French union refuses to back Hinkley C

A French trade union said it would not back construction of the $26 billion, dual-unit Hinkley Point C nuclear project in the UK due to financial issues.

The union, Confédération française de l’encadrement-Confédération générale des cadres (CFE-CGC), said plant owner EDF’s financial woes and environmentalist opposition could end the project, according to several news reports.

EDF’s chiefs in both France and the UK, as well as the French and UK governments, have all backed the project to build two European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) to generate 3,200-MW of electricity.

Chinese nuclear company CGN has committed to fund one-third of Hinkley Point C. EDF planned to have a final investment decision on the project in December, but the 60-day consultation with the union could potentially delay the decision, the articles said.

Wainhomes, Feniton: another second chance, and another and another …

Where and when do ” second chances” end? From a correspondent:

You may recall the following item published some time ago:

Today the time allowed for some of the work to be done expires and yet, as expected by many of the villagers, nothing has even been started. The question is: will EDDC planning now actually throw the legal book at Wainhomes or, as I suspect, give them yet more time.

A heavy hand surely is now required since being ‘nice’ clearly doesn’t work.”

EDDC, heavy hand, developers – dream on!

Cornwall Council: scrutiny, what scrutiny?

An internal report, seen by the BBC, shows Cornwall Council has issued more than 500 contracts with a value of £145m without tendering them .” …

… An internal report seen by the BBC reveals that, since 2009, the authority has granted more than 500 so-called “exemptions” with a contract value in excess of £145m. There are strict rules on exempting contracts from tendering – and the document suggests these aren’t always being properly followed.

The council said that, ideally, it limited the use of exemptions and it recognised their use retrospectively should be avoided. It added it was taking steps to address this.”

BBC Devon Live website headlines today.

Doesn’t auger well for devolution scrutiny in The Dutchy!

The housing crisis – who is to blame?

“Labour, Conservative and even Coalition Governments have failed to solve the UK housing crisis. Here’s why.

Britain’s housing crisis is nothing new. We’ve had a shortage of homes for decades, and the problem is no closer to being fixed today.

The problem is that those with the power to do so might actually be worse off if they succeeded in meeting our housing needs. …”

Hinkley C: what happens to nuclear waste? We are not allowed to know

“A furious row has broken out after the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) refused to disclose the arrangement with EDF for dealing with radioactive waste at the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

The information commissioner’s office has turned down a freedom of information (FoI) request for state aid arrangements between the UK and the European commission to be made public.

The FoI complainant, David Lowry, has launched an appeal, claiming it is in the public interest for British citizens to be able to judge whether their government had made the right decision about the new reactors in Somerset.

Lowry, a British-based senior research fellow with the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in the US, said: “I do not believe the balance of judgment should be in favour of a foreign company, EDF Energy, who will potentially make huge multibillion-pound financial gain from the continued non-disclosure, and hence non scrutiny, over myself as a British tax and electricity bill payer.”

The government said that anyone building new reactors in Britain must manage and pay for the cost of handling waste products, unlike the existing situation where all radioactive materials are effectively dealt with through the public purse via the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

However, although the operator must agree to take responsibility for the spent fuel and other radioactive waste, the cost is expected to be passed on to the domestic electricity user through higher bills. …

… “If Hinkley is such a good deal, it should be no problem for the government to release the information to prove it. Their failure to do so leaves us to believe that their assumptions are correct – it’s a terrible deal for bill payers and they simply don’t know what to do with the nuclear waste.” …

You want a green environment? Get insured …

“The UK could develop a more flexible approach to environmental protection free of “spirit-crushing” Brussels directives if it votes to leave the EU, the farming minister, George Eustice, has said.

Speaking to the Guardian, the pro-Brexit minister said a leave vote in the 23 June referendum would free up a £2bn green dividend that could be spent on insurance schemes and incentives for farmers.

Environmental laws that have helped protect endangered species and clean up dirty beaches are seen one of the key achievements of the EU, but Eustice sought to reassure green-minded voters that the UK could develop better protections by going it alone. …

… One of the original authors of EU environmental legislation was Stanley Johnson, Boris’s father, who now co-chairs Environmentalists for Europe. He said of Eustice’s proposal: “I am absolutely shocked and horrified at what looks like a no-holds-barred attack by the Brexiteers on an agreed consensus that the environment benefits from a common approach.

