Inequality in Devon

Devon amongst best places for pensioners to live:

Torquay one of the worst places to raise a family:


EDF staff reps go to court to get Hinkley C decision to proceed annulled

“Five staff representatives on the board of EDF have filed a legal complaint seeking to annul the utility’s decision to go ahead with its Hinkley Point nuclear project in Britain, EDF unions said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

On July 28, EDF’s board voted 10 to seven to proceed with the 18 billion pound project to build two nuclear reactors. All six staff representatives and one other board member voted against, while one board member resigned in protest against EDF’s strategy.

The unions argue that EDF Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy and representatives of the French state should have informed the board that they knew the British government wanted to take more time to review the contract.

Hours after EDF’s board approved the project, the UK government postponed its decision until early autumn. Days later, in an email to top EDF executives, Levy admitted that the night before the board meeting he had been told new British Prime Minister Theresa May wanted a bit more time.

The nuclear reactors carry huge risks for both France and Britain. EDF will assume the up-front costs, which unions say could jeopardise the firm’s survival, while Britain has committed to pay a price twice current market levels for the power generated by the plant.

“Some board members discovered they did not benefit from the same level of information as the CEO and government representative,” the CGT, CFE-CGC and FO unions said. The moderate CFDT union did not sign the statement.

The unions added there was no justification to push the board to vote on the project in a hurry.

EDF declined to comment on Wednesday.

Law firm Alain Levy, which represents the five union board members, said in a statement it had filed a complaint with the Paris commercial court, asking it to annul the vote because Levy had not shared essential information with all board members.

A first hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept 5.

Source: Reuters

Devon Tory election expenses conflict?

From a correspondent:

West Mercia’s Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Chris Singer was with Devon and Cornwall police until Dec. 2015, the Commander for Plymouth and before that Torbay.

Even if no Election Expenses offence was committed by Alison Hernandez and Kevin Foster, any outcome may be tainted by Devon and Cornwall Police passing that to a force whose ACC was with them at the time of the General Election in May 2015.

Does any potential conflict of interest in passing that investigation to West Mercia risk bringing both constabularies into disrepute?

Indeed, a very good question.

Council record- keeping – an EDDC example

A recent comment on the original article:

“This finding should come as no surprise to EDDC.

In a decision published in January 2004, the Ombudsman found against EDDC in regard to a number of complaints concerning planning matters in Exmouth at Camperdown Terrace. The Ombudsman noted that

‘material relating to the application was misleading and gave no indication that the council was being asked to approve a 6.8 metre high metal boat racking system at the end of their small gardens, nor that the racks would be used for the storage of large motor boats which are moved around the site by a gigantic fork lift truck.‘

Consultees were not provided with sufficient information to make informed comments.

The Council’s record keeping was very poor and there was a failure to give adequate consideration to the points raised by the consultees and others who commented on the application. The Ombudsman found maladminstration causing injustice and recommended that …..

(g) “undertake a review of the record keeping by planning officers and the delegated decision making arrangemnents to ensure that proper records are kept and delegated decisions are made on the basis of written reports, so that those affected may see how a particular decision has been reached.”

The most striking sentence for me is “Consultees were not provided with sufficient information to make informed comments”. Anyone knowing anything about the Exmouth Masterplan consultation, in regard to Elizabeth Hall v Premier Inn, will appreciate how EDDC said one thing meant something quite different, how wanting to see the EH site improved was taken as meaning approval for a Premier Inn. EH is but one of very many examples.

Also, anyone who is familiar with EDDC’s answers to FOIs will be all too familiar with EDDC’s failure to keep proper records of decision making.

The record of this Ombudsman’s finding is no longer available online but I have the 24 page report should anyone want it.”

Seaton Heights – due for completion June 2016 …

With Seaton seemingly on the up these days with its increase in “staycation” visitors, its newly-opened Jurassic Visitor Centre, a new Premier Inn on the way and a new leisure facility about to open, it is time to revisit – yet again – the one remaining large tourist development yet to be created – the hilltop Seaton Heights, the former motel with its breathtaking views down to the sea.

