people now have 24 hours to pull out of the contest) see http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/district_statement_of_persons_nominated_040411.pdf

for district council nominations and

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/parish_statement_of_persons_nominated_040411.pdf

for town and parish council nominations.

If you are a candidate and are keen to show that you will represent your constituents views, sign up to our Candidate’s Pledge. 

See the growing list of candidates who have signed up to the pledge here:  http://communitiesbeforedevelopers.org/?page_id=963

Posted in EDDC | 4 Comments

EDDC’s press release on nominations for elections

This is the press release issued by East Devon District Council yesterday, as the nominations for the 5th May elections were released.  Is it us or is there a feel of gloating about it?  …………

… There were some surprises when nominations for election to EDDC closed at midday today (Tuesday). An unprecedented seven wards will be uncontested, meaning that nine sitting councillors will return to Knowle on 6 May without any votes needing to be cast.

In Sidmouth Sidford, all three sitting Conservative Members are returned unopposed, meaning that Councillors Christine Drew, Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman do not have to go through the poll.

In all, eight sitting Conservatives are returned unopposed, the others being: Bob Buxton (Dunkeswell), Paul Diviani (Yarty), David Key (Otterhead) and Ken Potter (Newton Poppleford and Harpford). Councillor Ray Bloxham has moved from Ottery Rural to Raleigh, where he is returned unopposed. Councillor John Jeffrey is also returned unopposed in Axminster Rural, where he was standing this time as an Independent.

At the other end of the scale, two wards, each with three seats, are being contested by no fewer than 10 candidates each.

Fresh

In Honiton St Michaels, long-standing Conservative Member Peter Halse sees fresh candidates in the shape of two fellow Conservatives, plus three Liberal Democrats, two Independents, one Labour and one Green Party candidate, all fighting for the three seats.

At Seaton there also 10 candidates contesting three seats, with sitting Conservatives Jim Knight and Mrs Steph Jones joined by sitting Liberal Democrat Peter Burrows, plus two other Liberal Democrat candidates, two from UKIP, one further Conservative Party candidate, one from Labour and one from the Green Party.

At Exmouth, 36 candidates are contesting 15 seats across five wards. One notable change is that sitting Councillor May Hardy has switched from the Liberal Democrats and is standing as a Conservative Party candidate.

In all, 126 candidates will contest the election to decide the political make-up of East Devon District Council in May.

As nominations closed, the state or the parties in terms of candidates was:

  • Conservatives 57 (8 returned unopposed)
  • Liberal Democrat 27
  • Independent 16 (1 returned unopposed)
  • Labour 10
  • UKIP 9
  • Green 7

Any candidate who wishes to do so can withdraw his/her nomination up to noon on Thursday 7 April.

Referendum

On Election Day, Thursday 5 May, voters will also be asked to elect members of many of East Devon’s town and parish councils, with a total of 550 seats up for grabs.

Finally, whilst at the polling station, voters will be asked to give their view on the future of Parliamentary elections in the UK, when they cast their vote in a referendum on the following issue: At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?

Posted in EDDC | 4 Comments

Full Up

By Professor Mike Newby, Wilderness Residents, Exmouth

Mike (now retired) was for many years the Dean of Education at Rolle College, Exmouth

News comes (‘No More Room: Schools Full up’, Exmouth Journal, March 31st, 2011) that Exmouth is running out of primary school places.

It is reported that as many as 32 families might be disappointed in their search for a school place this year and 65 in 2012.

Those figures should be seen against others, from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which show a rise nationally of 3% as between 2008 and 2033 in the number of households in England containing three or more dependent children (http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/statistics/pdf/1780763.pdf).

It looks as if the number of children will rise while, in Exmouth, we’re running short of school places for those already with us.

Algorithms exist in Whitehall which map the birth-rate to the need for school places five years later, when those babies go into their Reception year, and then again when they begin secondary school. It’s a complicated process: the Department for Education publishes a guide no less than 75-pages long showing how it’s done (http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/adminandfinance/schooladmissions/b0057996/forecasting-pupil-numbers-school-place-planning/data-sources).

At the other end of the system, more figures are used to predict the numbers staying on past GCSE and, later still, going into employment or on to Higher Education. Such statistics are vital. Educating the population, this complex, massive and crucially-important national project, responds not only to the wild misunderstandings of Secretaries of State but to the complex and, we would like to think, unblinkingly reliable process of statistical prediction – in other words, to informed planning.

The Journal quotes a spokesperson at Devon County Council who looks ahead (nervously, I’d say): ‘We will continue to work with East Devon District Council on the long-term issues and potential for expansion and new school accommodation, which might result from the proposed housing developments’ [my italics].

Rather as tectonic plates slowly grind together to create the havoc of earthquake and tsunami, we must now contemplate the alarming prospect of one planning process colliding massively with another.

The Planning Committee of East Devon District Council is currently reconsidering the LDF, its conclusions expected in the summer. Its original proposal includes as many as 3,000 new houses in Exmouth, developments in a town already covered in housing estates from which people must clog the A376 for their daily commute into Exeter because there aren’t enough jobs for them in their home town. What will be the consequences for the schools in Exmouth should building these houses be allowed to proceed?

Let’s try some statistical guesswork and assume at least half of the planned new households have no babies or school-age children living in them. That means 1,500 might.

At one child per household, that’s equivalent to a reasonably large comprehensive school and as the figure rises to three children per household, this estimate becomes conservatively modest. But that’s mere guesswork: DCC forecasts a more informed rise in primary numbers between 2011 and 2023 of around 690; in secondary numbers, of over 200. Its predictions show no change, however, in the capacity of primary and secondary schools to take them.

However, as the Journal article reports, a shortfall in primary places will, by September, become not just a prediction but a fact. Here’s another: the local Community College, its numbers also growing, has insufficient space for its post-sixteen pupils and has to send some to Exeter for their further education.

As the DCC spokesperson rightly predicts, there will indeed need to be ‘expansion and new school accommodation’. I’d observe that, without a single new house being built, that need exists already: even now, Exmouth cannot manage to send all its children to school in their own home town.

This is just one the problems which could ensnare Exmouth should the LDF go ahead here in its raw, untreated form.

The arguments have already been made which predict chaos on the roads in and out of town, town-centre congestion, damage to the water table on its northern side, irreparable destruction of wildlife habitat on the very edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the loss forever of its beautiful northern frame, barrier between housing estates and the natural beauty of the Commons ( www.ex85eg.co.uk ).

The news of a shortage of school places now, before any such development takes place, comes as a worrying reminder that building on the scale suggested in the LDF would overwhelm the infrastructure needed to support so many children and their families.

We must hope that the EDDC Planning Committee, as it goes about its work of reconsidering the LDF, will do its utmost to bear these circumstances in mind.

Posted in Exmouth | 5 Comments

EDDC’s response to Sandra Semple on East Devon Business Forum

Dear Mrs Semple

East Devon Business Forum

I refer to your question to the Executive Board on Wednesday 30th March. 

You asked why the Council is subsidising the East Devon Business Forum when its members are amongst the largest businesses in the District.  As you will see from the copy of the Forum’s constitution I have attached to this letter, the Forum was created to facilitate improved dialogue between the Council and the District’s business community and has enjoyed some pleasing success.

At the time the Forum was first proposed, the Council was at pains to avoid advocating the creation of a body that might be seen to rival local Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Blackdown Hills Business Association, National Farmers Union (NFU) and other local business organisations.  For this reason it was agreed the Forum would not seek subscription or other forms of trading income to sustain its activities.  

Instead, the Council has been content to provide a small annual subsidy; the £5,000 you referred to.  This is used to underwrite the costs of arranging meetings of the Forum and to facilitate its day to day operation.  To this end, an officer of the Council serves as the Forum’s Honorary Secretary.

The same logic informed the decision to structure the Forum in a way that ensured the interests of the District’s many small businesses were properly represented. Representation is guaranteed, under the constitution, to local chambers of commerce (3 members), East Devon branch of the FSB (1 member), East Devon branch of the NFU (1 member). 

If you feel this is inadequate or unbalanced, I would be happy to convey your concerns to a future meeting of the Forum.  The Forum’s constitution provides for East Devon District Council representation (3 members): currently myself as Leader, Cllr Graham Godbeer our Economy Portfolio Holder and Cllr Mrs Pat Graham, a Liberal Democrat Councillor, from Exmouth.

It would be invidious of me to comment on the financial affairs of the Forum’s member businesses (your reference to Axminster Carpets and Crealy).  However, as the Government works to rebalance the economy away from too great a dependence on public sector employment towards a healthier and stronger private sector, please be assured of the Council’s determination to do whatever it can to aid this process.

You ask why Members of the Council attend meetings of the Forum in their private capacities as business and landowners.  I would respond to this by saying that we have been at pains to ensure the transparency of the Forum’s activities.  

Attendance at Forum meetings and matters discussed are recorded by a Member of the Council’s staff and the Minutes published on the Council’s web site.  If you have a complaint about the conduct of a Member of the Council in relation to their involvement in the affairs of the Forum, I suggest you contact the Chief Executive under the terms of our published complaints procedure but urge you to raise it, in the first instance, with the Councillor concerned.

I hope you find these comments helpful.

Yours sincerely 

Councillor Miss Sara Randall-Johnson

Leader East Devon District Council

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

East Devon District Council discovers a new law of physics – Professor Brian Cox to be informed! NOT an April Fool Joke!

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

Yesterday, East Devon District Council (EDDC) discovered a new law of physics.  This new law says that, although 85 decibels of noise is harmful to human hearing, this only applies at night.  By some new law of physics, if this noise happens in the day, it is not harmful (although the Health and Safety Executive disagrees).

The pipeline which Tesco is using to discharge gravel on to the Seaton Regeneration site was supposed to operate at levels of between 54-64 decibels (Tesco paperwork).  In fact it is operating at the Axe Bridge (where for some reason it is not lagged, although Tesco’s acoustic consultants said it should be) at levels between 85-102 decibels (my reading). 

An EDDC officer was seen to be getting a reading of 90 decibels off her equipment during the first discharge.

The noise was so high that EDDC (which had previously allowed discharge 24 hours a day) put on a restriction that discharge could not take place between 11 pm and 7 am. 

Residents thought that this restriction would be put on at the planning stage as several people believed they had heard councillors requiring it at the Development Management Committee meeting at which the pipeline gained approval. 

However, when conditions were released, it was missing.  It transpired that EDDC was satisfied with Tesco figures and saw no reason to put a restriction on.

We now have an almost April Fool situation where, because noise more than 85 decibels is harmful to the human ear (particularly in babies and children) Tesco is not being allowed to discharge between 11 pm and 7 am but can continue to discharge between 7 am and 11 pm.

So, EDDC has discovered a new law of physics – the same noise is less noisy in the day than it is at night.

I am sure Professor Brian Cox will be really grateful to EDDC for discovering this new law of physics.  Perhaps he may make a television programme about it.  Someone should.

In the meantime, residents should be aware that if the local district council will not issue a total noise abatement notice, they can get one at Exeter Magistrates Court if they provide enough information about the problem (this blog post will help).  But it takes at least three days and by then your hearing may have been permanently damaged.

Posted in EDDC | 4 Comments

Gamekeepers or poachers? Take your pick!

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

At the East Devon District Council (EDDC) Executive Board yesterday (30 March) I asked the following question:

Why is East Devon District Council subsidising the East Devon Business Forum to the tune of £5,000 when its members are amongst the largest businesses in the district and when they include such companies as Axminster Carpets, which will receive a huge windfall of cash for its development at Cloakham Lawns and another member, Crealy, boasted of its ability to fund a 1,000 dwelling development site on land it owns opposite its tourist attraction? 

Why is this money not being spent to help small and medium-size enterprises which need much more help than the EDBF, which is chaired by EDDC’s Deputy Leader, Graham Brown? 

And why are EDDC councillors attending the EDBF in their private capacities as business owners and landowners – surely this is a conflict of interest and a prejudicial interest, especially when dealing with the Local Development Framework?

And what did Leader, Cllr Randall Johnson say?  Well, nothing.  First, she promised me a “written reply”.  Then she waffled on about EDDC needing to assist EDBF with “administration”. 

Why?  Heavens, if some of the biggest businesses (and developers) in East Devon can’t do their admin without EDDC help they must be in one heck of a mess!

She did not answer the question on why this money was not being used to support small and medium enterprises.

As regards the third part of my question, she produced her strangest reply.  She said that she could not comment on what individual councillors were doing.  Why was this strange?  Because she is one of the councillors who appears to wear two hats when attending these meetings. 

My research shows that sometimes she wears her EDDC hat and sometimes she wears her Flybe hat).  The same goes for Graham Brown (EDDC/National Farmer’s Union, Philip Skinner (EDDC/Worldwide Trading), Graham Godbeer (EDDC/Combefield Veterinary Hospital) and Peter Halse (EDDC/Halse of Honiton). 

Cllr Brown is the Deputy Leader of EDDC.  He also chaired the LDF Panel for over a year.

This may not be a full list.  You can check attendees at these meetings (and their stated affiliations, some of which change from meeting to meeting) at the EDDC website:

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/index/life_and_work/a_thriving_local

So:  gamekeeper or poacher?  Take your pick!

Posted in EDDC | 5 Comments

Councillors in row over decision to change farming land to light industrial

This story appeared in yesterday’s Express & Echo.  Below, Liberal Democrat candidate in the district elections, Jonathan Underwood comments:

“When I attended the Development Management Committee meeting that gave the go-ahead for the Tesco development in Seaton, one thing struck me above all else.

The discussion and subsequent vote by the councillors seemed to bear no relation to the arguments that had been presented by members of the public, many of whom were actually experts in elements of the subject under discussion.

It was as if they were in a parallel universe. Now three of my party colleagues have resigned from that committee after allegations that councillors were phoned up before a different meeting and told which way to vote.”

………………………………………………………………………………..

THREE Liberal Democrat councillors have withdrawn from their positions on East Devon District Council‘s planning committee and ordered an investigation into how a planning decision was reached.

Lib Dem leader Councillor Geoff Chamberlain, Councillor Steve Wragg and Councillor Derek Button have decided to play no part on the committee until the investigation is complete.

Their decision followed the committee’s approval of planning permission for the change of use of land from farming to light industrial at Waldrons Farm, in Farringdon, near Exeter.

The district council commissioned an Ombudsman’s report into the decision-making process, which found no evidence of malpractice.

However, the three Lib Dem ward members have announced that they are now waiting for the outcome of an investigation by the Standards Review Sub Committee before they return.

Cllr Chamberlain said: “The original application came before the committee in June 2010 and it was recommended for refusal.

“When it came to committee it was decided we would have a site inspection so we went out to the site and decided it should be refused. Three months later a renewed application came back before us again.

“Before it came back before the committee in the autumn it became apparent that some councillors had been phoned up by someone trying to persuade them to vote in favour of the application.

“I felt that some of the councillors may have been influenced and there had been some background information that was totally unethical and I felt something was amiss.”

He added: “I said I was going to take the matter to the Standards Review Sub Committee but the monitoring officer asked me if I could hold on because a complaint had been submitted to the Ombudsman by the parish council as to the way the business over the application was conducted.

“But the Ombudsman only has the right to rule on whether the decision has had an adverse effect on the parish residents.”

The Ombudsman’s report ruled that there was no malpractice.

Cllr Chamberlain added: “Because of the Ombudsman’s conclusion that was the end of the matter.

“I was then made aware that the Ombudsman couldn’t do what I was seeking to do, which was to find out who was making the phone calls behind the scenes and possibly rig the decision of councillors.

“I’ve now appealed against the decision to take no further action and made a submission to the Standards Review Sub Committee that they look into the matter again.

“Pending that outcome, myself and the two other Lib Dem members of the development management committee are refusing to take part in any business.

“We don’t want to be identified with any lack of probity in a planning matter.”

A spokesman for East Devon District Council said it was unable to comment on the matter.

Posted in EDDC | 3 Comments

First 14 election candidates sign up to pledge

The first 13 candidates have signed up to our Candidate’s Pledge, launched yesterday (Monday) which is aimed at helping residents make an informed decision on who to vote for on Thursday 5 May.

The pledge is about candidates letting their potential constituents know that they intend to represent their views, particularly in relation to planning and development.  This issue has caused many residents unhappiness and anger because of the way planning applications are regularly approved against residents wishes.

Some development is vital, particularly for local and less well-off younger people.  But it must be proportionate and appropriate – both to the district as a whole and to the community it is intended for.

The candidates who have signed up so far are from across the political spectrum.

To sign up, just leave a comment and we will add your name to the list!

The Candidate’s Pledge

v     I will oppose developments which compromise precious environmental resources including the Jurassic Coast, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and grade one farmland.  Or developments that have potential to damage tourism in East Devon.

v     I agree that development must be proportionate and appropriate to existing local communities and I will make every effort to ensure that this is so in my ward.

v     I agree that planning permission must be conditional on developers fully covering the costs of infrastructure and service provision associated with a development, and that 40% of housing provided should be affordable.

v     I will always prioritise the interests of existing residents over those who might move here if more houses were built.

v     I will listen to and act on my constituents’ concerns.

v     I will represent the views of my parish or town council at EDDC.

v     When a major development is proposed I will stage a consultation with existing local residents and give the greatest weight to their views.  If the application is approved I will do my utmost to ensure that my community is adequately compensated for any adverse effects.

Candidates who have signed up to the pledge

Claire Wright – Ottery St Mary Rural – Independent

Roger Giles – Ottery St Mary Town – Independent

Jonathan Underwood – tbc – Liberal Democrat

Sharon Pavey – Honiton St Michael’s – The Green Party

Peter Burrows – Seaton – Liberal Democrat

Douglas Hull – Axminster – Liberal Democrat

John Stevenson – Axminster – Liberal Democrat

Sharon Howe – Sidmouth Rural – The Green Party

Derek Button – Broadclyst – Liberal Democrat

Stephen Schlich – Broadclyst – Liberal Democrat

Martin Gammell – Whimple – Liberal Democrat

Stephen Williams – Seaton – Labour Party

Marion Gammell – Clyst Valley – Liberal Democrat

James Semple – Seaton (Town Council) - Independent

For more information on the Candidate’s Pledge click here http://communitiesbeforedevelopers.org/?page_id=963

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 2 Comments

Budget: Britain’s planners fear a ‘tin shed’ England within 10 years

The reaction to Eric Pickles’ part of the budget – taken from the Royal Town Planning Institute’s website:

Richard Summers, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), which represents almost 23,000 of Britain’s planning professionals, has attacked proposals in the budget announced (on Wednesday) to allow developers to bypass important planning rules. Richard Summers said:

“If sweeping changes announced to the planning system result in the default position being ‘yes’ to development then there is real danger that within a decade we will end up with an England of tin sheds, Lego land housing and US style shopping malls”.

“Where will the incentive be in the future for developers to address issues such as climate change, environmental protection, design quality and affordable housing, if they know that the government has tied the hands of local councillors who will be required to nod through most development proposals. This could mean developers building what they like, where they like, and when they like. It’s a policy that finally buries genuine localism”.

For more information about how the Budget affects planners, read the RTPI’s Budget Bulletin.

In launching the Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer devoted a significant part of his speech to planning reform.  The details of the changes to the planning system are contained in ‘The Plan for Growth’ issued by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Below we quote the main announcements from ‘The Plan for Growth’ as they relate to planning. Some are these are restatements of existing positions, some are new.

The Government will introduce a powerful new presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that the default answer to development is ‘yes’.

The Government wants more development in suitable and viable locations and will produce shorter, more focused and inherently pro-growth National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to deliver this.

The Government will enable businesses, as well as residents, to bring forward neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders.

The Government will pilot a “land auctions” model, starting with public sector land.

The Government will localise choice about the use of previously developed land, removing nationally imposed targets, but retain existing controls on green belt.

The Government will consult on proposals to make it easier to convert commercial premises to residential.

The Government will introduce a number of measures to streamline the planning applications and related consents regimes removing bureaucracy from the system and speeding it up. This will include a 12 month guarantee for the processing of all planning applications, including any appeals.

The Government will ensure a fast-track planning process for major infrastructure applications through the Major Infrastructure Planning system.

The Government is legislating to introduce a duty on local authorities and public bodies to require them to co-operate on planning issues.

The Minister for Decentralisation made a Written Ministerial Statement on 23 March 2011, setting clear expectations that local planning authorities and other bodies involved in granting development consents should prioritise growth and jobs, should have up-to-date development plans, and should reconsider Sec. 106 agreements where these make a scheme unviable.

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

EDDC’s LDF brief to consultants appears to seek approval for figures

By Anita Jennings – Budleigh Salterton resident

The LDF brief inviting bids from six un-named consultancies has now been posted on EDDC’s website. The consultancies do not necessarily have to employ specialists in all fields (e.g. statistics). They can sub-contract parts of the work to other consultancies of their choosing.

The brief, which will culminate in a report that either changes the LDF or endorses it, does not seem to include full analyses of over 2000 responses to the draft LDF from residents and other interested parties, received by EDDC during the three months to 30th November.

These responses were outlined, without details or figures, by the Policy Planning Manager at the Special Meeting of the DMC on 15th March 2011.

Who will be responsible for providing numerical analyses?

Appendix No.1 attached to the Brief to consultants includes a table headed
“Proposed levels of development under Core Strategy Preferred Approach Document”. The base-line is “the number of dwellings in built-up area boundaries at November 2010″.

The projected increase is up by over a quarter (27.9%) up to 2026.

It is difficult to compare these figures with what was presented to the DMC on 17th August 2010 because the goal-posts have been moved! The base-line last August was “Existing commitments (2006-2009) or already scheduled to be built.” This means that the apparent reduction in projected building numbers (from 19,420 last August to 17,829 in the brief to consultancies) could well be misleading.

It is also difficult to compare the proposed increases in housing numbers in individual “hub rural settlements”. Budleigh Salterton, where I live, was scheduled last August to have 50 new dwellings over a period of 25 years.

Appendix No.1 to the brief shows a projected increase of 90 dwellings excluding “windfalls” and 209 dwellings including “windfalls”. That’s quite a steep rise from 50, and there is obviously little or no “spare” land within our built-up boundary. Yes, there is a local need for affordable homes, but even the large development on the former Plymco site did not achieve the prescribed 40% of so-called affordable homes.

I have to say that the report does rather read as a document that seeks to have its data endorsed by a third party, rather than as an opportunity to take a genuinely fresh look at the approach, given that top down Govt figures under the Regional Spatial strategy were scrapped last year.  And that there were so many objections from stakeholders and residents.

How can a further 209 dwellings be accommodated in a settlement whose entire built-up boundary abuts open country designated as AONB? By “relaxing” the rule about not building on AONBs – or by breaking the new Government’s exclusion of gardens from being classified as brownfield sites?

This isn’t a problem specific to Budleigh Salterton. It will be applicable to all the 15 hub rural settlements and villages in East Devon whose built-up boundaries adjoin AONB’s.

To take a look at the brief, follow this link – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/planningpolicy-2

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | Leave a comment

‘Candidate’s Pledge’ will help people make their choice in May elections

You will be able to check whether your candidate really intends to represent your views once elected to East Devon District Council in May, as we have published a set of pledges for candidates to sign up to.

We have drafted and published seven key promises that candidates standing in EDDC’s elections on 5 May, have the option of observing.

The promises will help sort the good quality hard working candidates from the ones who prefer to serve their own interests.

Sandra Semple, CBD campaigner said:  “It can be really hard to make a decision on how to vote in council elections because often candidates aren’t well known.  Invariably, you don’t know whether you are voting for someone who will work for the community or not.

“It’s great if you know your candidate well and are confident that they will represent your views but too often people end up voting along party lines by default, which can be rather a hit and miss affair to say the least.”

“This exercise will be interesting and will sort the wheat from the chaff.”

Four members of Communities Before Developers intend to stand for election on 5 May.  Jonathan Underwood for the Liberal Democrats, Sharon Pavey for the Green Party, while Claire Wright and Roger Giles will stand as Independent candidates.

The Candidate’s Pledge is mainly development-related because this is where the residents of East Devon are most unhappy with East Devon District Council because councillors have forced through so many planning decisions against people’s wishes. 

Mrs Semple added: “Now is the time for a review of every candidate’s intentions.  We are hopeful that the majority of councillors sitting on East Devon District Council after 5 May will have been chosen on the basis of their desire to work for their communities.”

The Candidate’s Pledge includes:

v     agreeing to oppose developments which compromise precious countryside including Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Jurassic Coast and grade one farmland. 

v     prioritising the interests of existing residents over those who might move here if more houses were built.

v     pushing for 40 per cent affordable housing in any development, whether or not the developer claims they can’t afford it.

Candidates can view and sign up to the pledge by leaving a comment on the page above labelled ‘Candidate’s Pledge’. 

We will list all candidates standing in the elections and a running tally of who has signed up to the Candidate’s Pledge.

Click here:  http://communitiesbeforedevelopers.org/?page_id=963  for more information about the Candidate’s Pledge. 

We will upload the full list of candidates when it is published in a week or so.

Posted in EDDC | Leave a comment

What is the East Devon Business Forum and what does it do?

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

Many of you will have no idea what the East Devon Business Forum is.  It is an organisation of people with BIG businesses in the area who meet with officers of East Devon District Council and tell them what big businesses want from them. 

The EDBF is under the auspices of East Devon District Council, which publishes the minutes online and provides administrative assistance.

Cllr Graham Brown, Deputy Leader of EDDC, chairs the East Devon Business Forum.

Their minutes are published here:

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/index/life_and_work/a_thriving_local_economy/east_devon_bu

(look at that web address and you will see exactly what EDDC thinks of them, by the way).

