The owl returns …..


Shining a light into the darkest corners of East Devon

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“Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”  George Orwell

Moirai – not quite an Oasis in Swindon

We know from various FOIs that EDDC’s Alison Hayward (who has the terribly impressive title of “Strategic Lead – Organisational Development and Transformation) has had a number of meetings with Moirai, EDDC’s (previously??) erstwhile preferred partner for the Splash/Queens Drive development in Exmouth, and that she appears to have been only EDDC officer present at some such meetings.

We also know that six, as yet unidentified, Exmouth Town Councillors had a visit to the Swindon Oasis Leisure centre. This centre appears to have been portrayed as a model of what can be achieved in partnership with Moirai.

In an effort to keep councillors fully informed on all aspects of Moirai, may we draw attention to the latest Private Eye and its Rotten Boroughs column.

It reports:

Swimmers hoping to cool off in Swindon’s Oasis pool have been stricken with a nasty bug called cryptosporidiosis – aka “crypto” – which triggers diarrhoea, fever and nausea. Of some 30 recent cases in the town at least 10 have been positively linked to the Oasis, which is outsourced to Greenwich Leisure Ltd.

Yet the council and Greenwich Leisure kept the pool open for three weeks after being warned there was a problem with the water.

A mother alerted environmental health after her son became ill on 19th July, but the pool was not closed until 12th August.

Public Health England has confirmed that some of the reported cases of infection from the pool date back to May.

This is not unfamiliar ground for Greenwich Leisure. It runs Chesham Leisure Centre in Buckinghamshire on behalf of Chiltern District Council. Eleven children and four adults were hospitalised after swimming there in 2014. An investigation found they had been affected by the chemical content of the water, which Greenwich had failed to test. In the same year 800 residents of Reading signed a petition protesting at the “filthy” Greenwich-run Rivermead leisure centre in the town.

What the Private Eye story doesn’t say is that Moirai run the Oasis at Swindon and that they are still engaged in the possible development of another part of Swindon known as the North Star development.

They used to outsource the day to day management to a company created by two of their directors and called Oasis Operations Ltd.

The two Moirai directors ceased to be directors of Oasis Operations Ltd in February 2013. A Mr Wojeichowski became the sole director and later changed the name to MW Contract Services Ltd. That company went bust in January 2014. Greenwich Leisure subsequently took over the day to day running of Oasis.

Inequality in Devon

Devon amongst best places for pensioners to live:

Torquay one of the worst places to raise a family:


EDF staff reps go to court to get Hinkley C decision to proceed annulled

“Five staff representatives on the board of EDF have filed a legal complaint seeking to annul the utility’s decision to go ahead with its Hinkley Point nuclear project in Britain, EDF unions said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

On July 28, EDF’s board voted 10 to seven to proceed with the 18 billion pound project to build two nuclear reactors. All six staff representatives and one other board member voted against, while one board member resigned in protest against EDF’s strategy.

The unions argue that EDF Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy and representatives of the French state should have informed the board that they knew the British government wanted to take more time to review the contract.

Hours after EDF’s board approved the project, the UK government postponed its decision until early autumn. Days later, in an email to top EDF executives, Levy admitted that the night before the board meeting he had been told new British Prime Minister Theresa May wanted a bit more time.

The nuclear reactors carry huge risks for both France and Britain. EDF will assume the up-front costs, which unions say could jeopardise the firm’s survival, while Britain has committed to pay a price twice current market levels for the power generated by the plant.

“Some board members discovered they did not benefit from the same level of information as the CEO and government representative,” the CGT, CFE-CGC and FO unions said. The moderate CFDT union did not sign the statement.

The unions added there was no justification to push the board to vote on the project in a hurry.

EDF declined to comment on Wednesday.

Law firm Alain Levy, which represents the five union board members, said in a statement it had filed a complaint with the Paris commercial court, asking it to annul the vote because Levy had not shared essential information with all board members.

A first hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept 5.

Source: Reuters

Devon Tory election expenses conflict?

From a correspondent:

West Mercia’s Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Chris Singer was with Devon and Cornwall police until Dec. 2015, the Commander for Plymouth and before that Torbay.

Even if no Election Expenses offence was committed by Alison Hernandez and Kevin Foster, any outcome may be tainted by Devon and Cornwall Police passing that to a force whose ACC was with them at the time of the General Election in May 2015.

Does any potential conflict of interest in passing that investigation to West Mercia risk bringing both constabularies into disrepute?

