Sidmouth public meeting on health cuts 9 December – Swire invited

“Organisers of a public meeting to discuss proposed hospital bed cuts are calling on East Devon’s MP to join and help fight the cause.

Campaigners are inviting people from across the district to attend a gathering on Friday, December 9, from 7.30pm, in Sidmouth Parish Church, in response to plans that could see the town lose its 24-bed inpatient unit.

Several community hospital beds around the county are under threat as the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) seeks to change to a more ‘home-based model of care’ and plug a predicted £384million deficit by 2020/21.

One of the organisers, Robert Crick, has issued a call for the community to join ‘urgent talks’ and East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire – who has raised concerns about the cuts in Parliament has been invited.

Mr Crick said the idea to mobilise individuals and groups in a public meeting was born out of dissatisfaction with the CCG’s ongoing consultation into the proposals and a feeling that asking the public to choose one of four set options does not offer people enough choice.

He is calling on residents and Sir Hugo Swire to resist the CCG’s proposals and demand the Government restores funding levels for NHS and social care.

There is also a county-wide rally planned in Exeter on Saturday, December 3. For more information, call Robert on 01395 519292.”

Exmouth regeneration costs – 6 times bigger than Exeter bus station!

It appears that Exeter City Council has spent “more than £500,000” on fees for its £26m bus station and leisure centre development and is getting some stick for this:

What’s the fuss? EDDC has already said its costs for Exmouth regeneration (officially supposed to be developer-led and funded) will be AT LEAST £3.2 million.

Should someone be patting Exeter City Council on the back and perhaps giving EDDC some stick? And perhaps querying why the Exmouth Regeneration Board (Chair: Councillor Philip Skinner) and EDDC’s Cabinet doesn’t seem to have a handle on the expenditure.

Maybe another elector should be contacting external auditor KPMG as that seemed to get some action on the S106 crisis.

Poor or non-existent broadband in East Devon? Move to remote Exmoor or Dartmoor

“Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, added: “The Connecting Dartmoor & Exmoor programme builds on the success of the first phase of the CDS programme and is already making significant impact with some 2049 premises already able to connect to the wireless network and many more will be able to connect before Christmas.

“This will bring long-term economic benefits to the Moors that will be felt for many generations to come.”

You remember CDS – the project that EDDC broadband supremo and Tory Whip Phil Twiss pulled East Devon out of so it could go it alone with better grants. Except the better grants were refused – in part because CDC was already in the pipeline …

“NIMBY – reality or slur?”

“Communities across the South West have been suffering for some time from a planning system that all too often works against their interests while not serving the needs of the country.

Community Voice on Planning’s National Conference took place in Leeds recently and attracted delegates from as far away as Devon, over 20 groups across the South West being affiliated to CoVoP.

The South West has seen much recent inappropriate development: from building on the green belt around Bristol to unaffordable housing in St Ives and Salcombe. Building on Areas of Natural Beauty, on flood plains, prime farmland and public parks and swamping of green spaces around villages are further all-too-common examples.

Housing Targets are typically inflated and based on questionable methodology. And the current planning system encourages developers to land-bank, slow build-out rates allowing them to increase prices and exploit the 5-year land supply requirement to get even more planning permissions. Developers challenge planning restrictions through viability studies so that infrastructure or affordable housing needs are not met. And developers prefer to build expensive housing rather than the lower-cost houses that people actually need.

We, the undersigned, call upon the public as a matter of urgency to contact their MPs to change planning laws and halt the desecration of our green and pleasant land which is being sacrificed to the economic gain of a few developers and landowners, with public opinion ignored by councils and government.

Georgina Allen (Devon United) Jackie Green (Save Our Sidmouth) Stephen Henry (St Austell, Save Our Unspoilt Land (S.O.U.L.) Paul Adams, MBE (DefeND North Devon) Julie Fox (Your Kids’ Future Cornwall) Dr Louise MacAllister (Save Exmouth Seafront) Peter Burton (Our Cornwall) Mike Temple (East Devon Alliance) David Hurford (Pilton Residents Group) Ron Morton (Save Our Green Spaces)”

New Devon CCG transformation: as transparent as a lead block

Owl recalls that claims were made that the “transformation” plans for the NHS were ordered by the government to be kept secret, and that attempts by mere mortals to get information about them through Freedom of Information requests should be actively resisted.

Well, here is proof.

A local elector made two requests for information (community hospital bed occupancy and objective evidence for the decisions made by New Devon CCG). Both of these requests have been ignored ( no reply within 20 working days) and the first noted is now 40 working days overdue – with a request for internal review of the decision also ignored. This is a necessary step that must be made before a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.

Link to the request 20 working days overdue and not acknowledging the Internal Review request made 20 working days ago:

Second needed to be answered yesterday to be in time.

This is the important one – it will be reasonable to assume that either they have no clinical evidence whatsoever, or that they are deliberately avoiding answering because the evidence they have is negative:

Owl notes that none of our MPs appear to be trying to get this information for us – it is being left to local people to try to find out for themselves.

