Local Enterprise Partnerships: an alternative view

“Devolution is such a positive word, it conjures up cosy images of self-rule, self-determination, localism, people doing it for themselves.

The reality in 2016 couldn’t be more different. In fact what we are in the process of ratifying is the exact opposite of this. We are passing many local powers into the hands of a business group named ‘The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership’.

This group hold £4 billion paid to them through DEFRA and through the European Social Fund, there is money from elsewhere also, but because their dealings are very difficult to trace, we don’t know where all the funding comes from. They are an un-elected group, they are almost entirely unaccountable and they hold their meetings in secret. Their minutes are not published.

On the board sit the happy volunteers, mostly property magnates, construction CEOs, there’s a man from Westland helicoptors, another is the managing director of SupaCat. The list continues. I would not suggest that there was a conflict of interest in giving business people, whose main jobs are in construction, the job of providing massive construction projects in the south west, but I can’t see what else to call it.

One of their main projects is Hinkley C nuclear power station. They are pouring millions into it. They are offering the benefits of it to businesses in Plymouth. Why? What is their mandate for funding this very controversial development. I was under the impression that the government wasn’t putting tax payers money into it. But this money seems to come from DEFRA.

These are the people writing and implementing our devolution bid. I do not want my local area to be controlled by these people, but I do not have a say in the matter. There is to be no consultation that I can see, in fact most people don’t even know we are in the process of devolution here in the south west. I have not yet met anyone who knows about devolution, much less the LEP.

On the 11th February, there was a full council meeting [South Hams] to ratify the devolution bid as written by the LEP. The council is not happy at all, but has no choice. They are being completely squeezed of funds and will have to go cap in hand to the LEP in order to keep functioning. …

… There is media silence on the subject. But not for much longer I suspect, its not being kept a secret exactly, the LEP have glossy brochures and a website explaining their involvement in Hinkley and other massive projects, but try giving them a call or asking to speak to a representative and you will be met with silence.”


Another mega-expensive omnishambles: mobile phone “not spots”

Once again, we will put the final sentence first. By the way, LEP in the link is Lancashire Evening Post – not Local Enterprise Partnership! 600 masts planned, 15 completed, £9.1 m spent – £607,000 PER MAST.

<strong>“By December 2015, a couple of months ago, the project had cost £9.1m and only 15 masts [out of 600 promised] were live.”

A project to end the misery of mobile phone ‘not spots’ is an embarrassing flop, a Government minister has admitted. Just 15 masts have been put up by the £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project, unveiled by George Osborne back in 2011 – when 600 were promised.

Now Ed Vaizey, the digital economy minister, has told MPs criticising the tortuously slow progress of the scheme: “I am guilty as charged. “I do not think the programme has been a success – and I do not think ministers often say that about their programmes.”

During a Commons debate, Mr Vaizey agreed “mobile phones are essential to many people in their daily lives”. He added: “We set aside £150m. We talked about 600 sites. Our heart was in the right place.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has decided to wrap up the Mobile Infrastructure Project next month, at the end of its original three-year timescale.

The move threatens to leave a pledge to deliver mobile phone coverage to 60,000 more remote premises across the UK – out of 80,000 in known ‘not-spots’ – in tatters.

When the scheme got underway, in 2013, ministers promised it would “help connect rural communities, create local jobs and contribute to economic growth”.

The “infrastructure and media services company” Arqiva was appointed to deliver the project and the big four mobile network operators pledged to provide their services. The £150m fund was intended to pay for the infrastructure, while the mobile phone companies funded each site’s operating costs for a 20-year lifespan.

Mr Vaizey pointed to problems with the mobile phone companies, local planners and local residents to explain the project’s failure. One council, Wiltshire, spent so long arguing about the colour of a mast it missed the deadline for planning approval. The minister said: “We were dragging four operators with us, metaphorically kicking and screaming. “We have had communities campaigning against masts and putting concrete blocks in front of the base stations to prevent any further work.”

But, Mr Vaizey insisted, the spread of 4G technology was expected to cut the area of ‘not spots’ to as low as two per cent and that of partial ‘not spots’ to about 12 per cent.

Conservative backbencher John Glen, the MP for Salisbury, said: “The situation is extraordinarily frustrating.

“By December 2015, a couple of months ago, the project had cost £9.1m and only 15 masts were live.”