Lyme Bay Leisure – ?owners of Seaton Heights – revamped their website in March this year. They are busy people – offering consultancy services in how to achieve best results in the leisure industry, for example, so perhaps they haven’t had time to review their current web site.

They begin with their usual “buy off plan” spiel:

Lyme Bay Leisure are pleased to announce the release of the first phase of “off plan” luxury “Deck Houses” offered on 999 year leases at their luxury resort in Seaton Devon.

and go on to say:

Once complete the Deck Houses will be supported by “The Gatehouse” a luxury four star leisure facility (opening in June 2016) consisting of a gymnasium and swimming pool with glass fronted views over the bay. A luxury spa with five treatment rooms, sauna, steam and herbal suits (sic) with a therapeutic thermal pool for the ultimate indulgence. The ground floor has (?) a reception, coffee shop and sea facing restaurant providing a wonderful dining experience 7 days a week.”

They seem to have a bit of a problem sorting out present tense and future tense here too:

The first phase of Deck House are [might one day be] a mix of two and three bedroom properties ranging from 93 to 122 square meters all with either integral balconies or roof top terraces to enjoy the wonderful views across the bay. The properties are [might one day be] finished to a high specification with all bedrooms having en-suite facilities and underfloor heating. The kitchen is [might one day be] finished with top of the range Miele appliances and all homes are [might one day be] air-conditioned have solid wood floors and the benefit of their own designated parking space.

and finally”

Discerning purchases (sic) can secure a plot of their choice now for an initial reservation fee of just £1,000, for further details of available plots, terms and conditions and time frames please email our dedicated sales team at

Those “discerning purchaseRs” (note: not purchases!) might want to give the company some very substantial lee-way on that time frame, given that June 2016 is long past with no sign of any development over the last several years, and might also wish to enquire as to the status of that deposit should the venture be further delayed ….

More South West pensioners return to work to make ends meet than anywhere else in England

With low levels of crime, good healthcare and an attractive climate the south coast and south west of England have long been parts of the country where thousands of Britons would love to retire.

But while many people aspire to live out their days in counties such as Dorset, West Sussex and Devon, figures show that fewer than half think they will be able to afford to do so comfortably on their current pensions. …

… The two regions [south and south west] have the highest proportion of pensioners who go back to work full or part time after their careers come to an end, with 34 per cent doing so in the south west and 32 per cent in the south east – more than in any other part of the country.

That contrasts to Yorkshire and Humberside, where only 25 per cent of pensioners carry on working after retirement. …”

“THE government has launched a food tourism grant scheme it hopes will boost the rural economy.

Launched by Defra, the Championing Great British Food Tourism funding scheme seeks to help improve the viability and profile of food businesses and rural tourism.

It is offering grants of between £5,000 and £25,000 to projects that aim to promote “stronger local food identities”.

The government believes the scheme will help to increase the attractiveness of rural destinations to tourists.

It also hopes to encourage greater expenditure within local economies and an extension to the tourism season.

Projects eligible for funding must be in the form of food and drink based attractions.

These could include as trails, festivals, markets or other initiatives providing opportunities to attract visitors at different times of the year.
The scheme follows the launch of an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee inquiry into rural tourism in July.

MPs said that while rural tourism provided around £17bn a year to the English economy, the countryside faced numerous obstacles to tourism growth.
Domestic overnight trips to rural areas fell from 22% to 18% between 2012 and 2014, according to Visit England statistics.

Meanwhile, 50% of international visitor spend is in London.

The scheme has been welcomed by rural leaders – including the Country, Land and Business Association.

CLA eastern region director Ben Underwood said it was important to raise the profiles of the people behind regional food and drink – as well as the aread in which they are based.

“Small-scale producers and rural tourism businesses do an enormous amount to generate revenue and create jobs in local communities,” said Mr Underwood.
“It makes perfect sense to encourage projects promoting an area’s food producing heritage or emerging strength.”

Mr Underwood said there was a “real need” to make rural tourism more effective and profitable.

He added: “It is crucial the government finds ways, such as through the Championing Great British Food Tourism Grant Scheme, to create opportunities for growth, encouraging the viability of rural communities.

“It is important that we get people, from home and abroad, seriously looking at our rural areas as attractive tourism destinations.”

