So Hugo Swire says he can’t influence planning decisions – that’s odd because …

…. look what he says on his website: “On Thursday 19 February, local MP Hugo Swire officially opened the new premises of Sheds Direct Devon – a manufacturer of quality garden buildings, ranging from sheds to garden studios, now based between Broadclyst and Whimple. Sheds Direct Devon Limited was previously based in Ebford, Nr Topsham, but owner Leigh Perry decided to look for bigger premises in order to accommodate a sharp increase in orders. Mr Perry found his ideal premises in Wards Cross, Broadclyst, Nr Whimple, well over a year ago but was initially prevented from moving by EDDC as the factory was not on a bus or cycle route. However, following the intervention of East Devon MP Hugo Swire, the council reversed their decision and allowed Mr Perry and his team to move. Commenting, Mr Swire said: ‘I was absolutely delighted to open the new premises of Sheds Direct Devon’. ‘Sheds Direct Devon has grown exponentially over the past two or three years and this excellent new factory will give the business the space to expand even further’. ‘I am proud of the small part that I played in persuading EDDC that allowing Sheds Direct Devon to relocate would be beneficial to the local area, not detrimental. We really should be doing all that we can to help local businesses to grow and take on more staff’. Sheds Direct Devon Limited’s owner Leigh Perry said: ‘It seemed apt that Hugo Swire performed the official opening of our wonderful new premises as we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. He was instrumental in getting EDDC to reconsider their decision and we are certainly grateful to him for that’.

Shame you couldn’t help the rest of us with the Local Plan, Mr Swire.


Progress update on Village Plan and EDDC Plan

From Save Clyst St Mary organiser, Gaeron Kayley:

‘A big thank you to everyone that attended the meeting with Hugo Swire last week. A number of questions came up regarding our neighbourhood plan and our local plan.

Please See the update from Mike Howe regarding our local Plan below*.

Please also see our poster advertising the neighbourhood plan, where you can view and have your say on our Parish. Click here to open Exhibition poster (1) . (Saturday 7th March at Clyst St Mary School 10am- 4pm, 10th March Cat and Fiddle Inn 10am-Noon & Sowton Village Hall 6pm-9pm)’

*email fromMike Howe:

The production of the SHMA has unfortunately been a long and drawn out process. There are 6 key stages to the production of the SHMA. These are:

Definition of the housingmarket area

Understanding household projections

Addressing Market Signals

Addressing Housing Backlog

Measuring Affordable Housing Need

Future Employment and Economic Growth Assumptions and Aspirations

A so-called draft SHMA was sent through from the consultants in August 2014 after they had completed only the first two stages of the process. This information was communicated to Members via a report to Development Management Committee on the 26th August 2014 and an all Members briefing note on the 27th August 2014. This report and briefing note made it clear that the information available so far simply

modelled housing numbers based on historic trends and that without taking account of factors such as the backlog of affordable housing need and projecting future employment and economic growth the information was largely meaningless. No further draft SHMA information has been made available to any Members since that time indeed until the SHMA process is complete and all factors have been taken into account any data would have been misleading. I appreciate that this delay has been highly frustrating for all of us but we have been entirely dependent on consultants to carry out this work. Given the expertise required and the need to consider data from all of the authorities within the housing area there was no other option than to use external consultants on this work. Unfortunately, it has taken them much longer than envisaged.

In advance of receipt of the final SHMA Mid-Devon District Council have proceeded with production and consultation on their Local Plan. It is understood that their work is based on the draft SHMA data that all of the participating authorities received in August 2014 and some subsequent employment projections. Mid-Devon do not have any additional data than we do, however their position is slightly more straight forward as they do not have a growth point and therefore it is easier to predict factors such as future job growth in Mid-Devon than it is here in East Devon. Clearly there are risks associated with Mid-Devon’s approach however this is not our concern as we must focus on delivering our own Local Plan.

I am pleased to say that the SHMA work is now complete and only yesterday a draft report was provided by the consultants to officers of the commissioning authorities. The work now needs to be considered by officers and any queries raised with the consultants before the report can be finalized and published. This will happen in the next week to 10 days. We envisage publishing the SHMA in a co-ordinated way between the authorities and their respective Members with the report being sent to Members slightly in advance of wider publication.

