• A DISTRICT council watchdog has called for ‘independent’ professionals to carry out a survey of Knowle over concerns about the amount of money being spent on the authority’s relocation project. Overview and scrutiny committee members last night agreed to make the recommendation to cabinet. East Devon District Council (EDDC) has decided to leave Sidmouth – saying Knowle is not ‘fit for purpose’. But concerns over the £800,000 of tax-payers’ cash already spent or budgeted on the project prompted calls for a re-think. Councillors called for evidence to back-up the main argument [...]

    Read more

    The information was set to go live on Monday (3 February) but was inadvertently published ahead of time yesterday. It has now been withdrawn from the the council’s website. The news caused considerable alarm among councillors at today’s budget scrutiny meeting and among youth service staff, who, according to one councillor, were “up in arms” about proposals. Almost one million pounds (£970,000) is proposed to be slashed from the youth service budget and dozens of staff could lose their jobs as a result. Devon County Council will launch a consultation period starting on[...]

    Read more

    There isn’t time to outline all the proposals now, but I am really alarmed at some of the funding reductions to services to children and young people, which is a service under massive pressure. Youth services are set to lose almost £1m and there are other services that help children and young people that are also being hit. Highways is set to lose £6.6m, with huge implications for highways maintenance, as well as ditch and gulley clearance, which helps to prevent flooding. I imagine that it is going to be a lively meeting with many councillors expressing concern about how the council [...]

    Read more

    In May 2015, the next general election will take place alongside local elections - for EDDC - and if more people stand than there are seats - for town and parish councils also. If not enough people stand for election, or the same number as there are seats, candidates will be automatically elected.  EDDC’s make-up is 59 councillors - 42 conservative, 7 independent and 10 libdem. In my view, it could do with a more even political spread of councillors! If you are interested in attending the event, which will explore the role of councillors, local government and its links with [...]

    Read more

    Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has insisted he wants to see fracking “all over rural parts of the UK”. Mr Paterson said the controversial mining technique would boost jobs and growth, and there was a robust regime for ensuring safety. But he also admitted opponents of the practice were winning the war for public opinion – suggesting that was in part because they wear “exciting clothes”. The comments came as the Tory Cabinet minister gave evidence to peers on the Lords Economic Affairs Committee. Senior government figures including David Cameron have highlighted the potential [...]

    Read more

    Dear Claire, I wanted to let you know straight away. I’m afraid we lost the gagging law vote in the House of Lords this evening. That’s it - it’s going to become law. It couldn’t have been closer. On the final vote, 245 Lords voted in favour and 245 against. Unfortunately the rules mean that in the case of a tie, the government gets its way. Personally I feel pretty devastated about this. I’m worried about what it means for the future of 38 Degrees. More importantly, I’m worried about what it means for the future of democracy, and what it tells us about the [...]

    Read more

    The Countryside Alliance view - http://www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/communities/regrettable-that-mps-rejected-key-amendments-to-lobbying-bill It is deeply regrettable that on 22 January MPs rejected key amendments, made in the House of Lords, which would have limited the damage that Part 2 of the Lobbying Bill will do to democratic engagement in this country. The Government has continued to claim that this legislation would not curtail the ability of organisations to campaign, and many MPs have accepted these assurances. But it is not true.  It has been suggested to us that if we [...]

    Read more

    Dear Hugo and Neil I was so disappointed to learn that you both had voted with the party line on the lobbying bill. The way the government has handled the lobbying bill is quite deplorable: *there were no white or green papers before part 2 of the bill was laid before parliament * the government did not consult any of the major stakeholders before publishing the bill * the bill was laid before the House of Commons on 17 July 2013, the day before the summer recess. * Commons second reading was the day after MPs returned in September Not surprisingly there has been very widespread criticism [...]

    Read more

    The NHS is still smarting over the drinks industry squashing proposals for a minimum price for alcohol - something that just about every senior doctor in this country thought would be an effective way of trying to reduce alcoholism. Let’s also not forget HS2, which the government paid with taxpayers money, aggressive lobbyists, £50m (this is on top of the actual cost of HS2 which is £50bn) to turn people’s genuine concerns and objections, into nimby rhetoric. This is supposedly what the lobbying bill was to address - or at least it was to make this sort of lobbying more [...]

