“Tories quietly delay plan to force porn websites to check their users’ age”

Owl says: Can this government actually DO anything right!

“Plans to force porn websites to check their users are of legal age have been quietly delayed by the Tory government.

The announcement was sneaked out at the bottom of a 3,400-word press release about 5G on the Orkney Islands.

Porn sites were originally told to install age verification software before April this year in an effort to make the internet safer for children.

In July last year, Tory minister Matt Hancock – now Culture Secretary – told MPs the measures would be “fully in place” by “April 2018”.

But on Friday afternoon his department admitted it needs more “time to get the implementation of the policy right”.

The British Board of Film Classification was decided as the age verification regulator in February, the government said. …”


Cranbrook will grow to 8,000 homes over 15 years

Owl says: and still it has no town centre and developers refuse to fund one!

“Feedback on how Devon’s newest town, Cranbrook, should grow and develop over the next 15 years, goes before councillors next week.

The Cranbrook Plan: Preferred Approach’ document sets out how the growth of the town up to around 8,000 households over the next 15 years will be achieved.

A community consultation ran for eight weeks from mid-November last year to early January and it gave residents of Cranbrook and its neighbouring communities the opportunity to comment on the proposals for the future of the town contained within the document ‘Cranbrook Plan: Preferred Approach’.

In addition to identifying land for new houses, the document also identified land for sport and community, economy and enterprise, schools, allotments and Gypsy and Travellers pitches. …

Outline planning permission for the first 2,900 homes at Cranbrook was issued in October 2010 followed shortly by the reserved matters for the first 1,100 homes in April 2011. Today there are approximately 1,700 households living at Cranbrook, equivalent to a population of around 4,000 people, but the Local Plan anticipates Cranbrook comprising approximately 7,850 new homes by 2031. This equates to a population of around 20,000 people meaning that Cranbrook will have quickly expanded to become the second largest town in the District.

The consultation revealed that there is a concern over relationship with properties at Broadclyst Station, who are keen to retain a separate identity, that the East Devon New Community partners say that the Treasbeare area could accommodate a minimum of 1,000 dwellings as opposed to the 800-950 stated in the masterplan, and that there should be a school in both of the Bluehayes and the Treasbeare area of Cranbrook..

On transport issues, the responses reveal that the delivery of a half-hourly rail service is a key ambition of the plan in order to encourage use of rail travel as an alternative to the car, but that despite the wishes of residents for the old A30, the B3174 London Road to remain as a bypass to developed, it is scheduled to be downgraded from its current status and to become an integral part of the town. …”


Better council scrutiny? Not on our watch says government!

“The Government has rejected calls from MPs for the extension of the requirement for a statutory scrutiny officer to all councils.

The proposal had been contained in a Communities and Local Government Select Committee report, Effectiveness of local authority overview and scrutiny committees, published in December 2017.

MPs on the CLG committee had suggested that such a post-holder should have a seniority and profile of equivalence to the council’s corporate management team. Statutory scrutiny officers should also be required to make regular reports to full council on the state of scrutiny, explicitly identifying any areas of weakness and the work carried out to rectify them, they argued.

However, in its formal response the Government reiterated its view that decisions about the allocation of resources for the scrutiny function were best made at a local level. “Each council is best-placed to know which arrangements will suit its own individual circumstances. It is not a case of one size fits all.” …”

In other words, if a council has something to hide – it can hide it.

EDDC “Council decision to sell HQ for £7.5M is worst deal ever, activists”

Activists have branded a council decision to sell its HQ “the worst deal ever” for taxpayers.

East Devon District Council is selling its offices at Knowle in Sidmouth to Pegasus Life Ltd, one of Britain’s largest retirement housing developers, for £7.5 million.

The developable value of the site – divulged in a response to a Freedom of Information request in January-has been set at £50 million, with Pegasus Life Ltd set to make a £10 million profit.

Pegasus is owned by an American firm listed in the so-called Paradise Papers, 13.4 million confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investments that were leaked to German reporters last year. Offshore investments enable companies and individuals to shelter their wealth and avoid tax. They are legal.

Paul Arnott, chairman of the East Devon Alliance campaign group, said: “Why were councillors never told that our last great piece of family silver the Knowle – would be worth a massive £50 million after development?

“If any individual person in East Devon was told their prime location property could be developed and sold on for £50 million they’d never accept £7 million.”

In December 2016, the council’s planning committee rejected Pegasus Life’s planning application for 113 extra care units, but following a four-day inquiry into the developer’s appeal in November, a planning inspector gave the firm approval for the scheme which includes a café and swimming pool. Sidmouth has been allocated only 50 extra care homes in the council’s Local Plan.

The Alliance said it was an “exceptionally bad” deal, because, in accordance with the old land buyer’s rule of thumb, the landowner of a site should expect around a third of its developable value – in this case £16.5 million.
A council spokesperson said the deal was based on the site’s land value – in its current state. The site includes the buildings, terraces and top car parks.

Moving council operations to Honiton, with a satellite office at Exmouth Town Hall, has a budget of £10 million and is being funded out of the council’s coffers and a Public Works Loan Board loan.

The council spokesperson said that “from day one”, council running costs would reduce significantly when it leaves the Knowle and during its first full year of operations at Honiton it will save £135,000, with savings increasing year-on-year.

The Alliance pointed out that because the proposed complex is considered to be a residential/care home development, as opposed to a general residential development, the developer is not required to pay Section 106 money towards providing community services. The developer is only contributing £12,000 to improve access/footpaths to the site from adjacent parkland.

However, the developer could have to comply with what is known as an overage clause: If more than a 20% profit is made from the development, the council will be entitled to 50% of any profit made over and above the 20%, to a maximum of £3.5 million.

A council spokesperson, said: “We have carried out due diligence on Pegasus Life Ltd and are satisfied that they are an established and successful company suitably financed, capable of delivering the promised development and able satisfy their contract with the council.

“Selling the Knowle and moving offices is key to continuing to serve our communities. Services to our communities are what matter, not the vanity of paying to stay in an outdated and expensive building.

Pegasus Life Ltd bosses did not comment when asked whether any of the profit of its Sidmouth development could end up in tax havens. However, Howard Phillips, its chief executive, said: “We pride ourselves on the quality of our developments and the sensitivity of our designs to ensure they fit in with the area’s achitectural vernacular.

“The UK is in the middle of housing crisis and local authorities need to make cohesive eve plans that meet the needs their local towns. This includes provision for people over 60.”

Source: Western Morning Newz