Sidmouth Mill Street “car park” – the latest scandal

“District councillor Matt Booth, a Sidmouth town ward member, said the first he saw of the ‘bombshell’ Mill Street proposals was in the Herald – and claimed the authority showed a ‘lack of transparency’.

Mr Booth claimed: “It has a problem of transparency and accountability – and it can’t go on ignoring that.

“It does a disservice to the councillors and officers who do such fantastic work. It’s also massively disrespectful to us as ward members – we weren’t consulted.”

Cllr Booth said he and Councillor Cathy Gardner had met EDDC chief executive Mark Williams two months ago to talk about how the section 106 funding would be spent. Cllr Booth said they discussed potential affordable housing on the Manstone Depot site or in Woolbrook Road – but claimed Mill Street car park was never mentioned.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “We would like to emphasise that this is very early days in the decision-making process and that absolutely nothing has yet been agreed.

“There will be a fully transparent and participative debate about how people would like to see this important site used to its best advantage in the tow

And follow Sidmothian conversations here:

Exmouth seafront meeting today

Save Exmouth Seafront are holding a public meeting on Saturday 26th September at 2.00pm in All Saints Church Hall, Exeter Road, Exmouth EX8 1QD. This meeting will be chaired by Lympstone Councillor Ben Ingham, Leader of both the East Devon Alliance and the opposition group of Independent Councillors at EDDC.

If you are interested in what is happening to Exmouth Seafront and would like your views to be considered, please come along and show your support and think about offering them help if you possibly can.

Discussion about the campaign and more information about Save Exmouth Seafront can be found at:

A press release from Save Exmouth Seafront has been reported by the Exeter Express and Echo here.


“The other generation rent”

“The number of individuals forced to flatshare well into their 40s has risen dramatically, with figures showing a surge in middle-aged renters priced out of the property market and with little choice but to live with strangers.

Between 2009 and 2014, the number of flatsharers aged between 35 and 44 rose by 186%, according to Spareroom, the UK’s biggest flatshare website, while the number of sharers aged 45 to 54 went up by 300%.

Most are locked out of buying by soaring house prices, but also find that renting their own property is unaffordable. Average rents across Britain have gone up by 10.5% over the past year, far ahead of the rise in earnings, with the typical London rent now £1,558 a month, and close to £1,000 across much of the south of England. Tenants are typically handing over 50% of their salaries to landlords, rising to 72% in the capital.” …..

“Bank of England concerns over buy-to-let boom”

“The growing buy-to-let property market in the UK could post a threat to wider financial stability, a Bank of England committee has said.

Buy-to-let mortgage lending had the potential to “amplify” a housing boom and bust, the Bank’s Financial Stability Committee (FPC) concluded.

Lending in this sector has risen by 40% since 2008, the FPC said.”

Wonder how many of Cranbrook’s houses are/will be buy-to-let?

“A rose by any other name …”

Standards Committee agenda papers, in a section on lobbying of councillors:

“Points made and questions raised during discussion on the report included

The use of the word ‘developer’ should be replaced with ‘applicant’ as this was considered more appropriate – most people tended to associate the word developer with large scale developments.”

Click to access 290915standardscombinedagenda.pdf

Well, We don’t know about you but we are pretty clear on the difference: an applicant is someone who (usually) lives in the property they want to change and isn’t asking to build more properties, a developer (usually) doesn’t live in the property and includes the words ” lack of 5 year land supply” in the documentation!

The crowded diary of an East Devon councillor

Oh dear, the scent of desperation pervades East Devon District Council this week. It seems that councillors are in dire need some training (aka brainwashing?) about exactly how wonderful East Devon really is and how wonderful officers of East Devon are.

To that end, councillors are being bussed around the area, here, there and everywhere (as long as it is close to Exeter) where, no doubt, various developers and consultants will attempt to sell them snake oil. They are also being encouraged to attend meetings (or perhaps rallies?) to make them to understand just what the district is all about and to have some sympathy for the poor officers who have to deal with the snake oil salesmen on a daily basis.

Here is the crowded schedule:

30th September – all councillors requested to visit the “Growth Point” (you know, the one that doesn’t seem to be growing very much – if at all).

2nd October – all councillors again requested to join the “Exmouth and Cranbrook Countryside Service tour”, with the added perk of a free lunch AND a coach trip from Knowle!

6th October – a Development Management Committee training session open to all councillors on Highways (though lunch will be provided ONLY for committee members).

8th October – “Meet the Building Control Team” (the one having such a problem in Feniton and Cranbrook where developers are just not interested in talking to them).

