“Are we committing ourselves to the slums of the future?”

Those in charge of planning must be asking themselves the same question.
The Town and Country Planning Association’s annual conference raised some of the issues facing EDDC and their planning partners Exeter City and Teignbridge:

Extracted from Planning Resource:

New residential PD rights are ‘heart of darkness’ says TCPA planning chief
27 November 2014 by John Geoghegan , 1 comment

England’s planning system is in its ‘poorest state’ since it was created and needs ‘a fundamental reassessment’, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA)’s head of policy has said.
The TCPA’s Hugh Ellis, speaking at the association’s annual conference in London earlier this week, singled out controversial new permitted development (PD) rights easing the conversion of offices and shops into homes as the “heart of darkness”.

Talking about planning from 2015 onwards, he said: “We need to start again, because we don’t have a system that’s fit for purpose.

“We need a fundamental reassessment of planning in England.

“How can we cease to be an embarrassment in the context of Western Europe on urbanism, on sustainable transport, on design?

“The system is highly deregulated and it seems to be probably in the poorest state since 1947 when it came into being.

Ellis went on to say that “the heart of darkness is the permitted development regime”, which allows commercial premises to be converted into homes without needing planning permission.

The PD rights “unlock two fundamental tenets” of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, he said: the nationalisation of development rights and democratic comprehensive planning.

The development outcomes of the PD rights, he said, “are going to be very poor”, adding: “Are we committing ourselves to the slums of the future?

“Is this really what the fifth-richest country on earth wants to leave as a legacy?”

Speaking earlier, chief planner Steve Quartermain, reading a speech from planning minister Brandon Lewis, said the office-to-residential permitted development rights had “proved to be successful” and were helping to deliver new homes on brownfield land.

Calling for more ambition, Ellis said a new purpose for planning was needed so that it is “outcome-led” rather than “process-led”, with its social purpose restored.

His wishlist for the next government included a national plan and the reintroduction of the New Towns Act with 10 areas designated for new settlements. Ellis also called for and an update to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and better building standards.

Elsewhere, Chris Tinker, regeneration chairman of housebuilder Crest Nicolson, said developers faced problems dealing with neighbourhood planning and had little representation in the process.

“So you have a system of land allocation being done without the deliverer,” he said.

Tinker also said it was beyond the resources of housebuilders like Crest to deliver a garden city or large urban extension, something that would require the government to lead on.

Local and neighbourhood planning would never deliver the major housing sites of 10-15,000 homes, he added.

Other speakers, including Alice Lester, programme manager at the Planning Advisory Service (PAS), expressed support for a national spatial plan.

But shadow communities secretary Hillary Benn, speaking later, confirmed that the Labour Party had no plans to introduce such a plan if it came to power in next year’s general election.

Labour would “leave in place” the NPPF, said Benn, though it would strengthen its requirement to build homes on previously-used brownfield land.

Under a Labour government, “every community must take responsibility for meeting its own housing need”, said Benn, and would be given tools to make sure schemes granted planning condition are actually built out by developers.

Oh, oh! East Devon District Council wants no more cuts and more powers

“… COUNCIL leaders from Devon are among more than 100 English council bosses who’ve publicly opposed further cuts in their funding.

The leaders who have demanded in an open letter more powers be devolved from Westminster included West, North and East Devon district councils. …

… In a letter to the Observer the leaders – including many Tories and some mayors – said English voters would not accept greater devolution to Scotland if a transfer did not also take place in England, adding “It’s England’s turn now”.

… The Observer letter has 121 signatories in total. It is signed by senior Local Government Association (LGA) figures including chairman David Sparks, along with 65 Labour council leaders, 40 Conservative leaders, 10 Liberal Democrat leaders and one independent
Source: http://www.torquayheraldexpress.co.uk/Devon-councils-demand-spending-cuts/story-24921724-detail/story.html

Do we REALLY want the council, with its current power base, in charge of more of our hard-earned money? If EDDC was a bank might we be looking to change to a better one?

‘Enforcement action is being considered’ in the Ware Farm case

The delegated report re the failed application by Graham Brown for a ‘certificate of lawfulness’ can now be seen on the EDDC planning website.

Some issues that make this of interest to the general public, are raised at this link: https://eastdevonwatch.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/express-and-echo-reports-on-concerns-about-browns-application/

50% of EDDC staff to be made redundant?