“Don’t tell me that a new Brexit-led British government is going to put environmental regulations at top of its pile on June 24. It is not going to happen.”

The European commission is reviewing the birds and habitats directives – which define Europe’s conservation strategy – and is under unprecedented public pressure not to water them down.

The origin of the “fitness check” lies in a domestic review instigated by George Osborne in 2011, when he told parliament that the “gold-plating” of EU habitat rules was imposing “ridiculous costs” on business.

Martin Harper, the conservation director of the RSPB, said: “These nature directives have been the cornerstone of nature conservation in Europe since coming into force. Not only have they improved the fortunes of threatened species but they are essential if we want to meet our international biodiversity commitments.”

On pesticides, Eustice said the EU’s precautionary principle needed to be reformed in favour of a US-style risk-based approach, allowing faster authorisation.

“A precautionary approach is the right thing to do but it should be based on realistic assessments of risk and not just theoretical hazards,” he said. “That is the wrong way to go about it.”

The principle has underpinned bans on GM foods, neonicotonoid inseciticides linked to bee colony declines and endocrine disrupting chemicals.

The marine strategy directive would also be scrapped, Eustice said. He cited a dispute with Brussels over the UK’s failure to designate protected marine areas for harbour porpoises as an example of over-regulation, when dolphin-repelling electronic devices could have been used on nets instead.

However, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said electronic pingers could already be used under current EU nature laws, which also protect porpoises from trawling, dredging, pile driving and noise from military sonars.

Clive Lewis, the shadow energy and climate change spokesperson, said: “It is absurd to suggest that Brexit could be good for the environment when the major challenges we face, not least the risk of catastrophic climate change, are international by their nature.”

Save Britain’s Heritage objects to Knowle PegasusLife development

Click to access save-britains-heritage-objection-to-knowle-planning-application-may-2016.pdf

Original article:

Details of the Knowle Planning Application by Pegasus Life, May 2016, from the EDDC website:

Planning Application
16/0872/MFUL | The construction of an assisted living community for older people comprising extra care units, staff accommodation and communal facilities, including a kitchen, restaurant/bar/cafe, a well-being suite comprising gym, treatment rooms and pool, a communal lounge and storage facilities; car parking for residents, visitors and staff of the assisted living community; comprehensive landscaping
comprising communal and private spaces; and associated groundworks.

Council Offices Knowle Sidmouth EX10 8HL
Reminder of Save Our Sidmouth initial reaction here:

Throwing away our heritage? London-based SAVE vehemently objects to plans for Knowle

Budleigh Salterton and its expensive homes

A comment just received: about the lack of affordable housing in Budleigh Salterton- one of the ten most expensive seaside towns in England:

“Funny you should say this. The developer- Badger Homes- of the Deepways site in Budleigh Salterton with outline planning approval has applied to reduce the approved 50% affordable homes to 30%.

The original Design and Access statement says:

“the landowner is a retired doctor who would like to see housing for local people”……………………………………… “the landowner found a developer with the experience and the FUNDING to achieve such a project”.”

Yeah, right.


This is a long article about the democratic deficit in the United States, but its conclusion could be said to apply to us all:

” … It is time to start talking seriously again about a grassroots politics that aims to build a broad consensus, give priority to long-term face-to-face projects with physical communities offline, and recruit skillful and honest politicians to connect people to places where decisions are made – [Bernie] Sanders is one of them. We can use social media and the momentum built by his campaign for this, but the main goal should be to harness the unprecedented explosion of anger and hope into political actions that will bring tangible change in people’s lives.

We hear a lot about all kinds of experiments to address the democratic deficit in decision-making mechanisms – from direct action to digital democracy and more. But few talk about a more profound crisis: our lives are filled with alienation and isolation, our communities have been broken, and impersonal forms of social interaction are replacing personal ones. Meeting with other citizens outside our close circles is good for democracy. But we should be skeptical of impromptu mass gatherings and social media debates as the only places to make vital decisions that will affect our lives for years to come.