The deadline for applications to the grant scheme is 9am Monday 26 September 2016.

More information regarding eligibility and the application process for the Grant Scheme is available here. For further details, visit

A comment on the site mentions the recent food festival in Sidmouth:

“I recently organized a food festival in my rural seaside town of Sidmouth – it was very well attended – by all accounts a massive success! I had funding from the East Devon Sustainable Development fund mainly because it was to promote the move of location of our Sidmouth Farmers Market which has been running once a month for the last 7 years. One stall holder reported that visitors came from Bristol especially for the festival. The funding ensured good promotional coverage which was key!!”

Councils need to keep proper records of contractual decisions

East Devon District Council does like its private, non-note-taking meetings …

“A judge has issued a warning to contractual authorities that might be tempted to minimise the amount of paperwork they keep particularly where they fear that a high profile procurement exercise might be challenged. Helen Prandy reports.

In finding in EnergySolutions EU Limited v Nuclear Decommissioning Authority [2016] EWHC 1988 (TCC) that a contracting authority had made “conscious decisions” in relation to sparse record keeping a High Court judge noted that serious consideration appeared to have been given to restricting the keeping of contemporaneous records of evaluation because it was known that these would be disclosable in litigation.

The court took the view that if the evaluation process is performed in accordance with the obligations under the Regulations then they would present no danger to the Authority because they would constitute an ‘audit trail of the decision making’.

He also went on to find that a proposed destruction of notes relating to the evaluation was extremely worrying given the express obligations of transparency on public authorities under the Regulations.

In the absence of adequate contemporaneous documents a court is forced to rely on the recollection of witnesses. Documents may be embarrassing but the memory of witnesses is extremely unreliable and is just as likely to lead to an ‘embarrassing’ revelation. In this most recent case the witness most closely involved with the evaluation admitted on cross examination that he did not accept that inconsistency in evaluation of bids might amount to unequal treatment.

The judge found the almost complete absence of documents relating to a critical dialogue phase of the procurement and a reliance solely on the memory of witnesses to “verge on the incredible”.

The case arose under the 2006 Regulations and there is a requirement now under Regulation 84(8) of the 2015 Regulations to keep “sufficient documentation to justify decisions taken in all stages of the procurement procedure…” and to do so for a period of at least 3 years from the date of the award.

This case is not the first where a deliberate failure to keep documents has created problems for a contracting authority. However tempting it might be it is always far better to have a clear audit trail of reasons for evaluation decisions at every stage, including moderation, and for that audit trail to be in writing.”

NHS Property Services stitches up Dr Sytch’s Sidmouth surgery

“Plans to completely redevelop Sidmouth’s Blackmore Health Centre – adding new flats and a pharmacy – have left GPs fearing for its future.

Sid Valley Practice partners have been denied the chance to buy their town-centre building – taken over in 2013 – and say owner NHS Property Services (NHSPS) seems to be on a ‘commercial drive’ to squeeze profit from the site.

GPs say they are struggling to work in the rapidly deteriorating premises – branded ‘non-fit for purpose’ by the Care Quality Commission in July 2015. They have spoken of concerns that current proposals do not future-proof the site or leave any room to expand as the population grows.

The GPs remain ‘absolutely committed’ to retaining the town-centre surgery and are appealing for support from the community.

Doctors say the company responsible for managing NHS property has hiked up charges to the practice by around 50 per cent, despite so far failing to make the six-figure investment needed in the building.

An NHSPS spokesperson said the company is ‘committed to delivering improvements’ and recognises the concerns raised by GPs.

Dr Joe Stych, one of the practice partners, told the Herald: “The plan at the moment includes 10 residential flats on the squashed site. The implications of this will be quite large.

“A concern is that if the site is developed into flats and sold off, this facility would lose future expansion space available to the NHS as the town grows. Practice partners have been desperately trying to buy the building to protect it long-term, but have been turned down. Since NHSPS took ownership, costs passed on to the NHS and GPs for running this facility have increased to a level it may not be financially viable for the surgery to continue to practice there long-term.