This is NOT the small and medium enterprises which are the backbone of East Devon – it is the people who have big land holdings, big farms, big businesses, big ideas about how to promote themselves and their interests.

Some of the members seem to have dual roles.  EDDC Councillor Graham Brown (EDDC Feniton and Buckerell ward councillor, Deputy Leader of EDDC, Executive Board – Vice Chairman, Interviewing Committee – Vice-Chairman, Environment Portfolio Holder, Member of East Devon Flood Recovery Group, Executive Board -Vice-Chairman, Member of Community Fund Panel, Member of Local Development Framework Panel, Representative on Honiton Street Market Advisory Forum)  is, somewhat surprisingly, NOT on the EBDF in any of these roles.  He is there as the EDBF’s Chairman (of course!) and representing the National Farmer’s Union!

Other EDDC District Councillors who wear ‘two hats’ on the EDBF are Cllr Philip Skinner (he of the famous ‘Christmas Card’ fiasco) who represents ‘Worldwide Training’, Cllr Malcolm Florey, Cllr Sara Randall Johnson (representing Flybe), Cllr Pat Graham, Cllr Peter Halse (representing ‘Halse of Honiton’). 

Business members include such big local companies as Axminister Carpets (now developing Cloakham Lawns) and Crealy (Adventure Park – who gave a speech to the last Development Management Committee suggesting a development of around 1,000 houses on land they own) and Roy Stuart, landowner who got planning permission for 450 homes and business units on grade one agricultural land at Westclyst, in December.

This group comes up with many proposals for development and employment – indeed it has been a major consultee to the Local Development Framework (LDF) and its pronouncements are widely quoted by EDDC as being representative of the area.

Here are a few extracts from the minutes of their last meeting held on 3 February 2011:

Karime Hassan reported that the biggest challenge facing the Business Forum was ensuring that there was a clear voice from business in East Devon. Before the formation of the Business Forum, engaging with business in East Devon had not always been easy, whereas in Exeter City there was a single voice for business.

It had always easier to engage with resident groups and those who opposed development rather than those who were supportive.

…..The greater weight that had been given to the views of business since the establishment of the Business Forum was recognised, particularly over issues such as the lack of employment land supply …..…..Karime Hassan reported that the establishment of East Devon Business Forum had made his job as Corporate Director of EDDC easier as it was the voice of business in East Devon.

However, a weakness of the Business Forum was that it did not get sufficient coverage in the media ……Would the appointment of a PR firm to engage with the media on behalf of the Business Forum help the situation? There was the possibility of having a formal relationship with the Communication Officer of the (publicly funded) Growth Point Team, which could help support the Forum’s relationship with the media …..

So now you know.

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

Localism. Is it a euphemism for ‘developer’s charter?’

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

Today the budget gave us much cause for concern in relation to making it easier for developers to gain planning approval. 

This is an analysis of a speech Eric Pickles MP gave to the CBI a few days ago…..

For those of you who think that Localism and the Big Society (I still don’t understand what that means!) is something good for our community is a “Good Thing” you might want to think again.  On 20th March 2011, Communities secretary Eric Pickles delivered a key note speech to the Confederation of British Industry  which chills me to the bone.

Amongst the (many) things he said were the following remarks, quoted verbatim from the speech in italics (underlining from me) with my personal comments:

I can also announce that we will be relaxing regulations that have stopped developers converting disused commercial property into homes. It’s in everyone’s interests to make it easier to turn run-down old eyesores into much-needed new homes. Let the market decide what’s best so far as housing is concerned.

No problem with the first two sentences, just the last one.  Remember that when the market decides, it puts the interests of directors and shareholders first – not the likes of you and me. 

Targets on councils to assess planning applications by a set deadline encouraged them to refuse complex applications just to meet that deadline.  And laws like the 2004 Planning Act, and its requirement to provide volumes of Local Development Documents, made the planning system slower rather than faster.

Oh come on – have you ever seen EDDC refuse a complex planning application to meet a deadline.  What REALLY happens is that some of the most complex planning applications which ought to take a long time to sort out because they have enormous implications to residents have been passed “on the nod” by our Development Control Committee in record time!

…..  we’re giving communities a reason to say ‘yes’ to development and to new homes – because they’ll see the financial benefits.

Ah, but we are not being given the opportunity to say “No”.  And are “Financial Benefits” better for us than “Quality of Life” benefits?  Wasn’t it the greedy insistence on “financial benefits” which caused the financial melt down that got us into the mess we are in?

And we’re using the financial carrot, rather than the legal stick.

Does anyone else find this as offensive as I find it.  The legal system is what protects us from the excesses of criminals and con-men – I LIKE legal sticks and I DON’T like “financial carrots”!

….. we are saying to councils: you’ve got to take responsibility for promoting growth and enterprise.

And what about the other responsibilities of councils:  quality of life, good services, assisting the vulnerable, the elderly, people with disabilities, keeping our streets clean.  Why should they spend OUR money on “promoting growth and enterprise” when the East Devon Business Forum can do it!

The planning system should act as a driver for growth …..  but if I am being completely frank with you, it’s the drag anchor to growth.

NO, NO, NO!  The planning system should act as a driver for PLANNING not for GROWTH.  We could have some terrible growth (for example, high rise tower blocks, “little box” homes, lack of open space, etc) if we just see the reason for planning as being only growth!

We need a system that always says yes to the right sorts of development.

And who decides what is the “right sort of development” in a society which is supposed to put the local resident at the heart of decision-making?    What if WE residents decide that something is not “the right sort of development”?  You guessed it:  We get ignored.

And let’s be clear, democracy must not, does not, come at the cost of delays.

I feel really strongly about this.  If local democracy causes delays, so be it – democracy is the cornerstone of our society.

I want a system where both local residents and local councils see the benefits of development ….. 

Oh, heavens:  I don’t want to SEE the benefits of development – I want to be the person who decides what the benefits of development are – not Mr Pickles or the Development Management Committee after listening (too much?) to the East Devon Business Forum!

Be afraid, people, be very afraid.  Mr Pickles makes it quite clear:  All rules abolished so that big business can do what it wants: Good, do it.  All rules that ensure that our democratic processes are safeguarded: Bad but do it anyway, we must not stand in the way of Big Business. 

Take a very careful look at the Localism Bill and see if you come to the same conclusion that I do – it should be renamed The Developers Charter.

Posted in Planning | 5 Comments

Communities BEFORE Developers

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident 

Some might assume that this website is anti-developer.  Look no further than its title – Communities BEFORE Developers.  What this means is that many (if not most) communities accept the need for some development within or near them.  We cannot continue to grow in population and live longer if we do not adapt to these trends.  However, adaptation has to be proportionate, appropriate, timely, evidence-based and transparent.

What we have in East Devon is:

Disproportionate:  EDDC has already admitted its mistake in grossly over-estimating the number of homes, offices and businesses that the area needs.

Inappropriate:  it is just plain stupid to build where people do not want things built (quiet hamlets, open green spaces) when they are quite prepared to look at other ways and other places to develop.

Not timely:  it is important that development is timely – that development does not grossly outpace the infrastructure that is needed to support it.  There is no point in building a large estate which will be populated by young families, for example, if there are not enough schools, roads, doctors or dentists.

Not evidence-based – exploitative:  there is absolutely no evidence for some of the developments which are being discussed.  They seem to be based more on what developers and others have available and want to exploit rather than being the right developments in the right place.

Secret and not transparent:  ah, now here is the problem.  All the above has to be done transparently.  This has been accomplished in most areas – their Local Development Framework LDF) discussions have been done in public, with publicly available documentation and with consultation.  Here in East Devon discussion is done behind closed doors, with redacted documentation and with consultation a mere fig leaf.  This is proved by the fact that when the final LDF came out there were demonstrations, “more than 2,000 objections” (but we do not know exactly how many more – it could have been 2,999 or 5,000!). 

There are a number of ways we can challenge this way of doing things:  we can check,  double-check and re-check EDDC’s information.  Often it is totally wrong or slanted in such a way that it says one thing and means another.  We can demonstrate and make our views known on developments that are just plain crazy or which we think are out to make someone (and often someone closed to home) very rich rather than being appropriate.  

We can insist that infrastructure is built before or with major developments (and not take the old chestnut excuse that “the developers won’t build here if we ask for too much – ask for too much and see what happens first).  Most important, we can challenge over and over again the secrecy that has become endemic within EDDC. 

We can demand that audio or audiovisual records are made of every important meeting  and that these records are made immediately available to the public (as happens, for example, with Devon County Council).  We can demand that the council has to give written evidence as to why meetings should be held in secret and why the minutes of those meetings are redacted before publication.

But best of all we can vote out the people who put us in this mess in the first place!

Thursday 5 May is the date for the district elections – put it in your diaires!

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 2 Comments

EDDC secret decision to move away from protecting countryside

We believe that EDDC has badly let down its residents after a secret decision was taken to move away from protecting the countryside.

In a response to a Freedom Of Information request submitted by us last month, EDDC could provide no paperwork surrounding a decision to move away from countryside protection and instead focus on economic development.

But no committee has ever approved this decision, it has emerged, which has huge implications for East Devon’s countryside. 

In the FOI response dated Wednesday 2 March 2011, Head of Planning Kate Little, advised campaigners to trawl through the recently published Local Development Framework Panel minutes, where she said councillors had requested the change. 

The LDF Panel itself is an advisory committee and has no decision-making powers.

Claire Wright then asked EDDC’s Executive Board (later that day), which committee ratified the decision. 

Chief Executive Mark Williams, responded the following day (3 March).  He admitted: “The most relevant minutes are those of the Development Management Committee on the 17th August 2010 and the Council on the 13th October 2010, as these meetings approved/ratified the consultation on the LDF Core Strategy Preferred Approach document.”

But there is no mention of the policy shift away from landscape protection in either of these sets of minutes.

CBD member and Honiton resident, Sharon Pavey said:  “It is quite incredible that the council can not only make this fundamental policy change without consulting the public, but without even formally agreeing it. 

“How can it be that a core remit of the council can be changed behind closed doors, without a shred of paperwork to back up the decision?”

All we have found are passing references to the policy change.  These are:

  • A report by the Planning Advisory Service of November 2009, called in to look at the way EDDC’s Local Development Framework Panel was approaching strategic planning.  It states:  “The council’s priorities have shifted in the past few years from one of landscape protection, to promoting economic development and affordable housing.”
  • The list of weakened landscape protection policies at the back of the Local Development Framework core strategy document.
  • Minutes quoting Head of Planning, Kate Little, presenting to the East Devon Business Forum on 15 December 2009 states:  “The planners …… were also trying to move from a landscape protection focus to a more economic one, as well as supporting the building of more affordable housing.

The East Devon Business Forum is chaired by EDDC’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Graham Brown. 

Cllr Brown also chaired the Local Development Framework Panel during 2009 and part of 2010.

We are wondering how this shift has already affected major planning applications, such as those for the Jurassic Coast or on open countryside and how it will affect future applications.

CBD campaigner and Seaton resident, Jonathan Underwood said: “Residents of East Devon, who have no choice but to trust EDDC to take care of the countryside on their behalf, will want to know who made this decision and why. It is either casual or conspiratorial policy making.”

We believe this decision is invalid because it was never formally agreed and we now urge you to write to EDDC Leader, Sara Randall Johnson asking for it to be overturned with immediate effect. 

Cllr Randall Johnson’s email address is srandalljohnson@eastdevon.gov.uk

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

No clapping, please!

By Mike Newby – Wilderness Residents, Exmouth

Claire’s account of the protest rally at Knowle on March 15th reminds us that development in East Devon has become much more than an environmental, social and economic issue. Now, it’s as much about the quality of our local democracy and the accountability of our elected representatives as it is about preventing a rash of unnecessary housing estates to deface our beautiful region.

There’s more at stake than just a stunning view.

Take just one example: the moment in Claire’s report when she tells us that the Development Management Committee’s Chairman was ‘repeatedly telling members of the public that they must not clap’(the cheek of it!) only, repeatedly, to be ignored.

But it captures a serious point: that we must be careful – those on all sides of the issue itself – to ensure that people are not made to feel they cannot express their views or that, if they do, those views will be politely ignored if they prove incompatible with the views of those in power.

And this in turn raises the vital question of just where the power lies. Is it with the Council or with the people who elected them?

In a well-run democracy, the two should be synonymous: the electorate lending its elected representatives the right to decide for them – but only for a while, and always able to call them to account.

The trouble with the LDF process is that too much has obscured the clarity of this democratic bargain. Largely thanks to the CBD website and the activists who are leading the protest, we learn of …

• public reassurances apparently weakened (Why? What happened?)

• observers from the electorate being required to leave meetings (Why? What was so secret?)

• decisions apparently being un-minuted (Why? Doesn’t good governance demand a clear paper-trail?)

• suspicions over vested interests (Why, given that anyone has the right to view Councillors’ declarations of interest, are people not allowed to copy the information as they do so, if not to prevent a wider circulation of what might be crucial information?)

• uncertainty over the outcome of the current Committee process (Will a revised LDF be subject to another round of public consideration or not? And, if not, why not?).

That there are no doubt deft procedural answers to some of these questions is not really to the point: People in the ‘world-out-here’ have begun to distrust the LDF process as something going on in the Council, ‘the world-in-there’, and that’s bad news for our local democracy.

Of course, the obvious response from the Council is to point to the meeting itself as proof that its members really are listening and trying to take account of the views of the electorate. And the meeting at Knowle sounds as if it was a lively one. Good!

It’s particularly heartening from where I am in this argument to read that several councillors on the Committee ‘had real concerns about the LDF’. (Given the outcry its publication has caused, I’d be very alarmed if any councillors didn’t have serious misgivings.)

But now the whole thing is likely to go a little quiet as the Committee considers the pros-and-cons of the issue. Or at least it could go quiet if people allow it to.

Claire’s call to action at the end of her piece is completely appropriate: we have elections on Thursday May 5th and I can’t think of an issue in which more is at stake for those of us living in East Devon than the LDF.

I want my elected Councillor to respect and protect the beauty of my local environment (I live in Exmouth) just as everyone living in the region will want theirs to do likewise. And if I can find someone prepared to be open and honest about doing so, then he or she will get my vote.

And I’ll clap if I want to!

Posted in Exmouth | 1 Comment

Around 80 residents march on The Knowle – backwards!

Dozens of placard wielding residents made their way carefully up the drive of EDDC’s offices today – walking backwards to the Development Management Committee (DMC) meeting, where many of them gave their feedback on the LDF.

Residents walked backwards to demonstrate a certain amount of backtracking by Leader, Sara Randall Johnson, who had issued a press release before Christmas stating that there would be far less development as a result of people’s views – but now does not appear to be standing by her pledge.

Three councillors joined us on the march.  They were:  Roger Giles, Douglas Hull and Peter Burrows.

With a stark message of:  “Listen!  Or be voted out!” around 80 of us marched on the Knowle again – and around 20 or so spoke up at the meeting.  There were some excellent comments including from:

Robert Crick, who started by thanking EDDC for their “great efforts to consult us,” but immediately asked: “What went wrong?” He said that the LDF would provide big profits for big landowners and companies at the expense of small businesses, and finished with warning EDDC Cllrs: “Beware the Ides of March!”

Marching backwards up the drive of The Knowle

Dick Beardsall of West Hill Residents Association accused EDDC of no real commitment to consultation. He said:  ”You didn’t listen to us.  Our major concerns have been ignored.” 

He added that there was no justification for the very high housing figures, which were “plucked out of the air.”  He demanded that the strategy be rewritten, taking account of local needs, and he also demanded a further full and meaningful consultation, with EDDC listening to what is said.

Richard Eley, Chairman of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce urged EDDC to significantly reduce the level of development and expressed concern about the use of consultants. He said increasing housing by 30 per cent is likely to increase the housing list by 30 per cent.

“People from outside East Devon will be sucked in, the very high level of housing won’t result in lower house prices.”

Mr Eley added that East Devon Business Forum does not represent all businesses – small firms, especially, are not represented.  Town centre businesses and tourism were hardly mentioned in the LDF.

He said EDDC was the only local authority in the country to carry out its LDF business totally with the press and public excluded.

There was spontaneous applause for many of the speakers, which continued despite the DMC Chairman, Andrew Dinnis repeatedly telling members of the public that they must not clap, as it apparently delayed the meeting’s progress.  Happily, this rather Kremlinesque attitude just encouraged us to clap all the louder!

Marching into the committee room

Around seven or eight landowner/developer agents spoke up and argued for their clients’ land to be the focus for development.  Several referred to the A3052 ‘corridor’ (Sidmouth Road near Crealy Adventure Park) being ideal for development and one mentioned that it was ripe for around 1000 homes.

Three ward members spoke up against the LDF on behalf of their communities.  They were: Cllrs Roger Giles, Vivienne Ash and Peter Burrows.

When it was the turn of the DMC members to speak it was clear that several councillors had real concerns about the LDF:  These were:  Cllrs Ray Bloxham, Derek Button, Ian Thomas and Mark Williamson. 

Cllr Derek Button made an impassioned speech about the levels of development being far too high and quoted from Clyst Hydon Parish Council’s response to the LDF consultation, which expressed concern about the projected population increase which matched that of the previous 500 years. 

Cllr Button also made reference to Hugo Swire’s press release which stated that residents must keep up the pressure on EDDC.

We noted that Derek Button and Ray Bloxham were the only DMC councillors who stated that the level of development was far too high and based on guesswork.

Cllr Helen Parr was keen that there should be further consultation on a revised version of the LDF.  Cllr Steph Jones wondered about the use of consultants to check the plans.

Other councillors appeared not to have changed their position at all.

Cllr David Key (LDF Panel Chairman) read out a rather anodyne statement, which sounded suspiciously as though it had been written by someone else.

Cllr Ray Franklin trotted out his well worn line about ‘stagnation leading to rural decay.’

Cllr Bob Buxton’s contribution was to contradict Richard Eley’s point about East Devon Business Forum only representing the large businesses in East Devon.  Mr Eley shook his head during Cllr Buxton’s speech.

Cllr Ray Bloxham proposed an amendment to the printed recommendation, which was to ‘note’ the report (what is the point of this recommendation we ask?) 

But Cllr Bloxham’s amendment: “That the summary report is noted and that the feedback and further evidence gathering and research, including the very valuable feedback given at this meeting be used to inform a revised plan to be considered by council in late summer,” was clearly going too far for some councillors.  

Cllr Mike Green argued against this on the basis that the public consultation had already finished.  And Cllrs Green, Buxton, Atkins and Key felt it necessary to vote against this amendment, which was approved by the majority.

Head of Planning, Kate Little claimed that the use of consultants was vital so that the evidence could be independently checked.  But EDDC clearly already has a mandate to reduce the figures. 

The views of Natural England, Devon County Council and thousands of residents are testimony to this.

Mrs Little also claimed that the top down Regional Spatial Strategy figures, imposed by the last Government, were still a requirement under the coalition, despite Eric Pickles clear intention to scrap the RSS and allow councils to determine their own development levels. 

Head of Planning Policy, Matt Dickins added that if the LDF changed significantly there would be a further six week consultation period.  If it didn’t, it would be submitted straight to the Planning Inspector.  How can there still be a possibility that the LDF remains unchanged?

The brief to the consultants (and off the record discussions) is the key to how or IF the LDF will be revised and we have asked for this brief to be made public.

It is vital now that residents of East Devon vote very carefully on 5 May.  Please please grill your candidates on their views on the LDF.

Remember too, that they will be expecting to be grilled and will have rehearsed their answers.  It is up to you to decide whether or not they are genuine!

Were you at the meeting?  What were your observations?  We would love to hear from you!

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Protest march on EDDC today (Tuesday) 1.30pm, The Knowle, Sidmouth

Banners and placards are being prepared for tomorrow’s march on EDDC  …

We have little confidence that councillors are really planning to do more than tinker with the document, despite the furore over it – see blogs below…

The bottom line is ‘Listen, or be voted OUT!’

Meet us in the bottom car park at the Knowle at 1.30pm, ready to march up the drive to join the LDF feedback meeting at 2pm.

Please bear in mind that the car park is likely to be very busy so car share if you can!

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Don’t become a councillor, there’s no money anymore…

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

Graham and Anne Liverton, Conservative district councillors for more than 20 years are standing down and will not contest the May 2011 elections.  They say that they want more time to do other things, which is totally understandable and I wish them well.

However, I do take issue with one comment that Mrs Liverton is quoted as saying on the Sidmouth Herald site:  “[Mrs Liverton] said EDDC had changed during her time as a councillor.  “There’s no money anymore. It delivers statutory services and there is no leeway to do much else.”

WRONG!  There is plenty of leeway to do a great many things.  Here I list three – I am sure you can think of MANY more.

Cut out waste and duplication.  There are many instances in East Devon of it needing “three people to change a lightbulb” – we all have examples of this.  My own is that our Section 106 consultations took two officers, mostly duplicating each other’s work and both of them insisting on attending a street market on a Sunday, out of hours, to ensure that we did not ask people “leading questions” and influence their choice of where money should go in Seaton. 

Ladies:  you do not know Seaton – no-one can influence anyone in this town, and believe me I should know!

Use assets more wisely.  For example, properties that EDDC owns have not gone “green” or invested in photovoltaic power where excess electricity can be sold back to the National Grid at advantageous prices.  Why, even East Devon farmers are rushing into “solar power farms” so great is the profit.

Work with your residents instead of against them.  If Local Development Framework Panel meetings had NOT been held in private there would have been immediate feedback from local people to inform its progress.  This would have meant that it would not have had to be withdrawn to be re-written with thousands of officer hours already wasted.

I could go on … but best just to say – we need NEW councillors now more than ever if we are to challenge this kind of thinking, which I am sure is pervasive in East Devon District Council.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

****Protest march – Tuesday 15 March, 1.30pm, The Knowle, Sidmouth****

Join us to emphasise the message to EDDC councillors that they MUST listen to our views over the Local Development Framework. 

We have little confidence that councillors are really planning to do more than tinker with the document, despite the furore over it – see blogs below…

We will NOT put up with being ignored and run roughshod over anymore.  It’s about time councillors, especially those on the LDF Panel and Development Management Committee, started representing residents’ views. 

That is meant to be their job after all!

Meet us in the bottom car park at the Knowle at 1.30pm, ready to march up the drive to join the LDF feedback meeting at 2pm.

Please bear in mind that the car park is likely to be very busy so car share if you can!

Posted in EDDC | 2 Comments

Axminster meeting to debate Judicial Review over Cloakham Lawns decision

******The rescheduled public meeting with Axminster Town Council will take place at 7.15pm on Monday 14 March in the main hall downstairs at the Guildhall.

Find out more about a proposal to take the outrageous decision over planning approval for 400 homes on the Cloakham Lawns parkland, to Judicial Review.

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Demonstration – Tuesday 15 March, 1.30pm, The Knowle, Sidmouth

Nothing EDDC has been quoted as saying in the papers responding to our concerns over a u-turn, has reassured us: 

  • Natural England submitted pages and pages of strongly worded objections
  • Devon County Council did likewise and even implied the document could be found unsound by a planning inspector
  • Thousands of residents objected and campaigned against the environmentally damaging plans

What does EDDC say?  That it will ‘review’ the proposals, which MAY result in fewer homes.

IF the document is changed there will be further consultation.  IF it isn’t changed, there won’t be. 

That’s not good enough.

We will not accept anything less than a clear commitment to:

  • significantly reduce housing numbers
  • significantly reduce industrial estates
  • restore landscape protections
  • a further three month public consultation on the revised plan

Help us get the message across that councillors must listen to us.  Now is the time to do this – we won’t have a chance after the elections, if the same crew are re-elected.

Please join us on Tuesday – 1.30pm, meeting at the bottom car park, EDDC offices, The Knowle, Sidmouth, ready to march to the offices and the LDF feedback meeting, before 2pm.

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Second march planned as council leader does u-turn over pledge to scale back development plans

We will be marching once again on East Devon District Council’s offices, after its leader backtracked on a pledge to dramatically reduce damaging development.

Taking place on Tuesday 15 March, we have timed the demonstration to coincide with the Special Development Management meeting to debate the Local Development Framework feedback.

We have sprung into action after EDDC’s Leader, Sara Randall Johnson, backtracked at a council meeting last week, when asked by a member of CBD whether she stood by three pledges she made in a press release issued just before Christmas.  Cllr Randall Johnson had promised to:

  • significantly reduce the numbers of houses
  • significantly reduce the amount of land for industrial estates
  • consult the public on the revised document

The press release of 23 December stated:  “The review is expected to result in a significant reduction in the estimates for house-building and job creation in the district to 2026, so reducing the impact of change on key communities around the district.”

Cllr Randall Johnson also promised a further public consultation, adding:  “We will be seeking further public comment on our revised proposals.”

But no committee at East Devon District Council has ever agreed these promises.

And a report that went to the Executive Board last week (Wednesday 2 March) referred to changes to the Local Development Framework strategy, without mentioning any reductions in housing numbers and industrial estates.

This led CBD member Sandra Semple, to ask Cllr Randall Johnson at the Executive Board meeting, whether she still stood by her pledges. 

But Cllr Randall Johnson replied that the new document and its contents were now the responsibility of the next council, after 5 May elections.

On the promise to consult the public on the revised document, Cllr Randall Johnson simply stated the council would fulfil its statutory responsibilities.

CBD campaigner, Jonathan Underwood said:  “It seems as though our worst suspicions are confirmed about EDDC councillors intending to park a thorny issue until after the elections. 

“The council would then be able to do as it likes as usual.”

CBD believes that there is now no intention to allow the public to comment on the revised proposals.

Fellow campaigner and Seaton resident, Sandra Semple said:  “Thousands of residents made their views perfectly clear on the LDF last autumn, but it now looks as though we are being fobbed off.”

