The owl returns …..

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EAST DEVON WATCH

Shining a light into the darkest corners of East Devon

Contact us at eastdevonwatch@gmail.com

“Nothing about us, without us, is for us”

owl

Owl belongs to no political party, is not financed by any political party or politically aligned individual or group, but DOES support AUTHENTIC political independence in local politics.

“We can revive Britain’s high streets. But developers stand in the way”

“… there are just fewer and fewer drivers of footfall. You cannot get your hair cut online, so barbers – like nail bars, tattoo parlours and tanning salons – buck the downward trend. But we only need so many of these. Greggs and to-go food stores are buoyant; gyms and takeaways are the only sectors showing double-digit net growth, says PwC. But even that feels precarious. Delivery apps are driving growth in the takeaway sector but, if in-person purchases fall, these could quickly migrate to so-called dark kitchens on industrial estates.

“The reality is we may need fewer high streets in the future,” says a PwC spokesperson. “This opens opportunities to repurpose high street space, while [evolving] to meet consumer demand.”

But what will that look like? In 2011 Mary Portas, retail expert and Cameron-era government consultant, lobbied for an anti-clone-town drive to remodel high streets around independent shops. But bar a few niche fashion, gift or record shops, supermarkets marched relentlessly on. The butcher, baker and candlestick-maker now work in Tesco.

Consequently councils and property developers increasingly want to use food and drink to seed regeneration, many inspired by Altrincham’s Market House. In 2010, 30% of Altrincham’s shops lay empty. In 2014, the Market House opened – a communal dining hall of independent kitchens attached to a speciality market – and, since then, a remarkable ecology of bars, restaurants and coffee shops has evolved around it. Footfall has risen sharply, shop vacancy rates have fallen to 9.7% and brands such as JD Sports and Nando’s have moved into the town’s once-failing shopping area.

Market House’s operator, Nick Johnson, a former board member at property company Urban Splash, claims for the £635,000 it cost (£435,000 came from Trafford council, Johnson contributed the rest) : “It has probably delivered the greatest regeneration outputs of any project in 25 years.”

Little wonder councils love the idea: it allows them to cost-effectively reinvent one of the few central sites they still own, the market.

There are similar schemes in development countrywide. But it will be tough to repeat Altrincham’s success. First, it is a relatively affluent Greater Manchester town bordering Cheshire; and second, Johnson’s unorthodox curation of some exceptional foodie talent (like the artists on his friend Tony Wilson’s Factory records, none of the Altrincham traders have signed contracts) has provided an X factor that councils and developers will find hard to mimic.

There is also something about both the Portas and Altrincham models of handmade, artisan-roasted regeneration that, at their most crude, feel a bit myopically middle class. Mishandled, it can create silos of gentrification that alienate residents. Craft markets are great, but where does your nana buy a new washing line?

If town centres are to shrink and be redrawn, surely the ideal would be to intermingle viable businesses that attract different kinds of customers (in age and socioeconomic status), much as Trafford’s Stretford Mall is trying to blend hip new businesses into its established tenant mix. That fosters social cohesion but, commercially, there is strength in numbers, too – in making it easy to shop at Quality Save and Boots, Greggs and Stretford’s new Food Hall canteen, as mood or budget permits.

Not that this future should always have a commercial imperative. As town centres empty, there is a generational opportunity to reverse the gross monetisation of our public realm. This is a chance to make the principles of placemaking – creating inclusive public spaces where people can enjoy their leisure time without spending money – a reality. Nonprofit arts and cultural organisations forced out by high rents could, likewise, come back into empty shop units (long-term, not as a temporary gesture by developers), to re-engage local people with these spaces – and without it costing them £6 a pint.

But will any of this happen? The short answer is no. Councils do not have the money or the compulsory-purchase powers to radically intervene. Enlightened developers are rare. The patchwork of smaller private landlords who own peripheral space in town centres need to fill their properties, hence the fact that cool cottage industries tend to flourish there, in pockets. But the remote coalition of global property management, pension and investment funds that owns most shopping precincts or malls is, at best, distantly concerned with the local population.