Neighbourhood Plan Roadshow

Friday 18th March 2016, 10am-2pm
The Refectory Room, Hannahs (formerly Seale-Hayne Agricultural College), Howton lane, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12 6NQ

‘The Government is absolutely clear, they want you to build more & develop more & they want it to be easier for you’.
Richard McCarthy, director general for neighbourhoods, DCLG June 2011

What are Neighbourhood Plans?
What impact do they have on you & your community?
How can you have your say?

Speakers & Agenda:
Penny Mills: CPRE Devon – Welcome & introduction
Jonathan Green: Dept of Communities & Local Government – ‘Neighbourhood Plans’
Planning officer: Teignbridge DC – ‘Neighbourhood Plans – What is the Local Authority
Q & A

Coffee Break

Carole Box: Chair, CPRE Torbay. ‘The Challenges’
David Watts: Chair of Paignton Neighbourhood Plan – ‘The experience so far of producing a
Neighbourhood Plan for an area of 43,000 people.’
Geoff Melbourne: ‘Strategic Environment Assessment and The Habitat Directive-The practical implications of compliance for community volunteers’
Q & A
Martin Parkes: Devon Communities Together

To reserve a place..

RSVP: Penny Mills, CPRE Devon. Tel: 01392 966737 email: secretary@cpredevon.org.uk
Free admission Refreshments available
Registered Charity no: 245317

Thanks to South Devon Watch Facebook page for info

Exmouth “regeneration”: ” You couldn’t make it up” – but EDDC just did!

“You couldn’t make it up” – but EDDC just did with Exmouth Q and A:

“Nando’s have “no plans” to open up a branch in Exmouth, despite being linked to the future seafront development in a council Q&A.

The popular Portuguese restaurant was listed by East Devon District Council, alongside La Tasca and Pizza Express, as being examples of restaurants that could open in the £18m Queen’s Drive redevelopment project.

But before East Devon piri-piri and chicken fans could get excited, the chain quickly shot down any further speculation.

They say their nearest branch for Exmouth diners will continue to be Exeter.

East Devon District Council has since defended its decision to include the names of three operators in connection with the project.

A spokesperson for the authority said: “It was clear in the responses to the Q and A that Pizza Express, La Tasca and Nando’s were given purely as examples of the type of restaurants that like to attach themselves to multiplex cinema developments.”

Adding: “We think it is helpful to give people some sense of the style of restaurant offer that might be available.”

La Tasca and Pizza Express are yet to comment on their own involvement.”


How did Chardstock and Dunkeswell get introduced into the local plan at the last millisecond?

The timeline of how the decisions were taken make VERY, VERY interesting reading – in documents accompanying the Scrutiny Committee agenda for

18 February 2016, 6.00pm



particularly page 13 onwards:


