“Failure to cut air pollution could land politicians in court, warns UN health “

Unlike other nearby councils and Devon County Council, EDDC had yet to declare a climate emergency for the district, and CEO Mark Williams has already declared himself pessimistic about how and when EDDC can meet clean-up targets:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/05/08/eddc-ceo-puts-new-majority-in-their-place-about-climate-crisis-wants-very-slow-change/

And will the inspector who hears the Sidford Business Park appeal pretend that an increase in heavy goods traffic through the village will not affect those living there, particularly the children and the elderly?

“Politicians could end up in court for failing to protect their citizens from air pollution, according to the UN’s top public health official.

Maria Neira compared the crisis over air pollution to the asbestos scandal, in which governments were accused of failing to act quickly enough to save lives despite knowing the risks.

In an interview with The Times, the director of the World Health Organisation’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, said that delaying action on the sources of air pollution, such as road traffic and wood burning in urban areas, would cost thousands of lives.

She praised this newspaper’s Clean Air for All Campaign and supported our call for sales of new petrol and diesel cars to be banned by 2030.

Dr Neira said that she was particularly concerned by the damage air pollution does to children’s lungs and brains.

“We know that, 15 years from now, those who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution will suffer major consequences in their immune, digestive and nervous systems and their respiratory systems will be deficient. If this is the society we are preparing for our children we are all very irresponsible.”

She said that toxic air cut short the lives of 40,000 people a year in the UK and 400,000 across Europe and governments and local authorities needed to act quickly to tackle it “even if the measures are not very popular”.

“If you postpone [action] by one day it might be hundreds of lives,” she said.

“If you postpone it by one year it might be thousands of lives plus the cost of the health system and the cost in terms of quality of life from living with asthma.”

She urged politicians to think about the consequences to people’s health of delaying making tough decisions, such as reducing traffic in cities and investing in measures to encourage cycling.

“This is something every politician should ask himself or herself every morning if they say, ‘Instead of 2030 I will do it in 2040’. They should ask the WHO what does that mean in terms of affecting the health of the people and how many new cases of lung cancer. We can calculate that.

“The question here is how many of those lives, or reduction in quality of life, are you ready to absorb. They should inform the public of those consequences and face the risk of losing votes.”

She predicted that politicians who failed to act could be forced to defend their decisions in court.

“Look at the case of asbestos. At one point some politicians were taken to court — the ministry of health in France — because they were accused of [knowing] about the risk of asbestos and [they] didn’t do enough.

“I have the feeling in a few years from now this will be the case [for air pollution] and no politician will be able to say I didn’t know because we all knew and this information has been well-established.”

She added: “There are legal groups already working on this. They have patients and people who lost family members. I can perfectly see the scenario of politicians being accused by our citizens saying, ‘You knew it, you didn’t do anything, therefore you are responsible for the number of deaths that have occurred.’”

She referred to the High Court ruling last month that a new inquest should be held into the death of a nine-year-old girl who suffered a fatal asthma attack believed to have been linked to illegal levels of air pollution near her home in London.

“Look at the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, this might be a beginning. If you talk to legal groups, the number of cases now going to court is increasing. It might be that in the next few years it increases exponentially.”

The government has already been defeated three times in court by Client Earth, the campaign group which successfully argued that air quality plans were inadequate. The group is now considering bringing new cases against the government and local authorities over illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution on hundreds of roads.

Dr Neira said politicians who believed that taking tough action on air pollution was too expensive should consider the costs of not acting. In 2016 the Royal College of Physicians estimated the costs to individuals, the health service and economy to be more than £20 billion a year in the UK.

“The health system is paying an incredible price at the moment to treat patients because we are talking about chronic diseases and those are very, very costly,” she said. “If you include that cost in your equation then the investment will be recovered immediately by the savings in your health system.”

She urged the car industry to plan a much faster switch to electric cars and suggested they were trying to prolong sales of petrol and diesel cars.

“They are not switching fast enough. They don’t sell fuels they sell the car so they should make the switch as soon as possible. Otherwise they will be responsible for this air pollution crisis.