Indeed, a very good question.

Council record- keeping – an EDDC example

A recent comment on the original article:

“This finding should come as no surprise to EDDC.

In a decision published in January 2004, the Ombudsman found against EDDC in regard to a number of complaints concerning planning matters in Exmouth at Camperdown Terrace. The Ombudsman noted that

‘material relating to the application was misleading and gave no indication that the council was being asked to approve a 6.8 metre high metal boat racking system at the end of their small gardens, nor that the racks would be used for the storage of large motor boats which are moved around the site by a gigantic fork lift truck.‘

Consultees were not provided with sufficient information to make informed comments.

The Council’s record keeping was very poor and there was a failure to give adequate consideration to the points raised by the consultees and others who commented on the application. The Ombudsman found maladminstration causing injustice and recommended that …..

(g) “undertake a review of the record keeping by planning officers and the delegated decision making arrangemnents to ensure that proper records are kept and delegated decisions are made on the basis of written reports, so that those affected may see how a particular decision has been reached.”

The most striking sentence for me is “Consultees were not provided with sufficient information to make informed comments”. Anyone knowing anything about the Exmouth Masterplan consultation, in regard to Elizabeth Hall v Premier Inn, will appreciate how EDDC said one thing meant something quite different, how wanting to see the EH site improved was taken as meaning approval for a Premier Inn. EH is but one of very many examples.

Also, anyone who is familiar with EDDC’s answers to FOIs will be all too familiar with EDDC’s failure to keep proper records of decision making.

The record of this Ombudsman’s finding is no longer available online but I have the 24 page report should anyone want it.”

Seaton Heights – due for completion June 2016 …

With Seaton seemingly on the up these days with its increase in “staycation” visitors, its newly-opened Jurassic Visitor Centre, a new Premier Inn on the way and a new leisure facility about to open, it is time to revisit – yet again – the one remaining large tourist development yet to be created – the hilltop Seaton Heights, the former motel with its breathtaking views down to the sea.

Lyme Bay Leisure – ?owners of Seaton Heights – revamped their website in March this year. They are busy people – offering consultancy services in how to achieve best results in the leisure industry, for example, so perhaps they haven’t had time to review their current web site.

They begin with their usual “buy off plan” spiel:

Lyme Bay Leisure are pleased to announce the release of the first phase of “off plan” luxury “Deck Houses” offered on 999 year leases at their luxury resort in Seaton Devon.

and go on to say:

Once complete the Deck Houses will be supported by “The Gatehouse” a luxury four star leisure facility (opening in June 2016) consisting of a gymnasium and swimming pool with glass fronted views over the bay. A luxury spa with five treatment rooms, sauna, steam and herbal suits (sic) with a therapeutic thermal pool for the ultimate indulgence. The ground floor has (?) a reception, coffee shop and sea facing restaurant providing a wonderful dining experience 7 days a week.”

They seem to have a bit of a problem sorting out present tense and future tense here too:

The first phase of Deck House are [might one day be] a mix of two and three bedroom properties ranging from 93 to 122 square meters all with either integral balconies or roof top terraces to enjoy the wonderful views across the bay. The properties are [might one day be] finished to a high specification with all bedrooms having en-suite facilities and underfloor heating. The kitchen is [might one day be] finished with top of the range Miele appliances and all homes are [might one day be] air-conditioned have solid wood floors and the benefit of their own designated parking space.

and finally”

Discerning purchases (sic) can secure a plot of their choice now for an initial reservation fee of just £1,000, for further details of available plots, terms and conditions and time frames please email our dedicated sales team at

Those “discerning purchaseRs” (note: not purchases!) might want to give the company some very substantial lee-way on that time frame, given that June 2016 is long past with no sign of any development over the last several years, and might also wish to enquire as to the status of that deposit should the venture be further delayed ….

More South West pensioners return to work to make ends meet than anywhere else in England

With low levels of crime, good healthcare and an attractive climate the south coast and south west of England have long been parts of the country where thousands of Britons would love to retire.

But while many people aspire to live out their days in counties such as Dorset, West Sussex and Devon, figures show that fewer than half think they will be able to afford to do so comfortably on their current pensions. …

… The two regions [south and south west] have the highest proportion of pensioners who go back to work full or part time after their careers come to an end, with 34 per cent doing so in the south west and 32 per cent in the south east – more than in any other part of the country.

That contrasts to Yorkshire and Humberside, where only 25 per cent of pensioners carry on working after retirement. …”