Sidford Business Park: “Nothing has changed’ highways outlines objection to business park proposals”

Owl says:

A test of whether EDDC develops or plans on the cards here. New Leader new times or new leader, old times?

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/06/18/sidford-business-park-a-grubby-history/

“Highway bosses have submitted fresh opposition to a new proposed business park at Sidford as ‘nothing has changed since the last time’.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, head of highways for Devon County Council, spoke exclusively to the Herald saying the department specifically objected to the distribution element of the application.

A change of use is being sought for the agricultural site, in Two Bridges Road, to provide 8,445sqm of employment floorspace.

The plan has received 102 letters of objection ahead of the deadline today (June 15) for comments.

Councillor Hughes posted on Facebook that the council would be submitting its objections and said the news would be welcomed by residents in Sidford and Sidbury.

He said: “Nothing has changed from the last time. The distribution element was a concern last time because it would bring big lorries through narrow streets in Sidford and Sidbury.

“They are very narrow and just aren’t big enough for this sort of traffic. It is the wrong site for a business park, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Resident Jackie Green said highway’s focus on the distribution element could ‘play straight into the developers hands’.

She said: “Any down-playing of the impact of the rest of the plan, two thirds of the development, risks making it easier for the application to be approved. Worse, if the B8 [class for distribution] is deleted, it would leave a space for even more B1 buildings (office and light industrial), which require more dedicated parking spaces than B8.

“This emphasis in the Highways objection will not ‘be welcomed by all local Sidford and Sidbury residents’, as Stuart Hughes claims, nor by any other users of the Sidford-Sidbury road. The plan as a whole is wrong, not just bits of it.”

The plans state the applicants aim to create 250 jobs and have addressed concerns raised when a scheme for a larger business park were submitted in 2016.

District council ward member David Barrett said he must remain impartial as he is a member of EDDC’s development management committee, which may be involved in making a final decision about the application.

EDDC will make the final decision about the plans.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/nothing-has-changed-devon-county-council-submits-opposition-against-sidford-business-park-1-5570042

Retirement home builders feeling the pinch …

“” … Another profit warning at McCarthy & Stone (MCS.L) triggered a sharp share price fall for the UK’s biggest builder of homes for retirees a 18.8 percent decline. …”

Could this be part of the reason? There are no affordable properties being built at the PegasusLife Knowle site:

“The Mayor of London’s Office has today welcomed a judgment handed down by the High Court that has backed the Mayor’s ‘threshold’ approach to affordable housing.

Following a legal challenge by four retirement homes developers, the Hon Mr Justice Ouseley has ruled that the Mayor’s threshold approach, which allows developments to be fast tracked through the planning system where they provide at least 35 per cent affordable housing, is consistent with the adopted London Plan.

The judge rejected claims by McCarthy and Stone Retirement Lifestyles Ltd, Pegasus Life Ltd, Churchill Retirement Living and Renaissance Retirement Ltd that this policy, contained within the Mayor’s Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) on Affordable Housing and Viability, would fail to secure the maximum reasonable level of affordable housing.

Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Skills and Regeneration, said; “Tackling the capital’s housing crisis is the Mayor’s top priority and this ruling is an important moment for thousands of Londoners who are desperate for genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy.

“Our guidance sets out a clear approach that makes the planning system in London clearer, quicker and more consistent. I am pleased that the Judge has backed this approach which will help us to turn around years of neglect when it comes to building the homes Londoners so desperately need.”

The Mayor’s Draft London Plan includes the same requirements on reviews as the SPG. The judgment confirms that this has weight as it is an emerging plan.

The judgment also rejected the claims of the retirement homes developers that the guidance should have been the subject of Strategic Environmental Assessment and found that the claims that the Mayor had failed to have due regard to his duties under the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010 were unarguable.”

https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/judge-rules-in-favour-of-mayors-housing-approach

“KPMG singled out in critical report on audit industry”

KPMG were, until recently, the auditors of East Devon District Council. Let’s hope that Grant Thornton (now back in the frame at EDDC) perform better – but who recalls their pitiful performance when they “investigated” the disgraced Councillor Graham Brown affair and found ….. nothing.