The SHMA was the remaining key piece of evidence that enables us to produce an objectively assessed housing need for the district and move forward with the Local Plan. We had previously envisaged that the upcoming election would prevent progress being made until May however the Inspector has made it clear that he expects to see the proposed changes to the Local Plan by mid-April and we must adhere to the timescale that he has set as the process moving forward is led by the inspector.

Our time line now looks like this:

 Early March – Publication of the SHMA

 By end of March (pre-purdah) – DMC and full council meeting to consider

revisions to the Local Plan including proposed housing numbers

 Submission of revisions to Inspector immediately following incorporation of

any changes following full council

 Inspector provides questions upon which to seek views through consultation

 Consultation commences (mid-April)

 Consultation ends (end May)

 Oral examination sessions reconvene (August/September)

 Local Plan adoption by end of year

New procurement rules for Local Authorities

… Contracting authorities are required to ensure that any new procurement opportunities, above thresholds, are published on Contracts Finder (in addition to, or instead of, any other portal or publications route they may currently use).

Once a contract has been awarded as a result of a procurement process, contracting authorities must also publish details of who has won the contract, the contract value, and for procurements below the EU thresholds, indicate whether the winning supplier is a small business or voluntary sector organisation.

3. Thresholds for publishing opportunities

The threshold for publishing is £10,000 contract value, for central government and £25,000 contract value, for non central government contracting authorities.

Click to access Guidance_on_the_new_transparency_requirements_for_publishing_on_contracts_finder.pdf

Hypocritical, Councillor Diviani? You bet!

“In a budget speech on Wednesday, district council leader Paul Diviani said he was proud of the authority’s cap on the charge, which is the lowest in Devon.

[After saying council tax would be frozen this year Councillor Diviani] added: “I intend again to recommend we freeze our members’ allowances for next year, as we cannot expect our people to understand why we should consider our circumstances to be any different from the majority of the population of East Devon.”

But, Leader Diviani, your circumstances are VERY different to ours – you are about to move into a multi-million pound suite of new and unnecessary offices paid for by US. How does that square with the above comment?

AND frozen council tax is achieved only by (a) cutting services (b) selling off assets or (c) a combination of (a) and (b).

(It hasn’t been achieved by cutting staff: EDDC is one of few local authorities that has increased staff numbers over the past 4 years of austerity).

“The Myth of the Housing Crisis” – Sir Simon Jenkins (Chair, National Trust)

Article in “The Spectator” by Sir Simon Jenkins, quoted in full:

“We’re destroying green belts and despoiling villages for the sake of a moral crusade based on developers’ propaganda:
There is no such thing as the English countryside. There is my countryside, your countryside and everyone else’s. Most people fight just for theirs. When David Cameron told the BBC’s Countryfile he would defend the countryside ‘as I would my own family’, many of its defenders wondered which one he meant. In the past five years a national asset that public opinion ranks with the royal family, Shakespeare and the NHS, has slid into trench warfare. Parish churches fill with protest groups. Websites seethe with fury. Planning lawyers have never been busier. The culprit has been planning reform.

My files burst with reports from the front, each local but collectively a systematic assault on the appearance of rural England. In Gloucestershire, Berkeley Castle gazes across the vale of the Severn to the Cotswolds as it has since the middle ages. It is now to face fields of executive homes. Thamesside Cookham is to be flooded not by the river but by 3,750 houses. The walls of Warwick Castle are to look out over 900 houses. The ancient town of Sherborne must take 800.

So-called ‘volume estates’ — hundreds of uniform properties rather than piecemeal growth — are to suburbanise towns and villages such as Tewkesbury, Tetbury, Malmesbury, Thaxted, Newmarket, Great Coxwell, Uffington, Kemble, Penshurst, Hook Norton, Stow-on-the-Wold, Mevagissey, Formby. Every village in Oxfordshire has been told to add a third more buildings. Needless to say there is no local option.

Developer lobbyists and coalition ministers jeer at those who defend what they regard as ‘chocolate-box England’. But did Cameron mean so radically to change the character of the English village and country town? These are not just chocolate boxes. The list embraces the country round Durham, Gateshead, Rotherham, Salford, Redditch, Lincoln and Sandbach. Such building will ‘hollow out’ town centres. Three-quarters of hypermarket approvals are now out of town, even as this market collapses. The green belt is near meaningless. The Campaign to Protect Rural England estimates some 80,000 units are now proposed for greenbelt land.

