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 …..