    Read more

    Here’s the email from 38 Degrees ............................................................................... Disappointing news: your MP was one of those who let us down this week. They followed party orders and voted to reverse the main improvements to the gagging law. [1] But there is a glimmer of hope. Now that the government has removed the Lords’ changes, it has to go back to the House of Lords - in a process known as ‘ping-pong’. [2] The Lords could put back in the improvements MPs took out. If they do, it will go back to the House of Commons again, where the [...]

    Read more

    Here’s a quick update on how it went today, with MPs voting again on the gagging law. I’m afraid it’s bad news. Most Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs chose to follow party orders. They reversed the main improvements made in the House of Lords. This means they voted: - to remove new rules limiting secret lobbying by big business - to put back in key limits on what campaigners, charities, and voluntary groups can do to speak up on issues of the day [1] It’s pretty depressing. But it’s not over. The House of Lords will now get another vote – probably next week. They have [...]

    Read more

    A paper submitted to next week’s overview and scrutiny committee states:  “Pre-application advice will be published as and when appropriate as and once a planning application has been received and resources permit.” The report adds:  “For the reasons set out in the report, the position adopted is an appropriate one in advance of the review to be carried out by the development manager.” I am told by a senior officer that the review is to determine the practical/operational aspects of implementing the council decision. The link to the meeting is below, [...]

    Read more

    Officers told the committee that the incidence of complaints in East Devon was “way higher” than in other councils, from conversations with colleagues elsewhere. Since October 2013, 23 complaints have been submitted to EDDC - largely against town and parish councillors. Five complaints are against district councillors. Two complaints have been referred for investigation and 12 are still being assessed. The remainder have either been closed with an informal resolution, or there has been no case to answer. Cllr Susie Bond asked whether circulating the guidance to town and parish [...]

    Read more

    The standards committee had previously (at its October meeting) made a series of recommendations, which included proposals for public questions to be in writing in advance of meetings, BUT the proposals were qualified with “where possible”, which allowed flexibility. Then at November’s cabinet meeting – blog link here - http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/cabinet_rubber-stamps_public_speaking_restriction/ the same recommendation was overturned with the words “where possible” deleted, which meant that all questions not related to items on the agenda must be submitted in [...]

    Read more

    The document will propose where development should take in each village in East Devon and it is important that residents read the documentation for their own communities carefully. Greendale and Hill Barton Business Parks are in line for significant expansions, if the plan is found sound.  Here’s what the email says….. East Devon District Council has produced a Draft Villages Development Plan Document (DPD) for consultation. This plan sets out Council proposals for where development in East Devon villages and smaller settlements (as identified in Strategy 27 of the New East [...]

    Read more

    East Devon District Council will be presenting a balanced budget for the financial year starting in April. The good news is that through careful financial management the Council goes into the next fiscal year in a fairly healthy position, with a small surplus of around £70,000 shown. This will be used to help offset an expected deficit in 2015/16. Balancing the books will be even more difficult in years to come, as funding is squeezed further and demand for services continues to grow. The Council is proposing to freeze Council Tax for the fourth consecutive year for 2014/15 and will in turn[...]

    Read more

    The planning inspector ruled that EDDC’s lack of five year land supply and out of date local plan, although important issues, did not outweigh the damage to the character of the area that would be caused by allowing the appeal. Of particular note was a sentence that observed that the housing supply issue had improved in East Devon and was temporary in any case and any construction that took place would be permanent. The decision is great news because of the need for planning inspectors to be consistent with each other. EDDC officers had previously recommended approval for the application[...]

    Read more

    The Feniton Super Inquiry has completed its second week. Friday afternoon had barely arrived – and it was time to close, to allow the presumably expensively hired representatives of the would-be developers to commence their long journeys home, and not to eat too much into their week-ends. Your reporter took the view that the needs of the Feniton community should have been accorded more weight (to use the planning vernacular). First time attenders of Planning Inquiries are often surprised at the slow, tedious and repetitive nature of the proceedings. Cynics claim that this is to help justify[...]

    Read more

    CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals asks people to tell him about the care provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals is urging people in Devon to tell his inspectors what they think of the services provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust.  Their views and experiences will help inspectors decide what to look at when they inspect. Devon Partnership is one of the first five mental health trusts to be inspected under radical changes being introduced by the Care Quality Commission. The formal inspection by a team including clinical experts and [...]

