Reflections on Democracy

From a correspondent –

There is a certain amount of empathy for those East Devon political representatives who lost their opportunities to win a Devon County seat at the recent elections, given the numbers of votes cast for non-Tory candidates and whose success was, no doubt, scuppered by the eccentricities of local ward boundaries and the triumph of the nationwide Tory- led vaccination programme.

The sense of betrayal and disappointment experienced by various local Independent politicians is palpable from reading recent comments in the media:-

 . . . .“democracy is not quite what we all think” observed East Devon Leader – Paul Arnott


. . .  “I lost by 145 votes . . . .  despite the fact that the original Lib Dem candidate for Seaton contacted me to offer a deal where she would stand down in return for a joint public statement” – remarked Martin Shaw, after failing to secure the County seat of Seaton and Colyton. He continued by highlighting “exactly the same thing happened to the Independent EDA candidate Paul Hayward in Axminster” when he also lost that County seat by a fine margin of votes.

A similar betrayal and disappointment was also experienced in December 2020 by around 200 members of the electorate who asked for representation from their elected members on the East Devon Planning Committee to control inappropriate development within a major Planning Application (20/1001/MOUT) at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary.

After recommendations, from the Development Manager, to build, build, build and to ignore planning policies in the Local and Neighbourhood Plans that directed development away from green fields and flood zones, incorporated quality designs and avoided traffic congestion/pollution in a village community – the politicians decided to seize the offer from  developers for a  ‘pot of gold’  which resulted in them supporting and giving substantial weight to the economic benefits which (they considered) outweighed the 200 pleas for a balanced, innovative development that would not obliterate the environmental, natural amenities within a small, rural village.

The pandemic has accentuated the importance of the benefits of green spaces and open landscapes that are in short supply in many, large, urban communities- but this must not result in a handful of small East Devon villages being sacrificed to achieve extravagant housing targets! Surely, all East Devon local communities should share proportionate growth to avoid excessive growth saturation of a few? To step beyond the point that is necessary or desirable is folly and results is the ruination of valued natural assets that cannot be replaced!

Pinhoe, Broadclyst and surrounding communities have been bombarded with excessive development that has impacted on their local amenity and character and many believe they are an example of how not to develop East Devon, when those communities were assured that the provision of the new town of Cranbrook would protect the surrounding smaller villages from over-development!

Consequently, it is no surprise that Henry Gent was successful for the Green Party in the Broadclyst County seat (even though his ‘green’ policies of passivhaus development and organic farming are questionably ‘at odds’ with having optioned a large area of his land to major developers) but hopefully such views on building on green fields do not transfer to other small, historic, rural East Devon communities morphing them into large towns!

Clyst St Mary would be negligent if they failed to warn their neighbours in Colyton that submitting proposals in Neighbourhood Plans to East Devon District Council will not always guarantee that residents’ comments and views for the future of their community will be heard, listened to or, indeed, implemented at all by either the planners or politicians of the day!

There is certainly an area of risk involved where major development is concerned,  leaving many to place their bets on the planning roulette table with a choice between ‘Green’ and ‘Greed’ and usually there is only one winner!

From 1549 and 1685 both Clyst St Mary (Prayer Book Rebellion) and Colyton respectively have a history of being rebellious and it is agreed that, all these centuries later, both communities will continue to rebel against any future unwanted development. Both communities value their historic links believing that the individual attributes that contribute to making our communities different and special must be protected and enhanced and any change must be sensitively planned and we trust that our elected representatives will follow those principles.

The good news is that any disappointment experienced recently by local politicians is relatively short-lived, being cushioned by the fact that in four years, there will be another opportunity to be elected.

However, the bad news is that if major planning decisions for the development of local communities are flawed –  the detrimental effects last several lifetimes at best and at worst they will last in perpetuity!

‘An opportunity to be the voice of your community’ on Devon’s response to the climate emergency

Fourteen thousand randomly selected Devon households are being invited to enter a ‘civic lottery’ to determine who represents the county at this summer’s online Devon Climate Assembly.

Philippa Davies 

‘An opportunity to be the voice of your community’ on Devon's response to the climate emergency

Over the next week invitations will drop through letterboxes giving households the chance to help shape and safeguard Devon’s future.

It follows the recent public consultation of the Interim Devon Carbon Plan, the county’s climate roadmap which outlines what every resident, business and organisation will have to do to reduce carbon emissions.

The Interim Carbon Plan is being developed by the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group (DCERG) – a partnership of Devon’s councils, emergency services, voluntary organisations, and business groups. The group has set a target for Devon to be carbon-neutral no later than 2050.

Hundreds have contributed to the plan’s development; however some of the issues that need to be solved are so significant they need further discussion – and it’s these that will be considered, discussed, and voted on by the Assembly.

How can we be sure the Assembly is truly representative of Devon’s people?

To conduct the Devon Climate Assembly, DCERG has enlisted advice and support from two of the UK’s leading experts.

The Involve Foundation and the Sortition Foundation have conducted Citizens’ Assemblies on behalf of the UK Government and Scottish Parliament. Their approach in Devon will ensure that the make-up of the 70-strong Devon Climate Assembly is fair and representative of the population.

