• In an email to Devon County (DCC) councillors yesterday (Friday), a senior North, East and West Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) manager confirms:  “More detailed proposals for the future of community services in Eastern Devon are due to be revealed on 17 September 2014.” The following day - Thursday 18 September - Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee (of which I am a member) is set to examine the proposals! NHS managers had previously said at an EDDC overview and scrutiny meeting in June, that the detailed plans would be released at[...]

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    The prime Knowle site in Sidmouth, home of East Devon District Council, has come on the market. The site, which covers nearly five acres, has been home to the council’s headquarters since the 1970s, but the increasing cost of maintaining and running an ageing building stock, coupled with the occupational inefficiencies, have prompted the Council’s decision to move. The property, is not listed and is not within a Conservation Area. The site has a draft allocation for 50 dwellings in the emerging East Devon Local Plan, which is expected to be adopted during 2015. The site extends to [...]

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    The hearing, which took place at Exeter Magistrates’ Courts, was set up by the ICO after EDDC refused to comply with the ICO’s request to make public six progress reports on the office relocation project, insisting that they remain secret. While trying to establish how much information about the office relocation was in the public domain about the project, a senior EDDC officer revealed that the overview and scrutiny committee in July 2012, had been given an edited version of a key report. As a member of the overview and scrutiny committee, I remember this report clearly, which was [...]

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    Several members of the public were present for an additional item on the agenda of the DevMan Committee.  It appeared to be a contentious matter – BBC Radio Devon had included a debate between Cllr Paul Diviani, EDDC Council Leader, and Paul Arnott of the East Devon Alliance earlier in the day. EDDC had been accused of being negligent and complacent in not having an adopted Local Plan, and therefore leaving East Devon at risk from developers. Most members of the DevMan Committee appeared not to have heard the Radio Devon item, or perhaps considered the matter to be of little [...]

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    Cllr Roger Giles requested the item be included after Devon Wildlife Trust’s public meeting last week, where the overwhelming majority of residents voted in favour of them remaining. The town council is likely to give a view on whether or not to back this view. The meeting will be held at Tipton’s community hall and will start at 7pm. Photograph: River Otter.

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    Speaking on BBC Radio Devon this morning, Cllr Diviani told reporter, Jenny Kumah (who asked whether he was determined to get the local plan in place by next May’s council and general elections) that he “hoped” EDDC would have it ready” as soon as we possibly can.”  The 11,000 houses refers to the latest housing assessment undertaken by consultants, for East Devon, Mid Devon, Exeter and Teignbridge Councils, following planning inspector, Anthony Thickett’s rejection of EDDC’s local plan. Cllr Diviani declined to comment on whether he would try to get the local plan [...]

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    EAST Devon District Council will have to justify its refusal to disclose details about its proposed relocation from Sidmouth at a tribunal hearing at Exeter Magistrates Court. At the hearing, on Thursday, August 28, the council will appeal against the Information Commissioner’s decision that it should have disclosed certain information as a result of a Freedom of Information request made by Sidmouth resident Jeremy Woodward. Mr Woodward asked to see the full minutes of various relocation working party meetings and the reports made by the relocation project manager. After receiving the [...]

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    Here is a press release regarding Devon County Council’s outsourcing of youth centres to other agencies: Six months ago, a leading Devon County Councillor, Eileen Wragg claimed that for the first time she felt “ashamed” of being a councillor after Devon youth parliament and youth service users were gagged by council chiefs during February’s full council meeting on youth service cuts. With Cllr Frank Biederman describing it as a “sad day for democracy”, the damning reaction then went national as we hoped that no such occurrence would take place again. I’m sorry to inform you [...]

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    The document was expected to be published over the summer, but a report to next Tuesday’s development management committee states that it is not possible to say when the work will be completed. The lack of a five year supply of land for housing will also continue into the future, meaning that planning officers will need to use the permissive national planning policy framework as their main guide, rather than a local document. The report states:  “At this stage it is not possible to provide a timetable for completion of the full SHMA (strategic housing market assessment) work. [...]