We need to develop democratic spaces that address common national and global challenges, but are grounded in local interactions and foster bonds among people in the physical world. New technologies can hugely improve our lives, but ultimately society is made of humans. The kind of human interactions we foster make all the difference in this world – and the next.”

Budleigh Salterton in top 10 most expensive seaside towns

At number 10 – average house price £360,984.

No doubt the developers will be beating a path to EDDC’s door so they can both find a way of building the social or affordable housing on a brownfield site that the town will need to keep its young people near home – if there are any young people left.

Top business people running our LEP … er, perhaps not!

Agusta Westland not doing too well according to this article. One of our Local Enterprise Partnership board members is Simon Barker, Business Director of Agusta Westland.

And no doubt, if the Government does mount a rescue package via a ” ministerial directive” for Agusta Westland, it will be via our Local Enterprise Partnership and Simon Barker ….

Westlands burnt by Boeing, May 29 2016

“American giant Boeing is set to win the contract to rebuild the army’s Apache helicopters, in a blow to Westlands in Somerset.

The defence secretary Michael Fallon is expected to rubber-stamp the £2bn contract ahead of the Farnborough air show in July. Britain’s Apache fleet was built in Yeovil by what was then AgustaWestland, under licence from Boeing, but 50 of the attack helicopters will be rebuilt by the American defence company in Arizona.

Westlands is understood also to have missed out on a contract to make gearboxes and blades for Apaches used by armed forces around the world. Negotiations are ongoing about giving the company support work on the British Apache revamp, but sources said that may require a ministerial direction from Fallon. The government is considering handing Westlands a contract to develop an unmanned military helicopter, in an effort to be seen to be keeping helicopter manufacturing alive in Britain.”

Easy to see what benefits our LEP brings to its board members (including Midas, see post yesterday) but not at all easy to see what is in it for the rest of us.

John Osman – Councils lead on Local Enterprise Partnership

“One of John’s proudest achievements was being elected Leader of Somerset County Council in May 2012 and has made it his number one priority to listen and consult with residents on the future of the County.”

That’s your number one priority down the pan then, John, but, of course, that won’t worry you.

Chair of LEP – proud of a conflict of interest?

The staggering arrogance leaves Owl stunned (but not for long). Though, no doubt the Government, Mr Hindley and the LEP see no problem.

“The Millfields Trust’s state-of-the-art Genesis building received the Community Benefit award at the prestigious RICS South West Awards 2016 held at Cheltenham Racecourse. …

… The pioneering, ERDF and Heart of the South West LEP’s Growing Places funded building was designed to create employment and serve the local community in one of the most deprived areas of Plymouth. It comprises of flexible workspaces, meeting rooms, a full height internal atrium and Plymouth’s first living walls. …

… “Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) said: “Genesis is a great example of development that benefits the local environment as well as the community by providing much-needed employment space with and original and eye-catching architectural design. The project is an exemplar of the LEP’s Growing Places Fund, which is designed to unlock growth and create new jobs.

“As Chair of Midas – the contractor for the project – as well as being Chair of the LEP – which has the strategic mission to generate funding – I am doubly proud to be part of this new asset to Plymouth’s city-scape.”

“Leave Hinkley to the hedgehogs. This debacle needs to be taken in hand”

“Environmental protections on EDF’s troubled Somerset construction site are excellent, apparently. Very little else about the project is.

Have you heard about the terrific bat houses and hedgehog tunnels down at Hinkley Point in Somerset? Energy minister Andrea Leadsom has been to inspect them herself and raved about them last week to a select committee of MPs. They were evidence, she suggested, of the depth of commitment of French firm EDF to the £18bn nuclear power station due to be built on the site.

Well, maybe. Talk of bats and hedgehogs at least provided some relief from the familiar crop of Hinkley news. French economy minister Emmanuel Macron said he was “fully behind” the project but EDF’s unions confirmed that they weren’t. Jean-Luc Magnaval, secretary of EDF’s workers’ committee, told the BBC that the unions “have reservations about several aspects of the project: organisation, supply chain, installation and procurement”. That’s a long list.

Meanwhile, EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz, appearing before the same committee as Leadsom, had to adopt a humbler tone than on his last outing two months ago. Then he had promised a final investment decision “very soon”; this time he wouldn’t speculate about a date.