“If they want to still sell mobility they need to stop selling fossil fuel. They will then be perceived as heroes rather than the guilty ones.”

She urged the public to “keep putting pressure on politicians” to act on air pollution. “That’s the first thing you need to do to protect yourself,” she added.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“Home builders’ lobbyist pushed council leader to ‘sort’ and speed planning”

Is this any different to having a (Tory) COUNCILLOR in charge of planning running his own planning consultancy AND chairing an influential business forum? And if this expose came about from a Freedom of I formation request about events in Wandsworth in 2011 and 2013 …..

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9920971/If-I-cant-get-planning-nobody-will-says-Devon-councillor-and-planning-consultant.html

“A lobbyist for some of the UK’s biggest property developers used a direct communication channel to the leader of a flagship Conservative council to help push through planning applications for luxury apartment developments.

Peter Bingle used his longstanding relationship with Ravi Govindia, the leader of the London borough of Wandsworth, in attempts to circumvent council officials he believed were being obstructive to his clients, including over the size of payments due to public projects.

Bingle’s access has been revealed in a cache of emails released under the Freedom of Information Act that show him asking Govindia, a former flatmate, to smooth the passage of planning applications for hundreds of luxury homes between 2011 and 2013. Govindia responded in some cases by promising to chase officials and fix meetings.

Berkeley calls affordable housing targets ‘unviable’ as chairman earns £174m

Bingle is a former Conservative councillor at Wandsworth and was chairman of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, once one of the country’s biggest lobbying firms. He set up Terrapin Communications, whose clients have included Ballymore and Bellway, the housebuilders, and Royal Mail when it was selling off its land for housing.

When Royal Mail complained about the junior rank of the planning officer assigned to its application and having to repeat details of its plans to officials, Bingle emailed Govindia: “This wouldn’t have happened under the old regime. Your help would be appreciated in sorting things out.”

Bingle later forwarded the Royal Mail’s plan for its presentation to the Wandsworth planning committee to Govindia asking “What’s your advice?” Govindia replied two minutes later: “Will call as soon as I finish this meeting”.

Nearly 100 London councillors have links to property industry

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing, but the correspondence provides a rare window on the methods developers use to apply pressure to politicians behind the scenes to speed up high-stakes planning decisions and to reduce infrastructure payments. An investigation last week revealed how Berkeley Homes, one of London’s largest developers of luxury homes, routinely told local authorities that their affordable housing targets were unviable.

In April, the Guardian revealed planning lobbyists regularly entertained Robert Davis, Westminster city council’s former planning committee chairman. Davis received hospitality or gifts 893 times over six years, frequently from developers and their agents, including Bingle. He has since resigned as deputy leader.

The emails relate to when Bingle was working as a lobbyist for the Royal Mail, which had submitted plans for a 1,800-home development on its site close to Battersea Power Station. In one email to Govindia he lambasted the council’s handling of a negotiation about how much his client should pay to the public purse as “chaotic and shambolic”. He told Govindia it “does nothing for Wandsworth’s reputation in the property world … Something has gone seriously wrong.”

The planning application was eventually approved. Royal Mail last year sold part of the site to US investors for £101m.

Bingle chased Govindia for updates on progress of another 252-home application at Battersea for another client, complaining about “non-committal” planning officials. He applauded the leader when a separate application for 104 private flats in Putney by Berkeley Homes was approved, signing off an email: “Many thanks for a great result.” It had no social housing.

Bingle has denied exerting any undue influence and Govindia said he made no apology for delivering more homes for Wandsworth.

Public records show Bingle has entertained at least 31 councillors in different London boroughs in recent years, taking some out for lunch or dinner more than a dozen times. When Govindia, who was among those he entertained, was awarded a CBE in 2017 Bingle said: “Never has an award for services to local government been more deserved.”

Govindia did not sit on Wandsworth’s planning committee, but Bingle repeatedly urged him to help, often simply forwarding on complaints from property developers.