In Cabinet papers is the following:

...”In the interim, Exmouth Town Hall has been vacated by Devon County Council Services and represents a new opportunity within the relocation … new HQ in Honiton can be restricted in size and cost to a 170 desk equivalent scale with an improved Exmouth Town Hall for 80 EDDC staff ...”

This is a total of 250 full-time equivalent staff

Click to access 031214-cabinet-agenda-public-version.pdf

According to this link, there are around 500 current full-time equivalent staff currently employed by EDDC


Does this mean that 50% of staff will be made redundant in the next two or three years? And if 50% of staff are to be lost, surely the newer part of Knowle offices would accommodate the rest as EDDC has made it clear that for much of the time, some staff will be constantly on the road or hot-desking?

Or will so many people be working so often from home that they will have to declare this for tax purposes?

Or is it yet another case of figures not making sense? Or the new reality of how the move must be funded in these austerity days?

Positively the last word(s) on culling politicians and councillors!











Another bit of help for our struggling councillors

When you finally settle on your new HQ (it sometimes seems in East Devon that as well as a Gypsy and Travellers Policy there should be an Itinerant Council HQ policy) do be careful that

a) if you have to tender, you check the rules
b) use this handy checklist to make sure that the companies tendering are not bid-rigging, which seems to be a particular problem in public sector procurement. So big that there is actually a hotline to report it.

Better safe than sorry.

Click to access Bid_rigging_-_advice_on_procurement.pdf

Phil Twiss worried about Tory councillors being assaulted in car parks

This is a reply from Phil Twiss to an elector who wondered whether Councillor Twiss might have over-reacted somewhat to the (correct) use of the word “cull” by a commentator on the blog of Independent Councillor Claire Wright (bold lettering ours). The letter to which this is a reply is below Councillor Twiss’s response:

“Dear (Voter)

The Conservative Party takes all threats of violence or incitement to violence very seriously and will always take appropriate action (no matter how innocuous or isolated/infrequent they may seem to casual observers like yourself) on a better safe than sorry footing. There are no exceptions to this and whilst the problem is more frequent with higher profile politicians (particularly during election periods) it is none the less a problem at all levels. I was election agent for Neil Parish M.P. during the 2010 General election and speak from a position of experience and it is pretty unpleasant.

Following concerns expressed by fellow EDDC Councillors on the precise wording of the comment made on Claire Wrights blog site yesterday as Secretary of the EDDC Conservative Group (a quite distinct role from Party Whip) I asked that it was removed which it was. A complaint was then made to Devon and Cornwall constabulary about the person who submitted the comment and where it was published; this is now subject to police investigation. The police have confirmed that this was the correct course of action to take and if after investigation they conclude there is no problem then that is the end of the matter.

As an illustration of a regrettable and unfortunate aside you may have read that a Councillor was recently attacked in Coventry by three people over a car parking issue, see http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/coventry-city-councillor-attacked-car-8191149 which is also the kind of function EDDC deal with and therefore why this kind of threat is unsettling to our Group members.

I make no apology for this apparently uncompromising position which has absolutely nothing to do with the size of the EDDC Conservative Group.”


T: 01404 891327
M: 07971 871651

Web: http://www.tivertonhonitonconservatives.co.uk

One has to hope that the police are more widely read than Mr Twiss.

Here is the original letter to Mr Twiss

“Cllr Twiss,

What on earth has made the majority party, (of which you are not the Whip so why are you reacting on their behalf?) so twitchy as to provoke your over-the-top language and threatening behaviour towards Cllr Wright?

I suggest you read the East devon Alliance website where you will see quotations from Messr Cameron, Clegg and Robinson all using the word cull in the sense of reduction in numbers, not as mass murder.

An apology to Cllr Wright for the threat would be in order if you are man enough.”

Sidmouth District Councillors invited to meet the public at Open Meeting (Tues evening, 9th Dec)

Knowle and the Local Plan will be the main topics for discussion. Details here http://saveoursidmouth.com/2014/11/28/public-open-meeting-in-sidmouth-tues-9th-dec-at-7pm-our-local-district-councillors-have-been-invited/

Twiss to report Cameron, Miliband and Clegg to Metropolitan Police?

In each of these articles the jounalist uses the word “cull” in relation to David Cameron, David Miliband and Nick Clegg




Who should be reported to the police: the journalists or the Leaders?

Councillor Twiss gets his dictionary in a Twiss!

I honestly wish we had made this up!

Councillor Phil “I have never been and I am not currently the EDDC Tory Party Whip” Twiss is reporting Independent Councillor Claire Wright to Devon and Cornwall Police for publishing a comment on her blog, from a contributor, which suggested that Tory councillors should be culled (i.e. reduced in number)!