The coalition’s planning policy was drafted in 2011 by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles’s ‘practitioner advisory group’. This group is a builders’ ramp, composed of Taylor Wimpey and others. Councils were told that either they could plan for more building or it would proceed anyway. Brownfield preference was ended. Journey-to-work times were disregarded. Fields could sprout unregulated billboards. ‘Sustainable’ development was defined as economic, then profitable.

The draft proved so bad it had to be amended. But the disregard of local wishes and bias against rural conservation remained. As with siting of wind and solar installations, the centre knew best. Whereas 80 per cent of new building before 2010 had been on serviced land within settlements, this has now shrunk to half.

The most successful tactic of the rural developers was the hijacking of ‘the housing crisis’. They claimed the crisis could only be ended by building in open country, even when their wish was for ‘executive homes’. This ideal of land lying enticingly ‘free’ for homeless people acquired the moral potency of the NHS.

Housing makes politicians go soft in the head. An old Whitehall saw holds that England ‘needs’ 250,000 new houses a year, because that is how many households are ‘formed’. The figure, a hangover from wartime predict-and-provide, takes no account of occupancy rates, geography of demand, migration or housing subsidy, let alone price. Everyone thinks they ‘need’ a better house.

Yet this figure has come to drive a thousand bulldozers and give macho force to ideologues of left and right, whose ‘own’ countryside is somewhere in France or Italy. Few Britons are homeless. Most enjoy living space of which the Japanese can only dream. Yet the Economist magazine cites the 250,000 figure at every turn. The Institute of Economic Affairs wails that housing has become ‘unaffordable for young people’. A recent FT article declared, ‘The solution to the housing crisis lies in the green belt.’

This is all nonsense. The chief determinant of house prices is wealth, subsidy and the supply of money. During the credit boom, prices soared in America and Australia, where supply was unconstrained. Less than 10 per cent of Britain’s housing market is in new building. Although clearly it is a good thing if more houses are available, there is no historical correlation between new builds and price.

Neil Monnery’s Safe as Houses is one of the few sane books on housing economics. It points out that German house prices have actually fallen over half a century of steady economic boom. The reason is that just 43 per cent of Germans own their own homes, and rarely do so under the age of 40. The British figure hovers between 60 and 80 per cent. Germans are content to rent, a more efficient way of allocating living space. They invest their life savings elsewhere, much to the benefit of their economy.

The curse of British housing, as another economist, Danny Dorling, has written, is not under-supply but under-occupancy. In half a century, Britons have gone from ‘needing’ 1.5 rooms each to needing 2.5 rooms each. This is partly caused by tax inducements to use houses as pension funds, partly by low property taxes and high stamp duty on transfers. Britain, Dorling says, has plenty of houses. It just uses them inefficiently, though high prices are now at last shifting the market back to renting.

London’s housing has been ‘in crisis’ for as long as I can remember. Yet its under-occupancy is remarkable. Famously its annual growth could fit into the borough of Ealing if it was developed at the density of inner Paris. The agents Stirling Ackroyd have identified space in the capital for 500,000 new houses without encroaching on its green belt. The reality is that housing ‘need’ (that is, demand) is never met in booming cities, only in declining ones.

This has nothing to do with building in the countryside. Past policies aimed at ‘out-of-town’ new towns and garden cities merely depopulated cities and duplicated infrastructure. Central Liverpool and Manchester (like Shoreditch) numbered their voters in hundreds rather than tens of thousands. A rare architect wise to these things, Lord Rogers, recently wrote that this led to ‘new town blues, lifeless dormitories, hollowed-out towns and unnecessary encroachment on green sites’. Sprawl was about profit, not planning.

The answer to housing a rising population has to lie in towns and cities, in reducing the pressure on commuting and raising the efficiency of infrastructure. Cities are where people and jobs are, and where services can be efficiently supplied. England’s urban population per acre is low by world standards, half that of New York or Paris, yet even so its housing occupancy is low. A boost to urban densities — not just empty towers along the Thames — is a sensible ‘green’ policy.

England’s countryside will clearly change over time. Its occupants no longer farm it, and are more often retired or commuters. Yet its amenity is clearly loved by the mass of people who visit, enjoy, walk and play in it. Its beauty in all weathers remains a delight of living and moving about in this country. England made a mess of its cities after the war. The rural landscape is its finest environmental asset.

Any civilised society regulates the market in scarce resources, including those of beauty. It guards old paintings, fine buildings, picturesque villages, mountains and coasts. England is the most crowded of Europe’s big countries, yet a past genius for policing the boundary between town and country has kept 80 per cent of its surface area still visually rural in character. This has been crucially assisted by the 14 urban green belts created in the 1950s by a Conservative, Duncan Sandys.

