“Budleigh fishermen’s fury at 350% shed rent hike”

If any of the fisherman voted Tory at district elections, they really should have expected this!

“Users of the sheds, used by many to store vital equipment and petrol for their boats, have been told they face having to pay more than four times their usual ground rent.

Landowner East Devon District Council (EDDC) has written to the fishermen to inform them that, when their current annual licence expires in April, renewal will cost £450 instead of £100.

Former town mayor Roger Pym, 72, has been fishing on the seafront for 50 years and still helps his son Sam, 43, with the business.

He said: “I’m furious – we’re being ripped off. It appears to me that they are trying to price all the fishing fraternity out for extra beach huts.
“You don’t need to have a beach hut. If you have one, it’s for pleasure. We need to have a shed as we have a 16ft boat with crab pots.”

Dave Perkins, 60, has been fishing full-time on Budleigh beach for 12 years.

He said: “I expected prices to go up, but to suddenly get a jump of that amount is silly.

“The thing is they’re trying to put it down as commercial ground rent to be in line with all commercial rents, but not all the huts are used by commercial fishermen.

“Nothing is supplied with the sheds – no water, no electricity, no amenities.

“With everything else, with trying to fish on the beach, to get this thrown at us is ridiculous.”

Current Budleigh town mayor Chris Kitson said: “I support the fishermen that have been there on our beach for years and this is not acceptable to have these hikes in rent imposed on them.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “As with all our commercial transactions, we prefer to deal directly with our tenants and we would therefore ask Mr Pym to write to our property services team or to telephone them to discuss the matter of his rent.”


“Councils staring into the abyss”

“… A spokesman said Devon County Council’s budget, which will be debated next month, calls for an extra £18.8million for adult health and social care – almost 10% up – to cope with the increasing demand and recognise that Devon has significantly more over- 65s and over-85s who need care and support.

The increase would take the total social care and health budget to £216.5 million.

In all, the target revenue budget for 2017/18 would be £459.5 million.

‘We must step up to the plate’

Council leader John Hart said: “Health and social care is under immense pressure both in Devon and nationally.

“We must step up to the plate. Devon has one of the highest proportions of people over 65 and people over 85 and they need and deserve our help and support.

“So despite the continuing austerity agenda from the Government, we have found extra money for these vital services.

“We have always said our priority is to protect the most vulnerable in our society and I believe this target budget will help to do that.

“That’s why we are also increasing the budget for children’s services again following on from big increases there previously.”


How to cure the housing shortage?

“Private builders will never meet the demand for homes. We need more social housing, denser cities and new suburbs – and those require real political will.

People often say to me, “Jonn, why do you keep ruining parties by banging on about the housing crisis?” And I always tell them that the joke’s on them, because I no longer get invited to any parties.

If I did, though, I imagine I would clear the room just as quickly as I ever did, because it’s impossible to address our national shortage of housing without addressing the worthy-but-dull issue that lies at its root: land, or, more specifically, the lack of it. There is no piece of blue-sky thinking, no big idea, that could help solve the housing crisis without explaining where we’re going to put those extra homes.

It’s thus hard to come up with a fantasy housing policy that doesn’t shatter on contact with matters of concrete (sorry) reality. Proposals that don’t even try to address the land question ascend rapidly into the realm of science fiction, whether that means Star Trek (“What if new transport technology meant we didn’t need to live near the office any more?”) or Logan’s Run (“If only there weren’t quite so many people, somehow …”).

So, let’s limit ourselves to policies that are difficult thanks merely to politics, rather than the laws of physics. Let’s imagine we had a government that was genuinely determined to solve the housing crisis. What would it actually do?

Well, it would begin by accepting that the private housebuilders were never going to solve this problem for us. The amount firms pay for land is based on the price they’ll be able to sell homes for. They’re never going to build homes at a rate that could make prices fall, for the very good reason that they’d all go bust if they did.

And so, a government set on a real solution to the housing crisis would abandon ministers’ touching faith in the power of markets. Instead, it would invest in a huge increase in social housing, loaning money to housing associations, to get them building, and allowing councils to borrow money and build homes on their patch once again. This would require a change in attitudes towards public debt, and an understanding that council housing was a long-term investment – an asset, rather than a slightly embarrassing relic of a bygone age.

This doesn’t, however, solve the question of where we’re going to put all these new houses. The standard answer to that is “brownfield” – conveniently vacant land that’s already been built on, and so won’t offend too many people if it’s built on again. But the truth is that, in much of the country, there isn’t enough of that to go round. If we’re actually going to meet demand for new homes, we have only two options: we can either build up, or build out.

Building up doesn’t necessarily mean skyscrapers. British cities, with their reliance on semi-detached homes occupying individual plots, are actually very low-density compared to most European cities. Gradually filling London with apartment blocks of the sort that line the boulevards of Paris or Vienna could go some way to meeting the city’s housing need, without turning it into the set of Blade Runner. The public sector even owns large tracts of land where we could put these new homes.

