Devon/Somerset devolution: a democratic deficit black hole

How many people realise that Devon-Somerset devolution initiative is being led, not by its councils, but by its Local Enterprise Partnership – a sort- of mega East Devon Business Forum? And that it is pressing ahead with its plans without any public consultation?

Click to access Devolution%20Statement%20of%20Intent%20(low%20res).pdf

Members of its board are listed here:

How many people realise that power over development and housing for the whole of Devon and Somerset is to be potentially given to Karim Hassan (former Regeneration supremo at EDDC and now Chief Executive of Exeter) and EDDC Leader Paul Diviani – both masterminds of Cranbrook?

Click to access Issue1HeartoftheSouthWestPadbrookPark__436306.pdf

This is what the Electoral Reform Society has to say about devolution deals in the north of England:

“The public shouldn’t just be given a yes/no option on a pre-agreed deal – we can’t have a fait accompli approach to devolution. There should be proper and meaningful consultation on the deal itself – what powers the public want the Combined Authority to have, and what they want their councils to do and look like in the 21st century.

“A piecemeal approach to engaging the public in the devolution debate isn’t sustainable. If citizens in County Durham are to be given a vote, it’s only right that citizens across the region should too.

How many people realise that the potential devolution of powers to Devon and Somerset are being led by its Local Enterprise Partnership (a collection of business people?

How many people realise that this partnership is suggesting that development and housing matters in the hands of Karim Hassan ( formerly head of Regeneration in East Devon and now Chief Executive of Exeter City Council) and EDDC council leader and Cranbrook apologist Paul Diviani?

“The Combined Authority said the public across the North East would be consulted – and we’ve yet to see what this will look like. It can’t be a tick-box exercise – instead it must be a real process of deliberative democracy, with the ability for the public to change aspects of the deal which they want to be improved. Local ‘Citizens’ Assemblies,’ like the ones we are running in Sheffield and Southampton, could be a great start.

“Let’s have a real debate about devolution and decentralisation. The ERS and leading academics are currently holding Citizens Assemblies in North and South that offer a promising model to follow in terms of engaging local people in the devolution agenda. Politicians in the region and the UK government would do well to watch them and build on them as a way to open up these discussions about where power should lie in our regions.”

“Beware Greeks bearing gifts” in Eastern Sidmouth

This phrase from Greek mythology can be paraphrased as “Do not trust enemies who bring you presents — they could very well be playing a trick.”

This might apply in Sidmouth where EDDC seems to be keen on (part?)-financing a “scoping study” with Sidmouth Town Council for “eastern Sidmouth”.

Why the caution? A scoping study would be EDDC-led and would mean they choose the terms of reference and the consultant(s).

A Neighbourhood Plan for Sidmouth would be citizen-led with EDDC involvement.

Get the difference?

As Councillor Cathy Gardner puts it so clearly:

The study, run by East Devon District Council (EDDC) and the town council, would look at what a potential project for the eastern town could involve – and how such a scheme should be planned and implemented.

But Councillor Cathy Gardner, an EDDC member for the Sidmouth Town ward, has voiced concern that any such consultation would be ‘premature’ – and suggested waiting until the fate of a Neighbourhood Plan is determined.

The town council will decide in December whether to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan for the whole Sid Valley. If it goes ahead, the community-led document will involve consultation on things like where new homes and shops should be built.

It would also ask for views on what should happen in the eastern town.

“Cllr Gardner said: “My fear is that [the scoping exercise] has the potential to shortcut or even derail the prospect of doing a Neighbourhood Plan. The big benefit of asking [about the eastern town] as part of a Neighbourhood Plan is the solid methodology – it is the best way to get feedback from members of the public.

“Why would you rush [doing the scoping exercise] when you can do a really good quality consultation as part of a Neighbourhood Plan?

“It seems a bit premature.”

Cllr Gardner also warned that by asking residents the same questions in two separate consultations, there was a danger of ‘consultation fatigue’ and receiving less responses.

But EDDC says it thinks Sidmouth residents will welcome having their views represented in any plans for the town.

A council spokeswoman said: “We appreciate that Sidmouth Town Council is also considering a Neighbourhood Plan and it seems to us that the town council’s desire to move forward with one should not preclude the other – otherwise there is a danger that good ideas are delayed or blighted by an overly controlled approach.

“A Neighbourhood Plan is a possible future opportunity that should not inhibit what seems to be a clear appetite from the town council to regenerate the eastern end of town.

“Cllr Gardner has raised the question of consultation fatigue, which is an issue worth recognising and one that we and the town council will of course seek to avoid.

“As a Neighbourhood Plan takes at least two years to be put in place, it would be a shame to use that as a reason not to do anything else in the meantime.”

Is a £20,000 fine enough for this East Devon listed building hack?

Talewater Farm, numerous breaches of listed building regulations. No mention in the article of the builder/owner having to re-instate,


“Mr Wright pleaded guilty to a further offence, regarding his failure to comply with an enforcement notice (contrary to section 179(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990), which the council issued on 29 March 2010, which required him to cease living in a holiday cottage, known as The Cellar, at Talewater Farm.”

Enforcement notice in 2010 and he’s still living there – will he get retrospective consent if he remains there long enough?

Fortunately, Cabinet member Philip Skinner represents and lives in this area so he will be able to ensure that the law is followed.

There’s “consultation” and consultation at Clyst St Mart

“You may well have seen this article in today’s Express and Echo which suggests that local residents have been consulted regarding changes to the initial application.