We now believe we have no option but to demonstrate once again at the Knowle on Tuesday 15 March. 

We must give councillors a clear message – ‘Listen to us or be voted out on 5 May.’

If you care about our countryside, we urge you to join us. 

We are gathering at the bottom car park, at EDDC’s offices, The Knowle, Sidmouth, on Tuesday 15 March, 1.30pm, ready to march to the meeting before 2pm.

Once in the Special Development Management Committee meeting, members of the public are allowed to speak for up to three minutes.

To register to speak, contact Assistant Democratic Services Officer, Hannah Whitfield, by email: hwhitfield@eastdevon.gov.uk or by telephone: 01395 517542 prior to the meeting.

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The EDDC Executive Board Masterclass ‘In How Not To Answer Questions And How To Jump To Simplistic Conclusions’

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

Yesterday evening, I attended the East Devon District Council Executive Board meeting and watched a masterclass in how not to answer direct questions and a bad example a councillor jumping to conclusions. 

Myself, my husband James, and Claire Wright asked five questions and here are the questions and (in shortened form) the answers:

Would EDDC be allowing recording, blogging, tweeting and filming of public meetings as requested by the Dept of Communities and Local Government?  Answer:  this would be for the new council to decide.  However, EDDC would not be spending any money itself on this.

When will LDF meetings stop being in secret and start being in public:  that will depend on the next council but Chair and Leader, Cllr Randall Johnson added that she could see no reason why they should not be in public domain.  So why wait until after the election we ask?

Would the new LDF include three months of public consultation when the next draft comes out, as per the promise in her press release before Christmas?  Answer:  EDDC would fulfil its statutory requirements. (in other words – ‘no’)

Would there be fewer houses in the new LDF as stated by the Leader in her press release of 23 December 2010.  Answer:  (I am paraphrasing a long answer here): that would depend on lots of things and would be the responsibility of the new council. (in other words – there is no commitment to reduce the numbers of houses and industrial estates, or restore countryside protections, we are just going to park the issue until after the election)

When did the focus of EDDC change from landscape protection to economic development and at which committee was this ratified?  Answer:  At a meeting of the Full Council  (unsaid:  and it will be up to you, the member of the public, to trawl every minute of every Executive Board meeting to see if that is correct).

So, as you see, five questions, five non-answers.  Is this what the public should expect?

Haven’t we all got VERY tired of the current government blaming the last government for everything.  Is this what will happen at EDDC if the same people get into power again but shuffle themselves around a bit so they can say: “Sorry, guv – not my fault – it was that last lot.”

Cllr Jill Elson added that the reason that the focus had moved from countryside protection to economic development was because this would lead to more affordable housing.

Does a council need to downgrade its countryside protections to prioritise affordable housing?  I think not.

I think we can safely assume the press release that was issued before Christmas when Cllr Randall Johnson promised to dramatically revise the LDF so it was more in line with people’s views, was nothing more than a cynical attempt to park the issue until after the election. 

This is totally and utterly unacceptable.  

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Secret planning documentation now published online

If you are interested in how the Local Development Framework became the outrageous document it did, you can now find out what discussions took place between members of the Local Development Framework Panel - that up until now have been kept highly confidential.

EDDC even refused to release them under the Freedom Of Information Act.

But we battled for these minutes to be available for public scrutiny and now three years of secret minutes are published online – with just 2011 minutes to be uploaded.

We have looked carefully at the documentation and identified a raft of concerns.  We will be bringing these concerns to the attention of East Devon residents, over the coming weeks. 

Click on the link below to view the minutes for yourself …

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/index/your_council/councillors_and_

We would welcome any comments on your observations of the minutes ….

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

Open forum over legal action bid

This story has appeared in this week’s Pulman’s Weekly News … the community continues to fight back ….

This planning application for 400 homes was approved just ONE WEEK into the Local Development Framework consultation. 

Despite EDDC’s protestations to the contrary, the LDF WAS used to approve this application, as the officer’s case report makes clear.

………………………………………………………………………………….

Public meeting for council’s cash decision in carpet firm development proposal battle

AXMINSTER Town Council has called a public meeting to discuss if it should support and, possibly, commit money to legal action being contemplated by a pressure group.

The meeting will be staged in Axminster Guildhall on Wednesday, March 2nd, starting at 7.15pm.

On the agenda is Axminster Carpets’ much-talked-about outline planning application for up to 400 dwellings and up to 12,000 sq ft of employment space at Cloakham Lawn.

Outline approval was given (subject to successful 106 negotiations) in September last year.

But the application attracted a lot of opposition — the lack of a relief road and loss of greenfield land being two concerns — and the issue remains a hot potato.

Axminster Carpets issued a press release shortly after outline approval was given, urging Axminster residents not to make the company a scapegoat for the lack of a relief road.

The company also said the development would allow the firm to compete at the highest level and inject an estimated £11.3million into the local economy by 2012 in various ways.

But a pressure group, named Save Our Parkland, was quickly formed — spearheaded by former Axminster Chamber of Commerce chairman Fred Wells.

The publicity genereated by the group’s formation, prompted former Axminster mayor and current town councillor Mervyn Symes to publicly support Axminster Carpets’ project, saying it would be a missed opportunity if it doesn’t go ahead.

But the outline approval was highlighted by many as an example of East Devon District Council (EDDC) allegedly “disregarding local opinion” during a public Local Development Framework meeting staged by Axminster Town Council in November.

The latest twist is that Save Our Parkland appeared at a town council meeting in February, saying group members believe there is a reason to challenge EDDC’s decision-making process.

In a letter to the town council, Mr Wells wrote: “We now urge the council to support a pre-action letter to be prepared by a local suitably qualified solicitor and to be sent to EDDC giving notice of impending legal action.

“The cost involved will not exceed £1,500.”

There was no mention of the cost for a full-blown judicial review.

Town councillors decided more information was needed before making a decision.

Councillor Jeremy Walden, for example, said: “I personally would not be happy to move forward until I see more.

“A lot of money is involved. I’m not saying we shouldn’t [support a pre-action] but we need to be absolutely sure what we are facing.”

Axminster Town Council and Save Our Parkland were on Monday morning unable to say if the “suitably qualified solicitor” would be present at the public meeting or not.

The item is listed on the agenda as “To discuss matters relating to planning application 10/0816/MOUT (land at Cloakham Lawn) in the light of notified changes in the timetable for scrutiny of responses to the Local Development Framework consultation document and to consider what action, if any, needs to be taken at this time”.

Posted in Axminster | 4 Comments

BBC Inside Out’s report on AONBs in East Devon – watch it again….

You can watch last night’s excellent report until next Monday (7 March) by clicking on the link below…

It is the third report.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00z17gn

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | Leave a comment

Factory pig farm would have been ‘huge and horrible blight’

 By Olly Foat and Susie Watmore
 
You may have seen BBC Inside Out’s coverage of this planning application this evening.  Fortunately, it was refused… here is an article written by two of the campaigners…
 
 Everyone who was concerned about the planning application for the Industrial Pig Units at Venn Ottery – and any other proposal – to seek permission for inappropriate development, within an AONB will be greatly heartened by the Planning Officers’ decision to refuse this significant  application. 

It was immediately apparent to most local people that this would have been a huge and horrible blight in Happy Valley, and we are glad that those entrusted for the stewardship and protection of East Devon’s landscape and natural amenities have acted responsibly in this matter.  There was considerable local concern as can be seen by the number of letters written to the council objecting to the proposal.

And while we are greatly relieved that the application has been turned down, there remains a concern that this application is now being sent to appeal, although we are at a loss to know on what grounds.  Inappropriate development in an AONB remains just that and it is difficult to see on what grounds an appeal could be justified sufficient to set that aside. We shall see, but hope that common sense, support of the law and the wishes of local people will prevail.

The applicant, a local businessman, has said that he spent tens of thousands of pounds on preparing and submitting his application for his intensive pig rearing unit at Venn Ottery. 

Most applicants seek planning advice at pre-application level prior to such disbursement.  It is not known if the applicant did so. He might then, perhaps have been advised to relocate his application to another of his landholdings, outside the ANOB where it would no doubt, have been considered in a different light. 

Any appeal against this ruling will need to look carefully into all matters surrounding this application.

Finally, as the applicant added last night on the Inside Out programme on BBC1 where this application was reported on, he now intends to go to appeal – and if it is approved by the Planning Inspector, it will let East Devon District Council off the hook as the final decision was not made by them and was taken out of their hands.  How convenient!

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | Leave a comment

A plea for younger councillors

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

I am ‘over 60′.  I have a wealth of life experiences (some good, some bad, some indifferent) and I want to make a contribution to society (though I am less sure that I want to make a contribution to the “Big Society” because I have no idea what that means).  I have time, because I am retired and I still, thankfully, have my health and energy.  But is that enough to be a councillor?

When I look at the photographs of East Devon District Council councillors (and I guess pretty much every council in the country) I am struck that most of the councillors appear to be over 60, mostly male and almost certainly most of them are retired.

I have no truck with people who say that just because one is a certain age that means that you are blinkered or unable to appreciate the problems of other age groups in society.  But if the VAST MAJORITY of councillors all fit the same profile, is this a good thing?

One of the unusual aspects of Seaton Town Council (where I was a councillor) was that its profile was totally different to the councils around it.  Our youngest councillor was 20 when she was elected, we also had a young mother with three small children, a young father with two teenage children and a mother with three children just about to set out for university.  Most of them had jobs, one or two of them had full time jobs – but they all found time to be councillors.

This meant that we had people who were experiencing the problems that we retired folk only knew about second-hand.

The youngest knew what she was talking about when she championed the case of young people, the young mother and father knew about the stresses and strains of modern family life, the councillor whose children were about to go to university knew first-hand the problems of funding, accommodation and eventual prospects for her children.  We older councillors could only experience these problems second-hand.

Most councillors in East Devon seem to be in their 60s and early 70s at the moment and are probably (like me) mostly from the “never had it so good” baby-boomer generation.  We worked during periods of almost full employment when jobs were plentiful, we bought and sold our houses mostly during boom times; when there were bust times they did not last very long.

Many of us now have relatively good pensions and, even if not, are often asset rich with our homes.  It is those of us who generally feel able to use some of our time to volunteer to be councillors.

It isn’t good enough.  We MUST have a broad range of people and particularly people with current experience of modern life.  These are the people who are using the schools, commuting to work many miles from where they live, juggling with child care, needing the new homes (whether private or rented), who need to make their voices heard as much as – or possibly more than – ours.

So, if you are young and hesitating to become a councillor, I urge you to give it serious thought.  Without your voices we “oldies” will just carry on making decisions for you and (in the case of EDDC) often without consulting you.  If you do want to make a difference to your lives and your children’s lives, stand for council.

You don’t have to belong to a political party – you just need to channel your (relative) youth and enthusiasm into making a difference in your community and giving a voice to people who are currently not being heard.

Are you a supporter of CBD and considering standing in the May elections?  If so, we would love to hear from you!  Email claire.wrightottery@gmail.com

Posted in EDDC | 5 Comments

BBC Inside Out runs story about threat to East Devon’s AONB

Tune into BBC1 at 7.30pm on Monday (28 February) to watch our march back in November against the outrageous Local Development Framework and see interviews from East Devon residents worried that landscape protections appear to be eroded in East Devon. With presenter Sam Smith (pictured above).

See the link below, for more information….

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00z17gn

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, EDDC | 5 Comments

Find out where land has been put forward for development where you live …

The new Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) has been published on EDDC’s website.  This is essentially a land database that EDDC keeps up-to-date, in relation to possible sites for development.

Landowners have been asked to get in touch with EDDC if they are interested in putting their land forward for development.  The land is then assessed on whether it is suitable for housing.

The link below will take you to the webpage, which gives you access to an interactive map and report with a schedule of potential sites.

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/index/out_and_about/countryside_index/planning-strategic_housing_assessments

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

Let bloggers film meetings, Eric Pickles tells councils

This story appeared on the BBC website today.  Looks as though EDDC may have to take down its signs banning people from recording or filming meetings …. another step forward in the direction of transparency…

Devon County Council has been webcasting live its major meetings for years, which are then archived online.

Councils should allow bloggers to film their meetings, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said.

His department has contacted councils to ask that they adopt a “modern-day approach”.

It follows reports that some bloggers were stopped from using Twitter or filming during public meetings.

Mr Pickles said it was important local bloggers were given the same access as professional journalists at a time when budget decisions are being made.

He said: “Fifty years ago, Margaret Thatcher changed the law to make councils open their meetings to the press and public. This principle of openness needs to be updated for the 21st Century. More and more local news comes from bloggers or citizen journalists telling us what is happening at their local council.

“Many councils are internet-savvy and stream meetings online, but some don’t seem to have caught up with the times and are refusing to let bloggers or hyper-local news sites in.”

He added: “Opening the door to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny.”

Click below for the full story

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12543554

Posted in EDDC | 2 Comments

EDDC begins to cave in under pressure from CBD

EDDC is now considering holding its Local Development Framework Panel meetings in public, it was reported in yesterday’s Express & Echo.

Following pressure from CBD over releasing this group’s minutes, which EDDC finally agreed to after initially refusing to publish them under the Freedom Of Information Act, the council is now thinking about holding the meetings themselves in public.

It follows two CBD members being thrown out of a panel meeting earlier this month, even though it did not state on the agenda, that the press and public were excluded.

From the end of the month the LDF Panel minutes will be available online. 

We look forward to hearing when members of the press and public will be able to start observing the meetings.

Posted in EDDC | 3 Comments

Patronage and cronyism alive in Devon

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

The MP for Totnes, Sarah Wollaston (pictured above) has made this headlines this week attacking the Government’s way of appointing MPs to committees.  As a GP for 24 years, elected to a great extent on her promise to do her best for the National Health Service, she was naturally hopeful that she would be able to sit on the health committee.

She was, apparently, offered the opportunity to become a Parliamentary Private Secretary but, in her own words “I would have had to resign from the health select committee, agree to never speak on health matters and to always vote with the government. It turns out that about 150 out of 364 coalition MPs are on the so-called “payroll vote”, meaning that because of positions they hold, they have agreed to always vote with the government. Included among those 150 are around 45 who work as a PPS. How could I justify taking such a role to my constituents in Totnes?”

So, instead she is now serving on a committee dealing with double taxation – a subject she admits she knows nothing at all about and is not interested in.

What has this to do with East Devon?

What is similar is that patronage and cronyism is rife in Devon – it is often the “normal” way that business is done.  It is not what you know, but who you know that is important.  Developers cosy up to people in high public office whose main occupation is or has been building or property speculation.  The same developers cosy up to farmers, also in high public office, who have acres of agricultural land that would vastly increase in value if they are zoned for housing.  Goodness, some of the people in high office are builders, property developers AND farmers all at the same time!  The builders and the farmers often form the majority on various influential committees – what goes around comes around.

And time and time again this system seems to work.  Local government bends over backwards to accommodate developers and smooth their paths, when if you or I want to build a small porch on our home we can have the devil’s own problem getting planning permission – or seeing it refused!  Businessmen, developers and those in high office form semi-official and unofficial groups to “explore ideas for development” – groups that produce no agendas and no minutes and take place behind closed doors.

Why, even our own dear East Devon District Council says that although CBD has now forced them to release minutes of the Local Development Framework meetings (always held in secret and set to continue that way) they cannot be published until they have been edited (redacted) as “there are certain parts of some minutes that will remain confidential, for reasons of protecting the commercial confidentiality of organisations that have presented information to the panel”.

Oh, how I would love to know what organisations these are – but I never will be allowed to know, will I.  Yet we pay these people’s salaries and they are supposed to be working for us.

So, people, patronage and cronyism is alive and kicking in Devon.  What can we do about it?  Make sure that we elect new people to district and town council posts in May 2011 – people with integrity, common sense and a desire to be transparent to the people who have elected them.  And hopefully then watch the transformation!

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

Campaigners thrown out of ‘secret’ meeting

Two members of CBD were thrown out of a council meeting last Thursday (10 February), for doing nothing more than turning up and sitting quietly.

Three members of Communities Before Developers had arrived to hear the Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel debate their next steps.

The agenda did not state that the press and public were excluded.

A weekly EDDC newsletter also had not stated that the press and public were excluded.

And Deputy Chief Executive, Denise Lyon, had the previous day emailed CBD campaigner Claire Wright, promising that all past and future LDF Panel minutes would be made public by the end of the month.

But as soon as Claire Wright and Jonathan Underwood arrived with Cllr Roger Giles to observe the meeting, the panel’s chairman Cllr David Key (pictured above), loudly informed Claire and Jonathan that they must leave immediately because the meeting was private.

As a district councillor, Roger Giles was entitled to stay.

Cllr Key angrily declared that he was the Chairman and he had made the decision that they must go.

Cllr Roger Giles pointed out that nowhere on the agenda did it state that the press and public should be excluded.

Claire Wright raised the issue of Denise Lyon’s email and her pledge to publish past and future LDF Panel minutes, which had implied a new future spirit of openness at EDDC.

But Cllr Key (and some officers) were insistent that the pair must leave. Cllr Key threatened to move the entire meeting into Part B (where the press and public are excluded).

He claimed that Chief Executive, Mark Williams (pictured below) had been informed that CBD was present, and had ordered them to go.

Claire Wright said:  “It was quite extraordinary.  Cllr Key actually shouted at us to leave!  He was obviously very angry.”

Roger Giles added:  “There is a much bigger issue at stake here, which is about minutes of meetings being made public (in this case after much public pressure) but the meetings themselves being held in private.

“If the minutes are made public why is the council so anxious to ensure that no press and public observe the meeting?”

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman and CBD campaigner, Jon Underwood added: “If members of the press and public are not allowed to observe these meetings, you have to wonder how closely the minutes portray what is actually said.”

According to EDDC’s newsletter for councillors, The Knowledge, out of 13 formal council meetings scheduled to take place over the next two weeks, seven exclude the press and public.

Posted in Communities Before Developers, EDDC | 4 Comments

A balanced council is needed for accountability

By Jonathan Underwood, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman and Axmouth resident

East Devon District Council has been ruled by one party essentially since it was formed in the early 1970′s.

That’s not just the leadership of the council, but all of the committees. And I really mean all of them. In most councils (like Devon County Council) the scrutiny committees who are supposed to be holding the leadership to account would be chaired by a member of the opposition. Not so at EDDC.

It has a richly deserved reputation for both arrogance and capriciousness. Its fondness for self-promotion would make Peter Mandelson blush, one of many similarities to the last government. Indeed quite a lot of its activities are designed to make the council look good rather than residents feel good.

Of course the Conservatives are in charge, but I am not seeking to make a particularly partisan point. I have no doubt power would go to the head any party ruling for that long, though it might be the case that the Tories are especially susceptible to feelings of invincible superiority.

As a LibDem I think it is fair for us to accept a certain amount of responsibility for this state of affairs. We have always been the only significant opposition (in combination with independents), yet we have never been able to find enough candidates to mount a challenge right across the district. Given no choice the voters have returned the Conservatives almost by default.

To be honest this time may be no different, unless more residents step forward. Without a more balanced council there is every chance the old LDF will be resurrected after the poll with only minor modifications. Then all our arguments will fall on deaf ears.

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

CBD blasts council for planning approval denials

We are surprised at East Devon District Council’s claim that it has not used a now discredited strategic planning document to approve two major applications, resulting in almost 1000 new homes for the district.

Last autumn EDDC approved two large planning applications on open countryside in Axminster and at Westclyst, amid much controversy and opposition.

The Axminster approval for 400 homes took place when EDDC’s Local Development Framework core strategy (LDF) was still out for consultation and had not been debated by the full council.

The Westclyst application for 450 homes was approved in December – just one week after the consultation ended. 

Almost 2000 objections were submitted to the LDF, amid public uproar at the aggressive and environmentally damaging proposals.  The document is now withdrawn and in the process of being redrafted.

The planning officers’ reports, which recommended approval were peppered with references to the LDF in both cases.  And reports from the LDF Panel were relied on as evidence for justification for approval.

But East Devon District Council is now denying that the LDF featured in its decision to approve these applications and has accused campaign group Communities Before Developers of spreading myths.

CBD campaigner, Claire Wright, said:  “It is wishful thinking on behalf of councillors that the LDF wasn’t used to determine these applications. 

“The fact is they probably know these pivotal applications should never have been approved and now they are desperately trying to backtrack.”

The following passage is from the conclusion from the officer’s report, which recommended approval for 400 homes at Cloakham Lawns, Axminster:

“The site is located outside the built-up area boundary as defined within the current policy and the LDF is in a reasonable early stage of preparation. However, the Preferred Approach has now been published and will need to go through consultation and examination but clearly sets forward the Council’s aim that this site be developed for up to 400 houses.”

Similarly, the following sentences can be found on pages 25 and 26 of the officer’s report for the Westclyst planning application for 450 homes, a park and ride scheme and business units:  “While the timing of this application will be considered by many to be inappropriate, as it is running in advance of the LDF Core Strategy, government guidance is very clear that applications cannot be refused on the basis of prematurity alone.”

Later the report stated: “Despite this, it is considered that the Core Strategy consultation should be afforded some weight at this time as it gives a clear indication of the Council’s view of where development should be accommodated within East Devon over the next plan period.”

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman and CBD campaigner, Jonathan Underwood said: “This is EDDC trying to rewrite history again. When the Axminster planning application was approved what was the justification they gave to the press for violating the Local Plan? It was that the application was ‘in line with emerging thinking’ – in other words – the LDF!”

Posted in Axminster, EDDC | 7 Comments

New move to halt Axminster homes plan

The story below has just appeared on the Midweek Herald’s website.  We wish Fred Wells the very best of luck…

THE fight to stop 400 homes being built at Cloakham Lawns, in Axminster, stepped up a gear last night.

The town council – which is opposed to the development – was asked to consider calling for a judicial review into the planning authority’s decision to grant outline permission.

Campaigner Fred Wells said time was running out to prevent the massive scheme and safeguard hopes of a north-south bypass.

“Now is the time to initiate a judicial review and I suggest the council become actively involved in that ,” he said.

Mr Wells said to start the process would cost around £1,500 and a pre-application would halt the planning process and give them time to consider further action.

Councillor Jerry Walden warned that a judicial review would cost the council a lot of money – a year’s precept just to think about it.

“We need to know what we are doing,” he said.

The council agreed to call a special meeting – open to the public – to discuss their next move and invite a specialist planning lawyer to address them.

Posted in Axminster, EDDC | Leave a comment

500 more homes proposed for Westclyst

This story appeared in the Express & Echo today.  On top of the 450 homes plus business units and park and ride already given permission using the draft Local Development Framework, the tiny hamlet of Westclyst is now facing a further 500 homes, yet another park and ride and nursing home ….

RESIDENTS who protested about 450 homes being built on their doorstep have learned of plans for another 500 homes just across the road.

A petition of 700 names was collected from residents of Pinhoe, Westclyst and Broadclyst in protest at the development of 450 homes, a park and ride, shops and school at Old Park Farm on the edge of Pinhoe.

The scheme was approved by members of East Devon District Council’s planning committee in December, but residents have carried their fight to the Government Office of the South West, requesting that the scheme be called in.

Now they are preparing to battle a new proposal which could see up to 500 homes, a 60-bed nursing home, and community facilities at Pinn Court Farm, also on the eastern edge of Exeter.

Westclyst resident Helen Newman organised the petition against the Old Park Farm scheme and said: “This other scheme is ridiculous. It is just absurd to suggest that the road system can cope with this – it can’t cope now.”

Cynthia Thompson, city councillor for Pinhoe, believes that Exeter services will have to support East Devon residents. Cllr Thompson told the Echo: “It seems to me East Devon District Council is creating dormitories presumably with the main aim of fulfilling their social housing requirements.

“Bearing in mind that Cranbrook has been approved as a completely new settlement, it appears the district council is focusing on the edge of Exeter rather than some of the main towns of its own area such as Sidmouth, Seaton, Honiton, and Axminster.

“Exeter citizens are being expected to carry the burden of providing their services for the benefit of East Devon residents, while having only a role as consultee on the planning applications. It seems the planning committee at East Devon is content to develop in anyone else’s backyard but its own.”

Cllr Thompson added: “The proposal for park and ride at nearby Old Park Farm was, in my view, completely unnecessary by encouraging increased traffic movements into an area where the existing highway infrastructure can barely cope especially at the mini roundabouts in Pinhoe.

“My views are the same for any park and change facility which may be incorporated on this proposed development.”

The exhibition of the latest proposals will be on view in the Hall Church, Pinhoe tomorrow between 2.30pm and 8pm, and in the Victory Hall, Broadclyst, on Thursday, between 4pm and 8pm.

Posted in EDDC | 2 Comments

CBD wins paperwork secrecy row

We have won our battle for secret strategic planning documents to be made public, following the revelation that withholding the information could contravene European Law.

The meeting notes of East Devon District Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel had been denied to Communities Before Developers, under the Freedom Of Information Act. 

The recommendations of this panel led to the most environmentally damaging set of strategic development proposals that East Devon residents had ever encountered.

Three years of previously secret minutes will now be made public by the end of the month.

CBD campaigner Claire Wright, on 21 January formally complained to EDDC’s chief executive Mark Williams, about the refusal to supply the minutes under FOI and stating that the documentation was in the public interest. 

Also, that other councils were already publishing their minutes and agendas.

In reply on Wednesday (9 February), EDDC Deputy Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer, Denise Lyon said:  “The development of land in the district is of interest to a great many people and, having studied the minutes of these meetings (between 2008 and the present day), we do feel that the content of these discussions should be in the public domain.”

Ms Lyon added: “Your request has been treated under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004, which is legislation with many similarities to the Freedom of Information Act, but deals specifically with environmental information.

