Who will be working where with the new EDDC HQ

Freedom of Information request 19 February 2018. EDDC seems to be increasing staff during austerity.

“Total number of employees working for EDDC
513 – data as at 28 February 2018.

How many currently working remotely or ‘on the move’ are:

A) based in Exmouth Town Hall -79
B) based in Sidmouth – 280
154 are based elsewhere across the district including THG, Manor Pavilion, Cranbrook, StreetScene depots, parks and gardens, Lymebourne House, Business Centre, Camperdown or may be mobile touching down at both ETH and Knowle.

How will this situation change once the new office opens in Honiton (number):

It remains to be seen exactly but I would expect the majority of the 280 to relocate to Honiton but I will be consulting with all individuals and where there are people who potentially live in Exmouth who can work more sensibly from Exmouth we may make adjustments.”


Blackill Engineering Extension – is this an excuse to drive a new industrial site into the heart of the Pebblebed Heaths?

These days most large developers pay for pre-application advice before submitting a planning application. A recent Freedom of Information request has uncovered the advice that was offered to someone (name redacted) seeking such advice on proposed business units at Blackhill Quarry, Woodbury in early October 2017.

Specifically this proposal was for the erection of AN ADDITIONAL industrial building to support the existing business, Blackhill Engineering, being operated form the site together with the erection of FIVE ADDITIONAL industrial buildings for use by other businesses.

In summary the advice given was that this would not comply with the protective policies that cover this sensitive site. A much stronger employment benefit case regarding the expansion of the existing business to justify a departure from these policies would be needed. The five speculative industrial buildings would not justify a policy departure.

On 20 December 2017, within three months of this advice, planning application 17/3022/MOUT was submitted for outline application seeking approval of access for construction of up to 3251 sqm (35,000 sq ft) of B2 (general industrial) floor space with access, parking and associated infrastructure.

The accompanying justification reads:

“There is considerable and clearly identified need for the existing business at Blackhill Engineering to expand as a result of that business having grown considerably over recent years and with its existing premises now at full capacity. The provision of additional facilities on the application site would allow the company to continue its expansion and so deliver additional economic and employment benefits to the local area…. With the winding down of the existing quarry use of the site, there is a short and fortuitous window of opportunity in which to address BESL’s growth requirements with the reuse of an area of former minerals processing site….It is a crucial part of both local and national employment strategy to protect existing businesses and to encourage their expansion. If approved, the scheme would allow the existing business not to only remain at the site but also to expand. The resulting investment will enable a substantial increase in the provision of highly skilled jobs in the area, increased training opportunities for apprentices and added value to the local economy. Furthermore, the expansion of the Blackhill Engineering will help reinforce the vitality of its parent organisation…”

So, is this application all about the needs of Blackhill Engineering to expand, having already designed flood defence gates for New York City Hospital, worked for the European Space Agency and the pier at Hinkley Point, which in October seemed to require only one building; or more about Clinton Devon Estates trying to generate rent from a new industrial park? Restoration provides no income.

For those interested here is the detailed pre-application advice, given on an informal basis and without prejudice, in about half the words:

The extant planning permission on the site requires a restoration and aftercare scheme to be implemented following cessation of the quarrying operations. As part of this condition, alternative schemes (subject to planning permission) can be considered but two policies are of particular relevance:

East Devon Local Plan- Strategy 7 – Development in the Countryside.

This strategy states that development in the countryside “will only be permitted where it is in accordance with a specific Local or Neighbourhood Plan policy that explicitly permits such development”. In this instance, there is no local or neighbourhood plan which would permit the proposal and, therefore, it is considered that it would not comply with Strategy 7.

East Devon Local Plan- Policy E5 – Small scale Economic Development in Rural Areas.

This policy states that the expansion of existing businesses designed to provide jobs for local people will be permitted where

1. it involves the conversion of existing buildings. Or

2. if new buildings are involved, it is on previously developed land. Or

3. if on a greenfield site, shall be well related in scale and form and in sustainability terms to the village and surrounding areas.

In this instance, the Local Planning Authority recognise the previously developed nature of the site, however, in the ‘Glossary of Terms’ section of the Local Plan (which echoes those contained in the National Planning Policy Framework) previously developed land specifically excludes land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill purposes where provision for restoration has been made through development control procedures.

Accordingly, the land would be considered as greenfield.
In terms of Policy E5, as the site would not be well related in sustainability terms to Woodbury or surrounding areas, the proposal would be contrary to policy.

However, if sufficient justification can be made in terms of the needs of the existing business being operated from the site to expand into an additional building, then the economic benefits may outweigh the environmental harm, of the unsustainable location as a departure from the Local Plan.

For this purpose, an economic benefits statement would need to be submitted as part of an application.

The five speculative units being located in an unsustainable location would not be acceptable.”

If you are a man, live long in Newton Poppleford!

The top five areas for life expectancy
For men:

Warfield Harvest Ride, Berkshire (90.3 years)
Fleet North (89.7 years)
Easton, Norfolk (89.6 years)
Newton Poppleford and Harpford, Devon (89.4years)
Salcey, Northampton (89.3 years)


“Tories seek to block move to reveal donations to DUP in EU referendum”

Imagine if this was Corbyn paying off the Lib Dems with £1 billion and then agreeing to keep all Lib Dem referendum donations secret – what would the Conservative Party be saying and doing?

