Reflections from Old Owl

Old Owl (OO) has been fully retired for six months now and has nothing but praise for New Owl (NO) and no intention of stirring from the bliss of being able to self-isolate from the day-to-day crises that seem to envelop East Devon and, in particular, East Devon District Council.  But OO cannot resist the temptation to say “I warned you” and “I told you so” in equal measure.

Some may recall OO’s warning in May last year that all was not what it seemed with Mr Ingham’s “the Independent Group” (TIG).  In summary, OO maintained that it was neither Independent, nor a Group.  Indeed, OO chose the name “Tigger Tories” to describe a hastily-cobbled together partnership of so-called Independents with their supposed enemies, the much-depleted Tories.  

Rather than form a coalition with the East Devon Alliance and/or Lib Dems, Ingham chose to bring Tories into his fold and offered them plum jobs – such as making Tory and ex-Monster Raving Loony Stewart Hughes Chairman of the Council (that went well, didn’t it!).

Added to this toxic mix were several so-called Independent councillors who, up until just before the election, had espoused completely mainline Tory doctrine and, indeed, were seen almost exclusively in Tory company.  These councillors were (and still are) Independents in name only.

OO said it was a recipe for disaster – and indeed it was!

Now we hear from former East Devon Alliance councillor then Independent Group cabinet member   Geoff Jung (keep up) that what prompted him to defect from Tigger Tories was Ingham’s plans to bring in even more Tories to shore up his crumbling regime.  Jung (who has been an impeccable Cabinet member for the Environment) changed his allegiance (as any honourable Independent Group member should) but, although he says Ingham asked him to stay on in that role, which he agreed to do, only hours later, when the whole Cabinet “resigned” he was told that, in fact, he had just been fired!

So, after Hughes’s disgraceful intervention to save his job and save the Tigger Tories by refusing to call the EDDC Annual Meeting, or indeed any other meeting, prompting Ingham’s downfall – where does that leave us?

A Tory minority

An Independent Group minority

A coalition of at least 4 or 5 different but also vaguely similar groups that make up a +1 majority

Not a recipe for success, as just one or two fence-sitters or sabotagers could bring the whole council down again.

What is the solution?

Well, OO has a radical suggestion!  Those REAL independents still cleaving to Ingham should join whatever the new +1 Alliance calls itself (“The Alliance of Independent East Devon Progesssive Liberal Greens with Stragglers” perhaps!) and form a REAL majority of councillors working together for the benefit of East Devon.

Can it be done?

Owl isn’t sure but surely the thing is to TRY – anything is better than the current mess.

Oh, and where is CEO Mr Williams in all this?  Rather like Boris Johnson, he is conspicuous by his absence (has anyone looked in his office fridge?).  Come on, show yourself, sir – even if it is to show you have every intention of sabotaging the emerging change because it threatens your iron grip – have the courage of your “never change, never explain, never appear at Scrutiny” convictions so we all know where we, and you, stand!

Old Owl is exhausted now and must go for its nap and await the outcome of the meeting to decide whether to have a meeting …. Some things never change!

LET’S STRIVE FOR QUALITY NOT QUANTITY DEVELOPMENT IN OUR EAST DEVON VILLAGES

From a correspondent: 

Clyst St Mary residents are very disappointed that Burrington Estates’ major development proposals for Winslade Park (which were exhibited at a recent Public Consultation in the Clyst St Mary Village Hall) were very different to those that are now submitted to East Devon District Council Planning in Application Number 20/1001/MOUT.

This appears to make a mockery of the whole process of Developers’ informing local communities of proposals and seems a mere ‘box-ticking’ exercise to satisfy bureaucratic administrative requirements. It shows contempt for localism and the democratic rights and powers for communities and the people who live in East Devon and has now resulted in a lack of trust between the residents and Burrington Estates that proudly advertise their Company as a quality, award-winning developer.

The Public Consultation included many innovative ideas for the regeneration of Winslade Park that were, indeed, imaginative and exciting and appealed to the community. However, the bad news is that, once again, Developers’ greed has reared its ugly head and they have now attempted to squeeze two pints into a pint pot – thus ruining what could have been one of the most incredible developments in Devon and beyond.

Instead of refurbishing some of the commercial floorspace to provide housing on this vast brownfield area, Burringtons have opted to divert 78 residential houses on to a valued, community sports field (that was not included in the original Public Consultation exhibition) and an adjacent agricultural field. Furthermore, since the Public Consultation, they have replaced the design of a cluster of 14 traditional houses sited opposite the Grade II Listed Manor House to now be replaced by a hideous, three-storey rectangular box design to accommodate a further 59 apartments, that is contrary to the Design Statement in the Neighbourhood Plan. These will overlook existing residents’ properties from two of the storeys, especially during six months of the year when the deciduous trees behind them will provide very little screening!