“Under the Regulations there is an express presumption of disclosure and all exceptions are subject to the public interest test.”

CBD had battled for the LDF Panel’s minutes to be made public because panel members had advised how much housing and how many industrial estates should be provided in East Devon and where they should go.  All discussions have taken place with the press and public excluded and the minutes were confidential. 

Claire Wright explained:  “It is vital that these minutes are made public because advice provided by this group has led to almost 1000 homes (in Axminster and at Westclyst) being given planning permission prematurely, using the draft Local Development Framework document. 

CBD Campaigner and East Devon Green Party Co-ordinator, Sharon Pavey added: “It is possible that these two decisions have led to a precedent across the district, which could mean developers could successfully appeal against rejections of their planning applications.

“Local people quite rightly, will now get to know how and who made these decisions and why these major planning applications came forward so early.

Posted in EDDC | 5 Comments

Ever thought of being a councillor?

If East Devon District Council’s plans for aggressive development have fired you up and you are considering becoming a councillor to make a difference to your community, please get in touch with us.

CBD is a cross-party group of Green Party members, Liberal Democrats and Independent councillors.

EDDC’s elections are on 5 May, so now is your chance to influence planning and a whole other range of issues where you live.

If you don’t do it now, you will have to wait another four years!  Strike now while the iron is hot!

Email Claire.wrightottery@gmail.com

Posted in EDDC | 2 Comments

Beauty spot is no place for pig farm, say planners

Story published in today’s Express & Echo.  It does raise some questions -why would EDDC encourage someone to build a huge industrial pig unit in the AONB when this clearly contravenes the adopted Local Plan?  The field is also part of, or at least close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

A correction to Mr Down’s quote.  Around two thirds of East Devon is designated an AONB.

Perhaps Mr Down’s claims about being encouraged to submit the application are untrue?  In which case maybe a councillor or planning officer would like to refute them on our website? 

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Plans for a major pig farm at an East Devon beauty spot have been refused.

As previously reported, residents at Venn Ottery have been battling plans for a pig breeding and rearing unit, slurry store, drainage pond and access track near the village since the application was submitted in September.

Proposals were for a site west of Collyhead Farm for 3,640 pigs – 740 sows and 2,900 piglets – by farmer, Chris Down, of Crealy Farms near East Budleigh.

The decision to refuse the application was taken by the chairman of East Devon District Council’s development management committee under delegated powers after being given a 30-page report by planning officers.

The main reason cited for the development’s refusal was because of its location within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and its failure to “enhance and preserve the character of the area”.

Mr Down, said: “We’re disappointed that council planning officers made the recommendation to refuse this application especially when we met them on site before submitting our plans and they were supportive, which led us to put so much time and money into getting such a detailed application together.

“I feel that without such unjustifiable public objection to this application it would have gone through without issue.

“Around 80 per cent of district council land is AONB so does this mean that farmers can’t improve their businesses and move forward in a sustainable way? Our only recourse now is to resubmit a changed application or go to appeal. We will likely go to appeal where we would hope for success.”

Campaigner and Venn Ottery resident, Olly Foat, said: “Naturally we are very happy. Plans were for a site on AONB land which contravened a lot of regulations.”

Fellow campaigner Anita Kemp, added: “We think this is a decision for common sense. People objected because they want to preserve the rural environment. We don’t want our countryside decimated.”

A spokesman for the district council said: “The main issues for consideration relate to the principle of development in the countryside. Some areas are clearly more suitable for certain types of farming activity and the associated infrastructure than others.”

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | 3 Comments

56 new homes plan in open countryside gets UNANIMOUS thumbs down

By Claire Wright, Ottery St Mary Town Councillor for West Hill

Councillors on East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee (DMC) today UNANIMOUSLY rejected a planning application for 56 homes on a field outside West Hill’s development boundary.

It is the first major application not in line with EDDC’s Local Plan, to be brought to the DMC since the controversial and very wrong decision to approve 450 homes and business units at Westclyst, in early December.

Today’s debate was encouraging, with councillors recognising that West Hill residents did not want the LDF’s one size fits all ‘hub’ status.  This would have meant the village, along with many others in the district receiving around 50 homes over the next 15 years – possibly many more.

It was absolutely clear that the cry of outrage over the LDF last autumn strongly influenced today’s decision. 

Recommending refusal, Planning Officer, Ed Freeman’s report stated:  “There is no material planning reason to depart from the adopted Plan Policy.  To do so would undermine the adopted development strategy and result in unplanned and speculative development in the countryside, where there is no identified need or justification for local regeneration or additional housing.”

The report went on to say that the LDF now had ‘extremely limited weight’ as it was in its infancy.

West Hill’s Village Design statement was listed as adopted supplementary planning guidance, which the application contravened.

Officers also told the committee and members of the public that there is a surplus of land for housing in this area. 

The developer, Blue Cedar Homes, may decide to appeal the decision.  It is though, pleasantly surprising and encouraging that both planning officers and councillors appear to be trying to make amends for their early damaging decisions linked to the LDF. 

The EDDC juggernaut, previously thundering down a dark and destructive road, now appears to be turning slowly and heading back towards the light – and hopefully protection of our countryside and wildlife.

The people of East Devon love its beautiful countryside and will not tolerate its careless destruction.  That should never be forgotten by those who make the decisions.

Posted in Communities Before Developers, EDDC, West Hill | 1 Comment

Greater transparency required for councils

A consultation for a new code of practice has been launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government today, which requires councils to be more open about a whole range of issues including:

- Expenditure over £500, (including costs, supplier and transaction information)

- Grants and payments under contract to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector
 
- Senior salaries, names (with the option for individuals to refuse to consent for their name to be published) job descriptions, responsibilities, budgets and numbers of staff
 
- Councillor allowances and expenses
 

- Copies of contracts and tenders to businesses and to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector

- Policies, performance, audits and key indicators on the authorities’ fiscal and financial position

- Data of democratic running of the local authority including the constitution, election results, committee minutes, decision – making processes and records of decisions

Presumably, the final bullet point should apply to the LDF Panel minutes.

Click below for more information…

http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/codepracticeladataconsult

Posted in EDDC | 5 Comments

Has the planning department changed course?

A strange thing is happening at EDDC. 

A series of planning applications submitted for open countryside are being refused/recommended for refusal.

These include:

- the mega-industrial pig unit in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at Venn Ottery – spanning 11 acres, including a slurry lagoon.  Result – refusal by planning officers (reasons because it is in the AONB and near a site of special scientific interest, among others)

-chicken sheds in the AONB at East Budleigh – Result -a recommendation for refusal at Tuesday’s (8 Feb) Development Management Committee meeting (reason because it is in an AONB)

-  56 homes on open countryside at West Hill – Result – a recommendation for refusal at Tuesday’s meeting (reason because it is in the open countryside and there is not an identified housing need in West Hill)

We will blog again after Tuesday’s meeting but it appears that the planning department at least, have taken on board the overwhelming number of comments received about the environmentally damaging LDF and are trying to make amends. 

It’s too soon to celebrate yet (let’s see the revised LDF first) … but it is a very welcome change of direction, which can only be down to the outcry from East Devon residents.

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Communities Before Developers, EDDC, Housing, West Hill | 5 Comments

CBD urges Secretary of State to ‘call in’ controversial planning approval

We have written to Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, urging him to ‘call-in’ a recent planning approval granted by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

The letter is the second one the minister has received relating to a planning approval for hundreds of homes and other development at Westclyst, near Pinhoe, as the hamlet’s residents have also asked Mr Pickles to look into the matter.

We wrote to Mr Pickles on 31 January to ask him to look into EDDC’s decision to approve a planning application for 450 residential units and other development, on land at Old Park Farm, Pinn Hill, Broadclyst (Westclyst).  In the letter we have expressed ‘grave concerns’ about approval of housing on grade 1 agricultural land, which is not identified for housing in the East Devon Local Plan, and which is contrary to EDDC`s own planning policies. 

We assert that EDDC justified the planning approval on the basis of a grossly inflated and unjustified level of housing provision in the EDDC Local Development Framework Core Strategy (LDF).  Well before the Westclyst planning approval on 7 December 2010 there had been considerable criticisms of the methodology and content of the LDF.

Back in November 2009, The Planning Advisory Service sent EDDC a critical report on the preparation of the LDF, containing a litany of explicit concerns, particularly relating to the danger that the LDF Panel’s approach would result in premature planning applications coming forward, while the LDF was still in draft form. 

In November last year, Devon County Council heavily criticised the LDF consultation document, particularly its very high housing provision.  Other statutory consultees such as Natural England, the RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust also objected.  East Devon residents were angry and objected in their thousands.

Since the planning approval on 7 December the LDF and its excessive housing provision, has been further undermined.  EDDC’s Leader, Cllr Sara Randall Johnson announced before Christmas that the numbers of houses and employment land (industrial estates) was too high and would be significantly reduced.

In recommending approval of the planning application on 7 December the EDDC planning officer report states:  “Although the site is currently outside of any built-up area boundary as defined in the East Devon Local Plan, the preferred policy approach Draft CS10 identifies land on the edge of Pinhoe for 800 houses.  The Core Strategy for the LDF is at an early stage of preparation but the Preferred Approach clearly identifies the Council`s vision and strategy for housing in the district and can therefore be afforded some weight.”

CBD spokesperson Claire Wright said:  “Granting planning permission for the Westclyst application on 7 December was wrong and unjustified – an argument we made clearly and strongly at the time.  Regrettably East Devon District Council ignored us and the local residents, and went ahead with an approval contrary to its own policies. 

“We are now asking the Secretary of State to intervene and right a very great wrong.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers, EDDC, Housing, Planning | 3 Comments

8 New Homes in Honiton – affordable housing on brownfield site or a bit of a squash?!

Page Three of Pulman’s View From Honiton has a story this week about eight new homes being built in Honiton. Usually their newspaper stories are on their website but I can’t find this one online. Here’s the link to the online newspaper – see page three or you can read my scanned copy below.

http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?referral=other&bypass=true&pnum=&refresh=Yo801Pz521Kx&EID=c2a0607f-d95f-4dde-8ba6-c6ce623ba906&skip=true

What does everyone think? Please add your comments below. Scroll to the bottom of this post and click on “leave a comment”

I’ve emailed all the East Devon District Councillors (directly) for Honiton & all the Honiton Town Councillors (via their town clerk) asking them for their comments.

Posted in Honiton, Housing | 10 Comments

Hugo Swire MP: “Council is right to think again on house building targets”

A press release issued by Hugo Swire’s office…I have emboldened a key sentence…

East Devon MP Hugo Swire has welcomed East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) planned re-appraisal of the estimates for house-building and job creation in the district to 2026.

Hugo Swire MP said, “My concerns about over development in our part of the world are well known. I congratulate Sara Randall Johnson and the EDDC for responding to local peoples’ concerns and undertaking to look again at this contentious issue.”

Mr Swire continued, “It is not just about how many houses we build but what sort of houses and where they should be built. Affordability for local people remains a priority; it is still almost impossible for a young couple setting up home for the first time to find anything remotely affordable. And then there is the issue as to the pressures on our local infrastructure from new developments, our schools, hospitals, GP surgeries and our overcrowded road network.”

Concluding Hugo Swire said, “The coalition Government’s approach, through the new Localism Bill, is designed to give local people more of a say in what happens in their communities. That means an end to instructions coming down from Whitehall telling us what we have to build.

Whilst I do congratulate East Devon District Council on their review, I urge my constituents to keep up the pressure on them.

Of course we need some development but equally we want to keep our green and pleasant land free from the inappropriate and over development which has blighted so much of our country already.”

Posted in Affordable Homes, Communities Before Developers, EDDC | 21 Comments

Exmouth Issues Coffee Morning

Saturday 19th February 10am – 12 midday

Christ Church Hall, 29 North Street, Exmouth EX8 1JZ

(opposite the police station)

All welcome, tea, coffee & cake provided.

This is an event hosted by the East Devon Green Party – who are one of the active ‘members’ of the campaign group Communities Before Developers. Please come and talk to us about any issues which are of concern to you in Exmouth or anywhere in East Devon. This includes any planning issues or concerns you have about the LDF.

Play area for children will be provided in the hall.

Any enquiries – see www.sharonpavey.org

Photo from www.exmouth.com
Posted in Exmouth, Planning | 6 Comments

East Devon District Council: What has it got to hide?

We are disturbed by EDDC’s refusal to supply basic information under the Freedom Of Information Act, on the discredited Local Development Framework’s planning strategy.

We lodged an FOI request with East Devon District Council, asking for all copies of the Local Development Framework Panel’s minutes and paperwork.

The request was refused by the council, claiming that it had a policy of allowing councillors a ‘free and frank exchange of views.’  The reply of 17 November also went on to say: ‘any views expressed by members are made in confidence and without prejudice to any subsequent formal decision making processes.’

But we have acquired a copy of a report from the Planning Advisory Service from November 2009, which examined the LDF panel’s approach and recorded deep concerns.

The report states: “The LDF Panel has started to undertake site inspections and receive presentations from landowners on strategic site allocations as part of its evidence gathering for the LDF.  Where these sites are consistent with the Regional Spatial Strategy, the panel is giving a steer to the landowners to undertake further technical work.

“However, there is a potential danger that a positive steer from the panel that these are suitable sites is leading to the initiation of premature pre-application discussions for sites which would be ‘departures’ from the current development plan.  Although the LDF views are given without prejudice they appear to be being made without the scenario testing of alternative options, the use of sustainability appraisal and the explicit assessment of how they fit in with the long-term vision.”

CBD Campaigner, Cllr Roger Giles, said:  “The Planning Advisory Service’s report has caused considerable alarm because it has eerily predicted what actually took place one year later. 

“More worrying still, several councillors who sit on the LDF Panel, are also members of the Development Management Committee, which approved two ‘premature’ and highly controversial applications at Axminster (Cloakham Lawns) and Westclyst. 

These planning approvals contravened EDDC’s Local Plan, the current planning legislation.”

Cllr Giles continued: “The approval of these two planning applications mean almost 1000 homes on open countryside have now been given the go ahead, prematurely, while the (discredited) LDF is still in draft form, without even being debated, let alone agreed, collectively by the council. 

The framework received around 2000 objections from local people, including organisations such as Devon County Council.  It has even been rejected by EDDC’s Leader Sara Randall Johnson, who has promised to reduce the numbers of homes and industrial estates. 

CBD has now learned that there are many more large-scale planning applications in the pipeline for open countryside – all likely to be using the above approvals as precedent for their own schemes. 

Jonathan Underwood added: “It’s a complete mess.  Unfortunately, trying to get any information out of EDDC about the whole sorry process is a bit like dealing with the Kremlin.  Why are these LDF minutes being kept secret?”

Other local councils are more open relating to their LDF process:

South Hams District Council’s LDF meetings are open to the public and Teignbridge District Council publish their LDF committee minutes on their website.  Exeter City Council release their LDF related minutes on request. 

Jon continued: “Unless the LDF Panel’s minutes are released for public scrutiny fast, local people are likely to wonder what EDDC has to hide.”

CBD has formally complained about the refusal to provide the information, to EDDC’s chief executive, Mark Williams.

Posted in Communities Before Developers, EDDC, Housing | 6 Comments

A council at war?

By Sandra Semple – Seaton resident

Councillor Douglas Hull paints an interesting picture in the Midweek Herald of a district council divided.  Not, as one might expect, on party political lines, but within the ruling (Conservative) party itself.  Of course, he is not of the ruling party, and might be expected to criticise, but his points are valid ones.

The ruling Conservative group has never been so divided, split almost equally into two camps (18 to 21 to be precise).  What is splitting them?  Interestingly enough it seems not just policy (though that plays a part) but also personalities and power. 

The Executive Board (led for many, many years by Sara Randall-Johnson) is where the real power resides in East Devon District Council (EDDC).  Well, there and behind closed doors.  If you are not on this Board (and/or the Development Management Committee, the second most important committee) your ability to influence policy within East Devon is so limited as to be invisible.  It is similar to the situation for “ordinary” MPs  – those without clout – their only job to be rolled out as cannon-fodder or when there is a vote, otherwise expected to busy themselves with fine words and promises for the party in their constituencies, leaving the “special” MPs to deal with all the interesting stuff.

Over the last four years in particular, there has been much anger from “ordinary” councillors at EDDC against those of their number who occupy (and have occupied for many, many years) the positions of power.

Basically, the “special” councillors have rotated around the Executive Board and the Development Management committee constantly.  Sometimes on one, sometimes on both, sometimes on the other.  Who are these people?  Some of them are: Ms Randall-Johnson, along with Ray Franklin, Paul Diviani, Andrew Moulding, Bob Buxton, Andrew Dinnis, Helen Parr, David Key and Mike Green (who calls himself Independent because that is what Beer likes to hear but almost always votes with the ruling party and mirrors their thinking). 

This has left the “ordinary” councillors of the ruling party feeling impotent and powerless which in turn has now led to a split pretty much down the middle.  The “specials” who like power and want to keep it and “the ordinary, who also like power and want to attain it for themselves. 

Nowhere is there more evident than in the discussions about the Local Development Framework with the Executive Board, the Development Management Committee and their cosy officers creating a document which the “ordinary” councillors found wanting in almost every respect.  Developer led, not community led and with figures so out of line with real life it has had to be withdrawn (though not until after two large developments in Axminster and Westclyst were approved using it).  Not a healthy situation.

It is even less healthy for us, their constituents.  Rather than putting our interests first and representing us, the ruling party is riddled with plots and counter plots, votes of no confidence, private meetings to discuss votes of no confidence and internal wrangling.  The two factions can even fight over something as minor as what is said in a Christmas card! 

It is not now about what is best for East Devon but what is best for each faction of the ruling party.  None of this is best for us.  When such a situation arises, the cause has to be dealt with or chaos ensues. 

The only way that it can be dealt with is by voting the ruling party out and hoping (praying?) that the people who replace them think less about power and more about the people they represent.  It is the electors who have the power here and they should use it wisely at the next district council elections in May 2011.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to develop

By Robin Fuller, Sidmouth resident

This article gives my personal experiences of living in an area facing substantial development – Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire. Exeter and East Devon have enough parallels with those localities that we might learn from their experiences. Inevitably, one person’s account offers only a limited perspective. People living in other parts of Cambridgeshire – or most of southeast England – would tell different stories but with many similarities, I am sure.

We lived in Cambridgeshire from 1979 to 2006. In just over 25 years, a peaceful, rural county with a delightful, historic, University city had turned into what felt like an outpost of Greater London. We lived latterly in Girton on the western edge of Cambridge. There, we were squeezed from all sides: by a doubling in the number of houses in our village; by a proposed new town 3-4 miles away; by an outline University plan to develop a new North West Cambridge site ‘as an extension of the City’ (with new houses to help pay the bill); by infill-building on every vacant plot; by traffic-calmed local rat-run roads; by constant traffic queues on more major urban routes; with towns linked by inter-urban would-be racetracks, often clogged to a standstill.

Cambridgeshire had long been earmarked for population growth with the development of Peterborough, Huntingdon, St Neots and parts of Cambridge as London overspill areas in the 1960s. This expansion continued steadily until the Labour governments of 1997-2010 identified the ‘M11 corridor’ for massive expansion. They imposed huge targets on home building and workplace development, whether the residents of Cambridgeshire wanted them or not. The population rose 6.3% in 2001-2007 and is forecast to rise a further 13.2% in 2007-2021; three quarters of that change was through inward migration.

In order to meet the development needs, infill and add-on building has been so widely approved that once familiar places are now hard to recognise; many towns and villages are fringed by ugly industrial estates; new towns (more correctly small villages subsumed by growth) are springing up on green sites conveniently misclassified as ‘brown field land’; long established green belts are under review as they prove too constraining for the planners and developers; and even the few wild parts of Cambridgeshire are blighted by the distant roar of traffic (when it’s moving).

The transport infrastructure has long been a problem. The A14 trunk road, nicknamed locally the ‘road to hell’, has been proposed for improvements ever since it was made part of the link between the east coast ports and the midlands and north. The road is a major bottleneck as local Cambridge traffic, plus drivers on M11 from London, add to the westbound through-traffic, and eastwards as they join the vehicles from both the M1 and M6 heading to the east coast ports and east London.

S Cambs’ proposed new town of Northstowe, 5 miles west of Cambridge, was to have 10,000 houses, 24,000 people. It was to occupy the old RAF Oakington airfield – classed as ‘brown field land’ despite the fact that most of it was grassland. The development was supposedly contingent upon improving the A14. But, the planned upgrade of the A14 was lost in the government cuts of late 2010 – so the road to hell gets worse. Now, the size, but not the fact, of Northstowe seems in some doubt. However, the new town’s service roads have long been in place (they were started as the developers published their glossy, promotional, ‘pre-planning’ brochures).

The developers are unlikely to walk away from such a lucrative programme without a fight. Few people locally doubt that Northstowe will go ahead – but it will surely be with reduced infrastructural development.

Public transport was inevitably seen as the solution to the road problems. A guided busway – known locally as the ‘misguided bus’ – has been developed along the abandoned Huntingdon-Cambridge railway line, supposedly taking in Northstowe and the many expanding villages and towns to the west of Cambridge. The busway is now 2 years late and has never carried a fare-paying passenger. It is the subject of a legal wrangle between the County Council and the contractors, apparently due to structural deficiencies which prevent its operation. It is said that the scheme is in danger of being derailed by a shortfall of nearly £24 million, mainly due delays in building the Northstowe township: Stagecoach, the operator, have threatened to walk away from the project.

Meanwhile, the County Council is diverting £1 million a year from other projects to support it. So, it’s a vicious circle: a new town on a busway, the busway to ease road use, so no road improvement, hence a smaller new town development, and so a failing busway – all against strategic plans which demand the road, the busway and the new town to accommodate the growth of Cambridge.

Even if/when the busway is up and running, it will have its problems. It is designed to leave the dedicated guideway to enter Cambridge and Huntingdon, joining the congested streets; buses in Cambridge are forced through a tortuous maze of small backstreets to avoid pedestrianised areas; and Cambridge suffers bus-jams anyway. The local transport plan acknowledges that the existing bus station cannot accommodate the potential growth in bus traffic and the consequential growth in bus numbers.

Other aspects of infrastructure also seem to suffer from development. Despite many Cambridgeshire schools having pupil rolls which are huge compared with Devon (a consequence of population growth without any recent new schools), apparently there is now a schools crisis. This is probably related to a old problem in education (much talked about when we lived in Cambridgeshire) that the capitation allowance (government grants based on population estimates) works on historical population data rather than using up-to-date and realistic statistics. In a growing population, schools are always underfunded against their true pupil numbers. I guess that health, emergency and other services suffer similarly.

Whatever the reasons, the infrastructure improvements are always playing catch-up with the developments: until that is the developers step in to fund the catch-up on capital items to sweeten the approval of developments – developments which themselves will place new catch-up demands on infrastructure. This presents a virtuous circle for developers who can always find sweetener projects to tempt an underfunded local authority.

Finally of course, the tax payer picks up the recurrent costs – staffing, energy and maintenance – so, in times of spending cuts the new commitments rob the community of money earmarked for other purposes.

The development of Cambridgeshire has undoubtedly created a vibrant economy and many jobs. It has also attracted commuters who can get to London in 45 minutes. Many people would argue that this has been a good thing, with new jobs and homes, new out-of-town shopping centres, city shopping malls, cinemas, clubs and restaurants. But many of the people who favour a busier Cambridgeshire would question why we live in Devon – ‘There’s nothing to do there!’

Cambridgeshire’s huge influx of people, ironically, has caused even greater pressure on the inadequate housing and infrastructure. So, Cambridge house prices lag only a little behind London and they are still increasing – Cambridge up 9%, county districts up between 4% and 12% in the year to September 2010. So, a terrace house in Cambridge averages £333,000 (£227,000 in Exeter), in S Cambs £210,000 (£189,000 in East Devon).

These figures explode the myth that development – much of it ‘affordable housing’ – moderates house prices. Road improvements don’t improve traffic flows either. In fact, the war on motorists in Cambridge is closing more and more roads to cars (even for city residents), so journey times are constantly increasing. Fire and ambulance services are severely hindered by dense city traffic. A congestion charge is proposed for Cambridge.

Shops are crowded, car parks are inadequate and very expensive – £9.90 for 3 hours in Cambridge on Saturday (3 times the cost in central Exeter). Recreational rural open spaces are few and far between and often very busy; they are far from being tranquil. In my view, the quality of life in Cambridgeshire has declined substantially; and the pressure gets ever greater.

We decided to leave Cambridgeshire when I retired. We moved to the region reluctantly because my work transferred me there. That work led me to run a team which mapped the land cover of the whole of the UK from satellite images, essentially at a field-by-field scale. In the process, I travelled the length and breadth of Britain, relating land use to satellite image patterns. I recognised then that Devon was one of the most beautiful parts of Britain and wanted to live there.

We were fortunate enough to move to Sidmouth in 2006. So, I guess we are a part of the problem. But East Devon cannot build its way out of that problem: all the while East Devon is more attractive than the home counties – and I trust it always will be – people will want to move here. Building to accommodate this influx can only succeed if eventually it makes the district unattractive to incomers – and residents alike. However, thankfully, the Coalition Government has encouraged localism (an option Cambridgeshire never had), so we can choose to protect East Devon rather than destroy it. There are no government dictats compelling East Devon to develop.

The lesson East Devon can learn from the experiences of Cambridgeshire is that development creates as many problems as solutions. It is not a panacea.

Posted in EDDC, Sidmouth | 5 Comments

Is there a future for a town with a past?