In January 2012, Royal Mail was concerned about what the council wanted in terms of payments for schools and education. Bingle forwarded an email about that directly to Govindia saying “Ravi, Views?”

Govindia replied later that day: “I will chase the education chaps”.

By March, the development consultant on the scheme asked Bingle to “prod Ravi that we need to get on with this”. Bingle forwarded the email to Govinidia saying “I thought it simplest just to forward this to you”.

When Bingle sent an email asking: “Leader, Can we get a meeting with you in the diary for next week? This scheme is now stuck,” Govinida replied: “I have asked for an update from planners next week.”

Asked about the relationship Bingle said: “The fact that this information came from a freedom of information request shows that it was always available for scrutiny in the public domain. And rightly so. Having been a long-standing friend of Ravi I know it is impossible for anybody to have undue influence over him. Since his earliest days on Wandsworth as a backbench councillor he has always resolutely defended his own viewpoint even if it meant voting against the Conservative group.”

Govinidia said: “It is first and foremost the job of any council leader to press those on all sides to deliver improvements to their borough and improve the lives of their residents. To do the job effectively you need to listen to all voices and make sure that when problems or snags arise that you are on top of them and that you can secure solutions to drive forward and deliver these improvements. I make no apology whatsoever for fulfilling my role as a council leader to deliver more homes, more jobs and more opportunities for our residents.”

He said the Royal Mail development will deliver 318 new affordable homes, a higher number than the developers were originally offering.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/13/home-builders-lobbyist-pushed-council-leader-to-sort-and-speed-planning

Should local party members elect council leaders?

So says a writer (Labour) in a Huffington Post blog. No problem in East Devon – most of the dwindling local Tory party membership are already councillors!

Some of the comments seem quite pertinent to East Devon:

” … a council leader who oversees a large budget and thousands of local government workers, is only selected by the party members who live in their individual ward to be a candidate for councillor, from there a vote of councillor colleagues takes place behind closed doors. There is no mechanism for members to have a say on who should be the Labour [or other political party] group leader or to debate the principles, priorities and policies they will lead before they are in place. In practice, there is no recourse for members if the leader chooses to act in a way that undermines the values our party is founded upon – other than to deselect them as a candidate to be councillor when they are next up for election, which may be four years away. …

[Ah, yes, who can forget Diviani being told to save community hospitals at EDDC and voting to close them at DCC]

… Too often we see Council Cabinet members dependent on the grace and patronage of their leader for their income and livelihood – no Cabinet position means no job, and as such very little dissent. In some places even scrutiny chairs – the name should give away what they’re there for – are put in place by the very leadership they are supposed to scrutinise. …”

[Scrutiny – we never did manage to get to the bottom (or even very slightly below the surface) of the relationship between disgraced Councillor Graham Brown, the council and their relationship with the East Devon Business Forum]

Source: Huffington Post

Greendale: yet another retrospective planning application

Yet another retrospective planning application from FWS Carter and Sons! It appears this planning application is yet another example (of many) of the company jumping the gun as the new building already seems to have been built!

“FWS Carter and Sons wish to expand the existing farm shop as well as build a new dedicated classroom facility at the site on the A3052, between the Greendale Business Park and Crealy.

They say they would be making a significant investment in the farm shop, that already makes sales of around £100,000 a week, would create 30 new jobs, and expand on the shop which is a focal point to the rural community which it serves.

The farm shop already employs 68 people (56 full time and 12 part time), but the company says the new proposals would directly create 30 new jobs (8 full time and 22 part time) in documents submitted with a planning application to East Devon District Council.”

Owl wonder why they need a classroom at a farm shop?

Maybe for the training of the Greendale and Ladram Bay management of how to correctly apply for planning permission? Not build it then submit a planning application again, again and again!

Quote from Cllr Geoff Jung the EDA District Councillor.

“I am totally exasperated by their total lack of conformity to the planning system!

However this application will be treated by East Devon District Council in the normal manner as required by the National Planning Policy”

Perhaps new planning guidance should bring in hefty fines for retrospective planning applications?