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    But residents also heard that DEFRA would be capturing and keeping the animals for testing at an unknown location for maybe months. DEFRA says it is worried about a disease known as EM that the beavers may have, which could possibly be living in their gut and cause cysts. However, it is only the adults that could have it and only if they are imported beavers, not locally escaped beavers. Adults live between seven and eight years and sightings of the beavers on the Otter, have been reported for almost a decade. For humans to contract EM, which can be serious, a dog or fox must scavenge a [...]

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    A drop-in session will run from 3pm and a public meeting will start at 7.30pm, at the Institute, Yonder Street, Ottery St Mary. I was interviewed by ITV Westcountry this morning about the beavers, along with Pete Burgess from Devon Wildlife Trust and local farmer, Dave Lawrence. It will be broadcast tomorrow at 6pm on ITV. Photograph: Being interviewed by Richard Lawrence from ITV Westcountry.

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    Cllr Roger Giles said he was concerned because at the last overview and scrutiny committee meeting NHS staff had said that a consultation document with information about plans for East Devon’s community hospitals would be released by the end of July or beginning of August. We are now halfway through August and still there is no sign of the document. There is expected to be proposals for widespread bed closures across the district. I asked chairman, Cllr Tim Wood, that the consultation document comes before the next overview and scrutiny committee meeting in September, but Cllr Jill Elson[...]

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    Photograph:  Me with Dave Covell.

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    In a newsletter to all its farmers, Devon County Council says:  “In January, the county council’s cabinet adopted a motion stating the many benefits that trees and woodland can bring communities. “The motion went further to agree to explore opportunities to increase tree planting on Devon County Council owned land. The county farms estate is an obvious asset where some sympathetic tree planting could take place without impacting on individual farm productivity and viability. “If you can think of any parts of your holding that may be suitable for small scale [...]

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    The paper, which was discussed by a think tank last month, caused enough concern among the independent group, to prompt us to lodge a motion on the promotion of free speech at EDDC. I was the proposer of the motion and was heckled and jeered during my speech and during the debate on the motion, at the EDDC’s full council meeting on 23 July. Our concerns include: 1. Referring policy discussions by committees, to full council for a general steer at an early stage. 2. Supplementary questions being abolished, with member questions at council being routinely asked only in writing.  [...]

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    http://eastdevonalliance.org/2014/08/12/filming-of-council-meetings-a-major-advance/  “Transparency and openness should be the fundamental principle behind everything councils and other local government bodies do.” That, according to EDA chairman Paul Arnott, has been one of the fundamental objectives of the organisation. However, these words come not from EDA but the Department for Communities and Local Government. Journalists and members of the public are now allowed to use “modern technology and communications methods such as filming, audio recording, blogs and tweeting, to [...]

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    A Green Party MP has accused the government of having “something to hide” after the publication of a partly redacted analysis of the potential effects of fracking for shale gas. Speaking on the Today programme, Caroline Lucas said the report “would be comical if it wasn’t so serious because there is just so much of it that has been blacked out”. “The only conclusion you can draw from looking at this report is that the government has something to hide and I think we need to know what it is,” she added. Key parts of an official analysis, examining how [...]

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    The presence of the beavers has caused a storm of controversy lately, with two national online campaigns taking off, after DEFRA confirmed that it intended to capture the beavers and put them in a zoo or wildlife park. Channel 4 News has filmed locally and the story has been covered by almost all the national newspapers. I wrote to Hugo Swire, East Devon’s MP, when it became apparent that the shadow of DEFRA was looming over the animals. He has since met with DEFRA minister, Lord De Morley and representatives from Devon Wildlife Trust. Most local people seem to be baffled by [...]

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    Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s will not be following through with the development of a new distribution centre on the outskirts of Exeter. Site preparation works for the land at Clyst Honiton were completed last summer. But the company has released a statement today confirming that actual construction of the logistics depot will not proceed. This brings to a close a 12 month waiting period over the future of the site. The development, that would have created hundreds of jobs, was heralded as a huge boost for the region’s economy. No details of what may now occupy the site have been [...]

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