Clinton Devon Estates PR team working overtime on Blackhill Quarry!

Sent to Friends of Pebblebed Heaths

“Dear Friends,

Many of you will have seen the recent coverage in local newspapers and on social media concerning a planning application lodged by Clinton Devon Estates for the former quarry plant area adjacent to Blackhill Quarry, enabling a nearby engineering firm to expand.

Unfortunately lots of inaccurate rumours were also circulating.

As you know the primary aim of the Pebblebed Heath Conversation Trust is to ensure threatened heathland ecosystems are protected, to ensure all wildlife associated with this habitat flourishes, to protect public access and encourage responsible public enjoyment of the heaths.

The most important conservation partner of the Trust is the public and we strive to keep our Friends of the Commons well-informed, so the Trust continues to develop with public support.

Our staff live in nearby villages and understand the issues local people have. Our neighbours are concerned about development, volume and types of traffic, change of use in rural areas and we recognise these topics can bring about many questions as well as strong feelings and differences of opinion.

We hope by providing the facts of this complex issue, especially given the amount of misinformation and speculation there has already been, you will have more of the information needed to make up your own mind.

Please take time to view the maps, statements and explanations we have included here, plus links to the EDDC planning application, where you can read and see what others think.

Blackhill Quarry has no statutory conservation designations, although it is registered as a County Wildlife Site. Attempting to restore heathland on industrial sites can be extremely problematic due to the raised nutrient enrichment of the land due to lime. Similar issues are already the case on East Budleigh common, where the remains of buildings from Dalditch Camp, make management of this site, extremely difficult. To mitigate the loss of 1.09 ha heathland (from total area of 63 ha for the quarry) not restored from hard-standing, we would be looking to create significantly more heathland and of a better quality. This is likely to be through the conversion of existing coniferous plantations to heathland. Our goal is certainly for there to be a biodiversity uplift above and beyond that proposed under the existing restoration scheme.

Later in the year we will organise a visit to Blackhill so you can see the restoration work in progress and ask any questions. In the meantime please contact any one of the team if you have any further queries.

The Pebblebeds Team”

The communication continues with some extraordinary reasons why CEE thinks the engineering works are a special case including:

* Specialising in steel fabrication and design, Blackhill Engineering has recently been involved in many prestigious projects including the design of flood defence gates for New York City Hospital, work for the European Space Agency and the pier at Hinkley Point for which Blackhill has been recognised with two awards from EDF Energy.
[aahhhh!!! now Owl understands!]

* The site proposed is currently covered in concrete and any restoration to high quality habitat will be problematic …”

Who knew that concrete couldn’t be so difficult to remove! If it’s THAT difficult perhaps we shouldn’t allow any development at all at this site since more and more concrete will be needed to expand it!

Our NHS but not “OUR” NHS

Another post from the Save Our Hospital Services Facebook page, which has nearly 11,000 (yes, ELEVEN THOUSAND) members

“The STPs have driven a huge wedge between hospitals and areas within the “footprints” people have been horrified to find that their services have been down-graded and moved to other hospitals some distance away.

In Devon there were threats made to move maternity and acute services from North Devon to Exeter some 55 miles away and even further away from some of the outlying villages.

The various committees and groups set up to implement the STPs have wasted vast sums of money on wages, premises, expenses and admin staff. There have been endless ridiculous consultations with all sorts of groups where the public’s views were dismissed—the public have watched on while these people have wasted money.

The STPs have been successful in taking huge sums of money from the system and putting it in the hands of people who should actually have been working in hospital. Management consultants and makers of pretty information books have had a great time too.

Meanwhile back in the hospitals beds have been closed to save money and then we find that there are not enough beds. The boards of hospitals ( NDDH – North Devon District Hospital) have been taking pay rises in some cases already earning a quarter of a million pounds per year- this individual has now had a vote of no confidence made against him by the consultants – yet still he cashes in.

The CCGs across the country have been following orders and cutting community hospitals and beds relentlessly rather that protesting and thinking about patient safety in their areas. They have all done great jobs at implementing STPs – well done but you should have been advocating for your patients.!!!!!