Hinkley C: throwing bad money after bad?

“In the week Britain exports electricity to France for first time in four years, Gérard Magnin says renewable power will match Hinkley Point C on cost:

The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever” because of a spate of plant closures in France and the complexities it faces with the UK’s Hinkley Point C power station, according to a former Électricité de France director.

Gérard Magnin, who called Hinkley “very risky” when he resigned as a board member over the project in July, told the Guardian that the situation for the state-owned EDF had deteriorated since he stepped down, with more than a dozen French reactors closed over safety checks and routine maintenance.

The closures have seen Britain this week exporting electricity to France for the first time in four years. An industry report on Tuesday also warned that the offline reactors could lead to a “tense situation” for energy supply in France, in the event of a cold snap this winter.

Instead of backing new nuclear, the UK and France should capitalise on falling wind and solar power costs and help individuals and communities to build and run their own renewable energy projects, said Magnin. He founded an association of cities switching to green energy, joined the EDF board in 2014, and is now director of a renewable energy co-op in France.

“The most surprising [thing] for me is the attitude of the UK government which accepts the higher cost of electricity … in a time where the costs of renewables is decreasing dramatically,” he said. “In 10 years [when Hinkley Point C is due to be completed], the cost of renewables will have fallen again a lot.”

Of the Hinkley C design, known as the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), Magnin said: “A lot of people in EDF have known for a long time the EPR has no future – too sophisticated, too expensive – but they assume their commitments and try to save the face of France.”

The UK’s business department conceded in September that by the time Hinkley is operational the price of electricity guaranteed to EDF will be above the comparable costs for large scale solar and onshore windfarms. Officials argued that using renewables instead would cost more in grid upgrades and balancing the intermittent nature of wind and solar.

But in a comment article for the Guardian, Magnin said renewables would still be able to match new nuclear. “Renewable energies are becoming competitive with fossil fuels and new nuclear, such as Hinkley Point, where EDF will try to build the most expensive reactors in the world and provide electricity at an unprecedented cost,” he wrote.

A spokesman for EDF said the company was confident its reactors in France would restart soon after tests were complete.

He added: “EDF has full confidence in the EPR design which is why we and our Chinese partners CGN have invested £18bn in our project at Hinkley Point C. Final testing is underway for our EPR unit in Taishan in China which is due to be operational next year. As our chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy said recently, the EPR is a technology of the future, combining performance, safety and predictability.”

On Wednesday the European commission is due to publish plans on how it will support an increasing amount of renewable energy on Europe’s grids, and how it will meet its climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement. Around seven or eight draft pieces of legislation are expected in the “winter package”, plus funding for cleaner energy, but green groups fear renewables will lose the priority they get on electricity grids.

Magnin said that the EU’s climate targets are used in France as a way to maintain a status quo which sees nuclear – a low-carbon power source – provide around three quarters of the country’s electricity. “Climate change issues are used as arguments to maintain the current system,” he said.

Wind and solar provide less than 4% of France’s electricity, but Magnin said the European commission and governments should support community-owned green energy projects to grow that share. Such an approach would overcome opposition to renewable power sources, and secure funding, he said.

Separately on Tuesday, the trade association for national grids across Europe issued a warning that France was faced with its lowest supply of power from nuclear in a decade because of plants being taken offline for safety checks.

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity said that further reactors would be taken offline, potentially leaving France dependent on imports in December and February, depending on how cold the weather is. But it said that Europe as a whole had sufficient power plants to cope with normal and severe conditions over the winter.

“Identifying the problems facing France and the UK this winter only goes to highlight the importance of investing in new capacity. Events across the Channel have shown that relying on old capacity is risky, with France’s nuclear plants proving as unreliable as our coal-fired ones,” said Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a UK-based thinktank.

“At home, turning to old and dirty coal plants is not a long-term solution, so encouraging investment in new lower-carbon kit – solar, wind and a small amount of new gas capacity – should be at the top of the government’s list of priorities.”

Hugo still very caught up with the Middle East …

What would he have done if he had not got the Chairmanship of the Conservative Middle East Council? Oh, right – he would have JUST been a constituency MP!

“speaker:Hugo Swire : 1 Commons debate

Aleppo (28 Nov 2016)

Hugo Swire: I think my hon. Friend meant airdrops rather than
airstrikes, but he is right that we can be proud of what we have done as
a country for those who are in the camps surrounding Syria. Today’s
urgent question is about those who are trapped in the most hideous
situation in Aleppo. What I believe Members are trying to convey to the
Minister is that we regard this as possibly one of the most… “

Knowle relocation: EDDC defies Information Commissioner AGAIN and heads for court AGAIN


East Devon District Council have formally announced that they will only be complying with one of three Decision Notices issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office on 25th October.