Whilst local sports groups and the Parish Council may have been consulted, there has been no communication with anyone from our group, representing the majority of local residents. As you will see, the number of residential houses has only been reduced by 20 (with a greater number of below market, rentable properties) a very insignificant number and certainly not what local residents would find acceptable.

Please rest assured that we will be finding out as much as we can about these new plans and will be letting you know what action we can take to oppose them as soon as we are able to. Now, more than ever, we will need your support and resilience.

Gaeron Kayley, Save Clyst St Mary”

Together or separate? Why change a photograph?

Who swapped this picture:


for this picture:


on this web link:

and why?  Surely the top one is much more illustrative of working together than the lower one, which seems to imply some sort of pecking order?

Note:  Owl saves all its lovely links …..

Rest easy in your beds … we are protected from Ebola and ready to welcome President Obama …

It is so reassuring to know that, even though it has taken 7-plus years to bring forward a (not yet agreed) Local Plan (see post below) our Head of Planning Strategy (Ed Freeman) and our Property and Assets Manager Amy Gilbert [who only joined EDDC in August 2015] have taken time from their extra-busy schedules to protect us all from the Ebola virus and have us all well sorted should President Obama pay us a visit. Thanks to today’s Sidmouth Herald (page 25) for this gem:

“Two senior officers from East Devon District Council successfully dealt with a potential Ebola outbreak and a visit from President Obama to bag top prize in a new competition for local authorities.

The pair were pitted against 22 other teams from across the region and challenged to deal with the hypothetical crises while saving money and delivering better local services for the customers of a fictional council. They were teamed up with colleagues from Teignbridge and Exeter.”

EDDC Chief Executive Mark Williams said:” I am extremely proud of Ed (our head of planning strategy) and Amy (our property and asset manager) for taking part and  roving successful partnerships are a winning formula”.

How much officer time did this exercise occupy?

But thank you Ed and Amy, we can all sleep much more peacefully in our beds tonight knowing that we are safe from Ebola and that President Obama will get the welcome he deserves.

Who know, he may have been booked to open the new EDDC HQ – or possibly the new Pegasus luxury retirement complex – or both!



The Local Plan, Knowle relocation, Sidmouth Mill Street – Hugo thinks it’s all a dog’s dinner


Photo Source:  Daily Mirror

Fresh from his fine performance at the Houses of Parliament Dog Show, Hugo Swire has some harsh words for our local district council in this week’s Sidmouth Herald. What a pity that he didn’t make his views known before the local and national elections …..



Here is the article from today’s Sidmouth Herald:

Swire 30.10.15

His idea for a multi-storey car park-cum housing block over the Ham car park might raise more than a few eyebrows.

Amongst his comments are the following:

“… People are put off by multi-storey car parks, but we can do a clever design that incorporates multi-storey parking and residential homes with affordable housing – which is what we need to bring people into this part of the town. …”

Er, not sure the people in the apartments upstairs would welcome the intense vehicle particulate discharge of the multi-storey car park below them – or the noise  …

“ … You are solving the parking issue and if we do it as one, we are really invigorating the whole of the town. I think the one thing we lack is a marina and I don’t see why we could not have one in Sidmouth – it would bring people into town. “Again, the whole redesign of Alma Bridge and also the Drill Hall area needs to be done as one .”..

Owl can visualise now the wonderful image of Hugo drawing into Sidmouth Marina for his annual visit ….. and, yes, Hugo, your constituents in Sidmouth have been saying this for years, only your fellow Conservative councillors have disagreed.

…Mr Swire admitted the Government’s commitment to building more houses created a problem in Sidmouth, where much of the land is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  This, he says, is why there needs to be an established Local Plan, which would provide a blueprint to determine areas earmarked for future development for the next 15 years and beyond.
Speaking about the delays in drafting a plan, Mr Swire said: “It has been a nightmare.

Well, only a nightmare for your constituents, Hugo – a beautiful dream for our council and its developers.

“I have said this is an absolute priority and it has been extremely frustrating that we have not got here sooner.  If you live in a place, you do not want the field next door to be covered in houses, but if everybody said ‘not here’, there would be no more new houses. “We are determined to get more people on the housing ladder. If we build houses in the right area, then people will not complain.

Yes, Mr Swire, we have all been saying this for the whole 7 -plus years that the Local Plan has been under discussion by your fellow Conservatives.

“I would favour putting more at Cranbrook, but then what is the knock-on effect on our services? “The sooner we come up with the Local Plan, the sooner we can have a more rational discussion about it.” …”

Er, no Hugo, that’s not how it works.  Once the Local Plan is agreed the discussion is over.  The time for rational discussion has already passed.  It was done by many of your constituents in front of Planning Inspector, Mr Thickett – twice.  But, unfortunately, you were not there to give him the benefit of your wise words.

A bit of closing the kennel door after the dog has bolted, perhaps …


Neil Parish supports government on tax credits then criticises them

Owl can’t really get its head around MPs who vote FOR something and then criticise it, feeling that it should really be the other way around.

Still, at least he said something, unlike our other MP Hugo Swire who probably thinks tax credits are something wealthy bankers deserve:

“Neil Parish, the MP for [Honiton and] Tiverton, said: “W
e have just lost our way a little, but we can come back out of the wilderness and put this right. It is not a crime to be lowly paid. We have got to put this right, because the Conservative party and the government’s reputation is at stake.”

People would be driven back on to benefits if the government were not careful with its tax credit changes, he warned.

The environment select committee chairman added: “I think we are standing up for what we believe to be right because as far as I am concerned it’s absolutely fundamental people that work are better off than those that don’t.”