9th October – WWorking together for the future of East Devon” “event”. The word “event” conjouring up to Owl the spectre of Powerpoint presentations and flip charts …

Click to access 250915-knowledge-issue-20.pdf

When do councillors get any time to WORK!

Housing targets like “Alice in Wonderland”

By the chair of “Community Voice on Planning” and echoes a very similar situation in her district to ours – all you would need to do is change the names.

by Julie Mabberley
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group campaign manager

This week is the first week of the examination for the Vale of the White Horse District Council Local Plan.

Planning Inspector Malcolm Rivett is hearing views from the great and good, answering the question: “Is the identified objectively assessed need for housing of 20,560 new dwellings (an average of 1,028 per year), for the Vale of the White Horse, soundly based and supported by robust and credible evidence?”

There are many people across the Vale who say it is not.b The logic is very simple. The number of jobs which theoretically could be created between now and 2031 was calculated. They then used these figures to estimate how many houses would be needed if these jobs materialised.

The problem is that if the jobs projection is fantasy, as many people think it is, then the “objectively assessed” housing number is also fantasy.

The employment forecasts were pulled together by Cambridge Econometrics to justify bids for Government money for the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP). These employment forecasts were optimistic figures based on how many jobs might be created across Oxfordshire with lots of investment by the Government, European Union and other organisations by 2031.

A company called GL Hearn was then commissioned by our district councils to estimate housing need, assuming that all of these forecast jobs will actually exist. This is the Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment, or SHMA. There are many who believe that this is a story worthy of LewisCarroll himself.

Take the agricultural industry, for example. In the Vale of the White Horse, the Government statistics show that in 2011 there were about 600 people working in agriculture. Cambridge Econometrics says that by 2031 there will be about 1,500 people working in agriculture.

Even the National Farmers’ Union says that agricultural employment is actually declining. So that’s about 750 new homes which supposedly will be needed for additional agricultural workers by 2031.

A more realistic assessment might be that there may be agricultural workers looking for new jobs. Actual employment figures across the Vale of the White Horse haven’t changed much since 2000.

In 2000, according to Government statistics, there were 63,000 jobs and by 2014 there were 62,700 jobs. So overall employment is static, but Cambridge Econometrics thinks that over the next 15 years employment will grow by 22,982 jobs. Based on figures for the last 15 years, employment may not grow at all.

This forecast of 22,982 new jobs translates into 20,560 houses across the Vale by 2031, in among the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Oxford Green Belt, the flood plains and, of course, the land earmarked for the new Thames Valley reservoir.

This means building more than 1,000 houses a year every year. We haven’t achieved that at any time in recent history. In fact, during the past 20 years, there have been an average of 392 houses built every year in the Vale.

Now we all know we need more houses, particularly houses that our children can afford to buy or rent, but the identified objectively assessed need for housing of 20,560 new dwellings (an average of 1,028 per year) for the Vale of the White Horse is totally unrealistic.

The law states that the district council must approve enough new planning applications to meet the ‘objectively assessed need for housing’ for the next five years, plus a 20 per cent margin. If they don’t, then the developers can appeal to a planning inspector who will approve them, because the local plan says we need them.

Developers won’t start building houses unless they will make enough profit to satisfy their shareholders. That means keeping prices high.

Great Western Park in Didcot is years behind the planned development schedule, because not enough people want to buy the houses. Yet people working at Harwell, on public sector salaries, can’t afford them.

The problem is that approving a housing development like Grove Airfield – with 2,500 new homes, a new commercial centre for the village, a secondary school and two primary schools – isn’t working. This was recommended for approval in 2013, yet the legal agreements with the developers and landowners still aren’t signed and detailed plans haven’t been submitted.

Something is wrong with the planning system. Silly housing targets let developers get permission to build executive homes in rural villages where little, if any, expensive infrastructure, like new roads and schools, has to be paid for. Few existing residents can afford them and it isn’t going to create homes for our children.

The Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment is fantasy and not soundly-based or supported by robust and credible evidence.

Good time to buy a Devon country estate

“… This is the time of opportunity for savvy London buyers who are looking to move down to the Westcountry. With many keeping their London homes and buying again in central Exeter or those selling a modest house in Notting Hill and buying a country house with 20 acres. This autumn market will be much better than in 2014 and we predict an improved level of transactions yet again, with buyers wishing to buy and complete before Christmas 2015.” …

Affordable housing? In your dreams.