“Councillor B Buxton asked for inclusion of Dunkeswell on the BUAB list, on grounds of size of settlements, 160 firms many on industrial site and felt that the village met most of the criteria. In response, the committee were informed there was no school- Cllr Buxton responded that a school was expected as consultation was underway with the County Council and a site had been designated.
Recommendation from DMC to add Dunkeswell to the list with build up area boundary.
What evidence supported that statement by Cllr Buxton?
Follow up by officers and Clerk of Dunkeswell confirmed that no plans by Devon County Council for a school. Clerk also checked if a ny plans for a free school, again no plans. When produced the sustainability assessment was undertaken (which determines which villages should retain BUABs) DCC confirmed no plans for a school.”
Council 26 March 2015
David Mortimer (public) spoke to as k to add Chardstock to list of sustainable villages on the Local Plan having build up boundary, in light of DMC recommendation to include Dunkeswell.   He stated that he agreed
with the DMC recommendation to add Dunkeswell;
transport as a measure of sustain ability is too simplistic. Why not add other villages with similar; in terms of Chardstock, stated that it had an undersubscribed new primary school with 66% of pupils coming from
outside the parish village school, and a number of other facilities and services available in the village.
Councillor Andrew Moulding proposed to add Chardstock; Including stating reasons of school of 150 pupils in place, community services and transport available at one end of location which could be reached by the community. The proposal was debated with councillors speaking both for and against inclusion; in response on request of the Chairman, the CX reminded the Council of the officer advice that the village did not meet the criteria but there were clearly opposing views an d the proposal should be voted on.
Carried on vote to include Chardstock in the BUAB list. DMC recommendations agreed, therefore also including Dunkeswell.
Email from Cllr Giles to Chief Executive
27 March 2015
I am writing to express my great unease about the way a decision was made about Chardstock at yesterday`s Extra Ordinary meeting of EDDC to make submissions to the Local Plan Inspector. I was unaware, and I suspect the vast majority of councillors were unaware, that a decision about the status of Chardstock was to be made at the meeting. Certainly there was no specific documentation supplied for the meeting to suggest this.
At the beginning of the meeting, under the public speaking arrangements, a Mr David Mortimer spoke in support of Chardstock being a sustainable community and seeking its designation to be changed. As I recall Mr Mortimer gave no details of himself, of where he lived, of whether he was a landowner in Chardstock, or whether he was acting for a landowner in Chardstock. Of course if he fitted into either of the last two categories that  ould not have stopped him speaking – but it would have been relevant to know.
There was no further mention of Chardstock until much later in the meeting when the Council Deputy Leader, Council lor Andrew Moulding (who is not the ward member) spoke in favour of Chardstock`s status being changed because it is a sustainable location. As I recall (but I apologise if I am wrong), Councillor Moulding said that Mr Mortimer was speaking on behalf of Chardstock Parish Council. There seemed to be considerable doubt about whether Mr Mortimer was actually speaking on behalf of Chardstock Parish Council. My recollection is that he did not say he was.
My particular concerns are that a decision was taken without any  information to justify it, in spite of the Inspector making very clear that he wanted an evidence-based Local Plan submission from EDDC.
Specific questions that I would like answered please are:
What is the Chardstock Parish Council view on the redesignation of Chardstock, as far as we are aware?
Did Chardstock Parish Council make a recent submission to EDDC relevant to the Extra Ordinary meeting of yesterday?
When and what was the nature of the most recent Chardstock PC submission to EDDC about its situation in the EDLP?
What evidence does EDDC have of consultation exercises undertaken within the Parish of Chardstock about the EDLP? If EDDC has such evidence, what does it show of the view of Chardstock residents?
What discussions specifically about Chardstock took place at or following the EDDC LDF/LP Panel hearings?
I look forward to early answers to the above questions.
Meanwhile I am greatly concerned that a fundamental change of policy was agreed at a meeting yesterday without any supporting documentation, purely on the basis of arguments made at the meeting by just two people–one a councillor and the other a member of the public, on a matter that (unlike the Sidford 5ha of employment land) had not previously been discussed, and on which the view of the Parish Council was uncertain.”
1 April 2015
Approved 15/0217/FUL in YARTY ward (Chardstock) for five dwellings against officer advice on unsustainable location.
17 June 2015
Representation from one Chardstock Parish Councillor that decision taken by Council was not evidence based.
25 June 2015
Representations from two Chardstock Parish Councillors that the decision taken by Council to include Chardstock was not evidence based.
4 July 2015
Application 15/1007
South View, Chardstock decision was refused:
“Whilst in other respects the application is considered to be acceptable and despite the site’s location within the village and the builtup area boundary, defined under the Adopted East Devon Local Plan, this is not considered to be a sustainable site to accommodate new development. Chardstock has only a limited range of services and access to a wider range of services and employment opportunities, necessary for day to day living, is only available via private transport due to the lack of public transport service to the village.   Despite the site being included with the draft New Local Plan Strategy 27 as a sustainable village, this policy can only be afforded limited weight as the Strategy has been out to public consultation and has not been endorsed by the Local Plan Inspector and as such the application falls to be considered on the basis of its sustainability.  As such, the limited social and economic benefits that would arise from the delivery of a single dwelling are considered to be outweighed by the environmental impact of the development resulting from its unsustainable location served by a limited range of services and lack of public transport.
The application is therefore recommended for refusal on this basis.
January 2016:
Inspector report on Local PlanParagraph 31–
“Chardstock and Dunkeswell have limited facilities and do not benefit from access to public transport. Their addition to Strategy 27 is not supported by the Council’s Small Towns and Villages Development
Suitability Assessment 2014 and I have removed them from Strategy 27”.

“£1 billion pound investment” in south-west railways by Great Western allows very little for Devon and Cornwall but does include second-hand railway carriages from London!

… Mr Hopwood admitted to the WMN afterwards that only a fraction of the money would make it to the far South West [from £1 billion promised much of which gets spent in the Home Counties and Wales]

 About £350 million will be spent on new Hitachi trains, and other investments include improvements to signals in Cornwall, and £10 million on the sleeper service.

Mr Hopwood said the Westcountry would get “cascaded and refurbished” rolling stock from the Thames Valley when trains there are upgraded.”