Photograph of Sidmouth Seafront

Robert Crick of the Sidmouth Vision Group will give a talk in the Manor House Pavilion Theatre hosted by the Sid Vale Association at 2.30 pm on Wednesday 19th January. All are welcome. Admission £1.50 including tea and biscuits.

Contact Liz for more info - lizbramley@btinternet.com

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sidmouth | Leave a comment

Discredited housing framework could still be used to approve planning applications

We are calling for urgent clarity over a draft planning strategy that has been overwhelmingly discredited by residents yet, it has emerged, could still be used to approve large-scale planning applications in East Devon.

The council’s chief executive, Mark Williams, confirmed in an email to us last week that the draft Local Development Framework, retains its ‘limited weight,’ status, despite the document being rejected even by the council leader. 

The fact that EDDC is still attaching limited weight to the document means it is likely to continue to be used to approve large-scale planning applications on open countryside and landscapes of special value, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

Last month 450 homes on grade one agricultural land at Westclyst were approved using the LDF and in September over 400 homes on greenfield land were approved at Axminster.  And developers wanting to build 56 homes at Tipton St John, also on open countryside, are using previous LDF-related approvals as justification for their scheme.

Jonathan Underwood, CBD campaigner said: “It is utterly bizarre that the LDF can be used to approve planning applications when the council leader herself has rejected it.  The only explanation is that there can be no real intent to revise the LDF at all.”

The LDF was put together by councillors on the Local Development Framework Panel and went straight out to public consultation in September without even being debated by the council – something which many councillors found unacceptable. 

CBD is now calling on councillors on the LDF Panel to ‘do the right thing’ and urgently change the LDF into a document that is acceptable to residents. 

Fellow campaigner, Claire Wright said: “Thanks to a series of reckless decisions, we now seem to be in state of planning ambiguity – a developer’s paradise.  

“It is unacceptable that EDDC should park an inconvenient problem until after the elections, it is absolutely vital that councillors now act responsibly and urgently by rewriting the document now.  Otherwise we will get ever deeper into the mire, as more major planning applications start to flood in.”

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Axminster, Communities Before Developers, EDDC, Housing | 1 Comment

Localism Bill is a muddle for open spaces

A press release from the Open Spaces Society, issued on 13 January

We today roundly condemn the Localism Bill, the government’s flagship measure for giving people power to run their own lives and neighbourhoods.  The bill is due for second reading in the House of Commons on Monday 17 January.

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, says: ‘One of the bill’s most important aspects-the care and future of open spaces-lacks any clear idea of what is needed and is a muddle of conflicting provisions’.

Our case officer, solicitor Nicola Hodgson, has analysed the bill as follows.

‘The bill requires every local authority to compile and maintain a list of land of community value in its area, to remain on the list for up to five years, but inclusion on the list appears to offer little protection to the land.  If the owner of such land wishes to dispose of it, a community interest group must be given an opportunity to bid.

We cannot see how the bill provides any new protection for open spaces which local people enjoy for informal recreation.  Indeed, once land is on the list, the owner may be encouraged to consider selling it for development.

The purpose of the list of land of community value is not clear. Why does land only remain on the list for five years, and what happens to it after that time?  What protection is offered to land on the list?’

Land may be nominated for the list by others but it is for the local authority to decide whether it is included.  Since much of the nominated land is likely to be owned by the local authority, how can we be sure the authority will be sufficiently impartial?

If the owner of the listed land wishes to dispose of it, a community interest group must be given the opportunity to bid for it, but there is little chance that the group can raise sufficient funds to buy the land, especially if it is at market value based on any obtainable planning permission.

We fear that the bill’s provision for payment of compensation to landowners will encourage them to put land of community value on the market.

And this bill does not mention the government’s proposed “new designation ….. to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities” heralded in the business plans for the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. How does the bill fit in with those plans?

We have called on MPs to ask these and other questions at the second reading debate on Monday 17 January.  This bill needs to be rewritten if it is to offer any protection to open spaces which are loved and enjoyed by local people, and if it is to enable and empower those people to play a part in their protection,’ Nicola concludes.

For more information about the Open Spaces Society, click on the link below.

http://www.oss.org.uk/localism-bill-is-a-muddle-for-open-spaces/

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Let’s take the housing fight to wealthy owners with empty spare rooms

The hidden truth about our housing crisis is that it is driven by under-occupation
Picture of George Monbiot

Article by George Monbiot from The Guardian Tuesday 4th January 2011

There are two housing crises in Britain. One of them is obvious and familiar: the walloping shortfall in supply. Households are forming at roughly twice the rate at which new homes are being built. In England alone, 650,000 homes are classed as overcrowded. Many other people are desperate to move into their own places, but find themselves stuck. Yet the new homes the government says we need – 5.8m by 2033 – threaten to mash our landscapes and overload the environment.

The other crisis is scarcely mentioned. I stumbled across it while researching last week’s column, buried on page 33 of a government document about another issue. It’s growing even faster than the first crisis – at a rate that’s hard to comprehend. Yet you’ll seldom hear a squeak about it in the press, in parliament, in government departments or even in the voluntary sector. Given its political sensitivity, perhaps that’s not surprising.

The issue is surplus housing – the remarkable growth of space that people don’t need. Between 2003 and 2008 (the latest available figures), there was a 45% increase in the number of under-occupied homes in England. The definition of under-occupied varies, but it usually means that households have at least two bedrooms more than they require. This category now accounts for over half the homes in which single people live, and almost a quarter of those used by larger households. Nearly 8m homes – 37% of the total housing stock – are officially under-occupied.

The only occasions on which you’ll hear politicians talk about this is when they’re referring to public housing. Many local authorities are trying to encourage their tenants to move into smaller homes. But public and social housing account for only 11% of the problem. The government reports that the rise in under-occupation “is entirely due to a largeincrease within the owner-occupied sector“. Nearly half of England’s private homeowners are now knocking around in more space than they need.

Why is this happening? I’ve spent the past few days wading through official figures to try to find out. None of the most obvious explanations appear to fit…..

Click here to read the rest of this article

Posted in Affordable Homes, Housing | 16 Comments

Developers use Axminster 400 homes approval to justify Tipton St John housing plan

Campaigners are alarmed that a developer that has set out plans for dozens of new homes on greenfield land in an East Devon village, is using a controversial planning decision at Axminster, as justification for approval.

The planning application, which is on land outside Tipton St John’s development boundary, and would grow the village by one quarter, was unanimously rejected by councillors at an Ottery St Mary Town Council meeting on Monday (10 January). 

Around 100 residents of Tipton St John turned out on the wet windy night to hear the outcome of the application.

Savills, acting for Devonshire Homes, which has submitted the planning application for 56 new homes in the village, has put a case for approval using the highly contested Cloakham Lawns, Axminster planning consent, which EDDC granted in September. 

The decision was made using the now beleagured Local Development Framework (LDF).

450 homes were given planning approval at Axminster, despite the LDF only having been launched for public consultation a week previously.  Councillors on the Development Management Committee have since approved another large-scale application for 450 homes at Westclyst, also using the LDF, despite a planning officer admitting that the document carried ‘limited weight.’

Communities Before Developers have expressed their deep concern about Devonshire Homes using the Axminster situation to justify approving the Tipton St John scheme.

Claire Wright said:  “What a mess.  The planning muddle gets worse, however, because EDDC have now effectively rejected their LDF in a press release just before Christmas, saying they are going to conduct an ‘exhaustive review,’ which is going to take until after the elections to complete.

“Meanwhile large-scale planning applications continue to come in on open countryside and developers are using the previous LDF related approvals as justification for their own schemes. 

“Parking the draft LDF until after the elections is not going to help.  The damage is done. The precedent has been created and thanks to highly questionable decision-making by councillors, East Devon’s planning system is now in a muddle. 

The agreed and adopted East Devon Local Plan has effectively been superseded by a draft planning document, which has been rejected by just about everyone, including by EDDC itself. 

John Harding, Tipton St John resident, added: “We have written to EDDC’s Chief Executive, Mark Williams to ask what the new status of the LDF is in relation to determining planning applications.  We suspect however, that the horse has already bolted and it is too late to lock the stable door.

“Councillors and staff involved in the preparation LDF and those on the Development Management Committee who voted in favour of these applications should be held to account.  It is looking as though their knowingly reckless decisions could cost us some of our most beautiful countryside.”

The Tipton St John planning application will be determined by councillors on EDDC’s Development Management Committee in the coming weeks.

Posted in Communities Before Developers, Ottery St Mary | 1 Comment

Whither now the Local Development Framework (LDF) Core Strategy?

By Sandra Semple – Seaton resident

The story so far:  4 years spent by the Planning Department of EDDC working on the successor to the East Devon Local Plan (due to expire in 2011).  The most important planning document so far in the history of East Devon, it will set limits and targets to development as well as give the green light to developers throughout the East Devon area by identifying choice acreage that they will be allowed (nay, encouraged) to build on.  So-called public consultation (otherwise known at “tell us what we want to hear and if you don’t we’ll pretend we didn’t hear you”). 

The document was put out for public consultation (see above) in early September 2010 and was meant to be in this format for eight weeks whilst those of us who wished could comment.  Why, EDDC even did a “hip” You Tube video featuring the ageing rock star, Stuart Hughes, extolling the virtues of consultation on an unwary public.

Then it all started to go terribly wrong – both for EDDC and its electorate.  Out of nowhere, it seems, people wised up to what was going on – thousands of new homes – more than East Devon was required to have, more even than East Devon most probably would ever need, many of them in areas that were unsuitable, masses of development land (much of it agricultural land or current open space).  The masses began to mumble, then they began to speak and then they began to roar – this simply was not right.  Comment after comment teemed into the planning department (more than 2,000 at the last count) and, eventually, as always happens, the people found their voice – Communities Before Developers.  Marches, media coverage, blog – they all served to spread the word.

Did this influence EDDC?  Not at all.  Despite the fact that they MUST have known that the document was highly flawed they went ahead and used it as the reason to pass two huge housing developments in Axminster and Westclyst.  Officers quoted from it at Development Management Committee meetings [thinks:  why was the name changed from Development CONTROL to Development MANAGEMENT?] as if it were a sacred religious text – brought down from a mountain by prophets.  This was the True Word and there was no Other Word. 

Except that the ?Great and the ?Good (otherwise known at the EDDC Executive and its faithful officers) had misjudged not only the electorate but also its own councillors.  One by one they stood up and said “This will not do!”   (Well, actually, for a while, when the Axminster and Westclyst planning applications were being heard, it did do – but let’s not be too picky here and try to look on the bright side).  The Leader (praise be to her) was told, it is said in no uncertain terms, that Heads Should Roll.  They almost did ….

The LDF Core Strategy was withdrawn for a rethink.  Much spin – “thank you everyone for giving us all those comments – it shows we are doing our job ….”  Er, no, it doesn’t – it actually shows the opposite.  If they had been doing their jobs there would have been NO comments!

How long will this take – oh, months, and months, and months – definitely until after the next local elections.  Why?  Well, we have to go back to the drawing board after all those comments we have thanked you all for.  Democracy in action?  Probably not, burying bad news until after the local elections?  Possibly.

How could a Local Authority get just about everything so wrong?  They didn’t calculate the number of homes needed properly, they didn’t calculate the amount of employment to be generated properly, so they overestimated the amount of housing development land and employment land that they needed.  How on earth could this happen?  Good question, to which I doubt we will ever get a good (or even a not very good) answer, although we might get a Spin Answer.  What would happen if EDDC was asked to organise a beer tasting in an emporium for manufacturing such a liquid (a p*** up in a brewery in other words).  The mind truly boggles.

So, here we are – two massive housing schemes passed using a document withdrawn within a couple of weeks of the Development Management Committee’s decisions.  Back to the drawing board on a policy that has already had the best minds in EDDC working for four years on it.  AND that was when there was no credit crunch and full staffing!  What about now with fewer staff and fewer resources.  Put your head in your hands and groan, people.

And, we, the electorate?  What should we do about this mess?  Well, we can, of course, use our vote in May or June next year – and use it wisely.  Remove the dead wood and let the new shoots flourish.  Get new councillors in who will work for US.  Make sure that those councillors get to grips with what is wrong at EDDC and attempt to put it right (but do not underestimate the hard work that will take).  We can watch EDDC like hawks and point out its flaws to others and make sure that it is more accountable to the people for whom it is supposed to work – US. 

But, whatever you do, don’t send a Christmas card to the Leader!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

CBD calls for freeze on planning decisions

We have called for an immediate halt on planning decisions which use EDDC’s draft Local Development Framework (LDF) document, until a final version is agreed with the Government Planning Inspector.

It comes after EDDC’s announcement that it is to conduct an ‘exhaustive review’ of its LDF, with the revised version expected to carry considerably lower housing numbers and far less employment land provision.

The LDF finished its three-month consultation at the end of November, after being widely rejected by residents and organisations, such as Devon County Council and the RSPB.

Communities Before Developers is also demanding a review of two major planning applications for hundreds of houses, that were approved using the LDF, as ‘emerging policy.’

CBD campaigner, Claire Wright said:  “It is good news that EDDC wants to dramatically revise its LDF.  Clearly, the surge of intense public feeling harnessed by CBD has put the councillors and planning officers under great pressure.

“But now EDDC has publicly rejected its own LDF, it surely cannot be possible for planning officers and councillors to use the document to approve further planning applications. 

“We will be writing to Mark Williams, EDDC’s Chief Executive to ask for his assurance that the LDF will now be withdrawn and no longer used when determining planning applications, until the Government Planning Officer has confirmed a revised version as ‘sound.’”

Devon County Council has previously indicated that if the document was not dramatically revised, the document could be deemed ‘unsound’ and EDDC could be forced to start the LDF process from scratch – which could take up to three years.

CBD campaigner and Axmouth resident, Jonathan Underwood added: “We will also be requesting that a review is conducted of both Cloakham Lawns, (Axminster) and the Westclyst applications, which were approved using the LDF, despite the case planning officer admitting the document carried ‘limited weight.’”

The approval for just these two applications means that a total of almost one thousand new homes will be built on greenfield land in these areas.

Jon continued: “It’s no good promising to revise the LDF after taking decisions based on it. 

“Now that EDDC has declared that its draft LDF cannot become planning policy, it is clear that these applications were approved on spurious grounds and should be revoked.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers, EDDC | 3 Comments

Campaign group welcomes council decision to amend LDF but is concerned about timing

A campaign group has welcomed a decision by East Devon District Council, to make ‘significant reductions’ in the huge numbers of new homes and industrial estates planned for the area over the next 15 years.

But Communities before Developers says it is unsettled by EDDC’s timescales for reviewing the document, which will take six months.

EDDC’s announcement, which was released on Thursday (24 December) afternoon, comes after a high profile and district-wide battle against the damaging plans, waged by Communities Before Developers.

CBD spokesman, Claire Wright said:  “We may have started the ball rolling in trying to get the plans amended but the response from local people to the campaign was really incredible.

“By the time we had our demonstration at the Knowle in November, where over 100 people joined us, our website was getting over 800 hits a week and emails and phone calls were pouring in from people living in every part of the district.  People wanted to know how they could do their bit to help.

County and District Councillor, Roger Giles, added: “It will be clearer now than ever before to councillors and planning officers that our countryside, with all its wildlife and beauty is very special to East Devon’s residents and they will not tolerate plans to pave the way to destroy it.

He said: “We would question why EDDC’s ‘exhaustive review’ will take six months.  Back in August at the Development Management Committee meeting where the LDF was launched, one councillor after another claimed that the LDF had to be agreed urgently.”

CBD campaigner, Jonathan Underwood, continued: “East Devon residents and public bodies have now given EDDC a clear steer on how the LDF should be amended, yet EDDC is to take six months to review it.

“We hope that councillors are not deliberately delaying version two of the LDF until after the May elections, fobbing off residents in the meantime, so they can get away with only a slightly less outrageous proposal when it is politically safer for them to do so.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 2 Comments

Complaint and response from EDDC chief executive

I wonder whether anyone has a view on this thread of emails between myself and the chief executive of EDDC, Mark Williams ….(start at the bottom)

Dear Mrs Wright,

Thank you for this further e-mail.

I took my information from the member services officer who clerked the meeting.

As regards your comments about Mr Freeman and our ‘client’: I can understand that the decision is one you disagree with but a reading of the file will show that we were also the subject of complaint from the applicants agent about delays to the processing of the application. The key issue is that it is for the Committee to decide at its meeting whether  it has enough information to take a decision, irrespective of the advice that the officer is proffering. In this case, the Committee considered it was satisfied with all the information it had and it could properly debate and decide the matter as it saw most appropriate.

I’m afraid that I cannot agree to your suggestion about a show of hands at the beginning of the meeting to decide who goes first. I’m not sure that a form of ‘dutch auction’ would assist members of the public in perceiving that the Committee had a clear administratively proper procedure informing the way it conducted its business. The Committee is meeting in a quasi-judicial forum to decide on planning applications and its current procedure has worked well even on occasions when we have had considerably more than 40 members of the public present for applications which they no doubt also saw as extremely contentious.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Williams

………………………………………………………….

From: Wright PR

Sent: 22 December 2010 10:22
To: Mark Williams
Subject: RE: COMPLAINT ABOUT DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MEETING – 7 DECEMBER

Dear Mr Williams

Many thanks for your swift reply.

Firstly, I am afraid you have been misinformed about the timings for the agenda.  I confess I thought it was almost three hours we waited as previous items dragged on and on, as I checked my watch just prior to the Westclyst item starting and remember it was twenty to five.  However, I have checked with colleagues and they tell me the Westclyst item came up at about 4pm. 

Secondly, I do not agree with your assertion that your procedure is satisfactory.  How can agenda timing based on letters of the alphabet, instead of the needs of living breathing residents, be a positive one?

It is more than ironic that Ed Freeman appeared to move heaven and earth to get an approval for EDDC’s ‘client’ by going as far as to ring every single organisation that had expressed concerns over the application, to talk them around.  He must have been persuasive because he announced at the meeting that due to his calls, those organisations no longer had concerns.

Clearly, you provide an excellent service you provide for your ‘client’, the developer.  Why you choose to prioritise the developer in this way is a mystery to many residents, especially as the council is not operating in a commercially competitive environment.  It isn’t as if the developer can go elsewhere to get their planning application processed! 

However, it is when you contrast this exemplary service for the developer, with the way you treat your residents that people start to shake their heads in disbelief.

Given that it would cost absolutely nothing and be the simplest decision in the world to take, I wonder whether you would reconsider your policy of using the alphabet to dictate your agenda timings? 

Incidentally, at the meeting on 7 December, there were around 40 members of the public there at the start – and at the end of the meeting.  A simple question asked of members of the public by the chairman at the beginning of the meeting – a show of hands for example – could easily inform the decision on the running order. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

 Claire Wright

 ……………………………………………………

From: Mark Williams

Sent: 21 December 2010 11:35
To: Wright PR
Subject: RE: COMPLAINT ABOUT DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MEETING – 7 DECEMBER

Dear Mrs Wright,

Thank you for this complaint which I have looked into on your behalf.

The sequencing of agenda items has prompted a lot of consideration over the years with many applicants/objectors/interested parties considering that their item is more important/controversial/significant than other items on the agenda. Whilst there is a residual discretion for the Committee to agree a variation to the listing of items our practice is to alternate the sequencing on a monthly basis. Thus, one month the applications will be dealt with on an alphabetical basis (by district ward) and the following month it will be reverse alphabetically. All things considered this does tend to work reasonably well. At the end of the day all applications are important to someone.

In terms of the meeting you refer to I understand that there were 4 applications that were listed to be considered. I’m informed that objectors to the Westclyst application had to wait for 1 hour for the debate which then took nearly 3 hours itself.

In all the circumstances, whilst I note your complaint I do not find that there is any need for the Committee to re-visit its current procedure.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Williams

 …………………………………………… 

From: Wright PR

Sent: 18 December 2010 11:25
To: Mark Williams
Subject: COMPLAINT ABOUT DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MEETING – 7 DECEMBER

Dear Mr Williams 

We wish to complain about last week’s Development Management Committee meeting, on Tuesday 7 December.

As you will be aware, there was a highly controversial item on the agenda – the Westclyst planning application – and there were around 40 members of the public present to hear the outcome of this application.

It was placed last on the list, which was unhelpful in itself, being such a major application.  However, we had hoped, out of reasonableness, that Mr Diviani might move this item to the top of the agenda (as we know he often does), out of respect for the people who had driven from around the district to hear the outcome of the decision.

Unfortunately, the item remained last on the list and we were very disappointed that the (many of them very anxious) 40 people had to wait almost three hours to hear the Westclyst application.

The members of the public, several of them elderly, then had to negotiate their way down the steep hill in the dark to their cars, and drive back home through the icy evening, after 6pm.

We believe that, for major planning applications where there is a significant turnout of people, that you should have a policy that the item is brought to the top of the list, which is respectful and considerate.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Claire Wright

Communities Before Developers

Posted in EDDC | 1 Comment

Supermarkets: What Price Cheap Food?

Tune into BBC One, 9pm, Wednesday (22 December) to see East Devon District Council’s crazy decision to approve a massive Tesco at Seaton, with its vast multitude of logistical problems, featured in this Panorama report ……

….. The Big Four supermarkets are expanding at an unprecedented rate. It’s being dubbed the new “space race”, with Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrison’s fighting for dominance on high streets and shopping malls across the UK. But how can they keep on expanding, and slashing our food prices, when we’re in the middle of a global downturn?

In a Panorama Special, reporter Paul Kenyon looks behind the cellophane wrappers and the “Buy-one-get-one-free’s” to examine the true cost of our cheap food. He visits the mega-farms coming our way from the United States, with cows being kept indoors and milked on giant “dairy-go-rounds”, and pigs housed in “sty-scrapers”. He also takes a look at space-age greenhouses where fruit grows without soil.

The Big Four’s UK expansion has never really been charted, until now. Panorama has pieced together the location of every new store currently being planned and built. Their findings include supermarkets in churches, Tesco-financed police stations, and Asda-financed clinics.

And as the production costs of our food are driven downwards, saving us pounds during the recession, Panorama carries out pioneering scientific research to discover whether “Made in Britain” always means what it says.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wyh2f

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A plea for sensitivity when developing Sidmouth

Response to EDDC Local Development Framework, by Robert Crick, Chair of Sidmouth’s Vision Group

 A personal response to EDDC Plans for Sidmouth in the context of East Devon.

I have been the Chair of the Vision Group (VGS) for Sidmouth for three years. The VGS is not a lobbying or campaigning group but a group of concerned citizens who provide a forum for local consultation with businesses, elected representatives, residents and visitors. There is therefore no VGS “policy” on the LDF. What follows is a personal statement partly informed by the consultations that the VGS has orchestrated over the past six years but the views expressed make no claims to be representative of any group or constituency in the town.

While I am no “NIMBY” I do endorse the suggestion from the Sid Vale Association that the significant growth (characterised by opponents as “urban sprawl”) in the rest of the District should distinguish more clearly between developments in “Greater Exeter” to the West and the priority of preserving the more rural AONB with productive farmland and small towns to the East. But this is not just a matter of “Hands off our AONB”.

1.     Planning Context

There is a hazardous planning vacuum.

In the absence of a Town Plan, the context provided by EDDC Planning Department for its early public consultation was a summary of the already outdated findings of the 2006 Vision for Sidmouth produced by the VGS.

While the summary of local opinion and the sustainability appraisal which introduce the LDF statement on “The Future of Sidmouth” is positive and sensitive, the published LDF shows a remarkable lack of imagination, with what amounts to a “one club” approach to Sidmouth, comprising “in-filling” by development companies on green-field sites in the neighbouring AONB. This proposal will deliver a larger quantity of residential property, increasing the population, improving the balance sheets of property companies, and furnishing useful profits to developers; but it is not at all clear how it will address the actual needs of the town and valley. It is in fact more likely to exacerbate the current problems.

a.       An infrastructure survey and analysis should precede any further increase in the population of the town and valley.

b.      A traffic survey is essential before adopting any proposal that is likely to add to the number of private vehicles in the town. The VGS offered to undertake such a survey but was assured that this was being undertaken by DCC. This now needs to be published.

c.       A detailed survey of empty, abandoned and under-occupied private and public homes and businesses and of brown-field sites available for small scale development is needed before any permission is given for building on the AONB.

Most towns and villages in Devon now have a Town or Village Plan. Sidmouth needs one urgently.

2.     Issues for a more considered plan for the town

Issues to be addressed in a development strategy for the town are:

a.       The need for more affordable housing for younger workers. Sidmouth is largely dependent on neighbouring towns, with lower rents and house prices, for its supply of key-workers and skilled tradesmen. Any future building developments in the town need to guarantee (or at least vigorously support) enduring occupancy by this essential but increasingly excluded demographic group. Otherwise unrestrained market forces will mop up all new buildings as second homes and holiday homes and retirement homes for prosperous incomers.

b.      The damaging impression of blight and abandonment. The absence of any serious proposal for the comprehensive regeneration of the Eastern Town in the LDF is an extraordinary omission. Redevelopment is not an option due to its location in Flood Zone 3 and a Conservation Area, with a covenant for recreational use along the western side of the Sid. Nevertheless, comprehensive regeneration of this area would do much to enhance and extend the unique traditional retail centre of the town, which is increasingly under threat.