EDDC advertises for a “Development Enabling and Monitoring Officer”

Oddly, this was found in a Plymouth newspaper and not an Exeter/East Devon one! When you get towards the end when the ad describes EDDC’s “vision” be careful you don’t have anything in your mouth as you might gag or choke … And isn’t this mostly what Mr Cohen – or his Development Manager Mr Rose – have been supposed to be doing?

Here is the text of the advert – the job pays circa “£30,000 – £34,000:

About the role Exciting things are happening here in East Devon, making it a very rewarding time to work at East Devon District Council. It’s also an incredibly busy time for the Council, with not only around 18,000 new homes planned for development by 2031, but also some major regeneration projects in place in Exmouth and Seaton.

In this brand new and unique role within our Major Projects team, you’ll play an integral part in the delivery of new housing developments across the East Devon district. As the sole Development Enabling and Monitoring Officer for East Devon District Council, you’ll be at the heart of managing and monitoring the progress of all major new housing developments, particularly the Cranbrook community.

Splitting your time between the office and each development site, you’ll be a vital line of communication between the Council and developers. You’ll build strong working relationships with the developers at each site, as you conduct regular visits to ensure that new housing is progressing in line with all planning permissions and agreements. And where any issues arise, we’ll look to you to investigate and liaise with the developer and colleagues to resolve issues that are holding back the delivery of the site or are likely to cause future problems or delays.

In this impactful and highly varied role, you’ll have the chance to really shape your role within the team, and make a lasting difference to the progression of new housing across East Devon.

About you

A driven and proactive individual, you’ve a solid background in building, surveying or planning, and a degree in any of these or another related subject. Confident and capable, you’ve exceptional people skills and while not afraid to be assertive, you’re able to build successful working relationships with colleagues, stakeholders and developers.

You’ll also have a strong understanding of development viability modelling software, and a robust working knowledge of development economics and the planning system. Right now you might be working in a similar area of planning, looking to add a new, and more challenging dimension to this type of role. Fixed-term contract, two years.

About us East Devon District Council is ambitious for our district and our residents. We live in a beautiful part of the world, with much of our landscape falling into an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Nationally recognised research shows that East Devon scored top of all 325 districts in its quality of life score. Our appreciation of this quality of life runs through the culture of our council and is reflected in our ambition to keep East Devon an outstanding place to live and work.

As well as delivering great services every day, we plan carefully for a sustainable future by delivering quality jobs and good local homes for local people. Apply For further information and to apply, please visit For an informal discussion, please contact Chris Rose, Development Manager on 01395 517419, or by email to . Closing date: 9 th October 2015. Interview date: 23rd October 2015.

Gypsies? Not in our backyard says Cranbrook – send ’em to Ottery!

” …The development around Cranbrook is placing considerable pressure on surrounding villages and it is felt that these villages should not be the location for any new sites.

“We note that commentary on and around the plan process seems to assume that a new traveller site will be at or near Cranbrook. We feel that this commentary is prejudicial to an objective assessment.”

Mr Randle [Cranbrook Town Clerk] suggested further exploration of the current showmen stopping site at Clyst St Mary and land at Daisymount near to the M5 corridor.”

A more radical way of dealing with the health of Cranbrook residents!

East Devon Watch has previously pointed out the difficulties facing residents of Cranbrook when it comes to local medical facilities, e.g. a backlog of patients still needing to register, and the need for expansion if the town is to grow to its projected population of 20,000.

EDDC seems to be adopting a more pessimistic solution however to the consequences of this lack of foresight and planning. Application 15/0045/MOUT (application received on 24 December [sic] 2014, and validated 10 March this year), calls for the construction of up to 820 houses at Cranbrook, with additional facilities such as a primary school (see below). So, among the facilities for which permission is sought, why does the summary on the Council website mention the need for a cemetery? Twice?

“One 1-form entry primary school, a cemetery and associated building, sports and recreation facilities including children’s play, an extension to the country park, green infrastructure (including open space), community uses (including non-residential institutions) and cemetery. Access from former A30, landscaping, engineering (including modelling and drainage) works, demolition, associated infrastructure and car parking for all uses. All matters reserved except for access.”

With the new cemetery at Whimple, just what is EDDC not telling us!

Especially as Cranbrook has no projected housing for the elderly!

Never mind the quality- feel the (weight of) the pages!

In response to my recent plea for Watch Readers to submit articles (to ), Owl has just received this:

The latest round of consultation on the local plan ends on 30 September, see previous Watch article:

Readers may not have had time, or indeed may never have the time, to look at the paper deluge Ed Freeman has sent to Inspector Thickett this time around. It comprises a covering letter from Ed; a summary report and 13 supporting papers all of which amount to over 1,000 pages!