“Ministers will whip Conservative MPs to block a move to reveal donations to the DUP during the EU referendum, which Labour has said is “doing the party’s dirty work”.

The government is set to help the Northern Irish party conceal details of past political donations, including a highly controversial sum given during the referendum, despite a 2014 law that extended party transparency rules to Northern Ireland.

The rules on transparency were to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK, which first introduced in legislation in 2014 with the wide understanding it would be applied from that year.

However, the government has since said the transparency rules will apply from 1 July 2017, which would mean donations during the EU referendum in 2016 will not be made public.

The shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Smith, said it was outrageous that the government would not backdate the donations rules.

“All parties in Northern Ireland apart from the DUP support the government’s previous promise to publish. There is simply no excuse to not publish the donations,” he said.

“The Tories must explain why they are doing the DUP’s dirty work by helping them avoid publishing the source of the funds received in the EU referendum. Those funds played a significant part in the referendum campaign across the UK and the public have a right to know precisely where that money came from.”

Serious questions remain over the DUP’s spending on the EU referendum in June 2016 – including a £435,000 donation from a group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), chaired by Richard Cook, a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservatives and Unionist party.

The DUP spent more than £280,000 of that money on a wraparound advertisement in the London-based Metro newspaper, which is not distributed in Northern Ireland.

On Monday night, the government attempted to enact the transparency rules in the legislation via statutory instrument, a process which allows the provisions of an act of parliament to come into force or be altered without parliament having to debate them.

However, after objections by Labour at the last-minute nature of the SI, the measure will now be put to a vote on Wednesday, where the party will attempt to get the law backdated to its introduction in 2014. Conservative MPs are under a three-line whip to oppose.

A Labour source said: “The government tried to pull a fast one and got their minister to sit down early so they could vote on the SIs last night rather than deferred on Wednesday. We stopped it but it’s very unusual and shows the nervousness on this, especially the NI political donations.”


“How Bristol is standing up to developers”

East Devon developers do not disclose their viability agreements – EDDC thinks they should remain confidential because they contain “commercially sensitive information” yet Bristol disagrees and publishes theirs.

Baker Estates in Honiton have been allowed to reduce the number of affordable properties, using such a confidential document.

“Last autumn, campaigners scored an unprecedented victory. The target was “viability assessments”: dossiers produced by housing developers to justify the amount of affordable housing – or lack thereof – in their developments, and which are frequently used during the construction process to shrug off previous commitments.

“Developers were saying, ‘We can’t afford to put 30-40% affordable housing in here,’ to make the profits they are legally entitled to,” says Louise Herbert, spokesperson for Bristol-born tenants union Acorn. “But all of their numbers – how much they projected to sell the houses for, how much they bought the land for – were redacted.”

Acorn, along with the Bristol Cable media co-operative, campaigned for the full release of these files. Following a public outcry, the council voted to make the viability assessments public.

Now, Herbert says, the public can examine these assessments themselves, and make sure that more affordable housing is built in their areas.

In response, Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation (HBF), argues that those without formal training “may feel that the figures set out in such assessments are ‘too high’ or ‘too low’ and make representations and decisions accordingly, rather than based on the evidence.”

For now, it’s too soon to tell if publishing the viability assessments has achieved change in Bristol. But it’s a small step that could point the way for cities such as London, where viability assessments remain pervasive, or Manchester, where in contravention of the city’s own guidelines, none of the nearly 15,000 planned new developments have any provision for affordable housing.

Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, believes that it sends a signal to developers: “We’re a great city to do business in – but we want the right kind of money.”

Councillor Paul Smith agrees. “Housing can’t be left to the market if you want to meet the housing needs of the whole city,” he says. “There are 500 families in temporary accommodation, 100 people sleeping rough on the streets, huge numbers who are inadequately housed, and people living in poor-quality, high-rent accommodation.”…


McCarthy & Stone demands exemption from ground rent charges

“The market leader in developing retirement homes has urged the government to exempt it from plans to reduce ground rents on new long leases to zero.

McCarthy & Stone used a trading update for the first half of its year to say that it was working in a state of uncertainty and wanted “swift clarification” on the new rules.

Last summer the government said that it would ban the sale of new houses on a leasehold basis and was setting all ground rents on long leases to zero, including on newly built flats.

McCarthy & Stone, which controls 70 per cent of the retirement housing market, specialises in flats and sells most of them leasehold, with the freehold sold to private companies. It argues that this allows it to afford more land to build more homes for the elderly.

The ground rent charged by the private investors starts at about £450 per year and rises in line with the retail prices index every 15 years. Last year McCarthy & Stone made 4 per cent of its revenue, about £27 million, by selling freeholds to investors.

Clive Fenton, chief executive, said: “We believe that there is a strong case for a very specific exemption for the retirement housebuilding sector and we are seeking swift clarification.

“Until this is received, we continue planning to mitigate the potential impact on the business, including maintaining discipline around our cash position and adopting a more measured approach to securing land.” First-half revenue is expected to be broadly flat from the previous year at £240 million.”

Source: Times (pay wall)