The public are furious across the country about this government’s shameful treatment of the NHS and its front line staff. They see the staff run off their feet, suffering stress and leaving. The hospitals which are under threat of closing or losing services have staffs that have no confidence in the system and no job security. How has this come about? The STPs have demoralised everyone, put hospitals against hospitals, made the public feel that because they live in certain areas that their lives are not as important as the lives of people in neighbouring areas.

The STPs are now morphing into ACOs and ACSs and goodness knows how many quangos and private companies (yet again) will be raking in their pounds of flesh before patients are considered. The whole nation is up in arms about the effects of cost cutting.

Deficits in hospitals do not represent overspending- they represent the needs of the people in that area.

No area is the same – we do not all fit into a formula – some populations have more elderly people, some have more babies, some have more people drinking and smoking, some are more polluted, some are deprived, some are wealthy. The STPs do not address these considerations.

ACOs are very suspicious- a move to the American (rubbish for the people) insurance based system. They break up the system even more and are not accountable to anyone. Private companies such as Virgin bully and sue if they do not get their own way over contracts already. What will happen when even more is thrown open to the sharks waiting to take a profit out of people’s ill health?

The demise of Carillion should send a warning shot across the bows of anyone who feels that public services are safe in the hands of profiteers.
People are angry- STPs started this – put a stop to it now and reinstate the NHS.”

Our local health services: our last line of defence

From the Save Our Hospital Services Facebook site:

:… these guys are our last line of defence. They need to work harder at not being manipulated.

Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, County Hall, 25 January 2018

“I take my Scrutiny duty very seriously,” declared Cllr Brian Greenslade (Barnstaple North) at the Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting at County Hall on 25 January. Save our Hospital Services (SOHS) members from North Devon who attended this and many other such meetings know this to be only too true.

Indeed, were it not for Cllr Greenslade and his meticulous colleague, Cllr Claire Wright (Otter Valley) it is doubtful how much scrutiny by the Scrutiny Committee there would be at all. One thing is certain: given the scale, speed and scope of the changes now being pushed through in health and social care services in Devon, real information, real questions and real answers have never been so vital. It is literally a matter of life and death.

At a previous Scrutiny meeting, the Chair, Cllr Sara Randall Johnson, in clear cahoots with Cllr Rufus Gilbert, manipulated proceedings. The two managed to prevent Cllr Wright putting a motion she had already tabled, thus shutting down a debate that may have saved in-patient services at some community hospitals.

This so outraged some councillors and members of the public that their chorus of complaints and the consequent internal investigation prompted the county’s lawyers to lecture councillors as to their legal obligations to scrutinise. The investigation and warning came too late for the community hospitals, but could better behaviour be expected from now on?

Indeed, it could. But then, on 25 January, the Chair of the Standards Committee was sitting in. This time Cllr Wright was allowed to say quite a lot, pose many more questions, and state much more of the obvious in defence of our health and social care services.

However, far too many of our County Councillors still appear unwilling to spend time and effort educating themselves as to the issues, facts and figures, whilst being only too willing to swallow propaganda and projections put out by overpaid health bosses bent on making severe cuts to our NHS services.

No one, even councillors who have barely raised a whisper in opposition, is in any doubt as to the real motive for all these health service changes: cuts and cutbacks designed to save £557 million over the next five years. The aim is to ration, restrict and remove elements of care and treatment for however many people it takes to save that amount of money. Cost comes first, clinical need a poor second.

Dr Sonja Manton was again allowed to speak at great length. She is NHS Devon’s lead cost-cutter, qualified by means of a doctorate in Systems Dynamics, not qualified in Medicine or any form of clinical care. Which sort of gives the game away –as does her most obvious skill, talking for a very long time without saying anything at all.

When questioned by Councillor Wright, she appeared, as ever, not to have the required data or evidence to hand. Cue the now customary promise to look it up and pass it on. The pattern that follows has been obvious for more than 15 months now. The Scrutiny Committee ends up waiting a long time for what they have asked for – if they get it at all — making real scrutiny in public for the public impossible. The lack of real information, the failure to meet requests, the failure to resolve contradictions in presentations cause real difficulties for our County Councillors meeting after meeting – not least again on 25 January.

