• I have read a few books about psychology and have noted that being politically active can increase happiness levels.  It’s certainly something I can identify with.  And I also agree that going out for dinner makes me happy! Here are the top five happiness scorings: - Being in a long-term relationship - Being actively engaged in politics - Being active in work and in your free time - Going out for dinner - Having close friendships (though happiness does not increase with the number of friends you have) Here’s the full story - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23097143

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    Here’s the link - http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/battle-to-film-huntingdonshire-district-council.html

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    Officials in Natural England’s and the Environment Agency’s planning departments have been told by the government to “consolidate” their planning departments. DEFRA took a massive hit just after the last general election, with a large swathe of funding withdrawn from it.  And Natural England has also suffered. Both agencies are responsible for commenting on planning applications and it wasn’t that long ago that chancellor, George Osborne, did his best to neutralise the only legal blocks against planning applications - the EU habitats regulations, which are [...]

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    Many residents are opposed to the application, which in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The full story is here - http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk/Councillor-quizzed-police-opposition-40-homes/story-19418630-detail/story.html#axzz2XVrzJdUR

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    Mr Boles also rubbished CPRE research which found that there were hundreds of thousands of planning approvals already in the system but land was being “banked” by developers. Not surprisingly, he made CPRE members very cross, especially as they were probably already very cross, having heard his repeated confrontational rhetoric broadcast and published in the national media for many months. Yesterday’s Telegraph carries the full story, complete with a short clip of the heckling Mr Boles received - [...]

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    In a story in today’s Express & Echo, Cllr Bond, said “it seemed perfectly logical” that the new guidance issued by jointly by the Local Government Association and Planning Advisory Service, should be “immediately enshrined in the council’s constitution.” Cllr Bond was referring to a standards committee meeting last week - here - http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/eddc_to_consult_on_new_guidance_on_councillors_as_planning_agents/ , where it was proposed that the new guidance should be subject to consultation with officers and councillors before [...]

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    A support button has been added to the group’s website, which contains all sorts of information about the proposed scheme, which would be between Feniton and Ottery initially. The Sidmouth Vision group, with the support of Cllr Stuart Hughes, is beavering away on its part of the project and longer-term the plan is for the schemes to meet, to form a continuous cycleway from Feniton, to Ottery, to Tipton to Sidmouth, following as much as possible, the old railway line, that was pulled up in the late 1960s, under the Beeching cuts. The Ottery based group, which includes me, Roger Giles, Jo[...]

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    As the issue rockets in terms of public interest, both locally and nationally, I have asked EDDC’s overview and scrutiny chair, Tim Wood, for an item to be included on an overview and scrutiny committee agenda, in the near future.  The debate might involve some uncomfortable discussions but I am convinced that EDDC needs to address this issue and draw up guidelines on what is acceptable, and unacceptable forms of lobbying.  Not only that, but there also needs to be some kind of publicly available register for councillors to sign up to, if they have been lobbied by individuals [...]

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    Agreed by the rather thin on the ground members of the East Devon Business Forum scrutiny committee, this evening, was the following remit, proposed by me: “To consider the appropriateness of the amount of employment land provided in the East Devon local plan, and the methodology for reaching this level of provision, including possible flaws in the analysis employed. “To establish clearly the process by which land allocations were suggested, and by whom.” The group was restricted following the rules agreed at the full council meeting last month.  The resolution at full [...]

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    The meeting will take place from 10am on Thursday 18 July. Recommendations from this meeting will be taken to EDDC’s full council meeting on Wednesday 24 July, 6.30pm. An agenda for the planning committee meeting, will be circulated nearer the time.

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    At Tuesday’s (18 June) standards committee meeting, an officer took the committee through key elements of the new guidance, which was published in April, by the Planning Advisory Service and Local Government Association. The first issue the officer drew the committee’s attention to is set out on agenda page 28, which referred to committee members or ward members speaking on behalf of lobby groups.  See link to agenda papers here - http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/combined_standards_agenda_180613.pdf The guidance advises that councillors speaking on behalf of lobby groups should withdraw [...]

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    Subject to approval by the Devon County Council cabinet, the scheme is scheduled to take place during this financial year. Details are included with the agenda for the East Devon highways and traffic orders committee (HATOC), of which I am a member, which takes place on Monday, 24 June, at 10am, EDDC offices, Sidmouth. £30,000 is allocated for the scheme, which will connect the pavement by McColls with a pavement that ends several metres further up West Hill Road. The project has long been a community priority and once completed, will hopefully encourage more children to walk to school and [...]

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    But no formal recommendations were voted on and the subject has been deferred for a further debate at the committee’s next meeting, on Tuesday 23 July. The debate started with references made to the marathon planning committee meeting last week, which lasted 11 hours. Cllr Frances Newth was in favour of the South Hams Council model (outlined on page 11 of the agenda papers) which limited public questions to no longer than 50 words in length.  She expressed concern about people making statements instead of asking questions. Cllr Alan Dent said he had mixed feelings about public speaking [...]

