Jurrasic Park: a Halloween scary story

A scare story fit for Halloween. So scary that Owl is hooting with laughter.

 

Here is Owl’s dissection of the substance of the scare story recently spun by EDDC ex-Tory Councillor (and ex-leader) Ian Thomas, previously posted here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/10/22/eddc-ex-tory-councillor-doesnt-like-the-idea-of-a-jurassic-national-park/

Whilst he may now claim to be “Independent” the “Project Fear” he spreads is the established view of the previous Tory Council (and many in the current council).

It’s all about the proposal to create a new National Park by combining the East Devon and Dorset AONBs.

This proposal is not new. Like the creation of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site before it, a considered and reasoned case has been building for a number of years now.

The bit that SCARES Cllr. Ian Thomas (and others in the council) is that, despite EDDC attempts to pour cold water on the idea in the past, it has now been given endorsement by the Glover Review. (The Glover Review of Designated Landscapes was commissioned by Michael Gove to report in the 70th anniversary year of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act).

It calls for National Parks and AONBs to have a clear national mission to reverse environmental decline and specifically calls for the creation of two new National Parks and a National Forest – one such park being the area of the Devon and Dorset AONB/World Heritage site.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/833726/landscapes-review-final-report.pdf

Cllr. Ian Thomas’ stated FEAR is that house prices in East Devon could rise ‘considerably’ if proposals for a new ‘Jurassic’ national park’ covering East Devon and Dorset are successful (when did prices last fall,in the recession)?

The REAL FEAR, however, is, Owl thinks, loss of power, particularly the power of development. As Ed Freeman (Service Lead Planning) put it in the penultimate paragraph of his review of Glover Report for Cllr. Susie Bond’s Strategic Planning Committee:

“….there may also be felt to be concerns around loss of power by this authority to another body.”

https://democracy.eastdevon.gov.uk/documents/s7143/4Protected%20Landscape%20Report.pdf

It is interesting that Dorset has no such worries and has enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

How fitting then at Halloween that Owl should do the scary thing and examine the FACTS!

In terms of protective policies, both National Parks and AONBs have identical aims. These are to “conserve and enhance natural beauty”. (National Parks have the further responsibility to conserve and enhance “wildlife and cultural heritage” as well.) National Parks also have a duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within their park (note – communities not just developers). The Glover review proposes that in respect of this duty, National Parks should go further and “respond proactively to local housing needs”.

So where is the scare?

Could it be that under past EDDC regimes AONB responsibilities to “protect and enhance” the area have simply been ignored, something that might be harder to do under different management and wider scrutiny?

If this is the case, then EDDC is in for a REAL SHOCK – a LOOK BEHIND YOU moment – because the Glover Review also proposes that both AONBs and National Parks should be staffed by a shared National Landscape Service and that AONBs should be given greater status in the planning system. AONBs should become statutory consultees, and should be supported to work towards local plans for their areas, prepared in conjunction with local authorities. For larger AONBs such as East Devon (specifically mentioned), this plan should have statutory status in place of local authority plans. So even if the National Park idea doesn’t get off the ground immediately, the cavalier approach EDDC has adopted in the past to its AONB will have to change if the Glover Report is taken up.

We don’t know what the next government might make of the Glover Review but, whatever political persuasionit has, we can safely assume it will look for ways of demonstrating its Environmental Protection credentials. Not pushing forward with Glover would be an obvious own goal.

There are many positive reasons to embrace the proposal to create a new National Park by combining the East Devon and Dorset AONBs with the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Here are four in addition to the proactive management of local housing needs mentioned above.

1. Wildlife

East Devon and Dorset AONBs have distinctive and valuable ecologies which are important on a national scale. The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, which forms 5% of the East Devon AONB is one of the largest areas of lowland dry heaths in England and has European designation. Consolidation of these two AONBs within a new National Park would increase the biodiversity of the environment creating a continuous wildlife corridor nearly 70 miles long.

