Urban sprawl – Greater Exeter, Lesser East Devon

From a correspondent:

This correspondent had a beautiful sunny autumn drive through the villages of West Hill and Woodbury yesterday morning. Then the enthusiasm of conservative Cllr Philip Skinner for a “network of linked villages being built in the North West Quadrant area of East Devon” came to mind.

Has not East Devon sacrificed enough Grade 1 agricultural land to build Cranbrook? Were we not told that this sacrifice would be EDDC’s contribution to housing need?

Then we found that Ottery St. Mary was sacrificed.

Feniton was sacrificed.

Exmouth was sacrificed. I could go on.

And now we are told the villages of Poltimore, Huxham, Clyst St Mary, Clyst St George, Ebford, West Hill, Woodbury​, Woodbury Salterton, Exton and Farringdon would be most likely to be sacrificed.

Has the ward councillors of the above villages consulted their constituents? Are the constituents of Ben Ingham and Geoff Jung happy that Woodbury will join Cllr. Skinner’s “bigger vision”?

Why aren’t our independent councillors telling Exeter that East Devon has done their bit, they do not wish urban sprawl and it is now the other surrounding councils turn?

EDDC spending £3.5 million in Exmouth: Tory gets the spotlight, Independent has reservations … dog, tail and wagging again?

Here’s Tory Skinner waxing lyrical about £1.5 million for Exmouth College (though Tigger Nick Hookway has concerns):

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/cil-money-for-community-college-expansion-1-6344922

and here’s news of cash for the completion of a road in Dinham Way – with Skinner again seeming to have the biggest voice and Hookway again expressing reservations:

https://www.radioexe.co.uk/news-and-features/local-news/exmouth-projects-backed/

Tail … dog … wagging … again?

And so near general election time.

And when will other towns and villages get their shares of Community Infrastructure Levy goes into one big pot rather than being locality-based like Section 106?

More flack for EDDC Leader Ingram on spending and transparency

Not looking good … now being attacked for  wanting to employ consultants to tell him what town centre problems are:

“East Devon District Council ‘lacks good detailed intelligence about its towns and their economic wellbeing’.

Cllr Ben Ingham, leader of the council, admitted: “This is not a good state of affairs,” when questioned at Wednesday night’s full council meeting.

It came after Cllr Mike Allen asked questions over the decision of the portfolio holder for economy, Cllr Kevin Blakey, to commission a major study into town centres.

Cllr Allen asked for an indication of the cost proposed and in the interests of proper transparency, for the Consultancy brief envisaged be put to the next Overview Committee for discussion before any expenditure is committed. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/east-devon-lacks-good-intelligence-3474769

“Leader says in hindsight, notes should have been taken when CEO met developers”

Owl says: Well, duh! And just how long has EDDC’s CEO been in the job? Where was his “hindsight”?.

And our “Leader” is now fully au-fait with the language if the previous majority party as far as giving non-answers is concerned!

Everything changes, nothing changes …

“At last Wednesday’s full council meeting, Cllr John Loudoun, asked questions around the keeping of notes from meetings that officers of the council are involved in.

Notes of meetings when senior council officers meet with developers over planning issues should be made in future, councillors have been told.

It follows an instance where East Devon District Council’s chief executive allegedly told developers to appeal his own council’s refusal of planning permission for the Sidford Business Park.

Paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Richard Kimblin QC final closing arguments at a planning inquiry held this said: “After the 2016 application was refused, there was a meeting with Councillor Stuart 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.”

The claims, made both in writing and verbally, were unchallenged by East Devon District Council during the inquiry, but afterwards, an East Devon District Council spokesman said that Mr Williams did not advise the appellant of anything but the applicant chose to interpret the comments he did make as encouraging an appeal, and the comments were made in a ‘situation where a degree of hyperbole and exaggeration is not unusual’.

At last Wednesday’s full council meeting, Cllr John Loudoun, asked questions around the keeping of notes from meetings that officers of the council are involved in.

He said: “Sometimes officers from this Council, beyond those directly responsible for local planning matters, meet and/or discuss with developers their planning applications. Sometimes these meetings take place to discuss applications that this Council has failed to support.

“Does the leader of the council agree with me that when such meetings and/or discussions take place, it is most imperative that they are held in ways that give residents faith that the Officers are transparent and accountable in these matters?

“Does the leader agree with me that it would be appropriate that at such meetings, or in such discussions, there should be more than one Officer present, such as a legal adviser and/or planning officer? Do you agree that any meetings or discussion with developers when they relate to planning should have a formal record kept of what was discussed and agreed, and why?”

In response, Cllr Ben Ingham, leader of the council, said: “The circumstances surrounding any meeting will determine whether it is necessary for them to be held in any particular way. I have the upmost faith that our officers would appreciate the need to act in a way that ensures nothing untoward occurs.

“But in hindsight, it is probably a very good advice and many members and officers of the council may say in future they will.”

It was of a number of questions raised at the meeting relating to concerns about the processes of the council which followed what some councillors called the ‘shambles’ of the previous full council meeting which left councillors unclear as to what they were voting for.

Cllr Loudoun added: “At the last Full Council meeting there was lengthy debate around a motion. A Member at one point interjected and proposed ‘that the question now be put’ and the chairman put this point of order to the meeting.

