Exmouth eyesore to be redeveloped

Rolle College’s buildings to go

Thirteen years after it closed, councillors have approved what they say is “the best possible” redevelopment of the undeveloped part of the former Rolle College site in Exmouth.

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Redundant buildings, right, will go. The Deaf Academy stays (courtesy: East Devon District Council)

Rolle College’s buildings to go

Thirteen years after it closed, councillors have approved what they say is “the best possible” redevelopment of the undeveloped part of the former Rolle College site in Exmouth.

After more than a decade as a redundant eyesore, the western side of the former further education campus comeback into use when Exeter Deaf Academy moved to the town.

Developers had sought planning permission for the demolition of a number of vacant buildings on the eastern side to provide 29 new homes, together with the conversion of the former student bar, a Grade II listed building called Eldin House into four flats.

East Devon District Council’s planning committee unanimously supported the scheme, which they say is “a well-designed and well thought out residential scheme that would be positively contribute to the character and appearance of the area.”

Development manager Chris Rose, recommending approval, added: “The existing site is vacant and run down and its number of derelict and vandalised buildings do detract from the character and appearance of the area.

“It is considered that the proposed design, layout and form of development has been largely sensitive to the topography of the site whilst addressing the complex constraints posed by the retained trees.”

Cllr Mike Howe said: “This brings the building back into use. Yes, we lose some trees, but they are not the best quality trees, and if the officers thought we were losing good quality trees they would be screaming about it. This is far in advance of a lot of other developments, so I am happy to support this, and I cannot see how they could design it any better.”

Cllr Olly Davey added: “It is a shame to lose the trees but if the officers feel the best we will get, I am happy to accept their view. This is the best quality we will get in the same within the constraints,” while Cllr Philip Skinner said: “This is a scheme that works for Exmouth and the right density of housing in the right place.”

The scheme will see the demolition of existing buildings for a residential development of 33 new homes, in a mix of 10 house and 19 apartments, as well as the four apartments in the former bar.

East Devon hits 2030 recycling targets

East Devon recycles more than 60 per cent of all household waste, beating a national target by 10 years – but Exeter is the worst performing recycling council in the county.

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Keep on truckin’ (courtesy: East Devon District Council/LDRS)

But Exeter is nowhere near

East Devon recycles more than 60 per cent of all household waste, beating a national target by 10 years – but Exeter is the worst performing recycling council in the county.

The government expects councils to recycle that amount by 2030. 

But East Devon resident already among the best recyclers in the country, with the tenth highest recycling rates. At county council level, Devon is  the second best county in the country for recycling with a countywide rate of 56.6 per cent.

Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for coast, country and environment said: “We can’t thank residents enough for embracing our curb side recycling scheme introduced five years ago.

“Recycling is more important than ever as we work to build a greener economy and combat climate change. The materials that we collect from households are valuable resources that benefit our environment and our economy.”

In 2016/17, East Devon District Council was recycling just 46 per cent of its waste, but since moving to a three-weekly residual waste collection system in the last three years, has seen that rise to 60.5 per cent.

Across the rest of Devon, councils are rolling out plans to boost recycling rates. Teignbridge District Council has a new ten point action plan to try to rates rise to 60 per cent.

South Hams District Council has launched a ‘super recycler’ service which means residents will have a weekly recycling collection and, for the first time, will be able to put glass and plastic pots, tubs and trays out for recycling. Food waste will also be collected weekly.

West Devon Borough Council has extended its trial for around 1,000 homes where non-recyclable waste collections take place every three weeks, rather than fortnightly. That’s due to finish this month, but early results of the trial are positive.

Torbay Council says three-weekly bin collections will be as a last resort if recycling rates fail to go up enough.

Exeter City Council had previously put forward plans to change the way waste is collected and to move to a three-weekly model, but councillors have launched a review to look at alternatives, citing ‘financial and operational’ considerations.

RECYCLING RATES FOR 2019/20

East Devon – 60.5 per cent

Exeter – 26.1 per cent

Mid Devon – 53.1 per cent

North Devon – 49.5 per cent

South Hams – 54.4 per cent

Teignbridge – 56.3 per cent

Torridge – 54.1 per cent

West Devon 53.7 per cent

Devon County Council 56.6 per cent

Plymouth 34.1 per cent

Torbay 40.2 per cent

Have our AONBs been forgotten in the Local Plan Review?

Dear Owl, I am glad that you raised the fact that 2/3rds of East Devon is situated in Areas of Natural Beauty. I am now in the process of completing the on-line consultation and, living in a town that is actually situated in the East Devon AONB, I am very disappointed that Question 8 seeks to have my opinion on the number of houses I would like to see in the area with no mention of this constraint.

EDDC is aware of a constraint as it is finally in Chapter 10 that the presence of AONBs is mentioned

– Our outstanding natural environment- Objective 8: To protect and enhance our outstanding natural environment and support an increase in biodiversity

10.1         East Devon is blessed with a truly outstanding natural environment. Around two-thirds of East Devon falls within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). These areas have the highest level of landscape protection in England, EQUAL to that for National Parks. There are two AONBs in East Devon, the East Devon AONB occupies much of the south of the District, and the Blackdown Hills AONB which although mostly in East Devon also extends into neighbouring mid Devon and Somerset and occupies much of the north of the District.

10.3         The AONBs and other protected landscapes of East Devon are both of national and local importance, the countryside and coast that falls within them helps define much of the essence of the District. Protecting and indeed seeking to enhance our environment may, however, PLACE LIMITATIONS ON THE AMOUNT AND SUBSEQUENT LOCATIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT. Government policy states that AONBs are not normally appropriate for large scale development schemes, though to help support local communities and enterprises there is scope for smaller developments. 