Even if the retail property market crashes (in January, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warned unusually of “potential for significant changes in value”), such owners will consolidate, sell property, bulldoze it and redevelop, and if shopping centres can limp on, they will. Under new permitted development rights, closed high street retail units can now easily be turned into residential property.

Where will those new residents congregate? High streets may yet be reborn as the genuine heart of their communities, protected from commercial pressure, but don’t bet on it – and certainly not online.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/14/britain-high-streets-developers-footfall?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Historic High Street funding winners named”

The south-west, as usual, gets least funding, and, of course, Cranbrook, with no town centre at all, is NOT historic!

“Historic English shopping centres will benefit from a £95m regeneration fund, the government has said.

In all, 69 towns and cities will receive money, with projects aimed at turning disused buildings into shops, houses and community centres.

The largest share of money, £21.1m, will go to the Midlands, with £2m going to restore buildings in Coventry that survived World War Two bombing.

The government said the move would “breathe new life” into High Streets.

The government’s Future High Street Fund is providing £52m of the money, while £40m will come from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). A further £3m is being provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Towns and cities had to bid for the £95m funding, which was first announced in May.

The announcement comes after figures showed that about 16 shops a day closed in the first half of the year as retailers restructure their businesses and more shopping moves online.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC which was behind the research, said retailers had to invest more in making stores “relevant to today’s consumers”, but added that “new and different types of operators” needed encouragement to fill vacant space.

‘Wider regeneration’

The government said the money would “support wider regeneration” in the 69 successful areas by attracting future commercial investment.

“Our nation’s heritage is one of our great calling cards to the world, attracting millions of visitors to beautiful historic buildings that sit at the heart of our communities,” said Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan.

“It is right that we ensure these buildings are preserved for future generations but it is important that we make them work for the modern world.”

Other major projects include a £2m drive to restore historic shop-fronts in London’s Tottenham area, which suffered extensive damage in the 2011 riots.

By region, the funding breaks down as follows:

London and the South East: £14.3m
South West: £13.7m
Midlands: £21.1m
North East and Yorkshire: £17.2m
North West: £18.7m

You can read a full list of the towns and cities that will benefit here

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49692091

but for south-west:

Chard
Cullompton
Gloucester
Keynsham
Midsomer Norton
Plymouth
Poole
Redruth
Tewkesbury
Weston-Super-Mare

“Increasing competition from online outlets is putting High Streets across the country under growing pressure,” said the DCMS.

“As part of the government’s drive to help High Streets adapt to changing consumer habits, the £95m funding will provide a welcome boost.”

Responding to the move, shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said High Streets had been “decimated” by “a decade of Tory austerity”.

He added: “This funding pales in comparison to the £1bn Cultural Capital fund that Labour is committed to, which will boost investment in culture, arts and heritage right across the country, not just a few lucky areas.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49692090

“All eyes on Devon independent politician Claire Wright ahead of pending General Election”

Owl says: it would be tragic if other mainstream parties put up candidates against her which might bring a Tory back to power.

“National political pundits are predicting that independent Devon politician Claire Wright could be about to make history.

It comes after last night’s shock announcement that East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire will not stand in the looming General Election. The Conservative saw his majority dwindle in the 2017 General Election after a serious challenge from independent candidate Ms Wright, who came a close second in the traditional Tory heartland – she gained 36 per cent of the votes with 21,270 votes and Sir Hugo took 48 per cent with 29,306 votes.

New Statesman political correspondent Patrick Maguire, said: “This is fascinating. Apart from North Down, East Devon is just about the only seat in the UK that could plausibly be won by an independent (in this case anti-austerity councillor Clair Wright) at the next General Election.”

Historically very few seats in Parliament have ever been won by candidates with no political party backing.

Although there are currently 31 independents in Parliament, they were all elected as members of different political parties and have later quit.