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    It seems that Aggregate Industries may be having difficulties demonstrating that Straitgate Farm is an appropriate site for a large sand and gravel quarry, particularly given the likely significant environmental issues associated with disturbing an underground watercourse and subsequent impact on nearby ancient woodland. See the link below for more information about the update and proposals, generally. http://straitgateactiongroup.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/miscellany.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+StraitgateActionGroup+(Straitgate+Action+Group)

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    I had been asked to come in and talk to the children about my role, by their teacher, Mrs Ladbrook.  I was surprised how switched on the children were about local issues and problems and how clear their thoughts were on what needed sorting out. After I explained the sorts of things I do as a councillor, for the residents I represent, a forest of hands went up, all with ideas about what they wanted to see changed! Issues that the children raised included: - dog fouling (with plenty of examples of the problem) - potholes (comments included the risk of accidents and damage to cars) - the [...]

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    The agenda items are: a breakdown of the budget, options for a questionnaire to the business community, and employment land issues.  There is a copy of a press release that prompted the story in this week’s Sidmouth Herald at the back of the papers. Here’s the agenda - http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/combined_agenda_with_reports_240613.pdf

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    The new East Devon Business Group is for everyone - from sole traders to large employers and it wants representatives from as many organisations as possible, including chambers of commerce and trade associations to join up. The East Devon Business Group will be entirely business-led and largely self-funded with regular meetings for members. Serving councillors will not be eligible to serve as officers but, where appropriate, representatives from district, county and regional authorities, will be invited to hear the views of businesses. A chairman is being sought and nominations are required [...]

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    Instead, a specially convened standards committee will take place to debate the policy, which could have implications for this blog. A draft social media policy made an early appearance at an overview and scrutiny meeting last year, but has since been revised over the months. Yesterday, a link to a document (below), advising councillors on the use of social media, was circulated to all EDDC members.  http://socialmedia.21st.cc/wp-content/uploads/connected_councillors.pdf See this link to an earlier blog for information about the rest of the agenda for standards committee on Tuesday, [...]

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    Clive, from Ottery St Mary initially wrote “Impisi” as a play. This was performed at the South African National Arts Festival and in schools in kwaZuluNatal. “The play was originally written after I saw two South African actors, Ellis Pearson and Bheki Mkwane, perform in front of a packed school hall in Pietermaritzburg. They kept the audience spell bound for an hour with their portrayal of African wild animals, and I felt then that I wanted to work with them” says Clive. “I knew that I wanted to write a play about how people with disabilities are seen in society and how we may see[...]

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    The review is still in its planning stages and will be considered by Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee at a forthcoming meeting. The health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee (OSC) met today (of which I am a member) and heard that a review of maternity services in North Devon, has already started.  Jac Kelly, chief executive of Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, told councillors that a budget cut of £1.1m meant that the trust had to cut costs immediately.  £1.1m represents a percentage budget cut of £20m, to the North [...]

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    NHS communications gives the following information: A range of healthcare services in the community are currently provided by Northern Devon Healthcare Trust.  Northern, Eastern and Western (NEW) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group is responsible for buying these services on behalf of the community.  The contract for these services is due for renewal next year and needs to be specified before Christmas.  We would like to give you the opportunity to be involved in influencing the design of community services. The Ottery St Mary event will take place on Monday 24th June 2013, [...]

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    The proposed waste units are based at Greendale Barton and Hill Barton Industrial estates - both on the A3052. Both sites have received substantial objections in percentage terms, although surprisingly few comments were received overall. Devon County Council officers state that widespread consultation took place with residents, including public meetings and letters. Here’s the news bulletin, which also details the next steps. http://www.devon.gov.uk/waste_bulletin_may_2013.pdf

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    An officer paper included with this evening’s agenda strongly opposes the idea and recommends that councillors object to the plans.  The printed recommendation is as follows: That we advise: a) Natural England and DEFRA; and b) the Dorset and East Devon National Park Group; that this Council opposes proposals for a New National Park in East Devon that straddles the County boundary into Dorset for the following key reasons: 1. It would result in inappropriate loss of District Council planning powers across a large part of East Devon; 2. It could frustrate, restrict or otherwise [...]

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    There was a furore in February when a controversial paper about the five year land supply, proposing to approve most large applications in the future, was debated by the development management committee. No non committee EDDC councillor or member of the public was permitted to speak on this agenda item, which caused a lot of anger and frustration.  Myself and Cllr Roger Giles had put together a paper with proposals, but were not allowed to speak on the paper. Later, Cllr Roger Giles, asked that the public speaking rules be looked at again.  The issue is now going to be debated by [...]

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    More than half the committee sensationally walked out the room, following a contribution from a fiesty Exmouth resident. The resident, who said she was a former lawyer, refused to sit down again after her three minutes was up. She didn’t obey rules, she said and when asked to sit down, suggested someone might arrest her.  Nevertheless she was standing up, clearly about to leave and sit down when chair, Cllr Helen Parr and most of the committee, without a word, abruptly stood up and left the room!  The speaker went to sit down again and the committee returned some five minutes[...]