It’s the latest attempt by EDDC to try to convince Mr Thickett that 17,100 (minimum) is the right housing target over the next 18 years; that we have a 5+ year land supply in East Devon, despite what the Developers’ say; that none of this building will have an adverse effect on our rare landscape and habitats (all we need is collective membership of the National Trust (see above); and to carry out some belated consultations and box ticking exercises.

There are:

6 papers on housing delivery;
2 papers on housing numbers;
an overdue Habitat Assessment

plus the republishing of

2 supporting papers,
one commissioned by the National Trust
the other for Cranbrook;

and, finally,

2 papers on a sustainability box ticking exercise.

There are also two public consultations in progress: one on Gypsy sites the other on village Built Up Area Boundaries (BUABs).

All this should have been done in preparation of the Draft Plan years ago [at least in 2011 and possibly earlier when “The Local Development Framework Panel” was spending its time, under ex-Councillor Brown, mostly visiting sites of interest to the East Devon Business Forum – ed].

So is this the action of a Local Planning Authority confident in what it is doing – or does it have the feel someone desperately trying to play catch-up?

Four consultancy contractors have been employed to write these papers during August 2015.

Hard cases are hard to sell.

Dear Reader, it is all being done in your name, guess who is footing the bill!

Hugo Swire, arms salesman – surely not?

Revealed after a Freedom of Information request:

“I bet you never thought that one of the duties of a foreign minister is to act as an arms dealer for private companies to dodgy governments, or that Royal Navy warships act as floating sales offices for arms-deals. But last June, Hugo Swire MP, a foreign office minister, had a week-long trip to Latin America, which included a stop in Colombia to act as an official weapons salesman for arms firm BAE Systems.

The meeting—part of which took place on a Royal Navy ship—was revealed earlier this year. Full details of the event were supplied to me last month under the Freedom of Information Act.” …

” … The documents say the ship was there for “defense and security exports.” With help from the UK’s government-run arms sales unit, called “UK Trade and Industry Defence & Security Organisation,” Hugo Swire used the ship to push the proposed deal. In the papers released to me, The British Ambassador to Colombia, Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby says, “the visiting HMS Portland gave a spectacular setting for an evening reception for senior members of the Colombian navy and defense ministry.” At the meeting, “The minister highlighted a proposal by BAE Systems to supply Ocean Patrol Vessels to the Colombian Navy.”

Yes, we all know that arms dealing takes place – but do government ministers have to be the salesmen and the Royal Navy has to be used as a sales office?

A few tips for the Colyton and Colyford Neighbourhood Plan

First of all, a useful link to what EXACTLY is the role of a town or parish council in the formation of a Neighbourhood Plan

What is the role of a parish or town council in neighbourhood planning?

In a designated neighbourhood area which contains all or part of the administrative area of a town or parish council, the town or parish council is responsible for neighbourhood planning.

Where a parish or town council chooses to produce a neighbourhood plan or Order it should work with other members of the community who are interested in, or affected by, the neighbourhood planning proposals to allow them to play an active role in preparing a neighbourhood plan or Order.

The relationship between any group and the formal functions of the town or parish council should be transparent to the wider public. For example it should be clear whether a steering group or other body is a formal sub-committee of the parish or town council. The terms of reference for a steering group or other body should be published and the minutes of meetings made available to the public.

And this website will be useful to those who are not entirely certain that the parish council has grasped what transparency means:

From which we glean the following information:

Examination by a suitably qualified independent person:

The neighbourhood plan examination is one of the most important stages of the process. The plan must be examined by a suitably qualified independent person who does not have an interest in any land that may be affected by the neighbourhood plan. The examiners role is to test the plan against the basic conditions and ensure the legislative requirements have been met. Following the examination a report will be issued which will include a recommendation on whether the plan should proceed to referendum.
Here are some top tips on how to make the process of appointing an examiner as smooth as possible:
• Remember the Local Planning Authority (LPA) is responsible for appointing the examiner and paying for the cost of the examination. However, the qualifying body must agree with the appointment. It is the responsibility of the LPA to ensure the examiner:

a) is independent of the qualifying body and the authority,
b) does not have an interest in any land that may be affected by the draft order, and
c) has appropriate qualifications and experience.

Given the extensive interest in land that Colyton Council and Feoffees have, this appointment will be crucial.

Rolle College site: 100 houses, 1 small community building

A double-whammy for Exmouth as the traditional seafront and the further education site are sacrificed to housing with little useful infrastructure for the community.