    Read more

    Ottery’s mayor, Cllr Glyn Dobson, following a meeting he had with Redrow representatives, told councillors last week that the company does indeed, wish to pour concrete on residents vegetable plots. ..................................... The story is in this week’s Ottery Herald, below and here ....... http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/news/homes_proposal_for_allotment_land_1_3195492 Ottery’s allotments could be replaced with new houses in the future after it was revealed a developer is interested in building on the land. Redrow, who own the field and let it back to the town [...]

    Read more

    Office relocation Firstly, in relation to funding allocated for the relocation project, Cllr Graham Troman asked what was meant by two entries of £200,000 for the next financial year and in 2016/17.  Officers replied was that this was a “marker” to be set against the costs of moving offices. They added that they had to put something in and expected that it would be offset by a “capital receipt.” Cllr Roger Giles did not like this way of planning for finances because there seemed to be no specifics attached to the sum of money, it was an estimate.  He pushed[...]

    Read more

    The public speaking agenda item and been to and from standards committee, who have had careful discussions on the way forward and agreed a sensible set of rules that don’t disadvantage anyone. Then, controversially and unexpectedly last month, EDDC’s cabinet proposed a new and significant restriction, which would mean that any member of the public wishing to ask a question or make a point about an issue not on the agenda of any committee meeting, will have to give their question in writing two days in advance. The standards committee had previously agreed proposals on giving [...]

    Read more

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03pr9wv/Inside_Out_South_West_13_01_2014/

    Read more

    Landowners across Devon and Cornwall have a limited window of opportunity to capitalise upon a shortfall in many Local Planning Authorities’ required five year housing land supplies. Demand for new homes is being driven by improvements in the wider economy and positive market sentiment within the housing market. This has been partly fuelled by the Government’s Help-to-Buy scheme, which has so far recorded 15,410 reservations in its first six months. In response, house builders are continuing to acquire large multi-plot sites; either buying land with existing planning permission or taking [...]

    Read more

    My motion (below) was lodged at the full county council meeting on 12 December. It was then referred to cabinet, as is the process. At last week’s cabinet - Wednesday 8 January - webcast here - http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcasts - Devon County Council conservative leader, John Hart, confirmed that the cabinet supported the motion and placed it in the hands of environment portfolio holder, Cllr Roger Croad. As I told the cabinet, this country is lagging a long way behind Europe on protecting our trees and planting new ones. And thanks to looser planning rules and the [...]

    Read more

    If you need advice about housing benefit or council tax you can visit Ottery St Mary town council offices every Wednesday 1.30pm – 3.15pm. No appointment is necessary. EDDC’s benefits office can be contacted on 01395 517446 or at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)/*= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_wEYORlWzbt'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/*]]>*/

    Read more

    Carrying aloft a sea of placards, marched the young, middle aged and elderly, united with one goal - to make their views very clear indeed - to the government and developers.  Leave us and our communities alone! People from all over the district joined Feniton residents in the protest, which was organised by Fight for Feniton’s Future and the East Devon Alliance. The event was covered by the local press including the Pulman’s View From Series, Midweek Herald, Express & Echo, Western Morning News and Radio Exe, BBC Radio Devon and BBC Inside Out (the full programme about [...]

    Read more

    Today’s Telegraph carries, in the same editorial, details of the triple appeal by developers who want to build between them, 235 houses at Feniton. Cllr Martyn Smith, chair of Feniton Parish Council is quoted, as is Feniton resident and regular commenter on this blog, Val Jones! Interestingly, the government adviser who dared to speak out against the damaging NPPF is now being told he must either “retract” his statements or “resign from the advisory board.” The story, by Geoffrey Lean, was pasted on Cllr Susie Bond’s blog this morning - here - [...]

    Read more

    But from what I saw I am not sure that the legal teams managed to score many, if any points from Cllr Smith, who knew his stuff, particularly on drainage and flooding, and had even calculated water run-off volumes for various flood solutions on different developments! The morning started off with a speech from MP, Neil Parish, who was then followed by John Withrington, chair of Fight for Feniton’s Future.  There was a couple of questions for Mr Parish relating to the NPPF being coalition planning policy. John gave a resounding speech peppered with amusing soundbites. You can see [...]

    Read more

    See this link and the resolution at minute 53 - http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/council_mins_041213.pdf - which states:  “That the motion be agreed as printed subject to the second paragraph now reading: ‘in particular the Council will implement the guidance that pre-application advice issued should be publically available once an application is lodged.’ Where do the minutes say anything about a review, as per EDDC’s statement in this article?  Full council made a clear decision, which is set out in the minutes… so what is going on?  I have written to [...]