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    The full recommendations contained within the annual council minutes of Wednesday 22 May, read as follows: 4. Recording of meetings The following Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommendations stand referred by Cabinet of 30 January 2013 for decision to Annual Council: Recording of meetings – Recommendations for consideration by Annual Council (1) The Monitoring Officer be requested to review the Constitution with a view to making recommendations for the changes that would be required to Council proceedings to enable audio recording to take place; (2) To implement audio recording of [...]

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    (well done to an eagle-eyed Feniton resident for spotting the document) Here they are! http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/lpreplibrary2.pdf

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    I thought that last night’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting should have been the first meeting to be recorded ... if so, where was the recording equipment? -(refer to http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/officers_advise_meetings_will_be_recorded_on_a_trial_basis/) Other issues that came up, included: - Cllr Sheila Kerridge supporting a proposal to be debated at cabinet next Wednesday regarding the creation of a new National Park, taking in part of East Devon - see Sidmouth Independent News blog about it here - [...]

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    See the BBC story here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22766945  Sixty “Coronation meadows” have been identified across the UK as part of a Coronation anniversary campaign to restore threatened wildflower meadows. These habitats have decreased by 97% in the UK since the 1930s. The project, led by the Prince of Wales and three wildlife and livestock organisations, will take seed and green hay from these designated meadows to recreate new ones. One Coronation meadow will be named in each county by the end of the year. The 60 meadows identified so far represent some of the [...]

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    The EDBF scrutiny task and finish forum was set up in September 2012 and has been beset by delays and problems, which I have set out in previous blogs. The next meeting will be the only the fourth meeting since the forum was established last September. It will be held on Monday 24 June at 6pm, in the EDDC council chamber, Knowle, Sidmouth. Members of the press and public are welcome to attend and speak for three minutes each.

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    I spent a couple of hours meeting people at the Ottery cycleway stall at the Ottery Food and Drink Festival on Saturday and it was brilliant.  We were overwhelmed by the numbers of people coming over and expressing their support, wanting to know more and offering their help.  The public support for the scheme is massive.  The working group, of which myself and Cllr Roger Giles are members, continues to meet every four to eight weeks. Here’s the Herald story…................................... [...]

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    For schools that opt to do the right thing by their students and allow them to take the vocational courses (such as engineering, art or music) that they would like to, because these qualifications will be valued less under Gove’s new regime, it will affect the league table results, which are likely to drop significantly.  Ministers are threatening such schools that if their league table results drop in this way that they could be taken over by Government teams. How are these reforms helping students, I can’t help wondering? Because from where I am standing, Mr Gove seems to be[...]

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    The Pulman’s View from series reports today that Messrs Swire and Parish have written to Mr Pickles, presumably prompted by concerns over “Browngate.” They are quoted as saying:  “Planning is the area in which local authority decisions have the greatest impact on their constituents. “It is also an area in which a comparatively small number of people have final say over whether development takes place. “We believe that giving local authorities greater power to prevent such a conflict of interest from occurring again would help restore public confidence[...]

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    The market takes place the first Friday of every month.  It used to be held in the old EDDC run Hind Street car park, but had to move to the Land of Canaan car park, once Sainsbury’s got its planning permission. But the Land of Canaan was too far out of the town, so Ottery St Mary Town Council has been working to move it to a more prominent location. The street market then launched in Mill Street last month and was a great success, with around 20 traders taking part. It takes place in Mill Street for the second time this Friday (7 June), starting at 8.30am and finishing at 1.30pm.

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    The government says it could change the rules on lobbying within the next year, after three peers were accused of agreeing to carry out Parliamentary work for payment. Minister Francis Maude said the coalition was working out detail but called such a timetable “possible”. Labour’s Douglas Alexander said he was “angry” over the Sunday Times’ claims. Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird, Labour’s Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Cunningham deny wrongdoing. Lord Laird has resigned his party’s whip pending the outcome of a review of his behaviour,[...]

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    One local conservative party association chairman speaks out about how his members are deserting the party because of issues like gay marriage, Europe and of course, the infamous swivel eyed loon comment.  He said if the comment is proved to be true, he will also consider resigning. In the studio are a UKIP Member of the European Parliament and Gary Streeter, Conservative MP, who described the Tories’ record as “politically disasterous.”  The link is below and the SW part of the programme starts at 11.40am (40 minutes into the programme). [...]

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    As the former soldier turned Conservative MP strode into what he thought was the office of a lobbying company near Parliament, the offer on the table was clear. For a fee of £2,000 a month, Patrick Mercer, a popular figure in the House of Commons, would push the Government to allow the rogue Fijian regime to rejoin the Commonwealth. The smartly-dressed lobbyist Mr Mercer thought he was meeting said the parliamentary campaign was being funded by a group of anonymous businesses that wished to profit from Fiji’s return to the international fold. Unknown to the MP, the “lobbyist” was an [...]

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