I am sure the way forward is to treat the countryside as we do urban land. It should be listed and conserved for its scenic value — as it is for its quality as farmland. I would guess this would render sacrosanct a ‘grade one’ list of roughly three quarters of rural England, to be built on only in extremity. The remaining grades would enjoy the protection of a ‘presumption against development’, but a protection that would dwindle down the grades to ‘of limited local value’.

One feature of such listing is that green belts could be redefined. Those of minimal amenity value would be released in favour of belt extension elsewhere. It is stupid to guard a muddy suburban field while building over the flanks of the Pennines.

In making these judgments we need to rediscover the language of landscape beauty, fashioned by the sadly deceased Oliver Rackham and others. Without such language, argument is debased and money rules. The policy of ‘let rip’, adopted by both major parties at present, means that England’s countryside is having to fight for each wood and field alone. At which point I say, praise be for nimbys.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 28 February 2015

Did full council reject a proposal that relocation decision should be postponed until after elections in May? Decide for yourself

In an article in the Express and Echo, a “council spokesperson said: “At full council in December, Members rejected a proposal that the decision should be postponed until after the election and tasked the deputy chief executive with continuing to progress the project.”

This is not strictly true. The minutes of that meeting included a proposal (below) that set out the steps that needed to be taken to progress a possible relocation but no mention whatsoever was made in those minutes of the need to settle the matter before the district council elections in May 2015.

In December 2014, EDDC Tories were presumably confident that they would continue to be the majority party after May 2015. It is only since developments AFTER that date (significantly the formation of the East Devon Alliance support network for a large number of independent candidates for district council) that the Executive body appears to have taken the decision (when?, where?) to accelerate and merge meetings to try to force this decision through before the cut-off date of the end of March 2015.

Here are the specific minutes:

1. that the emerging changes to the relocation project be recognised and the

following be agreed:

The marketing exercise for Knowle and Manstone has resulted in a range of offers and, following a detailed assessment process, price, form and quality of development propositions have been received that merit further detailed negotiation towards selection of a preferred developer.

Leading offers for Knowle do not include options to sell Manstone in which case EDDC can choose to retain Manstone for the foreseeable future as a depot function and continued employment use.

The reduced offer for EDDC’s Heathpark site no longer represents a sufficiently persuasive level of capital receipt and will not be pursued further.

The retention of Heathpark in EDDC ownership means that this now represents the most cost effective and straightforward location to develop a new headquarters building for the Council.

Relocation to Skypark is no longer a viable proposition based on the reduced offer for Heathpark and combination of Knowle market value and prudential borrowing.

The East Devon Business Centre (EDBC) should preferably be retained and could potentially be combined within a new EDDC HQ development.

In the interim,Exmouth Town Hall has been vacated by Devon County.

A 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 as a main satellite office in the district’s largest community.

As part of its commitment to more mobile working and accessibility, the Council will offer a service presence as customers require in future at locations elsewhere in the district.

That relocation continues to make financial and operational sense on a whole life cost basis, specifically 20-year projections combining capital receipt and repayment of prudential borrowing versus existing office running cost and unfunded expenditure on existing building repair, maintenance and improvement.

that the Deputy Chief Executive, in consultation with the Office Accommodation Executive Group, be authorised to take forward further actions in pursuit of the above recommendations and Project Plan,

that further reports be produced for Cabinet and Council on project progress and to seek formal approval for any disposal of Knowle;

that a thorough examination of all facts and figures in respect of the relocation be carried out by:

a) The Audit and Governance Committee

b) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee

c) The internal auditors

d) The independent external auditors


“Anyone who has a ruler” can check mistakes made by EDDC’s relocation team, Full Council told.

The question from the public at last night’s Full Council meeting, was from Richard Eley, of Save Our Sidmouth. He called for an apology from EDDC to Sidmouth resident Robin Fuller, whose study of the modern buildings at Knowle had shown that the size had been seriously understated by the Office Relocation team led by Richard Cohen. Mr Fuller was right, and EDDC should therefore apologise for not taking his findings into account. The buildings were “40% larger than you were told”, claimed Mr Eley. This was not a small error, he continued, and warned, “Imagine what a judge at a Judicial Review would make of that”.

More on the Full Council meeting to follow.