Sidford Business Park – a grubby history

Tim Ford, once a much-respected plumbing and electrical contactor in Sidmouth, is renewing his controversial application to build a business park in the AONB at Sidford. (18/1094/MOUT)

Incredulous locals wonder how it was possible for a council to allocate an ‘employment site’ in its local development plan that is on a flood plain, is a rich wildlife habitat, and whose main access would be a narrow street where two lorries can’t pass without mounting the pavement!

For the dominant Tory group on East Devon District Council it was easy!

First, they let landowners and developers decide where to build. In 2007 they asked East Devon Business Forum how much employment land the district would need over the next 25 years. EDBF was a lobby group which included the Carters of Greendale, the Stuarts of Hill Barton and Tim Ford of Sidmouth. Their answer was predictable: lots and lots!

Second, they put Chair of EDBF, Cllr Graham (‘I ain’t doin’ it for peanuts!’) Brown:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/12/17/the-disgraced-ex-eddc-tory-councillor-graham-brown-if-i-cant-get-planning-nobody-will-scandal-refuses-to-die/

in charge of quietly asking landowners where they would like to build. Apparently, the proposal for a Sidford business park was first mooted at one of these confidential meetings in July 2010.

Third, in 2011 they elected Paul Diviani, founder member of EDBF, as leader. Under him the District Council became what many saw as a ‘Development Corporation’, the planning system became less about protecting the environment and more about encouraging building.

Fourth, they didn’t listen to the public or community groups whom they ignored or misrepresented. Sidmouth Chamber of commerce said the business park would be catastrophic for local businesses, Council minutes recorded the Chamber as supporting it!

Fifth, they whipped their large political majority to vote through the Sidford allocation. When hostile public reaction worried them just before the 2015 council elections they voted to ‘remove it’ from the Local Plan. Universal Rejoicing! But in 2016 the Inspector kept it in the Plan. Why? Because East Devon’s chief planning officer had not been instructed to give the Inspector reasons for the council’s change of mind!

Former EDDC Leader Diviani is now EDDC’s representative on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan. In its confidential meetings he is helping to oversee a gigantic overspill project along the A3052 in the west end of the District where hundreds of acres of land are being earmarked for a massive expansion of business parks and thousands of new houses.

Indeed one such expansion was announced only this weekend near Cranbrook, where the developer is quoted as saying:

“The first, ‘Scenario 1’ is a response to existing market demand with the provision of a single large unit of around one million square feet (92,9000 sq.m.).

‘Scenario 2’ would see the site offer a multi-unit option, providing a range of sizes and configurations informed by ongoing market need.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/huge-distribution-centre-near-cranbrook-is-given-the-nod-by-planners-1-5564832

Which all makes the wretched Sidford application even less necessary!

Would you choose immediate A-road and motorway access to Exeter and the M5 or access down a country road where two medium-size vehicles cannot pass?

A new EDDC Leader and Deputy Leader … a marriage made in …?

Who best illustrates trust and respect in East Devon?  Claire Wright?  Martin Shaw?  Cathy Gardner?  No, according to our Tory Council it’s (drumroll) – Ian Thomas and Philip Skinner!!!  Thomas ousting Paul Diviani as Tory Leader and Skinner as his deputy side-kick!

Oh,oh …. Mr Thomas a somewhat unknown quantity having kept himself firmly under the radar. Skinner, however, has enjoyed some limelight.

Skinner was a member of the maligned East Devon Business Forum, chaired by disgraced ex-councillor Graham Brown.  Though his affiliation at the Forum wandered between companies and council…

AND let’s not forget his controversial chairmanship of the Exmouth Regeneration Board which has made him few friends outside the charmed EDDC Tory circle ….

But most of all, who can forget “Christmas Card-Gate”  – when then Leader of EDDC, Sarah Randall-Johnson, stripped him of his role of Rural Champion after this debacle:

“CONSERVATIVE councillor has been stripped of his role as rural champion after off-the-cuff remarks in a Christmas card offended the leader of a Devon authority.