This farce – which has been running since last October, when the final sign-off was due within weeks – could yet roll on and on. The UK government is disinclined to set a deadline: it’s a “commercial decision” for EDF.

Meanwhile, the current French government could have a radically different shape this time next year – there is a presidential election in 2017 and the incumbent, François Hollande, is the least popular leader in modern French history. French union opposition to Hinkley Point appears entrenched and the workers’ representatives have six seats on an 18-strong board.

In theory, management and government can proceed regardless; but to embark on an £18bn venture with a divided boardroom would invite trouble down the line. That is especially so when you remember EDF’s last finance director, Thomas Piquemal, resigned over concerns that Hinkley could threaten the company’s future.

The best thing the UK government could do at this point is to stop and consider whether the obstacles facing Hinkley are simply too big.

Nervousness in France is understandable. EDF’s two current attempts to built a European pressurised reactor – the model to be used at Hinkley – are agonising; one is four years late, the other nine years. And the financial arithmetic was always challenging. Hinkley could take 10 years to build, and the owners receive nothing during the construction phase; the cash only arrives when electricity starts to be generated. And, while the returns on capital under the 35-year contract are theoretically enormous, the penalties for failure to hit a 2029 deadline are stinging, and ratchet up.

That is why the UK government had to make the 35-year contract so generous – struck at almost three times today’s wholesale price. That contract now looks to belong to another era given the subsequent fall in the oil price, and thus energy costs. The only weak support holding Hinkley in place is its capacity to provide 7% of the UK’s electricity in a low-carbon fashion.

But there are other ways to meet the legally binding emissions targets. Offshore wind is expanding with no Hinkley-style fuss, and its costs are falling. More importantly for the UK’s requirement for secure baseload supplies, other builders are waiting to pursue projects that use different nuclear technology.

In theory, planning and appraisal can continue in parallel; in practice, confidence in the UK’s commitment to its new-nuclear programme will drain away.

There is not – yet – a crisis in UK energy policy because it is always possible to build a few gas-fired stations to avert an emergency. But the Hinkley show is becoming an embarrassment. The project is expensive, uses unproven technology and its builder is a disunited and over-borrowed company that requires constant financial assurances from an ever-changing cast of politicians.

The UK government should set EDF a deadline and be ready to enforce it. We can do better – much better – than Hinkley.”

Ottery over-55s homes rejected by planning inspector

“A ‘highly unpopular’ and ‘damaging’ 52-home development plan in Ottery has reached the end of the road as an appeal against its refusal was dismissed.

An application by Blue Cedar Homes to build at Slade Farm received 410 formal objections and was rejected by East Devon District Council last year in a move hailed a ‘victory for people power and common sense’. …

… Blue Cedar specialises in providing homes for over-55s and its plans included provision of ‘age-restricted’, open market and ‘affordable’ properties at Slade Farm. …

… In his report, planning inspector Jonathan Manning cited several reasons for dismissal, including the harm it would cause to the character of the area, loss of the most versatile agricultural land and the fact it does not represent sustainable development.”

Manchester: devolution finance black hole

“Andy Burnham, who wants to be Labour’s Manchester mayoral candidate, has called on George Osborne to take action over what he called a £1bn black hole in the northern powerhouse initiative.

Analysis of public services finances across Greater Manchester has found that a £1bn shortfall would emerge over the course of this parliament. Central government grants to the region’s 10 councils will fall by £836m between 2015 and 2020, and Manchester city council is set to lose £163m by 2019/20, according to Burnham.

The region’s NHS trusts face a combined deficit of £115m, the budget of Greater Manchester police will fall by an estimated £34m over the five years, and post-16 education funding has been cut by £2m this year.

Burnham told Osborne: “You have one more budget before the new mayor takes office to fix this hole in our roof and balance the books. Your legacy as chancellor can go in two ways: as the one who truly changed the fortunes of the north; or one who perpetrated the most elaborate con in British political history. I urge you to choose the former and work with me to make it a success.”

The former health secretary said that given the north’s overcrowded roads and poor rail links, it was impossible to conclude that Crossrail 2 – which would run diagonally across London – was the UK’s highest strategic transport priority.