Today the independent Devon County Councillor for Otter Valley admitted she was shocked when she heard Mr Swire’s announcement that he won’t stand in the upcoming General Election. She said: “I had heard a few rumours but I didn’t believe them. There were no signs – in fact he had been more active in recent weeks.

“I think he knew he would have a stiff challenge.

“I have been preparing with my team for a year and we have recently ramped up our preparations rather swiftly. Now I am excited.”

She has been aware that nationally political pundits have begun to watch her with interest. She said: “It’s always nice to get a tweet from a National journalist. I have noticed on my Twitter feed that national journalists have started following me recently.”

Predicting a November election she said: “This will be my third election and my team and I are ready to build on the two previous elections.

“The momentum in 2017 and the excitement and energy was incredible – it felt then that I could win, and now we are that much further on.

“I was a serious threat. Brian May backed me before the last election as one of his ‘common decency’ election candidates.

“I think East Devon will be close whoever the Conservatives put forward. This is the Tory heartland. East Devon has been Conservative for 150 years. That’s what I’m up against. It’s a huge challenge.

“This will be my third general election and my manifesto will be based on a survey I carried out at the beginning of this year. Hundreds and hundreds of people filled out the survey and I feel confident I know the issues that people are concerned about in East Devon.

“The Conservatives have just been disastrous for the country – they have gone from one crisis to the next. It’s been like watching a slow car crash – and in the last few weeks it’s turned into absolute meltdown.

“The whole Tory agenda is simply about saving their own skin. The rhetoric seems to be about how they can out-Brexit the Brexit party and turn themselves into the new Brexit party.

“The things they should have been focusing on are public services and the environment. Devon County Council has lost £100m from its budget and all the people in Devon have lost out on services as a result of those cuts.”

The anti-austerity councillor is also known for her strong stance on protecting the environment. She said she likes to be totally independent: “I like to plough my own furrow. I don’t want to have to answer to a party and told what my policies are.

Bruce de Saram, chairman of East Devon Conservatives, said: “East Devon Conservatives would like to thank Hugo for his outstanding work as our MP since 2001 and also his service as a Northern Ireland and Foreign Office Minister, where he developed a passion for the Commonwealth among his many other interests.

“Hugo rose to the challenge of being our MP, winning five general elections. He has continually challenged injustice with great passion and been very visible in the constituency, standing up for local residents.

“We are very sorry to say goodbye to him and wish him well for the future.

“We will now begin a process to select a candidate to build on Hugo’s excellent work.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/eyes-devon-independent-politician-claire-3316742

“No-deal Brexit documents reveal UK councils expect food and medicine shortages and civil unrest”

Is this why Swire is jumping ship?

Local authorities are bracing themselves for widespread food, fuel and medicine shortages, civil unrest and job losses in the event that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a deal at the end of October.

Well over half of 63 local authorities nationwide expect a shortage of basic necessities if the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal, according to Freedom of Information requests sent by the People’s Vote campaign.

According to the documents compiled by the campaign:

68% of councils said they expected food shortages.
59% of councils said they were preparing for fuel shortages.
52% expected medicine shortages.
65% are preparing for “civil unrest,” “increased tensions,” and “public disorder.”

https://www.insider.com/no-deal-brexit-documents-reveal-councils-expect-food-shortages-riots-2019-9

Friday competition

Who is this?

“He has continually challenged injustice with great passion and been very visible in the constituency, standing up for local residents.”

“We are very sorry to say goodbye to him and wish him well for the future.

“We will now begin a process to select a candidate to build on Hugo’s excellent work.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/east-devon-conservatives-begin-search-for-election-candidate-1-6268732

Answer – yes, really: Hugo Swire!

The quote is from the (recently very high profile) local Tory Chairman, Bruce de Saram, who has been making his views known on just about everything and anything in East Devon recently.

Coincidence?

Owl says: Swire – justice, visibility, standing up for residents?

Sorry, Mr de Sarum, you’ve confused him with Claire Wright!