They have formally released the already widely-known information that the price for the Knowle site to developers PegasusLife is £7.5 million – on condition that they receive planning permission. (Decision Notice on Case: FER0608237).

However, the Council do not wish to divulge the “minutes of meetings and correspondence on the subject the decision to award the contract to PegasusLife” (Decision Notice on Case: FER0623403) or give “a copy of an agreement between East Devon District Council and a developer, Pegasus Life, in relation to a site at Knowle” (Decision Notice on Case: FER0626901)

It is clear that the Council do not want any information to be revealed about the contractual arrangements it has with the developer. And in particular, they do not want this to happen before a crucial vote by their planning committee on 6th December – when the Development Management Committee will consider the controversial planning application 16/0872/MFUL from PegasusLife.

This timing seriously puts into question the extent to which the DMC’s decision-making is thereby being compromised, in that any information touching on the planning application should be made available to DMC Members – and the developer’s contract clearly refers to the planning application.

It is now obvious, therefore, that the Council would rather incur further embarrassment and potential damage to their reputation by appearing at the Information Tribunal – as this is the second time it will be appealing against the Information Commissioner.

The obvious question which has to be asked is: What are they so desperate to hide?

Moreover, the Council is clearly prepared to spend yet further on defending itself, no doubt with the use of expensive legal representation – and yet it complains regularly about the expense of having to deal with FOI requests.
Why, then, is the Council so determined to avoid being held properly accountable, let alone transparent to its rate-paying electorate?

It will be interesting to see how the Council deals with the legal process which will now ensue. Will it drag matters out as it did two years ago, during the first time it appeared at the Tribunal?

And how will the Council’s representatives conduct themselves on this occasion?


“The Economist” finds circumstantial evidence for land banking by developers

THE average price of a house in Britain has doubled since 2000, as supply has lagged behind demand. Successive governments have aimed to put up 250,000 dwellings a year, but none has done so since 1980. Some blame housebuilders for this sorry state of affairs. The firms are accused of “land banking”, hoarding undeveloped plots to push up prices. Last month Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, told builders to “stop sitting on land banks, delaying build-out: the homebuyers must come first.”

There is plenty of unused land. The Local Government Association, which represents councils, recently identified sites for half a million homes in England which had been given planning permission but were yet to be built. Three of the largest builders, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt, have 200,000 plots of land that are “ready or close to ready” for development, according to an official report. Last year in England permission was granted for 250,000 housing units—enough to meet the target—but only 140,000 got under way.

To some, all this looks like anti-competitive behaviour by the big developers, eight of which build over half of Britain’s houses. A report from Sheffield Hallam University found that in 2012-15 the biggest private housebuilders increased construction by a third, but their profits trebled.

The builders protest that their critics misunderstand the economics of housing. Some land banking is inevitable: in order to show shareholders that their business has viable prospects, builders need a stock of land for future development. Builders’ profits have risen partly because they acquired land when it was cheaper than it is now, and the price of houses has increased.

Furthermore, the builders say, they are victims of bureaucracy. Even after planning permission is granted, there are conditions to meet, such as outlining plans for flood defences. “Back in my day, you only had to tell the council the colour of the bricks you planned to use,” says Ian Burnett of United Living, a property firm. Planning departments have shed staff following deep cuts to councils’ budgets. The lag between receiving planning permission and building being completed has risen by 12 months since 2007.

All this does not entirely exonerate the builders. Lately the government has become keener on large-scale housing developments. They tend to be farther from NIMBY-ish residents, and local authorities find it easier to manage one big project than lots of small ones. But they can give large builders local monopolies. To maximise profits on a plot, the builder may ration supply, putting up houses gradually rather than completing them all at once.

There is circumstantial evidence of this process at work. One study in 2014 looked at sites in London where more than 500 homes were earmarked and found that it was rare to build more than 100 of them a year. Research by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners (NLP), a consultancy, suggests that as the size of a plot goes up, the annual rate of building gets relatively smaller. One development of 3,000 homes near Winchester, managed by two firms, saw only 526 constructed in six years, according to NLP (the companies insist they are developing the sites without delay).

These problems are not intractable. Councils could allocate smaller plots to a bigger range of builders, making the drip-drip style of construction more difficult. Andrew Lainton, a planning consultant, says that an obligation to build within a given deadline could be attached to planning permission. And ministers could get their own houses in order: one of the biggest hoarders of land suitable for residential development is government itself.

Source: The Economist, 24 November 2016 via Timekeeper newsfeed

Can EDDC do basic arithmetic?

Read this first – the response to their external auditors that their Section 106 system is not working:

“An EDDC spokesman said: “We know exactly how much section 106 money is owed. “However, we only hold that information by development and do not hold a total of all monies outstanding across all developments. “This is currently being addressed.”

(The rest of the press release is just as bizarre)


Let’s say, for argument’s sake, EDDC has 100 developments which owe Section 106 money. What they are saying is: “We know what each of the 100 developments owes but we can’t add them all up and get a total!”

Or is Owl missing something here?