Philip Skinner, who represents Talaton, near Ottery St Mary, sent the card to Sara Randall Johnson, leader of East Devon District Council and headed it “My greatest adversary”. Mr Skinner heaped praise on her at the expense of other members, boasting: “The rest I can demolish in my sleep, but you are in a class of your own.”

Mr Skinner signed off with two footnotes, the last of which stated: “If only things had turned out different, we’d have made one hell of a team.”

http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/tory-councillor-loses-role-greetings-card/story-11721863-detail/story.html

Unfortunately, we are not told what the first footnote was.”

Here is the announcement of the new Tory duo – oddly from a Dorset online website rather than from East Devon Tory sources:

“UPLYME’S district councillor Ian Thomas has been elected leader of the Conservative group at East Devon District Council.

Councillor Thomas, who lives in Ware, has served as a district councillor for the Trinity ward, which includes Uplyme and Rousdon, since 2009.

He is portfolio holder for finance at East Devon and is a director of the Exeter Science Park Company.

Councillor Thomas was elected new leader of the Conservative group at its annual general meeting this week, taking over from Paul Diviani, who has held the post since 2011.

Councillor Diviani will remain leader of East Devon District Council until its annual meeting on May 16th, when Councillor Thomas will take the reins.

Philip Skinner, portfolio holder for economy, who has represented the Tale Vale since 1999, secured the post of deputy of the Conservative group.

Councillor Skinner is a former chairman of the Tiverton and Honiton Conservative Association.

Commenting on their election, Councillor Thomas said: “It’s a great privilege to take over the leadership of our group from Paul, after his distinguished time at the helm.

“Our focus will continue on ensuring high quality affordable homes, an economy which works for all and delivering the services our residents and businesses value.

“We are uniquely fortunate to work within the framework of a natural environment second to none, supported by a range of leisure facilities and arts and culture events essential to the health, safety, prosperity and happiness of all we represent”.

“Whilst our new team has taken on leadership of the East Devon Conservative Group immediately, Paul will remain in post, as leader of East Devon District Council, until the annual council meeting on May 16.”

“Paul, Philip and I will take advantage of this time to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities to our new team, so the complex task of running a busy and ambitious district council continues, without missing a beat.”

Councillor Skinner added: “East Devon needs the energy, ideas and focus of our Conservative group to grow and prosper in challenging times.

“Our job is to continue our excellent performance, to extend the trust of our electorate, and return a larger Conservative majority in the 2019 district council elections so that East Devon continues to prosper for all.”

Councillor Diviani commented: “I’m very pleased to be able to pass the leaders baton of this fantastic council to such a talented and experienced team. the

“Ian and Philip have already demonstrated a strong ability to work together and, through their Conservative principles of trust and respect, to engage their colleagues in setting policy and fighting to get the very best for our wonderful district, to the benefit of our residents, businesses and visitors.”

http://lyme-online.co.uk/news/uplyme/uplyme-district-councillor-elected-conservative-leader/

“Sleaze watchdog to look at tighter curbs for councillors”

” … The inquiry comes after a government adviser warned that the Coalition “threw out the baby with the bathwater” when it abolished the controversial Standards Board for England that enforced a nationwide code of conduct for councillors.

Dr Jane Martin, the member of the Committee leading the inquiry says she “regularly receives correspondence” from the public expressing concern about councillors’ behaviour. …

There are concerns that council standards committees can only “censure” politicians, rather than suspend them in the most serious cases. …”

Source: Sunday Telegraph

Owl says: once again, too little too late:

See and hear our own disgraced Tory ex-councillor Graham Brown (ex-chief of the equally disgraced council-run East Devon Business Forum) explaining that “if I can’t get planning, nobody will” but that he won’t work for peanuts:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9920971/If-I-cant-get-planning-nobody-will-says-Devon-councillor-and-planning-consultant.html

and the chapter on East Devon in Anna Minton’s Spinwatch report “Scaring the living daylights out of people – the local lobby and the failure of democracy”:

https://www.annaminton.com/single-post/2016/03/21/Scaring-The-Living-Daylights-Out-Of-People