“UK reclaims place as world’s second largest arms exporter”

Swire will be pleased – he’s spent many happy hours in Saudi Arabia with representatives of BAE Systems.

“British defence exports rose to a record £14bn in 2018, with sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and other countries in the Middle East accounting for nearly 80% of that figure, official figures reveal.

Campaigners said the statistics, released on Tuesday, showed that Britain was “arming and supporting repressive regimes”, while the Department for International Trade (DIT) said they demonstrated that the UK had returned to its position as the world’s second largest arms exporter after the US.

Defence orders rose by £5bn to £14bn, making it the biggest year since records began in 1983. That increase was helped by a £5bn order for Typhoon fighters made by BAE Systems, plus Paveway missiles from Raytheon that are partly made in the UK.

Campaign Against Arms Trade said the figures “exposed the rank hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy. The government claims to stand for human rights and democracy, but it is arming and supporting repressive regimes and dictatorships around the world.”

Britain’s sales to Saudi Arabia – believed to be the largest arms buyer – are the subject of an ongoing legal battle. Ministers have asked the supreme court to overturn a lower court’s judgment that some of the arms sales to Riyadh were conducted illegally.

In June, the court of appeal concluded the sales of arms that could have been used by Saudi Arabia’s air force in Yemen were unlawful because ministers had failed to examine whether, in targeting civilians, the country was in breach of international humanitarian law.

The DIT estimates the UK’s share of the defence export industry to be about 19%, placing it second for the first time since 2014, pushing Russia into third place and sitting comfortably ahead of fourth-ranked France.

The world leader is the US, which has a share of about 40%, according to the British estimates in the annual statistics published by the DIT, which is the licensing authority for arms exports.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/30/uk-reclaims-place-as-worlds-second-largest-arms-exporter?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Rip Off Britain” asks for information from Cranbrook residents on district heating problems

“Hello Cranbrook. Can you help? My Name’s Ian Griffiths and I work for the BBC on the consumer programme Rip Off Britain. We have been contacted by some people regarding their experiences with the District Heating Scheme in Cranbrook. We are looking to hear from others about what they think about the DHS. If interested please drop us a line at ripoffbritain@bbc.co.uk with your story and contact details or leave us note under this message and we’ll contact you back via Facebook Messenger. Bst wishes and thanks again Ian”

Housing numbers: government targets are NOT set in stone

Letter from Department of Communities and Local Government to Teignbridge Council, which queried its raised target:

For background, see:
https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/glimmer-hope-housing-need-rise-3153098

Bovis can’t build footpath on Axminster estate “because there are tree roots in the way”

Owl says: so who designed this then, knowing the problem? Amd which planner didn’t spot it?

“Residents on a new Axminster housing estate say the lack of a pavement outside their homes is putting lives at risk.

They say mums with pushchairs and wheelchair users are being forced to cross a busy road used not only by residents but also heavy construction traffic.

Brian and Barbara White claim plans for the Cloakham Lawns estate, off Chard Road, showed a pavement outside their home at Cloakham Drive.

But council officials say what they deemed to be a footpath was, in fact, only a ‘service margin’.

And they say building a permanent pavement there would harm the roots of a tree on the adjoining open green space.

Mrs White said the situation was ‘an absolute nightmare’, with pram and wheelchair users having to cross the road to the pavement on the other side and then cross back again further down the estate to return to the right side.

“Our road is busy with normal traffic plus heavy lorries, diggers, bulldozers and forklifts. Bovis Homes will be building here for years. There is plenty of room to continue the pavement all the way on this side of the road.”

Mr White added: “There is going to be an accident before long. People are putting their lives at risk.”

Bovis Homes has recently put down a temporary footpath outside the houses but says it cannot build a permanent pavement because of the nearby tree.

A spokesman told the Herald: “The tree is a hybrid lime, which is a category-A tree and is protected by a tree protection order (TPO) and also by a root protection area (RPA).

“RPAs are designed to protect the trees’ root systems and provide sufficient rooting environment to allow the trees to continue to thrive.

“The RPAs prohibit groundwork, construction, development or storage activity within the designated area. The highway proposals obviously had to take that into account.

“The temporary footpath is in place while there is construction work going on, and this hasn’t required the more robust foundation work that a permanent footpath would, which would adversely impact the RPA.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/axminster-residents-say-mums-with-pushchairs-are-forced-to-cross-a-busy-road-1-6188464

Sidford Business Park: call for Independent Inquiry into EDDC CEO’s actions

Dynamite press release from objectors to this planning application of allegations, which was first reported on this blog on 22 July 2019:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/07/22/report-on-sidford-business-park-planning-inquiry/

Firstly, many thanks to those of you who sent kind words about the actions of the Steering Group in representing your interests at the recent Planning Inquiry.

Hopefully you read the extensive reporting that was contained both last and this week’s Sidmouth Herald about what we and others who oppose the Business Park said at the Inquiry. Indeed, there is further coverage of the Inquiry In this week’s Herald.