I think poor old Phil has been spending too much time with seagulls and not enough time reading his papers! As Paul Arnott (in his private capacity) said in his response to this news on Claire Wright’s blog:

Cull” is a commonly used expression which in a political context means “reduce”. When the BBC’s Nick Robinson talks of a cull of Labout MPs in Scotland after the next election nobody imagines them being chased across grouse moors with shotguns. … Do the people of Honiton St Michaels really want their member to be wasting police time like this?

But the serious side of this is how dirty local politics has now become. Mainstream parties are now not just rattled but panic-stricken at the once unbelievable (to them) idea that they would not rule forever.

EDDC: Please stop calling it “Plan B” – there was no Plan B!

It is NOT Plan B!


1. You did not factor into your Skypark choice that the supermarket destined for Honiton might change its plans (evidence: you told tenants of the East Devon Business Centre to start looking for new premises).

2. You did not know at the start of your deliberations that there would be space at Exmouth Town Hall (evidence: Devon County Council only recently announced that it would be vacating its space at Exmouth Town Hall).

3. If Exmouth had really been a viable alternative to Skypark, EDDC would have investigated the Rolle College site.

And, surely, with the empty space at Exmouth Town Hall, DCC is charged with getting best value for it. How can EDDC be sure of securing it?

Still, EDDC can always rent a few rooms at the Premier Inn!

Another loophole to avoid “Section 106” payments

S 106 payments are payable by developers to offset the disadvantages of their developments. They pay for such things as play areas or new facilities for residents. Developers do not like them (though they like Community Infrastructure Levy even less as it is a fixed cost per square metre and harder to get out of, especially when they are trumpeting the size of their luxury houses).

But, fear not developers, one of your number has worked out how to avoid shelling out on some S 106 payments:


Might a betting company open the odds on which East Devon developer will be first to take advantage of this newly-created loophole? So many to choose from!

“Real Power” to Exmouth with EDDC move

… or just a touchdown hot-desk base for those ever-roving, lower-level employees destined to roam the outer reaches of the district for ever whilst their Lords and Masters enjoy life in their new Honiton HQ.

Could “working for EDDC at Exmouth” become the new Siberia?


Left hand, right hand, upper hand, under hand – or no hand at all?

The agenda for the Cabinet next week makes reference to:

The Office Accommodation Executive Group,
the Office Accommodation Project Executive Group and the
Member Executive Group.

We have heard only of a fourth group: the “Office Relocation Working Party”.

Is the “Member Executive Group” a jargon phrase for the Cabinet?

Why does it seem there no less than FOUR groups working in this: Secret, Top Secret, MI5 Secret and So-Secret-That-Don’t Officially Exist secret perhaps!

Or is it just one group with four names or three groups with two names or two groups with one nameor 4 groups with four names? My head hurts.

Or no groups at all – just one or two people working without supervision calling themselves whatever name seems good on the day?

Or, is it a case of divide and rule, more groups les information? Or just plain old incompetence?

It gets easier and easier to see how omnishambles happen!

Is this why Skypark fell apart?

Page 42 of next week’s cabinet papers:

“Also, a key plus point regarding Skypark was the prospect of a turn-key guaranteed maximum price arrangement to completion of a new HQ that would minimise uncertainty and reduce risk”.

This reads as if EDDC were expecting their new HQ to be constructed (by whom?)ready to move into at a fixed price (turn-key). They say in their paperwork that it was only after “due diligence” and a “legal opinion” on 4 June 2014 that a situation about the need to take account of EU regulations was revealed, coincidentally around the time that the supermarket was reducing the price it was prepared to pay for the Heathpark site.

Of course, we cannot know what went wrong for sure as all costs and cost deliberations have been kept secret not only from the public but also from the majority of councillors of all parties.

This debacle urgently needs Overview and Scrutiny and/or Audit and Governance intervention – and possibly a report by internal and/or external auditors so that those involved can learn from their mistakes and other councillors can understand what was being done in their name and work out how to stop it happening in future.

Presumably the Cabinet will recommend one or more of these actions at their meeting next week.