“Many members did not fully appreciate the implications of voting for or against this point of order and when passed by a show of hands, there appeared to be confusion amongst some Members as to what had just been agreed. When the chairman invited the meeting to vote on the motion on the agenda paper, some Members appeared not to understand what was happening and what they were now being asked to vote on.

Once the meeting had voted on the motion some Members were confused and it was only at this point that it was fully explained what had happened and the implications of their first vote, but by this point the votes had been cast and decisions made.

“The meeting ended with some Members expressing frustration and/or confusion about what the meeting had decided. Does the Leader recognise this set of events and if he does, what would he recommend this Council does to avoid a similar set of circumstances occurring in the future?”

In response, Cllr Ingham said: “It is not for me to say what other members may or may not have understood. I understood what was happening but members are always able to ask for confirmation on what is going on and I am sure the Chairman would, in such circumstances, ensure that clarity was given on the procedures from the officers present. We have may acted at a speed that was not appropriate for new members.”

Asked by Cllr Paul Millar on the potential merits of ensuring Members can make informed decisions when asked to vote in Council meetings, Cllr Ingham said that any council or committee makes mistakes, but as the new council learns, he hopes members and officers will make fewer mistakes when acting in a hurry.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance also questioned why a significant number of meetings had been scheduled to take place during the half-term break. As well as the full council meeting, a Strategic Planning Committee, an Audit and Governance Committee, and a Scrutiny Committee meeting took place last week.

She said: “In the spirit of inclusivity, how is it that this council is wilfully disadvantaging anyone with school aged children, caring responsibilities for school aged children, or those who work in schools or other educational establishments, by organising major meetings including this one during school half term? This is entirely avoidable. Please can the council set its timetable with school dates in mind in the future?”

In response, Cllr Ingham said: “Whilst it would clearly be difficult to plan a yearly meeting cycle to accommodate school holidays, particularly bearing in mind the length of the summer holiday and the potential impact on the business of the Council, it would be helpful to consider if changes could be made in future. “

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/leader-says-hindsight-notes-should-3475242

Indie councillor wastes no time holding EDDC Leader to account**

And some very interesting answers he gets too (and the questions of other councillors are also pertinent):

To answer questions asked by Members of the Council pursuant to Procedure Rules No. 9.2 and 9.5

** Apologies for the deletion of this post earlier today due to technical problems with the attachment.

“Senior role in East Devon’s ruling cabinet has been axed”

So, the “transformation” role in Ben Ingham’s TiggerTory cabinet has been abolished by said leader.

How convenient – no more pesky questions about the Leader’s pre-election promise to move from a Cabinet system to a committee system, more representative of the diverse groups that now exist.

Councillor Millar, understandably, believed “transformation” meant changes to the way officers AND councillors would work. Instead it seems Leader Ingham sees “transformation” as applying to more commercialisation of council services and more revenue-boosting asset-sweating or selling. In other words, a continuation of the previous Tory policies – local government as business rather than public service.

More BOGOF (buy one, get one free) than transformation!

“… No reason for the decision of the leader of the council to not replace the portfolio holder position is stated in the papers ahead of the meeting. …

Instead, the cabinet collectively will take on responsibility for delivery of the Council Plan and the associated strategies of Fit for Purpose, Careful Choices and Commercialisation of Services.

The report says that Cllr Jess Bailey, Corporate Services Portfolio holder, will take on responsibility for Digital by Design and Systems Thinking, while Cllr Geoff Pook, Asset Management Portfolio holder, will now be responsible for Commercialisation of Assets rather than Revenue Generation.

… Next Wednesday’s meeting will also see changes made to committee membership as a result of the political balance of the council changes following Cllr Millar’s resignation from the Independent Group.

The council now consists of 19 members in the Independent Group, 19 Conservatives, 11 from the East Devon Alliance, eight Liberal Democrats, two Green Party members, and one Independent, Cllr Millar.

Sitting as an Independent, he is entitled to two seats across all the committees, and the full council is recommended to approve a proposal that would see the ruling Independent Group lose a seat on both the Overview Committee and the Licensing and Enforcement Committee.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/senior-role-east-devons-ruling-3442021

Is EDDC Leader Ingham “sowing division between communities”?

From a correspondent:

“Like many others, I have a complimentary copy of the Budleigh Journal put through my door which is usually very out of date.

Today –October 17th-I received the October 9th copy. Hence I have just read that EDDC Leader Ben Ingham thinks that it is unfair to villages that they subsidise the Budleigh Salterton free car park on the Green. Originally given to the Town by Lord Clinton.

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/consultation-on-pay-and-display-at-budleigh-car-park-1-6304735

What happens to the money received from all the beach huts in BS?

What happens to the money received from the Lime Kiln car park in the summer months, particularly on a hot day when it is difficult to find a car parking space?

And of course towns like BS and Sidmouth do have a very high council tax receipt.

There are cross subsidies on all forms of taxation. We do not expect someone with a chronic illness to pay for their NHS treatment. They are subsidised by those fortunate enough to remain healthy.

It is not helpful or wise for the Leader of the Council to sow division between communities”.