It has been reported that Devon’s Clinical Commissioning Groups are bent on steamrollering ‘Accountable Care Organisations’ into position from 1 April. To prove that the joke is on us for what is, after all, April Fool’s Day, they have given the Scrutiny Committee no information about them at all. This is particularly scandalous and frightening. As Brian Greenslade stated: “I want to know where we are…..we need to understand where we’ve got to and what this may mean.”

One faint beacon of light is the announcement, on the same day as the Scrutiny meeting was held, that NHS England will hold 12 week consultations on the implementation of ACOs https://www.england.nhs.uk/…/consultation-aco-contracts/ which puts a very slight delay in place. But the website does not elaborate on how much time after closure of consultation implementation could happen. The Consultation could well be the outcome of an exchange between Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health Select Committee, and Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, as well as an attempt to water down the possible impact of a Judicial Review, which is being filed by a group of Health Care professionals, to challenge the government’s attempt to circumvent Parliament and democratic scrutiny and allow ACOs to operate

ACOs are financially constrained, business-based American-style systems of healthcare purchasing and provision, which will pave the way for further privatisation and still more rationing and restriction of provision. Councillor Martin Shaw from Seaton had done a lot of research on ACOs and put his findings online. But, incredibly, he had to force the whole issue onto the Committee’s Agenda just to secure the very limited discussion that took place.

Until this announcement it was the case that ACOs (unless the Judicial Review has effect) were to be imposed without any debate, discussion or statute. So an ACO could be and, in many cases, will be, a private business, primarily accountable to shareholders and managers rather than patients and the public. And even now we don’t know how ‘public’ the consultation will be. As Jan Goffey, Mayor of Okehampton, declared, “Sick people should never be regarded as a profit-making opportunity.”

Eventually even the Chair, Sara Randall Johnson said, “We need more information.” We have heard her, and others, say this before. Is this a way of avoiding doing anything? Or is it something more cynical: a way of helping to destroy our NHS, but giving themselves the excuse that they just did not know?

If so, it will only be because they failed to find out – or scrutinise.”

Inaugural meeting – “Plastic Free Sidmouth” – 22 February, 7 pm

Starting in Sidmouth and hopefully spreading across a “Plastic Free East Devon” and “Plastic Free Devon”.

PRESS RELEASE:
Futures Forum of the Vision Group for Sidmouth

Press release: Thursday 8th February 2018

The Futures Forum of the Vision Group for Sidmouth will be holding a meeting open to all later this month to facilitate the bringing about of a ‘Plastic Free Sidmouth’.

This follows in the wake of several key campaigns in the Sid Valley, including the beach cleans by Sidmouth in Bloom’s Sidcombers, Surfers Against Sewage and the Sidmouth Plastic Warriors.

All of these groups are concerned about the amount of plastic making its way into our seas – and the devastating effect it has had, as seen on the BBC’s Blue Planet.

Denise Bickley of the Plastic Warriors has also been at the forefront of an on-line petition to ‘Make Sidmouth a single-use-plastic-free town’ at Change.org.

As for their part, the Town Council is going to be installing water fountains, and more businesses are looking at their use of plastic – including offering a free refill of water bottles.

And in Penzance, Surfers Against Sewage have been pioneering an ‘action plan’ for towns who want to go ‘plastic free’ with their Plastic Free Coastlines community toolkit.

On Thursday 22nd February there will be a public meeting to look at how Sidmouth could take a plastic free project forward – starting 7pm at the Leigh Browne Room of the Dissenters’/Unitarian Church Hall, opposite the Hospital.

It will be hosted by the Futures Forum of the Vision Group for Sidmouth and will be chaired by Robert Crick.

“Plastic waste on our beaches has doubled over the last decade”, he says. “Other towns have initiated town wide schemes to reduce plastic. Could this be an initiative for Sidmouth to adopt?”

Meanwhile, the Plastic Warriors will be having another plastic clean up on Saturday 17th February around the Woolbrook area, starting and finishing at the Youth Centre, 2 to 3pm: join the group on Facebook.

Their group’s founder Denise Bickley says: “We have lots of big ideas in the Sidmouth Plastic Warriors group and are keen to discuss the way forward at the public meeting on the 22nd.”

Anyone interested in a ‘plastic free Sidmouth’ is welcome to come along.

For more information go to http://www.visionforsidmouth.org”