The 150 allocation for homes on the brownfield areas in the Local Plan does not give carte blanche to divert major residential development to green field areas. These green field areas are specifically protected against development in both the 2016 East Devon Local Development Plan to 2031 (incorporating the 2018 Villages Plan) and in the 2017 Made Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan. Moreover, these green field areas are outside of the 2018 Clyst St Mary Built-Up Area Boundaries for development.

Having obviously had an awareness of the challenges before purchasing this large commercial site (including high risk flood areas) – their submission now maintains that they must build on green fields to achieve viability for the whole masterplan, whilst developing more business units and car parking on high risk flood zones because they believe these uses pose a less vulnerable flood risk than housing!

By substantially increasing the past employment floorspace to provide around 3,000 jobs (compared to a peak of around 1,500 jobs in the past) plus the traffic from 137 new homes will result in complete traffic gridlock at peak times for this village and the wider community.

They appear not to see the error of their ways but, hopefully, East Devon District Council Planners can salvage the best of such an incredible development opportunity and advise them to submit more high-grade designs and quality rather than quantity!

 

Daisymount McDonald’s drive-thru and service station – Refused by EDDC

Why service station and McDonald’s drive-thru near Ottery was refused – (a rare event,  savour the moment, Owl)

A proposed service station and McDonald’s drive-thru off the A30 was panned as being more suitable for Slough than East Devon as the blueprints were rejected.  District council planning chiefs refused the scheme near Ottery St Mary this morning (Monday) after hearing it would ‘stick out like a sore thumb’.

The meeting heard the bid would ‘harm’ the site at Straightway Head Junction, next to the Daisymount roundabout, ‘forever’.

East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Development Management Committee went against the recommendation of officers by turning down the plans by nine votes to six.

The proposals included:

  • A petrol filling station with five pumps;
  • A forecourt shop/sales building measuring 500 sq m located in the centre of the site comprising a sales area, a hot food and coffee outlet;
  • A total of 103 car parking spaces, including 81 light vehicle spaces, four disabled spaces, 10 motorcycle spaces, eight HGV/coach spaces and two electric vehicle charging points;
  • A two-storey building with accompanying drive-thru and associated outdoor play area. The applicant has stated that McDonald’s is the intended operator.

Councillor Alan Cook, of West Hill parish council, called for the scheme to be refused as it would attract people from a wide area, increase traffic and urbanise the rural area.

He said the site cannot be landscaped and would have a detrimental impact on the rural environment.

Cllr Jess Bailey added: “This is on the top of a highly-prominent hill, is of an urban design, and as it is close to Exeter Airport.

“It can never be properly landscaped and it will always stick out like a sore thumb.

“It will cause significant detriment to the landscape and a two-storey McDonald’s will harm the site forever.”

Proposing refusal, Cllr Kathy McLauchlan, who represents the Whimple ward in which the site lies, said she was against the scheme due to the significant harm it would cause the open countryside.

Cllr Ollie Davey added that, with service stations in Honiton and Exeter, this scheme was not needed.

Cllr Paul Arnott said: “A drive-thru McDonald’s won’t serve the needs of any motorists making a long-distance journey, but will increase the traffic flow and make the area more dangerous.

“I enjoy McDonald’s, but this is the wrong place for this.”

Cllr Paul Hayward added: “They could do a whole lot better with the design and this is the kind of thing I would expect to see on the outskirts of Slough.

“It is a blight of the landscape and they should come back and build something aesthetically pleasing and not crowbar the committee into making a decision.”

Jason Lowes, the agent speaking on behalf of the applicant, said it was a ‘well-designed scheme’, would provide somewhere for motorists to safely stop and rest.

He added that the new plans were smaller and less-intrusive than a previously-consented scheme.

Planning permission for a much larger service station – that also included a hotel – has previously been granted for the plot.

Agreeing with the applicant, Cllr Helen Parr said: “While the extant scheme may not be implemented, it could be, and therefore this application is preferable as there is much less landscape impact.

“This is preferable, there will be social and economic benefits, and the harm won’t be there to the wider landscape.”

The committee rejected the scheme on the grounds it would cause ‘significant harm in the open countryside in terms of landscape impact’ and that it was ‘unsustainable’.

They added that only very limited weight should be given to the fallback and previously consented scheme.

Cllr Arnott said it was clearly not going to happen and be implemented as 12 years has passed since permission was given.