“Cascaded and refurbished rolling stock…!

Does that mean we go to “Cascade Shops” and not Charity Shops!

EDDC – duplicitous or negligent about heritage assets?

This is about Ottery St Mary, but it could be your town or village.  And should this not be an Asset Management Forum issue?

“Ottery’s conservation area is ‘at risk’ – but civic leaders say they have been kept in the dark about its deteriorated state until now.

District chiefs admitted last week that a lack of communication needs to be addressed after it emerged many of the town’s heritage assets are in ‘very bad’ condition, yet no information had been reported to representatives who advise on planning decisions.

A conservation area is categorised as a place particularly valued by the community because of its historic character and associations.  An annual survey conducted by East Devon District Council (EDDC) highlighted a number of concerns and officially identified the fragile state of Ottery’s conservation area.  Results are recorded on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register, but details were only revealed to town councillors at a meeting last week.

Councillor Jo Talbot highlighted the issue following a talk she attended to gather information for the creation of the Neighbourhood Plan, which will shape the future of the parish.  She said: “A representative from Historic England told us that Ottery’s conservation area is in the ‘at risk’ category. EDDC knew about this, but it did not follow through to us.  “We should have had guidance on what to say when shops come up in the conservation area. We need to look at restoring our conservation area.”

Cllr Roger Giles condemned the lack of information that he said should have been taken into account in all planning recommendations.

In response, an EDDC spokeswoman said: “Like all local authorities, we are required to carry out an annual survey of our conservation areas by Historic England. Following the survey work and during discussions with Historic England, concerns were raised about Ottery town centre – particularly regarding shop fronts, signage and the use of uPVC windows.  “These concerns have led to it being identified as ‘at risk’, along with over 500 other conservation areas nationally.”

In response to the authority’s failure to pass on the information, the spokeswoman said: “We do not have any specific processes for reporting when heritage assets are at risk. This is something that needs to be looked at, together with how we can engage more with our communities to prevent heritage assets being put at risk and how we can address this when it happens.”  She added advice is available to town councillors with regards to planning matters on request.

The full assessment reveals that Ottery’s conservation area is in a ‘very bad’ condition, but its vulnerability is classed as ‘medium’, with the trend towards improving.


Thanks, Mr Swire – not! Devon 143rd out of 152 authorities for funding spend per person on health

Hugo Swire has told us on countless occasions that he can’t speak for us in Parliament because he is a Minister. But he reassures us that he can and does talk about us in private to other Ministers (which Owl finds worse than talking about us in public when at least we could know what he is saying about us.

However, it seems that whatever he says (if he says anything at all as he is usually jetting around the world as bagman for the Foreign Minister) it has fallen on deaf ears:

A massive blow has been dealt to Devon’s health care after being told it will receive less funding.

For the next financial year in 2016/17, Devon County Council will receive almost £28m – £800,000 lower than anticipated, increasing fears over the a service that has already been recognised as being under significant financial pressures and demands.

It amounts to an allocation of £38 per person in Devon, compared to a national average of £69. In comparison, the city of London receives £200, and Middlesborough gets £126. …

…In the league table of public health grants per region, Devon is now ranked 143 out of 152 local authorities.

If Devon did receive the national average its public health funding would increase to over £51 – an extra £13 per person.

The public heath grant news arrived yesterday lunch time – the day before Devon County Council’s cabinet committee discussed the budget for the next financial year.

Speaking at today’s cabinet meeting, Andrea Davis, Devon County Council cabinet member for improving health and wellbeing, said: “That’s what I call shoving us right at the bottom. We are now fifth from the bottom in the league table. To say I’m unhappy is an understatement and we don’t have any reserves.”


Devolution questions – does our LEP really exist? Or is it a figment of crazed imaginations?

Who chose the members of our Local Enterprise Partnership? It seems to just have arrived one day fully-formed.

Did they put themselves forward?
Were they approached?
How many people were considered?
Who decided how many people would be chosen?
How many applied/were approached?
Who decided which ones to appoint?
What were the criteria used?
Are they being paid?
If so, how much?
Are they on contracts?
If so, for how long?
What about conflicts of interest?

Owl awaiting a response from our LEP with great interest

P.S Anyone ever RECEIVED a letter, with letterheading and contact details from our LEP? Or a personal email from someone at the LEP? Owl’s email address is at the top of this blog.

Does it exist or is it a figure of our collective nightmares!

Do the Emperors have clothes?