    Read more

    Also speaking will be me and Fight for Feniton’s Dr John Withrington. It has been a tough couple of days for EDDC, as barristers grilled planning officers for hour after hour after hour. It is gruelling stuff - and at times painful to watch. Cllr Susie Bond will speak next week, as will Feniton Parish Council’s sustainability witness, Dr Claire Horrocks. See you tomorrow , if you can make it!

    Read more

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/hands-off-our-land/10559732/Coalitions-legacy-could-be-harm-to-countryside-No-10-adviser-warns.html ............................ Number 10 adviser criticises Government planning reforms and warns that the damage being done to the countryside could end up being the Coalition’s biggest legacy. The “physical harm” being inflicted on the countryside as a result of the Coalition’s planning reforms could become “the defining legacy of this Government”, a senior adviser to the Prime Minister has warned. Nadhim Zahawi, an MP and member of the No?10 [...]

    Read more

    At the beginning of the meeting a member of the public presented Cllr Hart with a 6,000 name petition from the national online campaign group, 38 Degrees, which has already picked up the fact that the motion was on the table this morning. Cllr Jill Owen, of the labour group, proposed the motion and argued that the badger cull was ineffective and lacking in evidence, as well as inhumane. She proposed looking into alternatives such as vaccination instead. There were some brief speeches of support from opposing groups. Cllr Owen spoke, as well as Cllr Andy Hannon and Robert Vint and I also said a[...]

    Read more

    1. “Pursuing sustainable development involves seeking positive improvements in the quality of the built, natural and historic environment, as well as in people’s quality of life, including (but not limited to): ...improving the conditions in which people live, work, travel and take leisure” 2. This is not my own personal take on the meaning of the phrase “sustainable development”, nor that of FPC, nor that of some well-intentioned environmental NGO. It is one of the interpretations given by the Government as set out in the NPPF at para.9. 3. Although sometimes hard to credit, this is[...]

    Read more

    The programme will air at 7.30pm on BBC1. If you are worried about how the loose planning rules are affecting Feniton or your own community, please come and support Feniton residents on their march on Saturday (11 January). The march starts at Louvigny Close at 11am. Be there with your placards!

    Read more

    I stayed for the morning session (as I was speaking at EDDC’s planning committee this afternoon) and listened to the opening stages, including all the introductory statements by all the parties. Three developers are making a case to build between them, 235 houses in the village, growing it by over 40 per cent. The developers are: Wainhomes, Strategic Land Partnerships and Feniton Park.  On the opposing side is East Devon District Council and Feniton Parish Council. All parties have legal representation. The developers, I believe are all represented by barristers. During the opening [...]

    Read more

    Around 20 members of the public were at the meeting, as well as two press reporters - some people had to sit in the room next door as there wasn’t enough space for everyone. Cllr Giles told the meeting that the term “Cllr X” was not correct to be used in the minutes because the allegations against him for breaching confidentiality had been made in the public domain. Cllr Giles read out some proposed changes to the draft minute, including that he had said at the meeting that he had not divulged confidential information… because a meeting taking place with Persimmon was not confidential[...]

    Read more

    The motion is from Cllr Jill Owen, from the labour group and is a proposal I wholeheartedly support. I will be attending the cabinet meeting, which starts at 10.30am, because I also have a motion on the table - asking Devon County Council to endorse more tree planting on their land. I will be speaking in favour of both motions on Wednesday. A recommendation from the cabinet meeting on both motions will be taken to the Devon County Council full council meeting on 20 February, starting at 2.15pm. You can watch the live cabinet debate here, starting from 10.30am - [...]

    Read more

    Then it looks as BBC Spotlight will follow it up later in the day, which will broadcast on their evening programme, starting at 6.30pm. On New Year’s Day, Feniton experienced yet more flooding and residents were on high alert, with flood wardens Susie Bond and Jayne Blackmore out and about all day checking drains and handing out sandbags. Fortunately, the water did not seep into people’s houses, although it was very close. Residents of Feniton are still on high alert, especially with today’s heavy rain. The inquiry will be held at the Flybe Training Academy at Exeter Airport [...]

    Read more

    Dear Hugo I am extremely concerned about the news that Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, plans to allow development to take place on ancient woodland. This is a truly appalling proposal. Ancient woodland is just that - a tiny proportion of woodland in the UK - and it is irreplaceable.  Quite simply, it cannot be recreated. A miniscule two per cent of ancient woodland is left in Britain. It provides a home to thousands of insects and birds, many of which are also in serious decline due to development, climate change and alterations to farming methods - see the State of Nature Report [...]