Also, in this week’s Herald, is a letter from a member of the Steering Group, Keith Hudson. Keith expresses his concerns about the fact that in 2016, following the decision of the District Council to refuse their 2016 application to build a Business Park in Sidford, the District Council’s Chief Executive met with a representative of the applicants. Mike and Tim Ford.

In this meeting we know from unchallenged evidence presented at the Planning Inquiry, that the Chief Executive advised their representative that they should appeal the decision taken by his own Council.

As the QC for the Fords stated at the Inquiry “That is an extraordinary state of affairs”. Quite so!

Both at the Inquiry and since the publication of Keith’s letter (reproduced below) many residents have expressed their amazement and annoyance at the Chief Executive’s actions.

This matter is a concerning one and one which has led the District Councillor for Sidmouth Rural, John Loudoun, within whose Ward the site is located to write to the Leader of the Council asking that an independent investigation be undertaken into the Chief Executive’s actions.

John Loudoun has expressed his concern that these actions potentially bring the role of the Council and that of the Chief Executive into disrepute as he appears to have undermined a legitimate decision taken by Members on the advice of planning officers.

Best wishes
Campaign Team

Keith Hudson’s letter as published in Sidmouth Herald, 25 July –

Dear Sir

Sidford Business Park Planning Inquiry raises new issues of concern
Last week I attended the whole of the three-day Planning Inquiry in front of a Planning Inspector into the planning application to build a Business Park in Sidford that was refused by East Devon District Council at the end of last year As I was in attendance for the whole of the Inquiry, I was able to hear every word of the evidence presented.

The planning applications to build the Business Park have received a great deal of local attention and significant opposition, and I was pleased to be able to give evidence at the Inquiry in opposition to the proposed development. I believe that it is the wrong thing in the wrong place.
Your readers will recall that there have been two planning applications submitted by Tim and Mike Ford, in the name of OG Holdings Retirement Benefits Scheme, to build this Business Park. The first of these applications was submitted in 2016 and rejected by East Devon District Council. The second was then submitted in 2018 and was again rejected by the District Council.

In listening to the evidence at the Inquiry I was taken aback to learn a claim arising from the evidence given by a key witness for the Fords, Joseph Marchant, and which was repeated by their QC and which wasn’t challenged by the Council. In so doing this led to an acceptance by the Council of the claim that was made.

The claim that was made by Mr Marchant was set out at paragraph 6.0.1 in his written evidence “Subsequent to the refusal of the 2016 application, an approach was made to Members (Councillors) including Councillor Hughes and the CEO (Chief Executive) of EDDC, Mark Williams”.

This is continued in paragraph 6.0.2 of Mr Marchant’s written evidence “We were advised by Mark Williams….that in his opinion, the applicant (the Fords) may make more advance in progress towards delivery through appealing (the Council’s decision to refuse the 2016 planning application) rather than resubmission”.

This claim was also clearly set out in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Fords’ QC’s final closing arguments at the Inquiry “After the 2016 application was refused, there was a meeting with Councillor Hughes and the CEO of the Council”. “The CEO advised that the way to progress was to appeal. That is an extraordinary state of affairs”.

I am sure that I am not the only resident who is astounded that the Chief Executive of the District Council directly advised a developer to appeal a decision of the Council. As the QC for the Fords at the Inquiry put it “That is an extraordinary state of affairs”. I cannot disagree with this statement.

All of this raises serious questions, not for the first time, about the links between the District Council and developers. It suggests that the Chief Executive’s actions and advice undermined the authority and responsibilities of not only the Council’s planning officers, but also that of the elected Members, particularly those with responsibility for oversight and decision making on planning applications.

It also raises a number of questions that surely deserve public scrutiny –

1. What authority did the Chief Executive of EDDC have for advising a developer to appeal a decision to refuse a planning application taken legitimately by his Council, as the planning authority, and which had been taken on the advice of his staff in the planning department, for whom he is their ultimate boss?

2. Did the Chief Executive report this meeting to the then Leader of the Council or other elected Members? If he did, what was their view of his actions and advice?

3. Is there a written record of this meeting involving the Chief Executive and the developer? If there is, was this ever presented to a Council Committee and if so, when? If not, why was no record made and is this in line with Council policy?

4. Why has it taken until this Inquiry for the Chief Executive’s advice to the developer to become public knowledge?

5. Which other developers has the Chief Executive advised during his tenure of office in a way that directly advises them of how to respond to decisions of his Council with which they are unhappy?

The evidence given at the Inquiry regarding the direct intervention of the District Council’s Chief Executive in a local planning matter, and in opposition to a decision his own Council has made, surely requires independent investigation? Given the potential ramifications of the Chief Executive’s actions I ask myself the question, will he be suspended to allow an independent investigation to be undertaken?

Yours sincerely
Keith Hudson”