Why didn’t they ask almost anyone but EDDC councillors and officers? The signs were there …

9 February 2014 from EDA website:

Local residents, EDDC’s own watchdog committee, and own staff defied

The Cabinet of the East Devon District Council has selected Skypark as its preferred site for its headquarters. If the decision is approved by the full Council on 26th February, officers would carry out further research into the viability of the move. Marketing of the Knowle would begin “promptly”. A final decision would be taken in the summer. No financial details of the proposed move were announced to justify the decision to leave the Knowle in favour of a site which, currently, has poor transport links and certainly does not fit the Council’s claims that its District headquarters should be somewhere more central than Sidmouth. 

The East Devon Alliance deplores this choice, and EDDC’s undemocratic insistence on a project which has no clear financial justification. As Head of the Relocation Team, Richard Cohen , admitted to the Council’s own Scrutiny Committee recently, he has not asked the Head of Finance for “a full breakdown of the costs”. And yet, in addition to the substantial expenses already incurred (well over £350,000), the Council plans to set aside a further £400,000 of tax payers’ money over the next two years, just for preparations.

EDA Chairman Ian McKintosh says, “Economically, this is not the time to rush ahead with a massive spending of public funds, on a move that is widely regarded as imprudent.” Coherent arguments in favour of retaining the Knowle have been ridiculed by the Leadership, without serious debate. Sidmouth resident Robin Fuller’s detailed suggestions for refurbishment of the existing purpose-built buildings, and possible sale or conversion of the historic former hotel, were patronisingly dismissed by Councillor Diviani in just two words, as “Fuller’s Folly?”.
From Save our Sidmouth 27 February 2014

“A Full Council meeting last night, that began with repeated warnings from senior Councillors about tough financial times ahead, terminated with a swift show of Tory hands which will result in a multi-million pound spend of public funds. The marketing of the Knowle, and pushing on with the relocation ‘ambition’, were voted mindlessly through with the Cabinet minutes.

Independent Councillor, Ben Ingham, had shrewdly said earlier,”I do not believe you know what you are doing”. Debate had been initiated by Independent Councillor Claire Wright and colleagues, but was persistently stifled by the Tories, with some appalling personal attacks and as Councillor Roger Giles had to point out in one instance, downright lies. The Council’s audio recording of the meeting will make interesting listening.”

From Sidmouth Independent News 27 February 2014

SIN hears from reliable sources that Leader, Paul Diviani’s poor performance on Good Morning Devon this week, has alarmed councillors.

Cllr Diviani was clearly rattled by Matt Woodley’s reference to the “relocation fiasco” and floundered badly when trying to justify the Cabinet’s proposal to move to a business park on the edge of Exeter.

He failed to address Cllr Claire Wright’s comments on the same programme that it was a reckless suggestion at a time of austerity that would export East Devon jobs to Exeter and make it more difficult for residents to visit the offices.

“It is a business that we run”, he said and made the promise that if people can’t visit the new HQ “we will visit them” (SIN –How much will that cost?) His only comment on the financial aspect of the move was that “the cost has shifted around a bit”!

He bumbled on, seeming to argue that because he had to travel a long way from his Yarcombe home to Skypark, lesser mortals could be expected to bear some hardship as well.

 Sceptics are beginning to wonder if the choice of Skypark for EDDC’s HQ move is an attempt to bale out one of the leader’s pet projects. The huge new business park  site is  rumoured to be rather short of eager tenants.



Knowle relocation and EU Regulations: the questions that Overview and Scrutiny and/or Audit and Governance probably won’t ask

In Cabinet papers:

“On 4 June 14, Cabinet agreed that specialist expertise be commissioned to advise on the specialist area of European procurement, relating to Skypark. This advice has confirmed that a European procurement process for site acquisition and development was likely to be required, with additional cost and associated delay. Since June, however, as the body of the report explains, Skypark has in any case become less affordable due to the reduction in projected capital receipts likely to be available for the office relocation project.”

So, how come that for around 3 years no-one spotted that the new HQ project would require that it be done under EU regulations to promote fair competition and that this would result in additional costs?

What was EDDC planning to do that would have fallen foul of the regulations?

Who spotted it and how?

How much did the expert advice cost?

Why did the Relocation Manager not spot it earlier – wasn’t he recruited as an expert in these matters at huge cost?

Why is the construction of a new HQ in Honiton not under the same rules (or is it)?

Has anyone checked?

Why was Skypark dependent on the “all eggs in one basket” approach that fell at the first hurdle when the supermarket lowered its offer?

Was this included in the risk assessment?

Was there a risk assessment?

Whose head will roll?

And for future reference councillors and officers, here are the thresholds above which strict EU procurement guidelines are mandatory:


We like to be helpful where we can.