    Read more

    A venture capitalist and major Tory party donor has been chosen by ministers to be chair of the statutory wildlife and nature watchdog, Natural England. Andrew Sells, a chartered accountant, donated £111,250 to the Tories in 2010-11. Sells is the preferred candidate of the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, and will be questioned by MPs on the environment, food and rural affairs select committee before being confirmed, although their advice is not binding. A statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “All appointments are made on merit and [...]

    Read more

    Developers could be allowed to destroy ancient woodland if they agreed to plant many more trees elsewhere, the environment secretary has suggested. Owen Paterson told the Times “biodiversity offsetting” could give “a better environment over the long term”. Critics have called such plans a licence “to trash nature”. The Department for the Environment stressed it was “extremely unlikely” planning permission would be granted on land covered by ancient woodland. And if it was, it would be only for major infrastructure projects, it added. BBC News [...]

    Read more

    The monitoring officer at East Devon District Council has called a meeting with Ottery Town Council to try and resolve a dispute about whether one of its councillors broke a confidentiality agreement. At the full council meeting of Ottery St Mary on Monday, December 2, the majority of councillors voted that independent councillor of 22 years, Roger Giles was guilty of divulging information deemed confidential by fellow members. The matter related to a planning meeting held on November 18, when councillors agreed that information about a developer’s interest in building on land at West Hill [...]

    Read more

    Devonshire Homes applied to build the houses last year on land between Mallocks Close and Otter Close, which was refused by EDDC on sustainability grounds. Previous applications by Devonshire Homes on this land have included 56 dwellings in 2010 and 28 dwellings in 2011.  The appeal for 56 dwellings was dismissed by the planning inspectorate in 2011. The appeal at Tipton St John will be dealt with by written representations, rather than by public inquiry, which was the way in which the 2011 appeal was determined. In 2012, 15 houses (very controversially) were approved on land designated [...]

    Read more

    The ability to cope with floods in England and Wales could be put at risk because of government cuts to the Environment Agency that will result in the loss of hundreds of front-line staff. Officials working on flood risk management will be sacked as the agency sheds about 15 per cent of its workforce to save money. More than 1,500 jobs will be cut by October, leading to fears that the agency will not be able to cope with serious flooding next year. The agency’s chief executive has said that the downsizing will have an impact on its flood work. The extent of the cuts has come to light as [...]

    Read more

    East Devon District Council staff are on the alert as forecasters predict a high risk of coastal flooding over the next few days. Residents are being warned to stay away from the shoreline following two deaths caused by high seas in North Devon and Cornwall. The Environment Agency is issuing severe flood warnings around all of the Devon and Cornwall coastline. Tides are high in any case with big waves, but particular concerns are being expressed for the early morning high tides on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 3, 4 and 5 January. The advice is for the public to keep clear of seafronts during [...]

    Read more

    Last night, Cllr Susie Bond was interviewed about yesterday’s flooding event and this evening I will be on air at 10pm about the possibility of further floods in the village this evening, as heavy rain comes in during the early hours of tomorrow morning. I can hear the wind picking up outside and the rain pattering against the window already.  Whatever you do this evening, stay away from the sea. It will be extremely dangerous, as high tides and strong winds coincide.

    Read more

    Well, here we are again! It is the first day of the New Year and I have been trailing round the neighbourhood, knocking on doors to wish the residents Happy New Year. Nothing unusual about that you would think. After all, it is New Year’s Day. You would be wrong! This is not an outbreak of bonhomie on my part, but more a reflection of sheer and increasing desperation that is shared by just about all of the residents of Feniton. What is it we are becoming increasingly desperate about?: being repeatedly flooded with our neighbourhood’s excrement. An e-mail from a doctor-friend in Hawaii [...]

    Read more

    Cllr Susie Bond and her husband have rescued people stuck in deep water under the bridge at Patteson’s Cross, the drains are full to capacity with water and the allotments are flooded. Some residents are watching with dismay as the totally inadequate drainage system pumps raw sewage into their gardens and worse, it looks as though it may leak into their houses. People living next to a ditch on the edge of the village are on tenterhooks as the water rises inch by inch.  I have contacted EDDC’s emergency line and asked whether a powerful pump can syphon off the water to avoid it[...]

    Read more