It is regrettable that the draft development brief prepared by the Steering Group set up by the EDDC Executive in October 2009 was blocked from going to the September 2010 EDDC Executive. The Terms of Reference agreed by the Executive in October 2009 appear to have been revised. Apparently those who control the agenda for EDDC Executive do not want a comprehensive plan nor a range of concepts for wider public consultation. What they seem to seek is an opportunity to sell the eastern esplanade to a developer for as much as possible to build as high and as deep as possible, without considering any reconfiguration of the surrounding area or the impact on local businesses and infrastructure.

c.       The need to prepare for geo-political shifts in resources and economic power over the coming century. Examples of issues requiring urgent action now within any development framework are:

i.      Local food security. Rather than build over prime agricultural land the district should encourage the production and marketing of locally produced food, reducing our dependence on imports from an unstable world market.

ii.      Energy saving. Not only new buildings should comply with very high standards of insulation, but the town and district needs to develop a major local industry to retro-fit the existing housing stock to achieve maximum energy efficiency, reducing our dependence on imported fuel from an unstable world market.

iii.      Reducing waste. Waste is a central challenge for any meaningful plan. While EDDC’s shamefully low levels of recycling are starting to be addressed, other areas of waste include street-lighting and mains water leakage.

 iv.      Renewable energy generation. The Development Framework needs to identify the most effective sources for local generation of solar, hydro, wind, tidal and anaerobic digester power. Locations within the district and the town should be identified where preference will be given to proposals incorporating renewable energy generation. Only with such plans can the current level of population be maintained, let alone increased, as the demand for fossil fuels starts to outstrip supply in the global marketplace.

d.       The growing problem of vehicle congestion. The LDF indicates a welcome (if limited) list of preferences for a transport policy to be implemented by DCC. Easier access from the surrounding more densely populated district with pedestrian-friendly arrangements in the town require more than just tinkering with traffic flow; they require a broader long term strategy for parking, recharging points for electric personal vehicles and a hopper bus around the town. Any proposal to give pedestrian priority to the main shopping centre of Sidmouth will require planning considerations related to commercial vehicular access for businesses in the centre; and access for the infirm.

e.      The growing pressure on amenities and infrastructure. Examples  of under-sized, worn out, or inadequate provision, even before additional homes are built, include:

i.      the Health Centre,

 ii.      the Sewage pumping station,

 iii.      car-parking provision,

 iv.      Sidmouth College, and

 v.      children’s recreational areas.

EDDC Planning Department explicitly rejects a strategy for Sidmouth in its LDF. The LDF must address the need for a comprehensive development strategy for Sidmouth, paying more than lip-service to the concepts of sustainable development and reduced carbon emissions.

3.     Sidmouth “Brand”

 a.       The LDF document reiterates the cliché identity of the town as one of “Regency splendour”. Surveys of opinion do not reflect this perspective, nor does an objective overview of the history and settlement pattern of the town.

b.      The extensive survey of public opinion undertaken in 2005 and a further survey of opinion in early 2010 among local  residents identified the following as the main attractive features of the town:

i.      the surrounding AONB of green valleys, with its network of footpaths, outlying farms and villages

ii.      the green public spaces within the town, and the “garden city” of varied trees and plants in private gardens

iii.      the sea-views

iv.      the range of high quality independent retail outlets and hotels

 v.      the “unspoilt” heritage of the old fishing port.

c.       Though Sidmouth acquired a new identity as a resort during the Napoleonic wars that is not the end of the story. It has evolved as a tourist town with high quality Victorian hotels along the Western seafront, and it also has a dense cluster of 19th century terraced housing around the eastern town, most of which survive the onslaught of brutal car-centred planning in the second half of the twentieth century. Housing developments are typified by small detached dwellings and retirement apartments spreading up the valley linking Sidmouth to Sidford in a series of suburban settlements, and more prestigious villas and residential homes on the upper levels of the valley. EDDC Planning department might usefully revisit the Sidmouth Conservation Study prepared by Devon County Planning Service in 1975.

d.      Significantly understated in the LDF is Sidmouth’s more recent designation as a Gateway Town to the World Heritage Site. Triassic geo-morphology puts Sidmouth uniquely on the world map and needs to be recognised as part of the town’s evolving identity.

e.      It is inappropriate to typify the town on the basis of a small number of early 19th century buildings in the south-western corner of the town. It would be unwise to distort the scale and orientation of the eastern Esplanade by claiming there is a precedent for four or five storey buildings blocking the sea-view and imposing an “urban cliff” that cuts the historic eastern town off from its traditional marine associations. The unfortunate late 20th century experiment of Trinity Court should be recognised as an aberration not an example for a “logical extension” from the attractive Georgian and Regency Esplanade. Similarly, pastiches of Georgian architecture would be embarrassingly out of place in suburban streets and on green hillsides.

Identifying the true vernacular of Sidmouth requires professional artists and architects to draw up a design statement, rather than using a glib label.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Row over pig farm bid in beauty spot

 A story published in today’s Express & Echo.  Another planning application for an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – in this case for a pig factory farm …….

…… CAMPAIGNERS have criticised a farmer’s plans to build an industrial sized pig farm at a beauty spot instead of using land he is turning into a light industrial site.

As reported in the Echo, residents in Venn Ottery are battling plans for a pig breeding and rearing unit, slurry store, drainage pond and access track.

The planning application for the site west of Collyhead Farm for 3,640 pigs – 740 sows and 2,900 piglets – was submitted by Chris Down, of Crealy Farms near East Budleigh, in September.

The proposals include three buildings each measuring hundreds of square feet and a slurry lagoon to hold the waste produced by the site with the capacity to hold 2,900 cubic metres.

Campaigners for the Venn Ottery Action Group say they worried that Mr Down’s decision to convert another of his farms nearby to a light industrial unit has “set the precedent” for the future of the pig farm planned on their doorstep.

They are angry that Mr Down is choosing to build on AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) land instead of using the site at Enfield Farm near Clyst St Mary.

Campaigner Olly Foat, said: “I understand that Mr Down owns many farms and land around Devon and Cornwall.

“He had a farm with 4,000 pigs at Enfield Farm and over the years has put several applications in for expansion. But in 2007 an application was put in for the farm to become a light industrial site when it no longer became financially viable.

“Our fear is that somewhere down the line the same may happen to the pig farm at Venn Ottery and in years to come we could have a light industrial estate in the valley.

“Our main concern is that this is all being proposed on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And we don’t understand why the district council is even considering development in an AONB.”

She added: “We are worried it will be a waiting game and a case of history repeating itself.

Mr Down said: “Like I told the members of the residents association meeting, we looked at several sites that we control for suitability and the main concern was finding a site that was more than 400 meters away from the nearest neighbour in any direction. And the site in Venn Ottery fits the bill.

“Sites are actually very difficult to find because there’s been lots of been barn conversions and there are houses scattered all over the countryside.

“We shut down the Enfield Farm site, which was a fattening not breeding unit, in 2003.

“The main reason was because the 1960s buildings were too old and it wasn’t cost effective anymore.

“There are houses all around the site, in the 1960s when it was built it wasn’t considered a problem like it is now.”

He added: “At Enfield Farm the nearest house is about 80 metres away rather than 460 metres away at the Venn Ottery site. It’s not a suitable 20th century pig farming site. The neighbours in Venn Ottery are clutching at straws now to justify their weak argument.”

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, EDDC, Ottery St Mary | 3 Comments

The path to destruction of the Otter Valley

By Philip Higginson, Clerk to Gittisham Parish Council

The LDF Options Report is an undemocratic piece of top-down writing contrary to the “localism” policy of the Coalition government.   It is also full of contradictions and lack of local knowledge.   It perpetuates the “we know what is best for you” attitude common in many EDDC pieces of work.  It falls into the trap of “situating the appreciation” by proposing a number of immigrants to the area and the amount of houses and employment land that demands; rather than “appreciating the situation” by first considering what the area can stand in the way of development without destroying the very character which makes East Devon such a unique area.

In the case of Gittisham it proposes the building of 300 homes and a half mile linear industrial estate along the A30 westwards from the existing Heathpark industrial estate, yet elsewhere in the report no development is proposed in the parish (contradiction).  

It is clear the authors believe the area to lie within Honiton as the proposal is offered as a solution to Honiton’s needs (lack of local knowledge).  At every stage in the process to date, Gittisham has opposed residential and industrial development in the proposed area because of the residents’ stated desire to maintain the rural nature of their area and to prevent the urban encroachment of Honiton (undemocratic and anti-localism).  The employment area far exceeds that required by the size of the residential development.   It should be noted at this stage that EDDC currently owns much of the land it proposes should be developed!

Were the proposals to proceed,  concrete and bricks would be laid for a half mile stretch from the end of the existing industrial estate, there would be the requirement to construct additional access and egress to the A30,  (with adverse effects upon Weston as well as the bottom of Hayne Lane up to and beyond the bridge under the railway), not to mention the need to extend the catchment area primary school (Feniton), which from the Chair of Governor’s last letter to me is already using mobile classrooms and has no space in which to expand.  

Perhaps our lords and masters at The Knowle should read the book by local historian Dr Todd Gray “The Travellers’ Tales – East Devon”.   The book contains comments by 18th and 19th century visitors to the area, one of whom describes the Otter valley as the “finest broad valley in the land”.   The proposals in this report will go a long way to destroy the beauty of that valley.

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, EDDC, Honiton, Ottery St Mary | 1 Comment

Million pound bill for local taxpayers, thanks to planning decision

Local taxpayers face having to pick up a bill for a million pounds following the Westclyst planning decision by East Devon District Council (EDDC) last week.

East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee last Tuesday (7 December) approved a controversial planning application for 450 houses at Old Park Farm near Pinhoe, despite hundreds of objections from local people.

Devon County Council (DCC) had requested a financial contribution of £963,059 for primary education, and a financial contribution of £1,231,267 for secondary education (a total of £2.184 million), as well as wanting the land for a primary school gifted to DCC.

This was based on the number of children likely to be generated by the development of 450 homes, and a calculation of the cost of overcoming the shortfall of provision.

The applicant offered the land for a school, but only £1million for education provision – less than half the amount requested.  The Development Management Committee agreed the application on that basis, leaving DCC – and ultimately the taxpayer – to meet the shortfall of over a million pounds.

Communities Before Developers (CBD) campaign group, which is fighting EDDC’s environmentally damaging plans to artificially grow the district by a third over the next 15 years, has written to Cllr Christine Channon, DCC Portfolioholder for Children’s and Young People’s Services.  CBD has expressed its concern about the decision, and asked her to investigate the matter.

Jon Underwood, CBD campaigner said: “There were many concerns about this planning application, and many valid reasons to have refused it.  That EDDC approved the planning application contrary to its own planning policies in the East Devon Local Plan (particularly that the land was not allocated for housing) is bad enough.  That the planning application was approved contrary to policy without the benefit of the essential infrastructure identified by DCC is deplorable.”

“Even more worrying is that EDDC is determining planning applications on the basis of its emerging East Devon Local Development Framework (LDF).  Something like 2,000 people objected to the LDF during the recent consultation, which only ended two weeks ago.  Amongst the bodies that expressed concerns was DCC, whose Deputy County Environment Director, Dr Ian Harrison expressed concerns about overprovision of housing and employment planned, and warned that the proposals might be unsound.”

Jon added: “One of CBD’s particular concerns is a loophole in the LDF for developers to exploit.  Paragraph 17.14 (page 126) says that consideration of viability of the scheme is a planning consideration, and that planning applications should be allowed without infrastructure provision if such a requirement would prejudice the development.”

Fellow campaigner, Claire Wright, said: “The LDF is highly unlikely to be adopted in its present form because many of the policies in it are totally unacceptable, and it pre-empts the imminent Localism Bill.  If the LDF were to be adopted it would be more than a year before this happened, yet EDDC is already measuring planning applications against the LDF and allowing planning permissions that should be refused. 

“EDDC is also allowing developers to get out of providing necessary infrastructure, setting dangerous precedents by approving such applications and by putting the developer’s pocket before the welfare of residents. 

“We very much hope that Cllr Christine Channon will look into this as a matter of urgency, and take every possible measure to ensure that proper educational provision – and other necessary infrastructure – is provided when planning permissions are granted.”

Posted in Communities Before Developers, EDDC | 4 Comments

Democracy under threat

By James Semple, Seaton resident

Other writers have complained about the spin that East Devon District Council puts on news.  What does this Council do when no possible rotation can reveal a good side?  Answer – they suppress it altogether.

Tesco wants to build a pipeline through Seaton to carry a million tonnes of gravel from a dredger offshore onto the floodplain they want to develop.  After much negotiation and lobbying, the EDDC Environmental Health Officers were persuaded to recommend insulation and a curfew from 11pm to 7am to allow the residents living next to the pipeline to get some sleep. 

These recommendations were duly endorsed by the Development Management Committee on 21 September 2010 as a condition of their approval. 

The people asked for succour, and the Council granted them relief.  Blessed be the name of the Council.

Alas, no.  When the official minutes were published, the curfew condition was absent.  Enquiries to the Chairman of the Committee, Paul Diviani, revealed an email describing a meeting of several officers with Tesco at which the curfew condition was deleted as unnecessary, since the pipeline would be insulated against noise, and it would only last for a few weeks. 

So, a group of Council officers, without authority or delegated powers, acted in concert with the applicant to overturn a decision of the responsible Committee in such a way as to benefit the applicant and disadvantage residents. 

I brought this enormity to the attention of our elected members on the Committee  . . . and they did absolutely nothing.  I wrote to all the officers present, with copies to the Chief Executive . . . silence.  The local newspapers responded in the same way.

How has this come to pass?  Certainly, Tesco will save a lot of money - their dredger can now arrive at any hour of the day or night and discharge the gravel without waiting around for people to finish their beauty sleep. But why have the Council officers acted in this disgraceful manner, and what is wrong with our elected members that they cannot, or will not, stand up for the interests of the people they are pledged to represent?

Who knows.  But there is a lesson here to remember when the Council elections come around next year.  Did the candidate standing in your ward sit on the Development Management Committee?  If so, then elect someone else, because those guilty people have shown that they care neither for the interests of their constituents not the principles of representative democracy.

Can nothing else be done?  It seems there is no remedy in law, unless you have £80,000 to mount a judicial review – so we only have our vote.  Of course, this will be too late for the residents living on top of the pipeline: work starts in January and it will all be over by April.  But remember, citizens, who betrayed the public good – and vote them into outer darkness.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Politics, planning and spin

By Sandra Semple, Seaton resident

It could be said that spin caused the current recession.  Bankers spun us a line on the sub-prime mortgage packets they were dealing in, and other “emperor’s clothes” deals.  Bernie Madoff gave us his Ponzi scheme – where supposedly sensible investors believed that he had a way of “beating the market”.  Well, yes, he did – for a while.

Spin is a fact of life in politics.  We have phrases like “economical with the truth”, “lies, damned lies and statistics,” and others.

But what about spin in planning? 

Well, we expect it from developers – they employ vast armies of people to suck up to politicians and civil servants.  Free trips abroad, champagne and smoked salmon at top sporting events.  Again, understandable.

But do we expect it, or want it, from our local district councillors and their officers involved with planning.  Why would they want to spin anything?  After all, they are working FOR us, they get their money from us (both in council tax and from general taxes) and we are their “customers” or “clients” or whatever today’s buzzword is.

Or are we?  Recently, we have heard EDDC spin merchants calling developers their “clients”, not us.  We have had press releases saying that 2,000 comments on the LDF means that they are doing a wonderful job, when actually it means the opposite. 

We have councillors defending their decision to over-run the district with more housing than it can cope with, with no evidence as to why this is a good thing.  We see them taking ONE positive sentence in a document in which DCC criticises EDDC’s LDF and putting out a press release with it in, ignoring the criticisms of them in the same document.

Just remember, everyone – we are paying for this.  We are paying for the developers to be the clients not us, we are paying when EDDC takes negative information and tries desperately to turn it into positive spin, we are paying when perfectly legitimate and constructive criticism from other authorities is ignored and dismissed.  We are the ones paying to have our area over-run by inappropriate development.

What can we do about this?  Well, we can get rid of the councillors by voting them out, but it is then going to be very difficult to ensure that new councillors, particularly those with entrenched political ideas, are not just as bad.  Maybe we should vote in independent or minority party candidates, with no previous baggage, who able to see the picture more clearly and more fairly than those who have been blinded by their own artificial light.

But those who are elected next time face the problem of what to do with the “Sir Humphreys” of EDDC and the people who happily serve them, aspiring to the roles themselves.  Those officers who have settled nicely into their niches, who don’t want anything to change, because lack of change suits them very well, thank you, and who are adept at using spin to confuse not only the electorate but also councillors who might think of challenging the status quo.  It will take new, brave people to change this situation.

But, as the famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever does.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Council approves controversial planning application contrary to its own planning policies

We have condemned East Devon District Council’s decision to approve a large-scale planning application at Westclyst yesterday (Tuesday 7 December). 

The decision is contrary to EDDC`s own planning policies and we fear that no land in East Devon is safe from developers as a result of this decision.

East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee (by 11 votes to 3) voted through the controversial application for 450 homes and business units for Old Park Farm, Westclyst, near Pinhoe yesterday (Tuesday). 

EDDC’s planning officer advised the committee to approve the application because it was in accordance with the emerging EDDC Local Development Framework (LDF). 

However, during the debate planning officer, Ed Freeman, in responding to a question from a councillor about how much weight to give the LDF in determining the planning application, conceded that the LDF had ‘limited weight.’

The LDF is highly contentious, and the recent LDF consultation attracted a very large number of objections, including a substantial objection from Devon County Council about overprovision of development. 

In the unlikely event that the LDF will ever be adopted in its present form, it would be two years before it became EDDC`s planning guidance.  The guidance against which the planning application should have been assessed is the East Devon Local Plan.

 The application was contrary to many of EDDC`s own planning policies:

  • The application was for the highest quality agricultural land (grade 1) contrary to Policy EN14
  • There is insufficient sewage capacity contrary to Policy EN 18
  • The land is not identified in the defined Built-up Area Boundary of any settlement contrary to Policy S5
  • The application is not in accordance with the EDDC`s Design and Local Distinctiveness policies contrary to Policy D1
  • The application site is isolated from many essential community facilities contrary to Policy S1

Around 40 members of the public were present and 10 spoke against the application.  But their concerns, and the concerns of Exeter City Council (ECC) and Devon County Council (DCC) were dismissed.  Both ECC and DCC said that the application site should be part of a Master Plan for the Pinhoe area, and any development should be comprehensively planned. 

Both ECC and DCC expressed concerns about proper infrastructure provision.  DCC had asked for more than £2 million to make good the education shortfall; the developer offered (and this was endorsed by the committee) just £1 million.

CBD member and LibDem Parliamentary Spokesman, Jon Underwood said:  “The planning committee’s decision yesterday was reckless and cowardly.  Those 11 councillors knew perfectly well that approving this application, based on the ‘emerging’ LDF policy, would open the floodgates to developers across the district.  This perverse decision really will create a`developers charter.’  As a result of this decision any countryside, anywhere in East Devon is at the mercy of developers.

Jon continued: “The Issues and Options report (the earlier form of the LDF consultation) showed substantial opposition to development of this site.  A packed meeting of hundreds of local people voted unanimously against the planning application.  Yet EDDC chose to ignore the clearly stated views of local people.   EDDC also chose to ignore the clear guidance of the new Government about taking account of local opinion, shortly be included in the Localism Bill.”

Sharon Pavey, CBD campaigner and Coordinator of the East Devon Green Party added: ”As a mother of two young children, I am appalled that they are planning all these new houses in that area with no extra local school places planned for the first few years. This is not sustainable development, and we owe more to our children and grandchildren.” 

“This decision is dreadful news for people in the Pinhoe area, but it is also dreadful news for everyone living anywhere in East Devon. It clearly shows that EDDC`s planning message “We plan anywhere” is matched by developers` threat “We build everywhere.”

Cllrs voting in favour of the application were:

David Atkins

Bob Buxton

Andrew Dinnis

Paul Diviani

Mike Green

Ray Franklin

David Key

Stephanie Jones

Ann Liverton

Helen Parr

Mark Williamson

Voting against the application:

Ray Bloxham

Derek Button

Steve Wragg

Posted in Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Communities Before Developers, EDDC, Exmouth, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, Sidmouth | 6 Comments

Grant your own planning permission, Government tells homeowners

Homeowners are to be given the freedom to build extensions, add an extra storey to their properties and install a driveway without planning permission, under radical Government proposals.

Ministers want to give neighbourhoods the right to take over many of the planning responsibilities held by local councils.

The plans are expected to enable householders to redevelop their properties without having to deal with the red tape that can delay and hinder them.

Residents will also be given the power to approve or reject proposals for new housing developments, schools and other public buildings in their areas.

The plans form part of the forthcoming Localism Bill, to be published within days by Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary. The Bill is a major element of the Government’s plan for the Big Society.
View the rest of the article, published in today’s (Sunday’s) Telegraph, via the link below:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/greenpolitics/planning/8181694/Grant-your-own-planning-permission-government-tells-homeowners.html

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Westclyst battle could be used by developers as precedent, if approved by Development Management Committee on Tuesday

We will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the residents of Westclyst on Tuesday (7 December) as they anxiously await news of whether a large-scale application for 450 homes and business units, will go ahead on precious Grade One agricultural land.

We are worried that EDDC is using its widely derided Local Development Framework document, with around 2,000 objections and aggressive plans for growth, as emerging policy and evidence for recommending approval for the scheme.

The application will be determined by the Development Management Committee on Tuesday afternoon (7 December) at the Knowle, Sidmouth.

If the application is approved, as the planning officers advise, the tiny hamlet of Westclyst will mushroom by whopping 1100 per cent.  And Westclyst is just a stone’s throw away from thousands of new homes planned for Cranbrook and Pinhoe.

We are viewing this decision as test case.  Just a few weeks ago, EDDC approved a major application on greenfield land at Cloakham Lawns in Axminster, using the LDF as emerging policy. 

If councillors also approve the Westclyst application, we can expect an avalanche of planning applications on all kinds of greenfield land in East Devon, citing these two cases as precedent.

If you are free on Tuesday afternoon, please join us and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your fellow residents in Westclyst. 

Dig out your placards and meet us in the bottom car park at the Knowle, Sidmouth, 1.45pm, Tuesday 7 December.  The meeting starts at 2pm. 

Members of the public will be able to speak for up to three minutes.  You will need to register to speak at the start of the meeting.

Many thanks for your support.

CBD

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Communities Before Developers, EDDC, Planning | 6 Comments

The repercussions of aggressive growth in East Devon

By Jonathan Underwood, LibDem Parliamentary Spokesman and Axmouth resident

My involvement in this campaign has led me into thinking more carefully about the long-term issues of population growth and lifestyle that affect not just East Devon but the whole United Kingdom, and to some extent the whole world.

If you are easily depressed, stop reading now!

Like many scientists, particularly those interested in the environment, it’s always been obvious to me that we couldn’t carry on growing our population indefinitely. What is more I now think even our present level of population is unsustainable – something that many would agree with but few politicians dare to mention. This is not the place to suggest how we might allow it to fall over a period of centuries (it’s worth a look at the Optimum Population Trust website if you are interested). What we want to avoid is some combination of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse doing in one fell swoop, which is the likely alternative.

Local need

Here in East Devon supporters of the council’s Local Development Framework argue that the 20,000 houses are needed. I can accept that they might be wanted in the sense that if they are built they will probably be occupied, at least in the short term (more of that in a moment). There are certainly many local people who do genuinely need housing, but nowhere near 20,000 households. A precisely targeted programme of low-cost public sector housing would be the better solution to this serious problem.

These 20,000 houses are certainly not needed to house the growing population of East Devon. In isolation our population being much older than the national average would of course shrink over time. What keeps it expanding is the net inward migration of people from elsewhere in the country, often to retire here. It’s a free country and I want it to stay that way, so I certainly wouldn’t want to prevent this happening. I just don’t think we should encourage it to accelerate as the council proposes.

Our precious landscape

Of course there are some good reasons not to build houses to meet desire rather than need. New housing, however green, inevitably damages the environment. In East Devon our environment is especially precious, being as it is mostly AONB and containing mainland Britain’s only natural World Heritage Site (pictured below).

As a country we need to think more about food security. At present we produce only 60% of our own food. Concreting over more of our land area will make that already-terrifying statistic worse.

The economics

Finally there is a strong economic reason for avoiding building in the countryside. Recent work by the Joseph Rowntree Trust only confirmed the long-established fact that it is more expensive to live in a rural area, directly because of the higher costs of fuel and transport, and indirectly because that then drives up the price of other services.

Unfortunately it appears that East Devon solution to this particular problem is to turn our rural district into an urban one!

Earlier I said that in the short term those 20,000 houses would be occupied. I’m now going to make a bold prediction: in the long term they will not.

Why do I believe something so far out of line with the consensus?

The answer lies in the dramatic economic and social change that we are going to go through in the near future. The credit crunch and recession is not some one-off event caused by the short-termism of bankers (though that and their stupidity certainly helped). In fact it has happened because we in the West naturally want the best possibly standard of living, whether we are able to support that by creating wealth or not, and we have consumed and borrowed recklessly. Bizarrely many emerging nations of the East have conspired to help us do it. So, if you want to look for individual culprits try the free-spending George Bush and Gordon Brown, the bubble-blowing Alan Greenspan, or the people responsible for the absurd exchange rate policies of Asian countries like China, or the creation of the Euro.

In the future Britain will once again have to live within its real means. On average we are going to have to work more, for lesser salaries, with higher taxes and less money left over to spend on more expensive goods (especially staples like energy and food which were recently assumed were cheap and limitless in supply). The likely social consequences of this would make for a whole article, if not a book, so I won’t go into that here.

Anyway I told you it would be depressing. We are in for decades of stagnation, with inflation in the prices of essentials like food and energy (I can bore for England on this subject for those interested).

We should learn vital lessons from Ireland’s mistakes

One need only look at Ireland, a country extremely similar to our own to see many of the reasons. As the economy stops growing economic emigrants and immigrants leave the country. People also tend to have less children (despite what that idiot Tory peer seems to think).