“I call on you to look again at this and urgently allocate the funding for a modern, high-speed rail system linking the cities of northern England,” Burnham said.

“I am prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that your commitment to the north is real. But people here are not daft – they now want actions, not clever slogans.”

In his budget in March, Osborne committed £60m to develop an improved east-west rail link to reduce journey times from 50 minutes to about 30 minutes between Leeds and Manchester, as well as £75m to develop plans for an 18-mile road tunnel under the Peak District to cut journey times between Manchester and London.

However, funding has only been put forward to draw up plans rather than as any commitment to building either project.”

40 recommendations on devolution most of which the government ducks

Government Response to CLG Select Committee Report: “Devolution: the next five years and beyond”

Many, many recommendations, few of which the government is taking on board.

Worth the read.

For example:

“Recommendations 15 / 16:
for devolution to take root and fulfil its aims, it needs to
involve and engage the people it is designed to benefit. There has been a consistent very significant lack of public consultation, engagement and communication at all stages of
the deal-making process. This is due to areas having limited time in the run up to the 4 September deadline. The Government drove the first wave of devolution deals through
at a rapid pace (considered in more detail in the next section) which meant there was no opportunity for engagement with residents, or for residents to have their say on the principle of devolution or the framework of the specific deal proposed in their area.

Despite this, we believe that local leaders could have communicated more effectively and extensively with their residents about the deal process, the contents of the deal and how it would affect them. It should, for example, have been clear to any citizen what their elected leaders were seeking to secure for the area in negotiating a devolution deal with the government.

In addition, deals involving complex negotiations between national and local politicians do not lend themselves to public engagement However, from now on, efforts should be made to engage, consult and communicate with the public at all stages of the process—in the preparation of proposals, their negotiation and following agreement.

Strategies to involve the public may include citizens’ juries, public meetings and, within the NHS and local government, staff engagement sessions. Once a deal is entrenched and its reforms have had the chance to take effect, the public should be consulted on their experience of its practical effects.

We think it is too late to engage the public only once a deal has been agreed. While it is reasonable that the actual negotiations are not open to the public, steps should be taken to inject more openness into the process by publishing on the relevant authorities’ websites:

• Devolution proposals and the Government’s counter-offers, within a reasonable time of them being made;
• An outline of what is being negotiated; and
• Drafts of the deal, and the text of the final deal.

The Government should also publish the criteria it uses to assess and agree proposals so local areas can refer to these when drawing up their devolution bid. A similar level of transparency should continue to be maintained once the deal has been agreed.”(Paragraph 56)
(Paragraph 53)

and here is the government response:

“The Government agrees that devolution needs to involve and engage the public, and would see continued value in engagement once a deal has been agreed. Deals are iterative (as evidenced by the progress made by Greater Manchester) and the Government’s expectation would be that elected representatives in the local area should seek the views of their constituents through whatever means they deem appropriate.

The Government would expect devolution deals, negotiated between locally elected leaders and central government, to reflect what people in the local area want and need. Additionally, when establishing, or amending, a Combined Authority there is a statutory requirement to hold a public consultation, while local authorities in deal areas also remain subject to the Best Value Duty with its associated requirements around consultation related to commissioning in particular.

The Government does not share the Committee’s view that there should be assessment criteria to agree deals. This is because there is no blueprint for devolution proposals; the only stipulation is that the governance arrangements should be commensurate with the powers being devolved. All devolution deals are bespoke and will vary depending on the asks from local areas.

All of the devolution deals agreed to date include clear commitments from Government and local areas on implementing, monitoring, evaluating and ensuring accountability, and the text of all agreed deals has been published online. The Government is committed to continuing to publish deals as more are agreed.”

Click to access CM9291-_Select_Comittee_Response.pdf_-_Print.pdf

Devon Minerals Plan: inspector recommends more than 200 changes

It appears from the press release (link below) that the recommendation is that Straitgate Quarry should be reduced in size but the Inspector raised many issues about access and alternative sites to which he did not receive adequate answers.

Much centred on lack of consultation, and the amended report must now go out to public consultation again from August 1 to September 23,

Report from the Straitgate Quarry Action Group here: