Cranbrook district heating discussed at EDDC strategic planning committee 

Cranbrook’s district heating supplier E.ON is being criticised once more following a major heating outage in the East Devon town last year.

Rob Kershaw, local democracy reporter

More than 400 households were left without heating for over a week becuase of a technical fault.

Some people had to leave their homes and live elsewhere during the outage which coincided with an extreme cold spell.

The heating Cranbrook receives is currently unregulated, although a council officer said that government legislation could change that in the next 18 months.

Just before Christmas, residents met with East Devon’s MP Simon Jupp, E.ON leadership and several councillors to explain what went wrong.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance (Liberal Democrat, Broadclyst) said at a strategic planning committee meeting on Tuesday [14 February] that she was not at all convinced about E.ON’s ability to provide its customers with the necessary service.

“Nothing I saw reassured me that the residents of Cranbrook were entirely safe in the hands of E.ON at this point,” she said. “So, E.ON seem to be very good at producing heat, and they seem to be very good at taking the money from the people they know about, but everything in between appears to leave something to be desired.

“I think customer services is very much the obvious one there. It takes many, many reports to E.ON to actually get any reaction from them, and I was not reassured at all at that meeting when the engineers explained about the valves sticking.”

Cllr Dan Ledger (Independent East Devon Alliance, Seaton) added that E.ON had no response when asked about a technical detail.

“One of the questions that was asked at the meeting was, if the valves were stuck on, why did it cut off all the heating?” he pondered. “Why wasn’t it set to the opposite of heat constantly running through rather than cutting it off? They had no answer.”

The district council will now set up forums between E.ON and Cranbrook residents. Cllr Mike Howe (Conservative, Clyst Valley) said that these meetings need to have “physical teeth,” to hold the company to account and a legally binding agreement should be established so it delivers what is asked of it.

Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent East Devon Alliance, Yarty) agreed that E.ON “need to up their game,” although he is pleased that residents have now been compensated.

“I am heartened by this report which says all effective households have received their financial compensation before Christmas, and that E.ON provided director level representation,” he said. “And that’s where I think my love for E.ON will end.”

Cllr Kevin Blakey (Independent, Cranbrook) added that E.ON’s customer service was “worse than awful,” and that “we need to ask E.ON to get their act together.”

More rhubarb from Simon Jupp. Who closed the police stations he now welcomes?

Exmouth’s MP calls for more police enquiry desks to reopen

Conservative MP for East Devon Simon Jupp is calling for more police front desks to open in the district. 

Exmouth’s forthcoming new police station will have an enquiry desk.

Police stations in Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary and Honiton, however, remain closed to the public.

Simon Jupp MP said: “After the success of securing a new police station for Exmouth which will be open to the public, I want to make sure the east of the district also has access to a police station front desk.

“I would warmly welcome a front desk opening in either Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary or Honiton.

“Extra front desks, focusing on the needs of rural communities and market towns, would give people increased awareness and confidence in their local police force, especially during the tourist season.

“I know our Police & Crime Commissioner listens to communities and I hope she will consider re-opening another front desk in East Devon.”

Devon & Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez ran a recent survey asking which police stations the local community would like to have an open front desk. The survey closed on the 2 January.

Business partnership welcomes two new board members

Following its claim to be able to double the size of our economy in eighteen years from 2018, the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)seems to have been keeping a low profile, eclipsed by another unelected, unaccountable, pressure group calling itself “The Great South West”. 

This august body hosted a reception in the House of Lords last month.

Remember. the power behind the GSW economic strategy is none other than Pennon, the South West’s biggest employer and parent company of South West Water. So profit before investment – just what we need in the region! – Owl

Adam Manning 

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has welcomed two new board members for 2023. 

The latest people to join the board are Helen Higgs, Head of Construction Workforce Capability at EDF Energy, and Mark Bolton, Principal and CEO at Yeovil College.

The Heart of the South West LEP’s Board works to improve economic development and prosperity in Devon.

The Board also oversees the LEP’s delivery of infrastructure, business support and skills projects, worth three-quarters of a billion pounds, being delivered by 2025.

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Helen and Mark to the Board, bringing with them a wealth of experience across education, clean energy, and skills.

“We look forward to working with our Board members this year as we continue to navigate the region’s challenges, and work with Government and local businesses to realise our area’s unique opportunities.”

Helen said: “I’m extremely pleased to have been invited to join the LEP Board. This is a great opportunity to support the collaborative skills initiatives that will face the future clean energy agenda for the region.

“I believe that there is great strength in the South West in this sector, which will deliver future employment pathways and be a natural legacy segway from my area of nuclear new build at Hinkley Point C.”

Mark said: “My colleague John Laramy from Exeter College held this position for the previous three years as the Further Education and Skills voice for the Heart of South West LEP, and I am delighted to represent the college, wider education and skills perspectives for the next term of office.

“It is a unique opportunity to ensure that the voice to inform future workforce needs is present in discussions which shape our future in the Heart of the South West.

“What our capable workforce can do has such a profound impact on the success and prosperity of our community, and it is a privilege to be in a position to make that contribution to inform the plan for our place.”

Find out about the Heart of the South West LEP’s board members:

Mid Devon ‘infighting’ slammed by Lib Dems

Mid Devon’s Liberal Democrats have attacked the “infighting” which has left the district council in a “shambolic situation” without a functioning cabinet.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

Four Conservative councillors left their cabinet posts last week in a row over the council’s controversial property development company 3 Rivers. They supported a new business plan for the company but Mid Devon’s leader, Independent councillor Bob Deed, does not.

A scrutiny meeting on Monday [13 February] heard Cllr Deed say he had “fired” the quartet. However, Tory group leader Clive Eginton, who had been council deputy leader, claims they resigned.

It means the decision-making cabinet does not currently have enough members to legally function. A special meeting of the committee due to take place on Tuesday [14 February] was cancelled as a result.

Cllr Deed says he will look to appoint replacement cabinet members in the coming days, but Cllr Eginton has submitted a motion to next week’s full council meeting calling for his removal as council leader with “immediate effect.”

The opposition Lib Dem group, which also had councillors serve in the cabinet alongside Cllr Deed until he sacked them over a separate issue in 2020, say they are “concerned that local residents are being forgotten” over the dispute.

Cllr Luke Taylor (Lib Dem, Bradninch) said: “This infighting between local Conservative councillors and council leader Deed is taking us further away from finding solutions to the real problems for the council of the questionable 3Rivers Development experiment.

“Conservative councillors seem hell bent on investing more taxpayers’ money on this vanity project. The Liberal Democrats believe external expertise needs to be brought in to review the company and to find a solution that does not leave the local council taxpayers ‘picking up the tab’.

“At the same time as the Conservatives are trying to sink more money into this property company, the council is announcing absurd increases in parking charges, some over 100 per cent, that will cripple our High Streets. It’s simply not good enough.

“Drastic change is urgently needed within Mid Devon District Council. Local residents need to be the priority, they cannot be the ones to suffer from this shambolic situation.”

A full council meeting is expected to consider the 3 Rivers business plan again next week after the scrutiny committee voted not to support it in its current form.

Mid Devon is under no overall control with no party having enough seats to command a majority. Elections will be held in May.

Cllr Eginton has been approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.