The public exhibition is 3pm-8pm on Friday, October 2, and 10am-2pm on Saturday October 3, at Ocean on The Esplanade

“One hundred new homes could cover almost the entire former Rolle College campus, with a ‘community hub’ idea reduced to just a single building under new plans.

But Rolle Exmouth Limited (REL), which has fought for seven years to turn the old college into a community, jobs and training hub, says it does not have to happen like that.

REL supporters say that if enough people say what they want, and take part in an upcoming consultation, most – if not all – of the site could end up in the hands of the community.

Next month, the site’s owners, Plymouth University, will exhibit two proposals for the seven-acre site, ahead of applying for outline planning permission.

One is for up to 100 homes, as well as sheltered housing and landscaping. This scheme covers around 90 per cent of the site and only two of the existing 11 buildings would not be demolished.

The Eldin building would be refurbished for housing, and the Owen Building used for a new hub called ‘The Rolle Centre’.

Under both plans, REL’s vision would be limited to this building and a bit of surrounding land.

The second option is identical, except that the 0.6 acres earmarked for sheltered housing would also be used for a community hub

However, despite the increased land for community use in this second option, almost 80 per cent of the site would still be developed.

Both plans are a far cry from what was published in 2012 by the university’s property managers, Grimleys.

Then, in a brochure, 60 per cent of the area was earmarked for the Rolle Centre, with just 40 per cent given over to housing.

But despite the plans, REL bosses insist that if enough people take part in the consultation, they could clinch a better deal for the town.

REL’s deputy chairman, Roy Pryke, said: “Plymouth University’s proposals are not the only options, of course – if enough people express their views and are determined to maximise this fantastic opportunity, then REL can build on that and seek to buy all or parts of the site for Exmouth.

“But we really need people to have their say and be clear about what they want. We can then make progress, conduct further fundraising and start to talk with potential developers about a new partnership approach.”

REL chairman Deborah Hallett said: “This is only an outline planning application, but it is critical that the community participates in the consultation. Securing outline planning permission is a critical step to move the project forward, but it is not necessarily what the final outcome will look like.

“We will put the case to the community and then to potential developers for what we believe should be the right mix between housing and the business, education and community aspects of the site.”

Welcome to Elysium …

“Elysium: a place or state of perfect happiness”

EDDC’s Annual Report for 2014/15 is now out:


and those reading it might be forgiven for thinking that the opening letter of the acronym stands for Elysium as opposed to East. Because everything in East Devon is, if the report is to be believed, Absolutely Fabulous.

One doesn’t expect reports of this kind to be brutally truthful. But one is entitled to expect some degree of modesty and acknowledgement that life is not all a bed of roses. Not however if you are Cllr Diviani: “this annual report is an opportunity to pause and reflect on our successes over the past 12 months before we look forward … to … the next four years”. It’s an opportunity also, of course, to reflect on abject failures. To have seen some references to ‘challenges’ might have been a bit more honest, Cllr Diviani.

The report reveals that more than half of respondents don’t think EDDC is doing a good job delivering jobs in the west of the district or making towns better places to live. Still, never mind, notwithstanding the grumpy 12,000 people who signed a petition against the demolition of Elizabeth Hall in Exmouth – no fewer than 44 jobs were created when Premier Inn bulldozed the site and put up a hotel! (In fact the creation of these 44 jobs is such an achievement that a photo of the opening of the Premier Inn takes up half of page 12 of the Report.)

But the best spin of all is to read that in 2014/15 EDDC received a record number of planning applications (1,221), and the record number of appeals received (74) constituted a 77% success rate. Good news? Only up to a point. Had EDDC got its act together and a Local Plan in place, taxpayers’ money wouldn’t have been wasted receiving so many applications, and defending so many appeals, in the first place.

As it is, the only mention of the Local Plan in the report is confined to a single sentence, conveying the impression that its progression to a “second round of hearing sessions” is perfectly normal, and that its likely adoption in late 2015/early 2016 and is not years and years behind schedule, as the savvier voters know only too well.

Cranbrook: is the current town centre actually one of its projected suburbs?

intriguing post on a Cranbrook forum:

” … have been through phase 3 a couple of times lately and am getting very confused about where the “town centre” and “high street” are going to be. As we are going to be the size of Honiton I was anticipating that number of shops, restaurants, pubs and other services. Am going to chat to the growth point people next week, but in the meantime, I checked out the Growth Point’s website. Should I be worried that the page for the town centre no longer exists?!…..