“One of the big concerns for us is future-proofing the practice. The plans that are there do not future-proof the practice for the town in the short-term, let alone the long-term. “

The practice partners personally shouldered a £2.1million loan to build the new Beacon Medical Centre off Stowford Rise – and say they are ‘absolutely committed’ to retaining a town-centre surgery.

Dr Stych added that doctors do not feel their concerns are being listened to, so they have resorted to appealing for public support in efforts to safeguard the future of the Blackmore Drive surgery.

Chairman of the Sid Valley Patient Participation Group, Di Fuller, called for the community to get behind a campaign to save their surgery. She says the NHSPS is making it increasingly difficult for the practice, adding: “From a patient perspective, we already know there is a lot of anxiety in the town about the security of the Blackmore Surgery. Our anxiety is that, once it’s redeveloped, it will be great, but the rent they will demand will possibly make it unsustainable.

“At the moment, I understand that they are not planning to make the accommodation large enough for expansion, which is really cause for concern. They are trying to maximise profit and income from the property.

“We are a patient group that works hard to bridge the gap on behalf of patients, but we need the community to get behind us on this.”

East Devon’s MP Hugo Swire agreed it would it be ‘wholly inappropriate’ for people in Sidmouth to experience a reduction in healthcare provision. He said he will seek a meeting with relevant parties to discuss the future of Blackmore Health Centre.

A spokesperson for NHSPS said: “We are committed to delivering improvements to this surgery, including draft proposals for a scheme which could provide homes and a brand new surgery on the site.

“The GPs raised concerns about the car parking and we have revised the proposal, but discussions are continuing on this, or the option to refurbish.

“We clearly want to ensure the best possible outcome for the practice and local patients. We are listening to the GPs and fully recognise their concerns. We will continue to work with them to address these, including queries about their billing.”

(Re)location, (Re)location, (Re)location

Dorset has announced a decision to work towards mergers of its councils:

It does rather beg the question: what is to happen to West Dorset Council’s brand new HQ, built at a cost of more than £10 million?

It was always going to be a risky venture, when mergers and reorganisation were even at the time of the planned move being spoken of as a possibility.

To be fair to WDDC, their existing premises were very poor, very old and haphazardly arranged on three sites. They expected to sell the sites for £2.5 million, but in the end only achieved £1 million.

We do hope that our district council – in its desire to move to a spanking new set of offices in Honiton – has taken note of Dorset’s (un)intended consequences.

If such talks are abroad in Devon (which is already pretty much merging with Somerset if our Local Enterprise Partnership has its way) then it surely would be a dereliction of duty or even a misfeasance in office to consider such a move when it could be almost immediately redundant.

But, as in all important decisions in East Devon, we the residents will be the last to know what is being decided behind those closed doors in our names.

Cameron aides given massive pay rises before he left office

“David Cameron gave some of his special advisers bumper pay rises just months before they were given generous severance packages, it has been reported.

The former prime minister upped the salary of some of his advisers by as much as £18,000 – or up to 24%, according to an analysis by Civil Service World.

The double-digit hikes were ordered despite pay rises being capped at 1% across the public sector. Trade unions and taxpayer groups said the increases were “shameful” at a time when government departments have faced cuts. …

… Seven out of 10 of the Downing Street advisers reappointed after last year’s general election – and who therefore became entitled to bigger severance packages – received pay rises of up to 24% in 2015, according to Civil Service World. This far outstripped the 2% average pay award across the private sector in 2015.”

The huge pay rises also affected their redundancy packages, which were increased from four and a half months pay to six months:

We were NOT all in it together – only the cronies, many of whom also got gongs from Cameron (along with his friend Hugo Swire).

Further consultation on new documents submitted by Sidford Business Park developer

New documents to “provide further reassurance”. Er, further implies there was reassurance in the first place! More than a touch of spin speak PR there!

Consultation extended to 16 September 2016.

Owl wonders who told Ford’s “further reassurance” would be a good move …

Such a fraught and confusing road so far …

Tory Dorset MP slams council mergers as anti-democratic

Plans to reorganise local government in Dorset in a bid to save cash are an “attack against democracy”, an MP has claimed.

Chief executives from all nine councils in the county presented four shake-up options at a meeting on Thursday night.

Proposals include the possible merger of Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset.

