Here’s a brief overview of what the community around Ottery St Mary and further afield, will be getting involved with, or reading about this year:
Feniton triple public inquiry appeal for 230 houses
The government’s national planning policy framework with its powerful presumption in favour of development is mostly responsible for developers encircling Feniton like hawks hoping for a kill. The triple inquiry kicks off on Tuesday 7 January and is expected to last for around two weeks. I will be arguing against the plans, on behalf of the community, as will Feniton Parish Council, Fight for Feniton’s Future and Cllr Susie Bond.
It will be held at Exeter Airport’s Flybe training academy. For more details see Cllr Susie Bond’s blog here – http://susiebond.wordpress.com/author/susiebond/
The decision of the planning inspector is expected in February.
EDDC local plan examination in public
Then, we are straight into EDDC’s local plan examination in public, which Mr Anthony Thickett, planning inspector, will carry out over three weeks or so, starting on Tuesday 11 February. The event will take place at the Knowle, Sidmouth.
EDDC has been asked to produce a series of topic papers, including on housing and employment, due to be published shortly. Sessions will be broken down in line with various sections of the local plan. Evidence will be heard from both developers (who are largely demanding higher levels of development) and residents (who are mostly requesting lower levels of development). I will be presenting evidence in several areas.
Mr Thickett is expected to submit a report on how sound EDDC’s plan is, whether it needs much or not very much work, shortly afterwards.
This report will be scrutinised intensely by developers and residents. If significant changes are required, the current climate of major speculative planning applications being submitted, is likely to continue. Hopefully, this won’t happen. We will see.
Some time in January or February, the decision of the planning appeal for around 170 houses between Colyford and Seaton, will be published. This is pivotal and is likely to have implications for other major appeals and planning decisions around the district, including at Feniton.
Consultation and decision on a large quarry at Straitgate Farm, between West Hill and Ottery St Mary
Devon County Council will consult residents for the final time before a decision is made on plans for a large sand and gravel quarry of up to around 80-100 acres at Straitgate Farm, being included in the minerals plan.
The Environment Agency and Natural England have both asked for more information on Aggregate Industries proposals to limit the damage that would be caused by disturbing an underground watercourse that is crucial to the survival of ancient woodland at Cadhay Wood and Cadhay Bog. The woodland at Cadhay Bog in particular, is thought could date back to the ice age and may be one of very few examples in the country of “wildwood.”
Currently, there is no date for a consultation or decision, which will be made by Devon County Council’s planning committee, only that it will be this spring.
I will keep you posted….and you can keep up-to-date with quarry news at http://straitgateactiongroup.blogspot.co.uk/
Changes to local health services
There are major changes afoot to our community hospitals in Devon. Plans are being worked up for consultation on new ways of using community hospitals, which are likely to include a loss of beds and perhaps more services. There is less money in the NHS as everywhere else, as it is expected to make high levels of “savings,” despite ministers peddling rhetoric on a “ringfence” around NHS funding.
I am a member of Devon County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee so again, I will keep you posted.
Cuts to youth services
Last autumn we heard broad proposals for youth service funding to be cut, as part of the “tough choices” budget cuts by Devon County Council, which has lost around £110m to the government, in addition to a similar amount being lost in the last council term.
The government appears to be keen to remove money from services that help people – and that are very much needed by people – instead preferring to pour billions of OUR money down the drain on big infrastructure projects such as high speed rail two, which is almost universally opposed … hmm …. oh yes, and on ineffective and cruel badger extermination programmes, which have already cost millions in policing alone.
Firm proposals of where and what the cuts will look like, which will be subject to a short period of consultation, will be announced in the next few weeks. I will publish the news on this blog.
For more information on Devon County Council’s proposals on what and how to slash its budgets see this link – http://www.toughchoices.co.uk/
The list of services to be cut, will no doubt be added to, as the year progresses….
EDDC is also facing a deficit, following government withdrawals of funding, and is currently working up proposals for budget cuts. The overview and scrutiny committee will examine the budget for 2014/15 on Wednesday 15 January, starting at 9am.
The badger cull
The infamous and appalling badger cull could be coming to Devon next, after doing terrible damage in Somerset to community relations. And after wiping out an estimated two thirds of badgers in the county.
DEFRA says that 940 badgers were shot in total, but many others could have been illegally killed.
Bovine TB is a dreadful disease, but culling badgers is ineffective and wrong.
According to the Guardian – article below – illegal shooting, poisoning and gassing of badgers has been reported to police in the counties where official culls are taking place – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/23/badger-cull-illegal-shooting-poisoning-gassing
Badgers are highly protected (well at least they are unless you have a licence to shoot them from DEFRA as part of the so-called cull), but the licence to kill seems to have encouraged those who enjoy slaughtering wildlife, to go out and do so, with considerable enthusiasm.
The NFU chief has today been quoted in the Western Daily Press as saying that the current method of the cull should not be replicated elsewhere. But the last line of the article is chilling in its implication – see story here – http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Madness-extend-badger-cull/story-20356785-detail/story.html
On Twitter earlier this week, a photograph was circulated, which appeared to show live chickens being gassed using chemical foam, as an experimental new way of more “efficiently” killing badgers. The process was being watched by people in white hooded suits from behind a glass screen. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the photo, but I have no reason to believe it was a forgery.
It was the most sinister picture I have seen in a long time.
Motion on banning the badger cull from Devon County Council land
Devon County Council labour councillor, Jill Owen, has lodged an excellent motion urging councillors not to allow any badger cull to take place on Devon County Council owned land. The council owns many farms.
The motion will be discussed at cabinet on 8 January and will be referred to full council for a decision on Thursday 20 February.
A repeal of the hunting ban?
While we are on the subject, some campaign groups are gearing up to battle what appears to be a desire to overturn the hunting ban. Certainly, some MPs, including Neil Parish, have been lobbying hard for the ban to be repealed, as per the wishes of the Countryside Alliance, which claims to speak for people living in rural areas.
I really really hope that the government does not repeal the ban. Bloodsports have always sickened me. But I am worried that they have every intention of doing so, and if their track record continues, they will do so amid claims that wildlife will be protected, just as they pretended that they were protecting our countryside and weren’t gagging charities.
And all the while, the numbers of people visiting foodbanks is rocketing. In Ottery, the demand has doubled in just over one year and is expected to increase further as the welfare reform bill bites.
Donations of non-perishable food products can be made at any of the parish’s churches and Roberts Hardware.
Apologies for such a depressing blog-post. If you like, I can lend you my triple boxette of Call The Midwife for a bit of escapism. However, while the series warms one’s cockles, it also rarely fails to bring a tear to one’s eyes, so perhaps that is not such a cure after all.
Instead I prescribe a dose of Jim Carrey.
Finally, despite the above litany of gloom, my very best wishes to all my blog readers for a very happy, healthy and successful 2014!