2. Farming Culture and impact on Heritage Landscape

In the past, only the larger landlords like CDE had the management structure and financial stability to promote landscape enhancement projects within the AONB. However, subsidies based on acreage are going to be changed to supporting specific environmental enhancements, distributed more widely. Depending on how it is managed this could make significant changes to protected landscapes. For instance, there could be haphazard re-wilding on a considerable scale. AONBs in the future will need to be more involved and supportive of the independent sector of farming if the Landscape is to be conserved and enhanced, thus becoming more like National Parks.

3. Tourism and Economic benefits

National Parks promote understanding and enjoyment of their area’s special qualities by the public. A clear identity as a National Park would bring an economic boost to East Devon. The South Downs NP has attracted over £100M in core support and project funding since 2011 and it is reasonable to expect an East Devon and Dorset NP to attract a similar level of funding. On a smaller scale, experience from the Pebblebed Heaths are that funds and grants become more readily available with higher environmental designations, in this case SSSI, SPA and SAC.

4. Recreation and Well-being for an ageing and growing population

Encouraging Recreation is already a National Park priority. Improving public enjoyment would go hand in hand with promoting activities to improve health and well-being. Improving these will become an overriding priority in our area which is not only set to grow and age but already has more than 30% of the population aged 65 or older. It will become even more necessary if Cllr. Phillip Skinners dream of creating a North West Quadrant of linked villages to support immigration of 12,000 is realised.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/east-devon-could-getting-network-3454612

A confidant and forward-looking EDDC would now seek to form a joint liaison committee to work with the East Devon and Dorset National Park Team so as to get a seat at the table and maximise the opportunities, rather than continue to sulk in its (developer built?) kennel.

Are you scared now?

Possible Jurassic National Park for Dorset and ? East Devon

The Glover Report on National Parks and AONBs has just been published.

Disappointingly, there is no good news for the Jurassic Coast in East Devon – the only new national park suggested is in the Chilterns, with a new national forest based on Sherwood Forest and consideration for a new national park in Dorset only – though in a later part of the report East Devon is confusingly listed for consideration with Dorset!

See page 121 and 153 here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/833163/landscapes-review-final-report.pdf

This is in no small part due to the reluctance of the previous administration to support a move to include East Devon, as it did not want to lose control of planning. East Devon Alliance put in a submission to support a national park but it wasn’t enough to sway the report writers.

The report had much to say about enhancing AONBs but it needs the will of local politicians to act on its recommendations.

So, all in all, not the best news for our area.

“Dorset council faces a legal fight over housing development in Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”

“DORSET Council is facing a legal battle over plans to build a large housing estate on countryside immortalised in Thomas Hardy novels, after locals complained of its “devastating” impact on rural communities.

The proposals would result in almost 1,000 homes on Vearse Farm in Bridport, the largest ever development permitted on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England.

But residents now hope to overturn the council’s decision in the courts after raising more than £30,000 through crowdfunding to finance a judicial review.

The challenge is backed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Thomas Hardy Society, whose members described the plans as a “nail in the coffin” of Hardy Country, an area named in honour of the Victorian author.

Outline planning permission was first approved by West Dorset District Council, which has since amalgamated to Dorset Council, in November 2017 but proposals were only finalised in April.

The development, which covers an equivalent of 63 football pitches, would see the population of Bridport increase by an estimated 25 per cent.

But residents objected on the grounds the scale of the housing estate was “inappropriate” and raised fears the surrounding countryside would be spoiled.

A specifically-created campaign group, called ADVEARSE, was created to set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise £34,000 in order to fund a solicitor and barrister to launch a judicial review.

Barry Bates, chairman of the group, said: “If we do not take this action now, nothing further can ever be done to challenge a development of this devastating scale on this site.”

Overlooking the development site is the distinguishable Colmer’s Hill, a beloved landmark in Dorset that is said to be an inspiration for artists and novelists including Hardy, who mentioned it in his 1880 short story Fellow Townsmen.

Dr Tony Fincham, chairman of the Hardy Society, said: “This proposal is just the kind of over-development which irretrievably destroys part of Hardy’s Wessex.