Christchurch MP Chris Chope said merger plans would be “suicide” for residents.

Dorset’s councils said they receive £142m less per year in government funding now than in 2010-11, and need to cut spending by £200m a year by 2019-20, with further cuts of £30.4m estimated by 2025.

Anthony Alford, leader of West Dorset District Council and vice-chairman of the Dorset Leaders’ Growth Board, said considering change was “essential” in order to reduce costs “and ensure councils are sustainable for the future”.

Aahh, a “Dorset Leaders Growth Board” – shades of our old East Devon Business Forum and our Local Enterprise Partnership! True, no democracy there!

“Developers deliberately restricting housing supply to keep prices high”

“Developers have been accused of deliberately restricting the supply of new houses to keep prices high after figures suggested that planning permission has been granted for 750,000 homes which have not been built.

A report by Civitas, a respected right of centre thinktank, found that overall more than two million planning permits were issued between 2006 and 2015, a rate which would be enough to build average of 204,000 new homes a year.

However, foundations were only been laid on 1.26 million of them, suggesting that developers and land owners are sitting on the permissions rather than building new homes. …

… campaigners said that they should have included a “sunset clause” which would have forced developers to build on land granted planning permission within a set time period. …

… The analysis shows that between 2011 – the last full year before the changes were introduced – and 2015, the number of unused planning permits jumped by 88 per cent, while new housing starts increased by just 26 per cent.

One third of “unbuilt planning permissions” were thought to be held by non-builders, Civitas said, which “points to land hoarding in the hope of further rises in land values”.

Civitas accused housebuilders of reducing sales to a “drip-feed” to maintain profit margins.

Daniel Bentley, editorial director at Civitas, said: “David Cameron’s relaxation of the planning rules has so far only been to the advantage of developers, who have banked the additional planning permissions and topped up their pipelines for future years without increasing output.

“The challenge for Theresa May’s government now is to break the stranglehold that the major housebuilders are exerting on the supply of new homes.”

He added: “It is increasingly evident that the brake on development is being applied by those who are sitting on land which is ripe for new homes and has been given the all-clear by planning authorities.

“This includes land speculators, who are content to sit tight while their holdings spiral in value, but is mostly housebuilders, who lack any incentive to get on and build the homes the country needs.

“Housebuilders are drip-feeding the market in order to push up prices and maximise their profits.”

Last night MPs said they would investigate the figures as part of a new cross-party Parliamentary inquiry into the UK’s sluggish house building rates.

Clive Betts MP, the chairman of the Communities and Local Government select committee, said: “Planning reforms will be a failure unless the Government can act and turn planning permissions into completions.

Now it’s West Hill’s turn to go under siege from developers

“A PIECE of land in the centre of West Hill could be transformed into more than 30 homes, a satellite doctors surgery and a gastro pub.

A coffee shop, pharmacy, bowling club, land for the village’s pre-school, and underground parking may also feature in pending proposals for a two and a half acre site opposite McColls in West Hill Road.

That is what scores of residents have been told by Councillors Claire Wright and Jo Talbot, who fear development of what is known as Copper Trust land could see more than 200 extra vehicle movements in the area a day.

Any such move would come hot on the heels of widely derided Blue Cedar Homes plans to build 50 dwellings on land near Eastfield that have garnered controversy and hundreds of objections.

“Either scheme, if approved, is likely to prompt other developers to submit their own applications, citing these examples as a precedent for their proposals to be accepted,” warned the Ottery town councillors in a letter to Ashley Brake, Elsdon Lane, Ford Lane, Beech Park and West Hill Road householders.”

Hinkley and the threat to marine life

“A combination of radioactivity and warming seas could make the waters of the Bristol Channel near the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station more dangerous for marine creatures, a new study has found.

EDF, which will build the Somerset power station if Prime Minister Theresa May gives the green light, already has an Environment Agency permit to release water containing tritium into the seawater.

Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen, found naturally in small doses, and at much higher levels in nuclear power stations’ cooling water.” …

Folkestone and Margate: a warning for East Devon’s seaside “regeneration” plans

” … The renovated pier is the first phase of a £337m redevelopment of the harbour, which will see 1,000 homes, restaurants, shops, sports centres and gardens built on the seafront over the next two decades. But experts on seaside regeneration warn that the project by local philanthropist and former Saga group tycoon Roger De Haan’s Folkestone Harbour Company risks a polarising gentrification of one of the town’s most deprived areas, with only 8% of the new homes classed as affordable.