The drawback? Most of that land is occupied by homes already, in the form of existing council estates. Real world governments have shown themselves more than willing to redevelop those – but they’ve generally tried to do so on the cheap, maximising the number of private homes available at the expense of social homes, and repeatedly breaking promises to tenants.

Our fantasy government wouldn’t pull these tricks: it would guarantee social tenants’ rights to homes of equivalent size in the same area, and it would act in a way that showed that it understood these are homes, rather than simply government property for it to dispose of as it wishes. Nonetheless, it would replace some of the more crumbling and impermeable postwar council estates with new streets, filled with European-style mansion blocks rather than the cramped, magnolia, hall of residence-style that characterises most British new-builds. Such is the need for new homes that, in select areas, it would probably use stronger compulsory purchase rules to acquire land.

Increasing density in this way would allow it to increase the number of both private and social homes, creating vibrant, new mixed communities. This would probably take a bit more cash upfront than past redevelopments – but since our government has shown itself willing to invest for the long-term, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Comprehensively redeveloping the inner cities will take time – but luckily, there is an easier way to meet housing need. All around London, Oxford, Bristol and other cities in housing crisis, there is open space, often inaccessible to the public and occupied by nothing prettier than some chemical-drenched arable land. The reason we don’t build on it? Because when green belts were introduced in the mid-20th century, it just happened to be unoccupied.

Our fantasy government would recognise that a land-use policy designed for 1955 was not much use in 2017. It would take its inspiration from Copenhagen, whose “fingerplanen” has seen development take place in five rail corridors (the “fingers”) extending outwards from the city, separated by green space.

Is it time to rethink Britain’s green belt?

To that end, the government would formally review the green belt to identify areas that would be better used as the site of new communities. Around London, it would prioritise areas next to railway lines, such as that baffling open space surrounding much of the eastern end of the Central line. In smaller cities such as Oxford, it would designate new urban extensions, linked to the city centre by new tram lines. Further green belt land would be turned into public parks: surely an improvement on the inaccessible farmland that sits there now. And, to minimise public whingeing, it could even designate new green belt, to protect land in areas less plagued by demand for housing.

More social housing, denser cities, and properly planned new suburbs: in these three ways, a motivated government would be able to end the housing crisis in just a few years. It’s only a pity that a government like that seems like science fiction, too.”


Another problem for our Local Enterprise Partnership?

Perhaps partnering with Somerset, with its massive reliance on Hinkley C is not such a good idea.

“Forging a trade deal with the European Union must be Britain’s top priority in negotiations, because the bloc is the largest export market for 61 of 62 of the nation’s cities, a think-tank has said. …

…”The West of England is disproportionately reliant on exports to the EU, with the great majority of total exports from cities in the region destined for the bloc. Out of all cities in the UK, the top three cities in terms of their dependence on EU exports are Exeter (70%), Plymouth (68%) and Bristol (66%).

The least dependent city in the UK is Derby, which still sends almost half (48%) of its exports to the EU, followed by Hull (29%).”


“Greater Exeter” dependent on EU for 70% of its exports

Exeter is more reliant on trading with the EU than any other city in the country, according to a new report.

Centre for Cities released a report today which reveals that 70 per cent of Exeter’s exports are sold to the EU – meaning our city would be hit worse by a bad Brexit deal than anyone else.

That figure is much higher than average, Almost half the exports from UK cities are sold to the EU.

That is three times more than to the USA and five times more than to India, Japan, Russia, South America and South Korea combined.

The annual Cities Outlook survey shows that the whole of the South West relies on EU trade more than other regions – with Exeter the most dependent of any city in the country.

The same report also says Exeter is the fastest growing city in the country, with a population increase of 2.4 per cent in the last year.

Exeter’s main exports are in goods and services such as insurance and pensions, as well as transport equipment.

While across the UK the average is close to 50 per cent of trading done with the EU, in some cities it is as low as 25 per cent.”


Knowle relocation costs: it’s up to us to check as councillors don’t get the information

And this is how we do it (whilst we have a Freedom of information Act):

Dear East Devon District Council,

I would like to make a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I am also making this Request under the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 which require disclosure on the part of Local Authorities.

Please let me have the costs to date of the Knowle relocation project, to include all preliminary pre “moving decision” costs, and subsequent costs of all work associated with the intended reallocation, including those at The Knowle, Manstone, the intended Honiton site and Exmouth Town Hall

I should also like to know the current projected costs of the Exmouth Town Hall move, (including all associated costs such as moving, staff compensation and travel costs and fitting out costs), and for Honiton and costs associated with the “mothballing” of various parts of the Knowle contingent upon the intended relocation of 90 staff to Exmouth.”


And if they say they can’t tell us how much it has cost so far …..