There are reported to be 300,000 houses in various stages of completion lying empty in Ireland, a country with only 1.6 million households. Don’t believe that it couldn’t happen here.

It’s reasonable to expect we will live in greater numbers per dwelling, as we won’t be able to afford to do otherwise. Some people believe they we are as a nation already squeezed in, but the statistics show otherwise (though of course there are plenty of individual cases where families in particular really are cramped). If we had the same number of people per dwelling as Ireland, Australia, Canada or New Zealand (similar societies to our own yet where there is obviously much less pressure on land), we would already have millions of unoccupied houses.

Population growth and immigration

What can we expect for population growth? Obviously not the one third increase in fifteen years proposed for East Devon, which took around 80 years to achieve for the UK as a whole.

It’s very interesting to look at the population statistics on the OPT website. Britain’s population grew by a staggering factor of four between 1800 and 1900 as the industrial revolution surged ahead. Then as various 20th century woes set in there was more modest growth until the end of WW2. After that there was another period of economic and population growth leading up to the year of my birth, 1970. The next 20 years saw Britain as the economic “sick man of Europe”, and the population scarcely increased at all. Only the boom and then bubble of the nineties and noughties pulled in immigrants at such a rate as to swell our numbers to the present 62 million or so. The other major factor has been rising life expectancy. The broad picture remains though that economic decline equals population decline.

A particular effect on East Devon will be the inevitable trend towards later and less comfortable retirements. That means that people will move here a bit later than they otherwise would have done, and with a lower income. It will have a big impact locally.

For all those reasons I believe that the population statistics used to support the LDF (and indeed to determine national policy) will turn out to be complete and utter nonsense. I will have an “I told you so” T-shirt made for my 80th birthday party!

Developers are not stupid, and I am not the only person thinking in these terms. If this prediction turns out to be true and in a few decades’ time we have a surplus of housing there will of course have been a spectacular real terms decline in house prices. Anyone exposed to the market when that happens will go bankrupt. I wouldn’t be surprised if even “done and dusted” developments, like Cranbrook and those EDDC has foisted on Seaton and Axminster, do not, in fact, go ahead.

As the saying goes, the thing we learn from history is that men learn nothing from history.

Photo of world heritage site at Ladram bay from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/638933

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | 8 Comments

Devon County Council criticises EDDC’s development plans

Devon County Council has politely but firmly delivered a litany of criticisms of EDDC’s Local Development Framework, including its proposals to weaken protections for landscapes, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

And in its paper circulated on Tuesday (30 November), DCC warns that if EDDC’s current housing proposals and ‘significant over-provision’ of employment land reappear in final draft of the document, the plan may be declared ‘unsound’ by the Planning Inspector.

A Government Planning Inspector will assess the document later next year.  A plan declared to be unsound would mean EDDC would have to start its LDF work again from scratch – a process which could take up to three years.

Dr Ian Harrison, DCC’s Deputy Environment Director, says in his response:  “The county council does have concerns about the justification for the overall scale of housing and employment land provision anticipated in the plan.  In the case of employment land particularly, there is a risk that the plan may not be considered sound.”

Paul Johnston, CBD Campaigner, said:  “The pressure really is on now.  Not only has EDDC’s LDF had around 2000 objections from local people, but one of its most influential consultees has now joined the ranks of those who want the plans dramatically amended.

“EDDC’s LDF Panel and the planners have a duty to present residents and other consultees with a revised version we will all find acceptable.”

Dr Harrison continues:  “The scale of provision for employment land identified for in the emerging Core Strategy needs to be justified on the basis of clear evidence and analysis.”

Claire Wright, CBD campaigner said: “Devon County Council has given EDDC a clear message that their over-scaled, environmentally damaging plans for artificial growth are unacceptable.

“It supports much of what we have been saying up until now.”

DCC’s raft of requested amendments drive home the importance of protecting landscapes, including coastal areas, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and countryside that lies adjacent to such land.

Dr Harrison also tells EDDC that the Habitat Creation and New Open Space Provision Policy should focus on maintaining, enhancing and extending existing biodiversity assets and that a net loss of biodiversity is not acceptable.

Blackdown Hills Photo from www.poundsfarm.co.uk

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Communities Before Developers, EDDC | 5 Comments

Returning respect and pride to town planning

Town planners have become a lightning rod for people’s sense of frustration with the current planning system, Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark (below) said today.

Mr Clark said planners were in one sense the first victims of a top down system that has curtailed their use of professional discretion and marginalised them as “agents of imposition” in the eyes of local communities.

New radical reforms to the planning system to be included in Localism Bill will fundamentally change the role of planners so they work for and with the community, helping local people to articulate their vision for their neighbourhood and rightfully restoring respect for the profession, Mr Clark said.

Speaking to the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), Mr Clark said:

“Planners have an awesomely important job to do, but have had their professional judgement curtailed by endless national and regional prescription and guidance, with too little opportunity for genuine planning. Instead, planners have become a lightning rod for people’s sense of frustration with the current system, often being seen as agents of imposition for Whitehall’s instructions.

“Our proposals will change the role of town planners, freeing them to use their professional skills to help local people articulate their vision for their town or village or neighbourhood, and make it a reality. In doing so neighbourhood planning can help to restore respect for the profession so that it is properly valued, and never reviled.”

Mr Clark told the TCPA that neighbourhood planning being introduced in the Localism Bill, alongside existing plans, would place an unprecedented level of influence and power at a very local level, enabling communities to shape the places they live in.

Every community will have the right to introduce a neighbourhood plan, allowing local people to decide where new shops, offices or homes should go and what green spaces should be protected. If local people then vote in favour of new ‘Neighbourhood Plans’ in local referendums, councils will have to adopt them.

The new powers will allow communities to be able to confer full planning permission where people are most keen to take control and have certainty over development. In other areas, people will be able to grant outline permission with conditions, for example on design details.

Posted in Planning | 1 Comment

Hundreds of homes and business units recommended for approval on grade one agricultural land at Westclyst

By Helen Newman, Westclyst resident

Mud, Sweat and Tractors: The Story of Agriculture (UK) tv show photo

East Devon District Council Officers have recommended approval to increase our small hamlet at Westclyst, near Pinhoe, by 1100% in housing alone.  They also want to add retail and business units. Just half a mile in both directions we already have shops, garages, business and retail units (some empty) and all other amenites we need.

This scheme is outlined in EDDC’s Local Development Framework.  The LDF consultation ends on Tuesday 30 November.

Our main objections are:

  • the development is on grade one (highest quality food growing) agricultural land, which is relatively rare, even in East Devon
  • the local schools are already over-subscribed and no provision has been made for additional children (over 200 primary school and 100 senior school)
  • the development will lead out onto a narrow B road which is not going to be improved in any way
  • there is already a great amount of housing planned for this area – Cranbrook (2900 homes for phase one) has permission and is starting next year, this is only two miles from us
  • Exeter City Council plan at least 3000 homes at various sites in Pinhoe (half a mile from this site)

The local people do not want this and have objected in great numbers but officers at East Devon District Council have now recommended approval for the scheme.

The application will be determined by EDDC’s Development Management Committee on Tuesday 7 December at 2pm at the Knowle in Sidmouth.  If you are against this development please come along and support us.

Just two months ago, EDDC approved an application at Cloakham Lawns, Axminster, for over 400 homes, also on greenfield land, also set out in the LDF, against many people’s wishes, including the town council’s.

How is it justifiable to use the heavily slated LDF, with over 1000 objections, (nowhere near adoption stage) as planning policy to approve these applications?

If you are concerned about this bizarre recommendation and are able to, please come and support the Westclyst residents at the Knowle next Tuesday.  Many thanks.

CBD

Posted in Planning | 3 Comments

Prince Charles seeks ‘big society’ role in shaping UK towns and cities

Story in yesterday’s Guardian

Critics believe bid by prince’s charity to play key role in neighbourhood planning system is dangerous and inappropriate

 Prince Charles

Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA

The Prince of Wales’s charity, the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, is aiming to co-ordinate community groups setting the planning vision for local areas.

The Prince of Wales is attempting to extend his influence over Britain’s towns and cities by taking a key role in the neighbourhood planning system under changes launched by the government.The prince’s aides have been advising the government on one of David Cameron’s “big society” policies aimed at handing people, rather than officials, power over what is built in their neighbourhoods.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Three days left to comment on Local Development Framework

If you are planning to comment on the LDF you need to put it on your list to do today or tomorrow!  The deadline for comments is Tuesday (30 November).

We urge every single person who has a concern about this to send in their comments by email, handwritten letter, Facebook, through EDDC’s consultation portal, or whatever means suits you. 

But PLEASE  respond! 

Here is the link – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/ldfconsultation2010 

thanks

CBD

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Rapper steals the show at protest

If you weren’t able to get to our protest last Tuesday and want to know what happened, click on the link below for the Sidmouth Herald story with video … 

A famous rapper, more commonly known on da streets as ‘S Sempy’ unexpectedly pitched up and stole the show with her excellent spoof performance of EDDC’s ‘We Plan Anywhere’ You Tube video  …. enjoy!

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/news/video_digger_protest_at_sidmouth_over_district_

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hugo Swire listens to our concerns

Three of us met with our MP, Hugo Swire this morning and it was clear that he also had concerns about the Local Development Framework.

Mr Swire had obviously received a lot of letters from residents about how the development plans could affect their communities, and as we left, he was preparing to meet with Development Management Committee Chairman at EDDC, Paul Diviani to discuss the proposals.

Myself (Claire Wright), John Harding and Roger Giles all left reassured that Mr Swire had fully taken on board people’s objections to the plans.

Posted in Communities Before Developers | 3 Comments

1000 Names Please!

After the protest march in Sidmouth on Tuesday, we know there are a lot of you out there who want to stand up and be counted, who want to tell EDDC that you object to their current planning proposals for East Devon. We are urging everyone to sign up to our email news list & put their names on our supporters list – click here to do so TODAY. We are aiming for 1000 names as soon as possible, then 2000…..3000 – get the picture?

PLEASE tell your friends and family about this site and ask them to add their name too because together WE CAN make a difference.

Thank you

CBD

Posted in EDDC | 13 Comments

Teignbridge District Council brings over 200 empty homes back into use

Teignbridge District Council is encouraging local people to report empty homes around the district as National Empty Homes Week highlights the issues around long-standing empty properties.

Since April 2009 Teignbridge Council has helped bring 201 empty homes back in to use, in many cases providing much-needed affordable housing. Currently there are 677 properties in the district which have been empty for six months or longer.

Properties become empty for a variety of reasons, for example the owners of 92 unoccupied properties now reside in nursing homes and 58 are in probate.

A large number of properties are actively being marketed for sale or let, or are in the process of being refurbished prior to reoccupation.

If Teignbridge District Council is doing this, why does EDDC compare bringing empty homes back into use, with waving a magic wand?  See press statement of yesterday - http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/communications_and_consultation.htm?newsid=448

Click below for more information on Teignbridge District Council’s press release of Monday.

http://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=13443

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A spectacular success!

A huge thank you to all those who turned out at the Knowle this morning!  A large crowd gathered to voice their objections on East Devon District Council’s plans to artificially grow the district by a third over the next 15 years.

r6ub.jpg

Around 120 people, holding aloft dozens of placards and banners marched up the drive to EDDC’s HQ in Sidmouth, where protesters initially gathered, angry about the level of development proposed and plans to weaken landscape protections to make it easier to build anywhere in the countryside.

Submissions to the Local Development Framework were made by several groups, including CBD, who have put forward an alternative approach to development, based on local need and the principles of localism.

Communities Before Developers campaigner, Claire Wright, said:  “People came from every part of East Devon, which shows just how wide the concern is over these plans.

“EDDC now needs to prove that it is listening to local people by dramatically revising its plan by basing it instead on LOCAL people’s needs, rather than a desire to import a large new population into the district.”

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, EDDC, Exmouth, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, Sidmouth, West Hill | 33 Comments

Protesters object to masterplan for new homes in Devon

Cranbrook demonstration march

Protesters have demonstrated outside East Devon District Council’s offices over plans which could see 16,400 homes built in the area by 2026. The Communities before Developers group fears the council’s 15-year masterplan may lead to “urban sprawl” across one of the UK’s “most beautiful districts”.

Click here for the full story

Photo – BBC Devon

Posted in EDDC | 6 Comments

Placards painted, ready to go!

ofjx.jpg

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | Leave a comment

Protest IS on at the Knowle!

Our protest against the Local Development Framework plan on Tuesday (23 November) IS going to be at the Knowle, Sidmouth and NOT at EDDC’s own building project, as per their press release they issued without asking us.

Unfortunately, there will be no digger.  EDDC won’t allow us to bring it into the car park, claiming it would not be safe.

But our peaceful protest will take place – as always planned – at EDDC’s HQ, the Knowle at 10.15am.  Please meet us in the bottom car park with your banners and placards!

Remember that parking at the Knowle is limited so it might be a good idea to park elsewhere – or use public transport or walk?

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

Are you in a campaign group fighting EDDC’s Local Development Framework?

If you are part of a campaign group fighting EDDC’s destructive Local Development Framework (LDF) we want to hear from you.  The best way that we can fight the council’s plans effectively is to  join forces. 

If you are part of a campaign group and would like to link up with us, please let us know by leaving a comment and we will add your group’s name to the ‘about’ section of the website. 

We are also looking for blog articles about how the LDF is affecting your community.  Please write and tell us.

More power to the people!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pickles promises ‘people’s planning power’

I have pasted below, a BBC story, published this morning.  Although we need to know the detail, it would seem to be very good news for the residents of East Devon:

Communities in England will get the power to decide where shops, offices and homes are to be built, the government will announce.Under the plans, local referendums will be held, which could force councils to adopt “neighbourhood plans”.

The government will also offer financial incentives to encourage the “right kind of development”.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said this would mean “more people-planning and less politician-planning”.

Mr Pickles said: “For far too long local people have had too little say over a planning system that has imposed bureaucratic decisions by distant officials in Whitehall and the town hall.

“We need to change things… so there is more direct democracy and less bureaucracy in the system. These reforms will become the building blocks of the Big Society.”

The Localism Bill, to be unveiled later, says residents can set out an overall plan for development in their area, which will then be voted on in a referendum.Localism in planning will create the freedom and the incentives for those places that want to grow, to do so.

This will allow voters to decide where building takes place and which green spaces should be protected.

Councils will then have to adopt the neighbourhood plans, which would be put on a “fast track” to approval, meaning urgent projects can short-cut the system.The government is asking for 12 local authorities to volunteer to take part in trials.

Greg Clark, minister for planning and decentralisation, added: “We want local people to be able to make more of their own choices about what their home town should look like in the future. These reforms offer a scope for self-determination unheard-of until now.

“Localism in planning will create the freedom and the incentives for those places that want to grow, to do so, and to reap the benefits. It’s a reason to say ‘yes.’

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Publicity stunt IS at the Knowle

Our publicity stunt on Tuesday (23 November) IS going to be at the Knowle, Sidmouth and NOT at EDDC’s own building project, as per their press release they issued without asking us.

Unfortunately, there will be no digger.  EDDC won’t allow us to bring it into the car park, claiming it would not be safe. 

But our peaceful protest will take place – as always planned – at EDDC’s HQ, the Knowle at 10.15am.  Please meet us in the bottom car park with your banners and placards!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Does EDDC care about our protected countryside?

An extract from the Sid Vale Association November newsletter …

A number of you have written or e‑mailed me, to express dismay and deep concern over the way the protection for our landscape, provided through its listing as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has been over‑ridden and apparently ignored by EDDC in its haste to build a new housing estate in Woolbrook, Sidmouth.

Sara Randall‑Johnson, Leader of the Council, in a foreword to the current Local Development Framework planning consultation, has written (in September) that East Devon officially is a nice place to live. “two‑thirds of the district lies in AONB, and the coastline (is) … the only World Heritage site in England recognised for its environmental importance. We therefore have a duty to conserve our surroundings.”

What a pity this did not include the AONB in the Woolbrook Valley. Can we hope for greater observance of the future?

Chairman: Handel Bennett

Planning and Conservation is going through a VERY difficult stage!

In Committee, during August 2010, EDDC decided to go ahead through the following three months with an extensive consultation on their adopted proposals for a new ‘Local Development Framework’ (which, when ratified, will supersede the current Local Plan as the ‘planning bible’ for this district in the years through to 2026‑2031).

As such, it becomes a very important document, and demands careful consideration by those with concerns for how East Devon’s towns and countryside will evolve in the short term. Quite properly, much attention is given in the draft to the eastward growth of the City of Exeter and the homes and supporting businesses that will arise to permit the expansion of this emerging dynamic regional centre. That, in turn, will require land for new housing (more than 3000 over the 5000 scheduled for the Cranbrook ‘eco‑town’ North of Exeter Airport) ~ and a broadly similar number is considered necessary to meet the remaining needs of the rest of East Devon.

Some towns have been earmarked for growth, such as Exmouth (significant), Axminster (substantial), Seaton and Honiton. The demands on Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton and Ottery St Mary are expected to be less BUT EDDC have set themselves some sizeable targets for new housing across the whole District and this will put pressure on available land everywhere. That is disappointing, as the new coalition Government has passed to Local Government the responsibility for setting their own targets and policies. EDDC have chosen, perversely it seems to me, to set themselves an even higher housing target than had been imposed previously.

Bear in mind that this is a District some two‑thirds of which is zoned as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), not just that for East Devon but also covering part of the Blackdown Hills AONB as well.

As we all know, physically Sidmouth is constrained within the steep slopes of the Sid valley, and for that reason the current outer building boundary protects those slopes and much is zoned as AONB. For obvious reasons, there are many who would love to build on those green pastures and enjoy the views they would give ‑ but just visualise how it would damage the whole character of the place if they were to succeed!

It is not only the Regency architecture and traditional shopping in the town that give us such a unique sense of place, but also the verdant slopes and woodland that can be seen all around us, in whichever direction we look. Many envy Sidmouth as a ‘gem’ ‑ but ‘gem’ suggests a modest scale and not extensive growth in every available direction. That is just suburban sprawl!

Fortunately, in their draft new policy, EDDC has highlighted the value of the quality of the landscape across the district.

However, and ominously, they have not proposed anything more to protect these landscapes, beyond the existing Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status.

And there is the dilemma. The new coalition Government has returned ‘power to the people’ and the over-arching regional policies have been abolished leaving local communities to determine their own solutions.

Quite understandably, EDDC have as first priority an increase in ‘affordable’ homes. An easy choice, as wholesome as motherhood or apple pie! Who would want less for our young families? But where to build them?

The draft policy suggests that the current fixed outer building boundaries should become ‘flexible’ in future and be determined at a later date when ‘superseded by a Land Allocations and Development Policy ‑ Development Plan Document’, to quote the EDDC proposal.

That’s not a policy but a decision to put off until tomorrow the decision that should be taken today. How can EDDC better decide in the heat of a future moment a decision which should be taken today? Will they wait for the next developer application containing some more enticing ‘affordable’ homes which will just have to be approved in order to achieve their own laudable self-imposed homes target?

To compound that, the current council has already established a precedent for building within the AONB. Recently it gave permission to Persimmon Development to build an estate in AONB land at the top of the Woolbrook Road.

The electorate is entitled to ask the council for an undertaking not to build housing estates within statutorily designated and protected countryside.

We must make our feelings known to the present councillors. If the council fails to provide a satisfactory assurance, the electorate will take their own action to seek that safeguard from others.

Each one of us must be concerned as the town continues to grow, without any planned increase in related services and utilities, to meet continual expansion? Doctors’ surgeries are already experiencing great pressure.

The council has systematically reduced on‑street parking without providing alternative public parking space. Does it matter if building developments bring another several hundred cars trying to park in the town each day? Sara Randall Johnson, Leader of EDDC claims “We have a duty ‑ and a desire ‑ to conserve our surroundings”. We couldn’t agree more! However, actions speak louder than words …

Brian Hall, Sid Vale Association

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sidmouth, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Thank you for the thank you !

We would like to thank whoever sent this letter into the Pulman’s paper today….

“I would like to thank a recently created website —www.communitiesbeforedevelopers.org — for giving those who may be affected by potentially devastating and well funded proposals for large-scale developments across our region, a forum to express their growing and particular concerns.

Click here to read the whole letter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Publicity stunt goes ahead with or without digger!

EDDC has banned the digger from the Knowle (except at 8am when no one will turn up), but this is not deterring us.  We are talking to the police about whether we can park it on the road outside the Knowle. 

If the police say this is too dangerous we will abandon the digger and bring more placards and banners and march up to the front door anyway! 

If you are worried about EDDC’s plans for mass bulldozing of the countryside please join us on Tuesday 23 November, 10.15am.  We are meeting next to the bottom car park.

We have already had dozens of emails from people saying they will join us.  Some are even arranging car sharing schemes! 

We hope lots and lots of people will turn out to give EDDC the message we will not tolerate their plans to urbanise our lovely rural district.  See you on Tuesday!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The scandal of empty homes in East Devon

You might know that there are almost a colossal 2000 empty homes in East Devon, which doesn’t include second homes. 

East Devon is the fourth highest district for the number of empty homes in Devon and Cornwall.

You might think EDDC, especially at this time, would have plans to bring these empty homes back into use, to avoid the need for building all over our green fields.  Of course not!

What do you think about the scandal of empty homes?  What should EDDC be doing to solve this problem?  Have a look at this website for more information:  http://www.emptyhomes.com/usefulresources/local_authority_powers.html

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Are you coming to the demo at the Knowle on Tuesday?

Click here for full details of the demo in Sidmouth on Tuesday 23rd November – then add a comment below if you’re coming to this peaceful protest. Bring a friend or two and help us get the message across the EDDC that we’re not happy!

Don’t forget big placards & things to make some noise and get EDDC to notice us! See you there…

Posted in EDDC, Sidmouth | 8 Comments

The Wilderness Residents of Exmouth

By Mike Newby

Of all the proposals in the LDF, probably the largest in terms of new houses is for the ‘St John’s Wood’ allocation in Exmouth of ‘high quality longer term development for up to 1000 homes, 15 hectares of employment and community uses and a neighbourhood centre’. The map offered by East Devon District Council (and re-printed in the leaflet sent through letterboxes entitled ‘How Should Exmouth Change?’) shows this as a large area of development on the north-east of the town. We Wilderness Residents live slap bang in the middle.

church_south_elevation

For here lies the church of St John-in-the-Wilderness (above) and the settlement of Withycombe Barton – almost certainly the oldest habitation in Exmouth, dating back to pre-Conquest times. St John’s Road leaves Dinan Way, with its lack-lustre housing estates, and makes its way up through ancient hedgerow, past the church, up past fields on the right and woodland on the left, to the B3180, immediately the other side of which lie the Bystock Nature Reserve, East Budleigh and Woodbury Commons.

butterflies/silver_studded_blue_bystock_dwt

Silver studded blue butterflies have been found on Bystock nature reserve for the first time for 20 years. Credit Devon Wildlife Trust.

Now we are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the precise demarcation is not clear). St John’s Road is the essential buffer between mediocre town and magnificent countryside – not very long, but beautiful and priceless, much used by walkers, runners, cyclists and horse-riders as a valuable amenity for everyone in Exmouth. People often describe it as Exmouth’s ‘green lung’. Above, buzzards; in the woods, deer. It is this ancient and beautiful frame to the northern side of Exmouth which the LDF threatens to destroy.

The Wilderness Residents oppose what is being suggested, doing so for many reasons which will become familiar as the arguments occasioned by the Plan begin to be heard again and again across the county. Apart from violating Exmouth’s beautiful frame, we oppose it because …

  • We cannot see how the infrastructure needed to support 1000 new homes is remotely feasible in the setting.
  • We cannot imagine how safe and secure access could be reached from St John’s Road (more of a country lane than a road).
  • We worry about the impact on the water table, and likely flooding in Exmouth.
  • We predict traffic chaos both on the A376 and the B3180 given the enormous increase in commuter traffic such development would require.
  • We see no convincing argument for the need for such a huge number of new houses, particularly given the naive assumption that, for each house, there will be a new job – unless they be in Exeter!
  • Given the particular reliance in Exmouth on tourism, we cannot see the logic in ruining one of Exmouth’s most valuable assets – its surrounding countryside – in order to build more housing estates.

Therefore, we believe three things should happen:

  1. East Devon should reduce the size of its proposed growth over the next 20 years to more realistic levels (we suggest a 50% reduction would be a better place to start proper planning).
  2. Wherever possible, affordable houses should be built on brown-field sites and never on beautiful countryside.
  3. The distribution of new homes should be more evenly allocated across the whole of East Devon and not, as now, with the great bulk being planned for Exmouth.

We would add that East Devon’s plan for Exmouth represents a badly-argued collection of missed opportunities, focusing on the completely unrealistic expansion of the town, rather than raising its quality from within. If realised, it would fail to exploit the many excellent elements of the town and its surrounding countryside in favour of extending its identity as a dormitory suburb of Exeter, a mediocre town of housing estates stretching across once beautiful landscape. The Plan shows no vision for what high-quality environments could (and should) be like in the middle decades of the century, instead simply offering much more of what is already most mediocre about Exmouth today. The proposals lack all sensitivity and show little common sense.

If you’d like to contact the Wilderness Group, please use this email address & add your comments below.

mike.newby@wilderness.eclipse.co.uk

Click here for Mike’s website

Posted in Exmouth | 1 Comment

Knowle digger stunt ‘back on’ say campaigners

A group campaigning against East Devon District Council’s aggressive development plans for the next 20 years have confirmed that their publicity stunt outlined in their press release yesterday, is back on at its original venue.