James Kennell, a regeneration expert at Greenwich University, said: “It’s not a development for local people. All the primary benefits are for people moving in or for visitors.”

Over the past decade, De Haan’s Creative Foundation has transformed the town into an arts hub with a triennial art show, a new music and performance venue, a book festival and a public art collection featuring works by Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger and Cornelia Parker.

Jonathan Ward, a sociology researcher at Leeds University, who recently published a report questioning the benefits of cultural regeneration in Folkestone and Margate, contends that the harbour development casts De Haan’s support for the arts in a different light. He said: “[It’s] a bit of cultural branding used to conceal what is basically a speculative property development aimed at elite consumers.”

Paul Sharp, senior branch manager at Ward & Partners estate agents in Folkestone, says there is a growing influx of wealthy out-of-town buyers, particularly from London, accounting for up to 40% of sales in the last 14 months. He expects the harbour development to bring local house prices more in line with Hythe, its more affluent neighbour, within five years. “We’re already seeing that with different people in the town,” he said. “Not so long ago I could walk down the street and bump into quite a few people I knew. That isn’t the case now.”

David Crump, director of the harbour development, said the homes on offer would range from “entry level apartments through to luxury detached beach houses”. He added that only 8% would be affordable housing due to the costs of converting the existing harbour, claiming the development was “utterly unattractive to a commercial developer”.

James Kennell said: “I’m quite positive about the harbour as a short-term intervention because of the jobs it will create in construction for local people. [But] 8% [affordable housing] is a clear statement of intent to gentrify an area of the town that has always been the most deprived. That brings it in line with controversial London housing developments such as those around the 02 or at the new Battersea power station site.”

He added that Folkestone was lucky to have a Victorian-style benefactor like De Haan but, despite the vast sums spent on cultural regeneration, the Office for National Statistics still rated the town as deprived. “It’s great to have a futuristic vision of the town being an entrepreneurial/creative hub with fantastic links to London but it’s all very outward-looking. Folkestone and Shepway have deeply entrenched social problems and the regeneration that takes place over the next 20 years has to bring those people in, otherwise what you’ll end up with is a very polarised town.”

Jonathan Ward said many low-earning artists who had been instrumental in the town’s cultural renaissance had been marginalised by the focus on attracting new consumers and investors.

Local artist Matt Rowe said: “Folkestone was on its knees before Roger’s money came in. The Creative Foundation does work. It’s now that there’s more demand that it is slightly different. The harbour arm and the housing development are going to bring in a much more mass culture audience. The people who come down are happy to spend £8 on a burger but they’re not happy to spend £20 on a print.” …

Election expenses probe to be concluded by November – and Hernandez talks about her past

Irrespective of whether the election expenses scandal was accidental or planned, rules dictate that those elections should be run again. Will this happen? Of course not – rules are made to be ignored when you are in government:

And where will this leave our Police and Crime Commissioner who recently did an interesting interview with a local radio station:

“The controversial police and crime commissioner who admitted smoking dope as a teenager has now confessed her love for hard-core gangsta rappers.

Alison Hernandez, who faces an investigation into the scandal over general election campaign spending, recently admitted smoking cannabis

Now the Tory police and crime commissioner (PCC) has revealed she was a one-time “fly girl” and a fan of California outfit NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitudes).

group’s debut album in 1988, Straight Outta Compton, began with the track “F**k tha Police”, a protest against police brutality and racial profiling.

Ms Hernandez, who grew up in Torbay – one of the most deprived areas in the South West – also told twitter followers she used to listen to Public Enemy, famous for the track Fight the Power, made famous in the Spike Lee movie Do the Right Thing.

The Exeter-based PCC’s revelations came during an internet discussion on the Cornish Truro Hour.

She chose the Beastie Boys’ (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) for David White’s BBC Cornwall show then explained how the New York trio sparked her love for Hip Hop.”

Well, that’s Torbay for you ..!