The first stage in selecting Assembly members is a ‘civic lottery’, which involves invitations being sent out to randomly selected households in Devon, Plymouth, and Torbay, inviting one member of that household to put their name forward.

Households that receive an invitation have until Monday, May 24 to respond. From those responses, 70 members will be hand-picked against a criterion that will reflect Devon’s demographic profile.

Age, gender, ethnicity, disability, geography, socio-economic status, and people’s own attitude towards climate change are all factors that will be used to produce a representative Assembly.

The Assembly itself will be conducted entirely online, and no prior knowledge of climate change or digital skills are needed. Digital devices and support will be available.

Members will meet over a series of weekday evenings and three weekends in June and July to hear from a range of expert speakers, discuss the issues and form recommendations decided on by a vote.

The Devon Climate Emergency partnership, which includes all Devon’s Local Authorities, will respond to each of the Assembly’s recommendations to complete the Devon Carbon Plan.

Professor Patrick Devine Wright, Chair of the Net-Zero Task Force, who will combine the Assembly’s recommendations into the Devon Carbon Plan, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for individuals to be the voice of their communities and advise the Net-Zero Task Force as to how they think Devon should meet the particularly challenging issues of climate change.”

Dr Phil Norrey, chair of DCERG and Chief Executive of Devon County Council, said: “I would like to thank the members of the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group and the Net-Zero Taskforce for their hard work and to members of the public who have helped shape the carbon plan right from the thematic hearings through to the recent public consultation.

“Devon’s Climate Assembly is the next stage of a transparent and democratic process to show us all how we can live and prosper in a carbon neutral society.

“This is the goal of Devon’s Carbon Plan, to set out a clear roadmap of what we all have to do to ensure that Devon becomes net-zero and continues to thrive. If over the next week or so you receive an invitation, I encourage you to respond.”

For more information, visit the Devon Climate Emergency Citizens Assembly website.

Michael Caines’ new beach bar has £75 cancellation fee

Exmouth’s highly anticipated waterfront restaurant Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant is set to open on Monday, May 17, and people far and wide are excited to visit.

Chloe Parkman

Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant – owned by celebrity chef Michael Caines – is set to serve some of the finest food and drink in East Devon whilst overlooking Exmouth’s stunning beach.

But for those who leave it until the last day to cancel their reservation, you’ll face an eye watering fine.

The cancellation fee within 24 hours of a booking is £75 for dinner and £40 for lunch.

A spokesperson for the venue said: ”Many restaurants now operate with a deposit policy or ticketing system – asking for full payment at the time of booking in order to generate revenue to cover the costs of rent, rising business rates, insurance, staff, produce etc, but that’s not the right answer for us here as we’re more community-focused.

”Instead, we have a simple, fair and upfront cancellation policy – it only applies if there’s less than 24 hours notice and the fee varies accordingly with lunch (£40) and dinner (£75) reservations.

”Cancel for free just by giving more than 24hrs notice prior to your reservation.

”Plans change, people forget to cancel, diners book multiple options, and emergencies happen – we get it, but cancellations are an annoying reality!”

Although it doesn’t happen everyday, no shows and cancellations are inevitable in the hospitality industry.

A spokesperson for Mickey’s adds: ”The average no show rate alone is anywhere between ten to twenty per cent of a restaurants’ covers. It’s estimated that it costs the UK’s restaurants £16 billion per year.

”With cancellations on top of that, this can be devastating to a restaurant, especially independents and new launches.

”A survey that went out last year found that 27% don’t cancel because they can’t be bothered and 9% don’t cancel because they book several restaurants and decide which they’ll attend nearer to the time.

”A cancellation fee is a nod to our customers that we take their reservations seriously and vice versa that they take our business seriously. It also ensures we have reservations from people who really do want to dine with us. This in turn makes sure that we’re fully booked, that the ambience is just right, the waitlist is kept to a minimum and the number of diners enjoying their experience at a maximum.

”We’ve spent a lot of time researching and asking our guests for their feedback on our policies and the majority wholeheartedly approve of a cancellation fee! They, like us, support the #NoMoreNoShows movement.

”Why is that? Simple – people don’t like to dine in a half-empty restaurant or wait months for a table because it’s been rife with no shows. Guests like the atmosphere to be buzzing, fun, and filled with other people enjoying the experience too. They want a memorable visit.”

While talking about Michael Caines:

In a post in February, Owl also noted that Lympstone manor has opened five indulgent Shepherd huts – complete with outdoor hot tubs, rolltop baths and walk-in showers, but so far had been unable to find a related planning permission for these structures in the curtilage of a listed building.

There is a form of ‘permitted development’ allowing land to be used without planning permission ‘for any purpose for not more than 28 (now 56) days in total in any calendar year. (Now being used for pop-up glamping sites). Although Owl is unclear as to whether this applies in designated landscapes.

Earlier this week Owl posted this retrospective application appearing in the EDDC planning list:

Siting of six shepherds huts with external decking, 3 boiler houses/log stores, one with decking area, and associated infrastructure (retrospective application) Lympstone Manor Hotel Courtlands Lane Exmouth EX8 3NZRef. No: 21/0751/FUL | Validated: Mon 26 Apr 2021 | Status: Awaiting decision