Further in the document the seven towns and Cranbrook are lumped together for urban expansion and once again, it is only at the end of a long list of challenges that the following sentence appears-

The AONBs come close to or wash over most East Devon towns and this could LIMIT POTENTIAL.

It seems EDDC have a tremendous problem on their hands. Many of the villages are in the AONBs as well. Where can they accommodate housing?

Could they try and argue a “special case” with government?  

I urge everyone who hasn’t already done so to fill in this consultation bearing the above in mind.

Plymouth freeport could ‘suck business’ from local area

Plymouth’s new freeport is “excellent for the city” but could have a detrimental impact on the local area, an expert has said.

(Freeports are not a new concept – Drake’s Island in Plymouth was made a freeport in the year 1393.)

Custom posts on the A38? – Owl

BBC News www.bbc.co.uk 

Plymouth

Plymouth is one of eight new freeports being created across England

The city successfully bid for one of eight new freeports being created across England.

The government hopes they will boost the economy in those areas.

A freeport expert said the concern is that they “suck business into the freeport area which is not necessarily good for the rest of the local region”.

Prof Catherine Barnard has written a report on freeports for the think tank UK in a Changing Europe, and said it was “very good news for Plymouth” in terms of attracting business, enterprise and creating jobs.

However she warned that evidence from abroad shows that surrounding areas “may suffer”.

“Freeports operate a bit like a big vacuum cleaner and they suck in business from the surrounding area,” she said.

In her report, she argues that if lowering the level of tariffs or regulation is justifiable, “they should be lowered for the whole country”.

“The main impact of freeports – and any associated reductions in regulation – is therefore likely to be to relocated rather than create economic activity and jobs,” the report adds.

Plymouth City Council made the successful bid with the claim that freeport status would create 9,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

“I was actually surprised at some of the job numbers that were stated by other freeport bids and I was worried that we actually came in a bit low,” said Richard May, head of marine investment at Plymouth City Council.

“I think that within the zone itself, there’s actually a good chunk of that 9,000, but it’s the surrounding area that will also get a benefit,” he added.

What are freeports?

  • Freeports are usually located around shipping ports, or airports.
  • Goods that arrive into freeports from abroad aren’t subject to the tax charges, called tariffs, that are normally paid to the government.
  • These taxes are only paid if the goods leave the freeport and are moved elsewhere in the UK.
  • Otherwise, they are sent overseas without the charges being paid.
  • The government says the new freeports, which they hope will regenerate deprived areas, will begin operations from late 2021.

Is Cllr Stuart Hughes “asleep at the wheel”?

He is certainly very active in Sidmouth spending money on cliff surveys, we know he makes a good DJ/cabaret act, but what about his day job as Devon County Council Cabinet Member – Highways Management?

Remember the Department of Transport instructing local councils to go ahead with planned maintenance last May during the lockdown to clear a backlog of road repairs?  

Questions raised over potholes and drainage underspend

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Devon County Council is forecasting a £3.7m underspend against its target budget for 2020/21 – but concerns have been raised over lack of spending on potholes and drainage.

The council’s cabinet on Wednesday morning heard that the financial position had improved from the month 8 position of a £1.9m overspend to a £3.7m underspend at the end of month 10.

But councillors heard that the level of uncertainty and pressures being faced by the public sector this year was unprecedented and continues to evolve, and while the projected underspend is welcome, there remain significant far reaching risks associated with the impact of the pandemic.

And questions were raised by opposition members that the highways maintenance budget were forecasting an underspend of £500,000, and that drainage could be underspent by up to £2.6m.

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “Residents are saying why during the lockdowns hasn’t more been done to fix the problems on the roads, so will we carry forward that budget to get a real march on fixing the problems that we know exist.

“They’ve taken eight months and the best weather to spend half the available revenue funding, and have left the other half to spend in four months and the worst weather when this type of work is the most challenging.”

A car in a 'water lake' at Marsh Barton in 2021

A car in a ‘water lake’ at Marsh Barton in 2021 (Image: Alan Connett)

Cllr Alistair Dewhirst added: “If residents knew we were underspending, they would have been horrified. It would have been good if works done on the highways in the last year when traffic was down, so don’t understand why we are down on that.”

But Meg Booth, chief officer for highways, infrastructure, development and waste, said that while there has a £500,000 underspend on drainage works, they had been overspending on pothole maintenance against the budget, and that the change in forecast is primarily attributable to confirmation that patches greater than 1m squared, and that the underspend in the capital budget was around the more complex infrastructure projects.

The budget forecast see children’s services forecasting an overspend of £2.2m, but this figure does not include the projected deficit of £30.1m on Special Education Needs and Disabilities, and when combined with the 2019/20 deficit, the total figure is now £49.8m, but the meeting heard the service is currently developing a recovery plan for the overall DSG deficit.

Mental health is also forecasting an overspend of £962,000, with the report saying that pressures continue to be experienced from higher client numbers within community-based settings, and Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour group, added: “I fear that this will be the tip of the iceberg and there will be a mental health long covid repercussions that we will have to deal with, so we need substantial investment in the area.”

Mary Davis, county treasurer, in report, added: “The level of uncertainty and pressures being faced by the public sector this year are unprecedented and continue to evolve. The projected underspend is welcomed but there remain significant far reaching risks associated with the impact of the pandemic, which could be financially destabilising as well as the ongoing pressures being experienced within the DSG.

“The funding issued to support local authorities in responding to the pandemic is significant but the ever-changing landscape we are faced with continues to present service delivery challenges and financial pressures.”

The cabinet agreed to note the budget monitoring forecast position and that the confirmed additional funding Devon County Council is expecting to receive from the Government directly this financial year currently stands at £91m.