The most extraordinary rant has appeared in the Sidmouth Herald under the authorship of (“I am not and never have been the Whip for the East Devon Conservative Party”) Councillor Phil Twiss, which is reproduced in its entirety below (with comments added). It puts us in mind of the early days of the sterling work of Councillor Claire Wright, when she was also attacked for attempting to change the much-derided status quo.
I have quoted the full press release provided by a local newspaper, not the shorter version in the Sidmouth Herald
WE WANT SIDMOUTH TO MOVE FORWARD, NOT BE HELD BACK’ (HELD BACK FROM WHAT?)
The Conservative Group on East Devon District Council (EDDC) have hit back at comments made by an East Devon Alliance councillor for her naïve and misleading rant in last week’s Sidmouth Herald. (So, here follows a naive and misleading rant from Councillor Twiss)
In the report, EDA Councillor Cathy Gardner, who represents Sidmouth Town Ward, claimed that a proposal to build social housing on the site of a car park in Mill Street was part of a wider plan for Eastern Town and spoke of the town being at risk of ‘fighting a battle but losing a war’.
Cllr Gardner is guilty of muddled thinking and of embarking on a naïve and misleading rant aimed at making political capital out of the vital issue of providing homes for Sidmouth’s young families. (You be the judge of who is out to make political capital here)
A consultation proposed by the EDA councillor would muddy the waters if and when the district council came to conduct its own public survey – which would take place as part of the normal democratic process. (So, what we always knew – early consultations muddy the waters and council surveys late in the day are the way forward)
No firm plans had yet been drawn up for Mill Street and if and when such proposals were formed, a public consultation would follow as a matter of routine. (How much more firm could you be when you hike car park prices 300%, reduce ability to rent spaces and then put out a hasty press release saying you intend to turn it into social housing?)
It’s all very well for ward representatives to genuinely stand up for what they see as the rights of their constituents. It’s quite another to say things that will mislead people into forming the wrong conclusions, especially when this is based on a poor understanding of how the planning process works. (Still not sure what the “wrong conclusions” are here)
There is a lot of incorrect information in Councillor Gardner’s reported remarks and this displays either a naïve ignorance of the facts or a desire to stir up a political storm in a teacup – or both. (Not that he does not specifically say at any point what this incorrect information might be)
Councillor Gardner appears to be linking a possible plan for affordable homes in Mill Street with a wider redevelopment scheme for Eastern Town and even the project to create a Beach Management Plan for Sidmouth. Her suggestion that the Beach Management Plan lacked progress is mischievous and untrue. (But surely the proper thing to do in this situation IS to link plans for Mill Street to wider Port Royal and beach management? This is the joined-up thinking that Councillor Twiss and his colleagues say needs to be done)
Derogatory comments about EDDC’s ongoing and successful regeneration projects in Seaton and Exmouth take conspiracy theories to a whole new level of fantasy. (Oh wow – ask the residents of Exmouth and Seaton what they think of their so-called regeneration plans, Councillor Twiss. A big Tesco and non-affordable housing for Seaton. Exmouth – where a protest group is going from strength to strength as initial plans turn into luxury flats)
Building homes on the Mill Street site, if this did go ahead, would be part of the district council’s ongoing commitment to providing jobs and affordable housing for Sidmouth’s upcoming generation of school-leavers and young families and was entirely in line with the Government’s wish to see an end to a nationwide housing drought. (Er, no it isn’t – the Government just announced that it is dropping affordable housing from the requirements for developers – and as affordable rent is still considered 80% of the cost of non-affordable housing still well out of reach of Sidmouth’s young people).
MOVE FORWARD (er, not sure about that)
The Conservatives on EDDC want to see the district and its communities move forward, not stay stuck in the present or the past. They are following very carefully developed regeneration strategies in Seaton and Exmouth and these are based on years of careful study and prior consultation with the community. (See above – when consulted, both towns rejected EDDC’s plans – which went ahead anyway)
Ask fair-minded councillors in Seaton and Exmouth whether regeneration projects in their towns have been beneficial and you might get a different view from the jaundiced judgement of Ms Gardner. (Ah, fair-minded councillors – these seem to be anyone who agrees with Councillor Twiss!)
Sidmouth must not be left behind. We want to see a number of improvements to help the town move forward and we will resist any attempt by people like Ms Gardner to hold Sidmouth back. (Did you notice here that none of the so-called improvements are named? That’s because there aren’t any apparently!)
Any assumption by recently elected councillors that nothing happened before they arrived on the scene is both naïve and arrogant. A lot of good things are happening. These new councillors should make the effort to find out how hard members and officers have worked in the past and resist the temptation to be new brooms sweeping away good ideas just for the sake of scoring cheap political points. (Oh, Councillor Twiss – it is precisely because such a lot DID happen before they were elected that they got elected in the first place. Just why should new councillors be tied to the past and why should they not be new brooms – and just who is trying to score cheap political points here?)
Well done, Councillor Gardner – you must be doing something right if you have brought out the attack dogs so early in your councillorship! Keep up the good work for the citizens of Sidmouth! They needed someone like you and the district needs someone like you to hold power to account.