Communities Before Developers had arranged a stunt to hand over their response to East Devon District Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF), at EDDC’s Sidmouth offices, via a five tonne digger, on Tuesday 23 November, 10.30am.

But then EDDC issued their own press release yesterday afternoon saying that they had rearranged the stunt to take place a local building site.

Communities Before Developers campaigner, Claire Wright, said:  “We were a bit surprised to see that EDDC had rearranged our publicity stunt for us without asking us.”

But Communities Before Developers have taken on board EDDC’s concerns about safety.

Cllr Wright added: “We would like to thank them for their offer but we are going to stick to our original plan of handing our response over at the Knowle. We are now talking to EDDC about where is best to park the digger at the bottom of the hill, so it won’t get in anyone’s way.

“We will march to the front door to hand over our response to a representative without the digger.”

District Councillor for Ottery St Mary, Roger Giles, said: “This event is to allow local people to come together in peaceful protest at EDDC’s ambitions to grow our district by one third over the next 20 years.  It is not an opportunity for EDDC to showcase its own building project.”

“We are urging EVERY resident in East Devon who is worried about this set of proposals to join us and show EDDC that local people will not put up with the urbanisation of a rural district.”

Campaigners will gather at the Knowle’s bottom car park (EDDC’s offices, Sidmouth) at 10.15am on Tuesday 23 November.  Please be aware that parking at the Knowle is limited.

Please click here to add a quick comment to let us know if you are coming so we have an idea of numbers.

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Campaign to Protect Rural England, EDDC, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, Sidmouth, West Hill | 22 Comments

East Devon residents urged to join campaigners in five tonne digger stunt!

A five tonne digger is to be driven to the front door of the Knowle, in a bid to encourage residents to object to controversial plans to grow East Devon by a third over the next 20 years, by attracting tens of thousands of new residents into the district.

Campaigners are urging all East Devon residents, who have a concern about proposals to join them at the event, on Tuesday 23 November, 10.30am.

The three month public consultation on East Devon District Council’s Local Development Core Strategy, which sets out housing and other related proposals, will end on Monday 30 November.

If the plans are approved, the district will grow by a third over the next 20 years.

East Devon would alter from a mainly rural district, to a semi-urban one, with light industry.

Communities Before Developers, a campaign group set up to fight the plans, believe the plans would lead to urban sprawl, due to weakened landscape protection policies, aggressive proposals to build industrial estates and the introduction of flexible boundaries.

If the plans were approved it would be easier to build anywhere in the countryside.

Roger Giles, District Councillor for Ottery St Mary, explained: “The new Government announced the abolition of centrally dictated housing numbers in the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS).  As a result many councils have reduced their housing numbers; East Devon District Council, however, has increased its housing numbers.

“The new Government has said that local people should be able to influence how they wish their communities to develop.  East Devon District Council should listen to that message, listen to the view from very many of its residents and many of its communities that oppose the proposed huge housing numbers.   Many people oppose the proposed urbanisation of East Devon and they oppose the loss of beautiful countryside.”

Campaigner and Seaton resident, Jon Underwood, added:  “The proposals are simply unsustainable.  It is not possible to build in this way continuously for decade after decade.

“At what point do planners and councillors decide to stand back and realise a new radical way of approaching planning is needed before we run out of land?  Now is the time to come up with this new thinking, not once we have spoilt the countryside for future generations.”

Claire Wright, Councillor for West Hill on Ottery St Mary Town Council, said: “East Devon is one of the most beautiful districts in the entire country.  Its residents opt to live here because they love its rural nature and pace of life.  East Devon District Council’s plans are short-sighted and wrong because they would take away the very reason people move here.

“Tourism would suffer too due to proposals to make it easier to build anywhere.  With a massively increased population, overcrowded roads and views scarred by a proliferation of industrial estates and sprawling housing, we believe that tourism would decline dramatically over the years.”

“East Devon District Council seems to be using Slough as its model for development.  It needs to work with its natural assets instead.”

Communities Before Developers is urging EVERYONE with a concern about EDDC’s Local Development Framework, to draft their responses to the LDF and bring it on the march behind the five tonne swing shovel digger, on Tuesday 23 November, at East Devon District Council Offices, The Knowle, Sidmouth.

The digger, which is supplied by CSW Groundworks, will start its ascent of the drive at 10.30am.  At the top CBD will deliver its response to the Local Development Framework to a senior officer or councillor.

Anyone else who has prepared a response to the consulation is also welcome to hand it over at this time.

Campaigners will gather in the Knowle’s bottom car park at 10.15am.

Posted in Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, EDDC, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, Sidmouth, West Hill | 5 Comments

Framework Fight Online

We made the front cover of Pulman’s Weekly News this week

AN east Devon campaign group has just launched their own website,  and group members are pictured around the computer.   They are, seated, Jon Underwood, Sharon Pavey and Roger Giles and, behind, Claire Wright, John Harding and Jo Talbot

Read the whole story here: http://www.axminster-today.co.uk/news.cfm?id=39254&headline=Framework+fight+online

Photograph used with permission from Pulman’s View From Series

Posted in Axminster | 13 Comments

East Devon District Council’s ‘short-sighted’ plans for development

By Dr Anita Jennings, Budleigh Salterton resident

This consultation comes at a bad time for both East Devon District Council and the public. The relationship between the two is at a low ebb.   EDDC planners take little or no notice of local councils or their electorate.  Countless people are outraged by EDDC’s contempt for the local voice – officers and members of the Development Management Committee (DMC) alike.

Some 95% of all proposals are dealt with by planning officers, rather than councillors on the DMC.  Ward councillors can ‘call in’ applications to be determined by the DMC.   This raises residents’ hopes, in most cases only to be dashed by approval in spite of theirs and the local parish council’s objections.

I am not over-impressed by the Local Development Framework consultation paper produced after two years’ work. Its length will put off most people. The text is repetitive and verbose, as if hastily compiled and un-edited.  It contains several inaccuracies – numbers of affordable homes for Axminster, for example, and misleading numbers of homes for Ottery St Mary.

The land database – Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), on which most controversial proposals are based, was altered in mid-October, six weeks after the consultation started. An EDDC spokesman stated the ‘updating’ will continue.

At its ‘special meeting’ on 17th August, the DMC Chairman ruled that debating the contents of the LDF was not on the agenda.   Debate was instead limited to consultation methods (Facebook, Twitter, etc). It looks to me as if the LDF was launched prematurely, ahead of the Localism Bill to be heard in the Commons by the end of November.

During the last decade, Budleigh Salterton’s housing stock has risen at ten times the proposed rate for what are deemed ‘hubs’(around 50 homes are allocated per hub). This included almost 80 houses on the Plymco supermarket site with fewer than 40% affordable.  There are now enough approvals in the pipeline (2006-9) to last us for another 10-15 years.  None are for affordable homes – the only category for which there is a locally proven need.

Eric Pickles’ decision (June 2010) to halt “garden grabbing” was quickly followed by EDDC’s  Head of Planning announcing that this won’t apply to East Devon. Business as usual.  Wait and see what the Planning Inspectorate’s reaction is.   But if EDDC goes on approving all applications for ‘garden grabbing,’ none will go to appeal, and we can wait for ever.

I share all the concerns already aired by Jo Talbot, Claire Wright, Dr Underwood and Cllr Giles.  The document provides a recipe for spoiling East Devon’s countryside by relaxing several important policies. During a financial crisis it also seems short-sighted to sacrifice East Devon’s outstanding heritage and swap it irrevocably for urban sprawl and uncertain job opportunities.

Photo Copyright Mo Bowman FRPS

Posted in Affordable Homes, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Budleigh Salterton, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Website launched to reveal true story behind East Devon’s plans

A website to fight controversial plans to grow East Devon District Council’s population by a third by building almost 20,000 homes over the next 20 years, is launched this week.

Campaign group, Communities Before Developers, are the driving force behind the website, which will be used to give the true story behind the hugely complex and ambiguous 140 page consultation document for EDDC’s Local Development Framework Core Strategy (LDF).

Honiton resident and East Devon Green Party Co-ordinator, Sharon Pavey, who set up the website, said:   “People deserve to know what the real impact of the LDF is and EDDC clearly isn’t going to reveal anything except puff, so we have set up a website which we will all contribute to on a regular basis, as the situation unfolds over the coming months.”

She added: “East Devon residents and local media will be able to rely on us to get a quick reaction or view onto the website, in response to any emerging issues.  We are in for the long haul – this isn’t over by a long chalk.”

“The people we know who have managed to read the entire document, are left with a multitude of questions, as well as understandable and deep confusion at the relentless ambiguity.

Roger Giles, Ottery St Mary District Councillor for Ottery St Mary Town added: “Most residents will not get chance to read the full document, but glancing at the leaflet that drops through their letterbox or the summary leaflet, won’t tell them much either. 

“The door-to-door leaflet doesn’t even mention numbers of houses at all and the summary leaflet is vague and omits important details, such as plans to make it easier to build anywhere in the countryside, by reducing the vital landscape protections we currently take for granted.

Communities Before Developers members will now regularly blog their news and views as months go by.  The next stage after 30 November – the end of the consultation – is a council vote, before the final public consultation early next year.  The final stage of the process is the planning inspector’s inquiry later in 2011.

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, EDDC, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Sidmouth | Leave a comment

How do you feel about development in your town or village?

If you have a view about what East Devon District Council has proposed for where you live, we want to hear from you.  How will it affect residents, roads, the countryside or infrastructure? How do your neighbours and other local people feel about it?  Are they supporting it, or against plans?

You could get your own byline blog/article published on our website.  If this appeals, contact us direct!

And don’t forget to give your view to East Devon District Council’s consultation.  You now just just under four weeks left.  Click here to do that: http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/ldfconsultation2010

Posted in Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, EDDC, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, Sidmouth, Uncategorized, West Hill | 5 Comments

Seaton public meeting

Seaton has its LDF meeting on 10 November 2010 in Seaton Town Hall 2pm – 8 pm.

 
Posted in Honiton, Seaton | 2 Comments

Is there anybody there? EDDC attempts to engage are a flop!

by Sharon Pavey – Coordinator East Devon Green Party

East Devon District Council proclaim on their website that they ‘want to hear YOUR views on our latest draft of the final blueprint for East Devon’. They are really getting down with the kids on this one, engaging with the masses via social networking sites twitter and Facebook. Fantastic.

So as a keen tweeter and Facebook user myself, I though yay – stuffy old politics could be recycled into interesting and relevant debate on real local issues which affect us all. And off I went to connect with the powers that be online…

I clicked on the link on the EDDC website which directed me to their twitter account Plan It East Devon and found not one, but TWO tweets. Oh my goodness! They have only managed to post two tweets on 7th and 13th September. They have a measly 29 followers, 30 now I’m following from my @sharonpavey account. Unreal.

Let’s check out Facebook next and the Planiteastdevon page looks a little better with 40 followers. Putting this into perspective, that’s 40 followers out of a population of 125,000 people…

And here’s a sample of the latest comments on there:

Louise Catherine Turner says “I would like to say that I think EDDC shouldn’t be building 1,000 homes on the St John’s Wood area. It is an area of outstanding beauty and the church is lovely, the thought of 1,000 or more houses surrounding it is in my view appalling!!!!”

Chris Davis adds “I would like EDDC be a bit more imaginative with their proposals for Honiton.  The town really needs some allotments and accessible green space. Unfortunately most of the allotments and green space has been built on. Now is the opportunity to give something back to the town and create a more sustainable community. Please?”

Please engage with US – THE campaign group to challenge EDDC’s lame proposals. Please add your comments below. Send us in blog articles and email us to receive information as the story moves on.

Posted in EDDC | 8 Comments

Plan-It Honiton Meeting 1st November 2010

There are meetings being held all over East Devon about the new plans for the district up until 2026. You would think that, as part of the public consultation process, East Devon District Council might list all of these meetings EDDC website then we’d all know when and where they are on, so we can all engage in decisions about the future of our community.

For your information Honiton Town Council are having a public meeting at the Honiton Town Council building on New Street from 7pm Monday 1 November. I will attend and report back on here next week. Please add your comments below especially if you know of any other meetings coming up in your local areas.

Sharon Pavey – Coordinator East Devon Green Party & member of CBD

Posted in Honiton | 2 Comments

East Devon District Council is ‘disingenuous’ in its approach

By Roger Giles, District and County Councillor, Ottery St Mary Town and Rural Ward

In the last couple of weeks I have attended public meetings about the East Devon District Council (EDDC) Local Development Framework (LDF) in Alfington, Gittisham, Ottery and West Hill (as well as a meeting with students at the Kings School) as part of the EDDC public consultation process.  In every one of those meetings there was concern about, and opposition to, the very high housing numbers (19,420 additional homes in East Devon) proposed in the LDF.  There was also concern about loopholes for developers to exploit such as “flexible” development boundaries, and a get-out to avoid providing the necessary infrastructure.

As an EDDC Councillor I regret to say that EDDC has been disingenuous in its LDF consultation.

*  EDDC told the local media that the LDF document “does not include flexible Built up Area Boundaries”.  Look at para 6.17 page 34 of the document and you will see the document “will also introduce policies allowing greater flexibility outside of Built up Area Boundaries”.

* It mailed an explanatory leaflet to all householders in East Devon.  However the leaflet carefully avoided informing residents how many houses were planned in their community, or the total in East Devon. 

* In the session at the Kings School the EDDC planner asked students their view on 250 houses planned for Ottery (by two to one the students said it was too many).  In fact 430 homes (250, plus 180 completions and commitments) are planned for Ottery.  I suspect had the students been asked about 430 homes there would have been even more opposition.

* Included in the 180 “completions and commitments” (houses built, and with planning permission but not yet built) is 90 on the old Ottermill Switchgear site.  Yet this site does not have planning permission!  I do not object to dwellings at this location, but according to EDDC`s own criteria the 90 units here must be within the 250 – not additional to it.

EDDC is asking the people of East Devon what they think of the LDF proposals.  Regrettably somebody at EDDC seems to be trying their hardest to stop the public being aware of exactly what is proposed in the LDF.

Posted in Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ottery St Mary, Uncategorized, West Hill | 1 Comment

Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile

By Jonathan Underwood, Axmouth resident and LibDem Parliamentary Spokesman

As those of us who live in the Axe Valley are painfully aware, relying on East Devon District Council’s planning committee to respect the interests and wishes of residents is a dangerous and usually futile gamble. In Seaton we are going to get an enormous Tesco within a stone’s thrown of the World Heritage Coast, despite opposition running at over 80%.

In Axminster the council disregarded its own Local Plan, the views of local town and district councillors, and even its own traffic evidence and approved 400 houses on a greenfield site at Cloakham Lawns. When asked to defend itself it replied that the development was in line with ”emerging thinking” – months before the consultation into the new local plan had even finished! We can only assume this thinking was going on in what the ruling elite are pleased to call their minds.

So one of the more frightening aspects of the Local Development Framework is the freedom it gives EDDC to do as it pleases. A little bit of flexibility in the hands of a responsible and responsive authority might be welcome, but EDDC is no such thing.

We have every reason to fear that every landowner who fancies a quick profit (which can be 1000%) will put their land forward for building. Many have already done so under the SHLAA process. Anyone who lives near such land will spend the next 20 years wondering when the bulldozers will roll in - official denials of this risk are utterly worthless. Contrary to council assurances they are explicitly proposing to make boundaries flexible, i.e. non-existent when it suits, and also watering down the various landscape protection policies which guard our precious environment.

Let’s not forget that it is truly precious. The Jurassic Coast is unique – it is the only natural World Heritage site on the entire British mainland. (In case you were wondering the other UK sites on the list are the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and the tiny island of St Kilda halfway to Iceland.) Most of the district is designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and rightly so.

It is just not appropriate to build 20,000 houses in one the most important environments in our country just because you know you can sell them to incomers. If it were, places like Dartmoor and the Scilly Isles would be concreted over by now. Why is it that nobody at EDDC seems to believe that the best future for our economy is tourism? They don’t even have a tourist champion!

The people who came up with this plan are trying to pretend that there will be benefits for existing communities. The deal is supposed to be that in return for being allowed to build, a developer has to provide sufficient infrastructure to serve the new residents, and compensate existing ones for the loss of amenity. This plan clearly says that if that requirement would make a development insufficiently profitable, they will waive it. It must have developers and landowners drowning in their own saliva at the thought of it! Never mind the rest of us on our choked roads travelling to use overstretched services.

Obviously being an opponent of the council’s present rulers I very much hope that local people will use their voices and votes to prevent this happening. They were given an inch and they’ve built on a mile. If they’re given a mile I dread to think what will happen but it will involve an awful lot of bulldozers.

Photo credit: http://www.yourlocalweb.co.uk/devon/kilmington/pictures/

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Axminster, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The worrying housing allocations process

By Claire Wright, Ottery St Mary Town Councillor for West Hill

We are alarmed that vast swathes of countryside across East Devon could be given the green light for thousands of houses, without any consultation or debate with residents.

For the Ottery St Mary parish alone, which includes the town itself and surrounding countryside and villages – West Hill, Tipton St John, Taleford, Wiggaton and Alfington, a total of around 370 acres of land have been submitted by landowners for development, under the Strategic Housing Land Allocations process (SHLAA).

It is very unlikely that all this land would be developed, however, what we are worried about is that developers will use this land database, which is on EDDC’s website, to justify their planning applications.   The early evidence is that developers are already using this piece of work to help target and prepare their planning applications. 

Land registered on this database will dramatically increase in value, particularly that which has been deemed ‘deliverable and developable,’ and it is highly likely that communities right across East Devon will be bombarded by a huge number of planning applications over the coming months and years, as a result of this flawed process.

People should not assume that any land currently rejected as part of this process, will not be developed, and the idea that anyone might be reassured that the standard planning process will allow for real community decision-making is ludicrous based on recent history – Cloakham Lawns in Axminster is just one example.

The SHLAA report states on p30 that this process, which determines how much and where housing is allocated, is ‘not subject to specific public consultation.’

The current Government guidance, which will become legislation in due course, demands that communities should be able to determine their own futures.  This thinking is nowhere in EDDC’s LDF: 

In your response to EDDC it would be helpful to make the localism point, as the plan is currently out of date and not in tune with modern and much fairer thinking.  Residents should be able to:

-         choose how many houses are allocated for their community

-         select where in their community the houses are located

-         be in the driving seat of deciding what infrastructure and community benefit is provided

An interactive map, as well as a list of land submitted to East Devon for development, plus a further list of land deemed ‘deliverable’ by the council can be found on EDDC website on the link below.

Residents should talk to their district, parish or town councillors urgently if they have questions or concerns.  Many parishes have already booked public meetings, so residents can find out more about how the proposals affect their community.

The link to the SHLAA is:  www.eastdevon.gov.uk/planning-strategic_housing_assessments     

 

Posted in Ottery St Mary, Uncategorized, West Hill | Leave a comment

Walking and talking in West Hill

by Jo Talbot – Ottery St Mary Town Councillor for West Hill

I now have a completely bored dog.

Every day we go walkies around the lanes of West Hill and without exception since the meeting of the West Hill Residents Association at our village hall on the 8th October when we discussed the Local Development Framework Core Strategy, I am stopped by concerned residents.

All they want to talk about is what is going to happen to East Devon and what is going to happen to West Hill obviously. Every planning notice attached to a gate is being scrutinized, whereas once it was just all part of living here. People are not being NIMBY’S they are really worried. They came here to have a life in a ‘Woodland Village’ near Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and paid the premium price for that for their homes.

They heard (well just about) the man from EDDC talk about the future for West Hill and if you were close enough to him you might have heard him say that West Hill has some good facilities and therefore could stand some development. Well we have a shop, a school and the British Legion, a church and a garage it is true. But it hardly makes a village centre or is that ‘hub’.

What we do have is a close proximity to the A30, Exeter and Exeter Airport and space, lots of tempting space all around us. And it is this tempting space that is making everyone who lives here nervous. They are worried that they will end up in the middle of an urban sprawl of houses just built for the sake of it and the enrichment of developers, who once finished building, will not give a toss about the place.

This notion of a huge migration of people wanting to come and live in East Devon and the needs of young people to have housing so they may stay in East Devon has always been there. Clearly Devon has changed a lot over the last twenty years. That is now history and it is the duty of East Devon now to conserve and look after what is here. Sometimes you can’t live where you want to live – you have to search and save and work hard to find your dream home and there will be no dream homes if we become an Urban Sprawl. The notional migrating masses might as well stay in Croydon or wherever they come from.

The LDF has made it clear, as clear as mud can be; that boundaries could be ‘flexible’ or modified that there could be industrial development in villages like West Hill. In fact the whole document really leaves as many loop holes as possible so that anything can be achieved if EDDC wants it to.

My dog walking cronies are feeling helpless and don’t know where to turn and yet very recently the residents of a certain road in West Hill did all gang together to express a view about a bit of garden grabbing. I found this refreshing and I am sure that the LDF has made them aware that none of us can take this lying down. We should be like the French and start revolting outside The Knowle!

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Ottery St Mary, West Hill | 2 Comments

Nine new Ottery St Marys!

East Devon housing proposals would mean the equivalent of around nine Ottery St Marys being built over the next 15 years or so.

Communities Before Developers are opposed to East Devon District Council’s Local Development Core Strategy, dubbed ‘a developers charter,’ which sets out housing and other development until 2026. Plans are equivalent to populations the size of either: nine Ottery St Marys, OR four Honitons, OR six Axminsters, OR six Seatons, OR three Sidmouths.

And based on an accepted average of five vehicle movements per day, per dwelling, at least 100,000 additional car journeys every day, could be expected on East Devon roads. East Devon District Council wants to give the green light to an extra 19,400 homes in the 2026 timeframe, including one-off unplanned developments, known as ‘windfalls.’

The plans would change the character of East Devon forever, with the result being urban sprawl. Claire Wright, Ottery St Mary Town Councillor for West Hill, said: “Unfortunately you need to read the entire 150 page document with a fine-tooth comb to get a real sense of what is being planned. The summary leaflets gloss over much of what would affect communities.

“There are worrying proposals to replace fixed built-up area boundaries around communities with flexible boundaries, which would cause creeping urbanisation. Plans to water down landscape protection policies would damage wildlife and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Axmouth resident and former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Dr Jon Underwood, said: “Twenty thousand more houses – a third of the number we already have – is a colossal and completely disproportionate number. Worse still the document allows huge room for manoeuvre, which would make it even easier for the council to carry on forcing through their grand plans against the wishes of local people.

“The developer would be allowed to trample over present residents without adequate compensation, with loopholes that allow companies to get out of providing vital infrastructure, if they claim it is unaffordable. This is development at all costs and typical of the attitude the council takes to anyone that stands in its way.”

East Devon District Council also proposes one job per home OR one hectare of employment land for every 250 homes built. Sharon Pavey, former East Devon parliamentary candidate and co-ordinator of the East Devon Green Party, explained: “This would lead to industrial estates and business parks springing up, even in the most vulnerable countryside.

“The combined damaging elements of the plan mean massive and potentially uncontrolled development. It must be strictly controlled, particularly in an area as beautiful as East Devon.

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Budleigh Salterton, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, Sidmouth | Leave a comment

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty targeted for development

Campaigners are demanding that strict controls are put in place to protect the countryside, as dozens of specially designated pieces of land are submitted for development in East Devon.

Almost 250 acres, equivalent to around 138 football pitches, have been put forward for house-building on land listed as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

AONB land around the towns and surrounding villages of Honiton, Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Seaton and Sidmouth are the main targets, according to the East Devon District Council’s Strategic Housing Land Allocations Availability Assessment (SHLAA).

The news comes as EDDC’s Local Development Framework (LDF) currently out for public consultation, proposes a worrying watering down of landscape protections, to make it easier to develop AONBs and other sensitive land for housing and infrastructure.

From p132 of the LDF, EDDC lists policies that it wants to weaken, in order to make it easier to build in open and sensitive countryside.

Claire Wright, Ottery St Mary Town Councillor for West Hill, and Communities Before Developers campaigner, said:  “It is unacceptable and irresponsible for EDDC to want downgrade our beautiful countryside in this way and it would also have a devastating effect on our wildlife.”

“Unfortunately, you have to read the small print at the end of the 140 page LDF to know that EDDC is hoping to reduce these protections.

“It makes us wonder whether the council has any regard at all for what the majority of residents love about living here. We believe local people want East Devon to remain largely rural, not turned into a semi-urban district, with light industry.”

EDDC has admitted in its leaflet sent to every home last week, that its massive housing numbers of 19,400, including unplanned developments known as windfalls, are to cater for all the people the council wants to encourage to move to the district over the next 20 years.

Cllr Wright added:  “EDDC should be prioritising local people’s needs, not some mythical population of the future.  Certainly it should not be encouraging more to move here when infrastructure such as our schools and doctors’ surgeries are already at capacity and our country lanes and many other roads are clearly unsuitable for a dramatic increase in traffic.”

Jonathan Underwood, LibDem Parliamentary Spokesman and fellow CBD campaigner, said: “If anything, EDDC should be putting in place stricter controls for building on green fields and AONB, not planning urban sprawl by the back door.”

Communities Before Developers is now urging every resident in East Devon to contact EDDC to demand that our countryside, coastline and AONBs are given the strongest possible protections.

Around 66 per cent of the district is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  According to p117 of the LDF East Devon also has:

Jon Underwood added:  “People want to move to lots of lovely places.  Dartmoor, the Isles of Scilly or Chelsea, for example, but for obvious reasons it is not always possible or desirable.

“East Devon is celebrated for its beauty, and the Jurassic Coast is Britain’s only natural World Heritage site.  The council’s responsibility is to preserve all of this for future generations, not destroy it.”

Posted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Honiton, Seaton, Sidmouth | 5 Comments