“So often West Dorset (Council) doesn’t realise the value of its very special landscape in both literary and tourism term.

“This plan is just another nail in the coffin of Hardy Country.”

Elizabeth Sims, the widow of eminent violinist Neville Marriner, known as one of world’s greatest conductors, has also put her name to the cause. …

Dorset Council is under pressure to build over 15,000 new homes in west Dorset – one of the worst areas in Britain for affordable housing – by 2036.

The average price of property in the area now stands at £318,000, well beyond the means of most people born and brought up there.

David Walsh, Dorset Council’s head of planning, said: “We are confident in the way the Vearse Farm application was considered.

“As this is a legal process, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this moment in time.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/19/dorset-council-faces-legal-fight-housing-development-inarea/

Cross-county working for health care: Axminster, Seaton, Lyme Regis

“Three towns are joining forces in a bid to improve healthcare provision in the Axe and Lym valleys.

Seaton, Axminster and Lyme Regis have formed a powerful alliance which will represent a combined population of some 40,000 residents.

Working together as the Axe Valley Health Forum the group believes it will have a stronger voice.

The new organisation will work with the NHS on the delivery of a health and care model that fits its demographic.

The vision is to establish a ‘place based system of care’ to meet the specific needs of the people of the Axe Valley where all voices within the community are listened to and everyone has an opportunity to participate in the design of services.

The aim will be to improve health and wellbeing for everyone living within the place identified as the Axe Valley – this includes Seaton, Axminster, Lyme Regis and the surrounding communities.

The Forum will consist of elected community representatives, health and social care providers and volunteers. …”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/seaton-axminster-and-lyme-join-forces-1-6099018

Dorset campaigners crowdfund legal challenge to 760 home AONB development near Bridport

“Campaigners against a greenfield development in Dorset have raised £5,000 with a view to taking the planning decision involved to judicial review.

West Dorset District Council last November gave permission for the Vearse Farm project, which includes 760 homes – 35% of them affordable – and space for employment uses.

But campaign group Advearse said the decision to allow development on the site near Bridport contravened regulation on areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and should be given ‘the highest possible protection’ from development.

A judicial review will cost around £34,000 and, thanks to donations and match-funding, Advearse has £19,000 left to raise.

Its chair Barry Bates said: “Bridport has shown that it is clearly united against this development which, despite its gross scale, will not deliver truly-affordable homes for local people and we will do our utmost to represent them.”

Advearse’s fundraising will be doubled due to a match-funding grant from the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Jean Marshall, West Dorset’s head of planning development management and building control, said: “We’re aware of the ongoing objections and campaign from Advearse, but remain confident in the decision given by [the] planning committee to grant permission subject to the necessary planning obligation and planning conditions.”

Ian Gardner, portfolio holder for planning, said when permission was granted: “We’re satisfied that we have been able to work with the applicant and reach agreement on plans for the site.

“Once completed, the scheme will provide significant off-site highway improvements to the Miles Cross junction, a good range of open market and affordable housing as well as community facilities and employment land.”

https://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/planning/401-planning-news/40128-campaigners-crowd-fund-legal-challenge-over-grant-of-planning-permission-for-760-home-scheme

New Dorset unitary council may not be able to balance the books

“… In today’s report, the programme director for the council Keith Cheesman revealed that, whilst most of the transitional costs have been around what was expected, the cost of taking on interim staff to carry out projects related to changing to the new council have been far higher than anticipated and need extra funding.

Cheesman’s report said that the ongoing dispute between the shadow Dorset Council and Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council over the transfer of debts and reserves is yet to be resolved, and also warned that years of reducing employee numbers has left internal employee resources “very limited.”

The merger between Dorset County, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, Weymouth & Portland, and West Dorset councils was given the green light back in May, followed by a lengthy legal battle with Christchurch Borough Council.

Last week, Christchurch BC, which will be part of the second new council, said it was still split over the need to contribute £420,000 towards merger costs.”

http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/new-dorset-council-faces-unbalanced-budget-as-dispute-over-transfer-of-debts-remains-unresolved