“KPMG, the accounting firm that signed off the books in the years leading up to Carillion’s collapse, has been singled out by the industry regulator in a report that says the overall quality of the audit profession is in decline.

The Financial Reporting Council, the watchdog for the UK’s accountants, said the profession had demonstrated a “failure to challenge management and show appropriate scepticism across their audits”.

There have been calls for the “big four” accountants – KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, EY and Deloitte – to be broken up to spur competition and improve standards.

All four gave Carillion financial advice before the construction and outsourcing company failed. MPs accused the four of “feasting” on Carillion, whose finances proved far less healthy than directors had suggested.

The FRC reported a decline in the quality of the work of all four, with KPMG performing the worst. The watchdog is already investigating KPMG over its role in the collapse of Carillion and it said on Monday there had been an “unacceptable deterioration” in the quality of its work.

The FRC cited figures that showed half of KPMG’s audits of firms in the FTSE350 index had required “more than just limited” improvements, up from 35% in the previous year.

“The overall quality of the audits inspected in the year, and indeed the decline in quality over the past five years, is unacceptable and reflects badly on the action taken by the previous leadership, not just on the performance of frontline teams,” the regulator said.

“Our key concern is the extent of challenge of management and exercise of professional scepticism by audit teams, both being critical attributes of an effective audit, and more generally the inconsistent execution of audits within the firm.”

It added: “[KPMG] agrees that its efforts in recent years have not been sufficient; the FRC will hold KPMG’s new leadership to account for the success of their work to improve audit quality.” …

The FRC said it would now scrutinise KPMG more closely as a result of its findings. It will inspect 25% more KPMG audits than before and monitor the firm’s plans to improve the quality of its work.

In the FRC’s overall assessment of eight accountants, it found that 72% of audits of all firms, including those outside the FTSE350, required no more than limited improvement, down from 78% last year. While only half of KPMG’s FTSE350 audits were deemed satisfactory, rivals scored far higher, although all showed declines and fell short of the FRC’s target of 90%.

Deloitte scored 79%, down from 82% last year, EY fell from 92% to 82% and PwC was down from 90% to 84%. The four firms immediately below the big four – BDO, Mazars, GT and Moore Stephens – were told that the quality of their audits had generally improved.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/18/kpmg-singled-out-in-critical-report-on-audit-industry

It’s going to take more than a yew tree branch to ward off evil at EDDC new HQ!

And who at EDDC was responsible for this press release that gives the (totally erroneous) impression that the sale of Knowle is 100% financing the new HQ?

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/06/16/sums-on-knowle-relocation-not-adding-up-for-us-the-taxpayers/

“A yew tree branch has been placed on top of East Devon District Council’s new HQ to “ward off evil spirits”.

The topping out ceremony took place at Blackdown House in Honiton, which will be the council’s new home by January 2019.

As part of the ceremony, a yew tree branch was attached to the highest point of the building.

The ceremony was completed by council chairman Andrew Moulding and leader Ian Thomas. A council spokesman said it was “an age-old tradition”.

The authority plans to move from its current HQ in Sidmouth to Blackdown House in December 2018. The move will be financed by selling the property to Pegasus Life Ltd for £7.5m, which will turn it into a 113-apartment assisted-living community. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-44465408

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?

What do council workers administering cuts think of their jobs?

“Nearly 80% of council workers have no confidence in the future of local services because of spending cuts, new research reveals.

The study, carried out by Unison, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, revealed that staff felt councils had been left unable to meet the demands of local communities due to government cuts.

Staff have been left to “pick up the pieces” due to local services “collapsing”, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said, adding that the current situation was “chaos”.

The research, released on Monday, shows that 50% of council workers are thinking of leaving their jobs for less stressful work elsewhere.

The survey of 21,000 local government employees working across all services reveals that 67% said residents do not receive the help and support when they need it and 54% are not confident that vulnerable residents are safe and cared for.

Issues raised by the staff who took part in the survey include stories of families living in mouldy, overcrowded properties, fly-tipping being left for weeks and a rise in rodent populations.

Other concerns raised include vulnerable children, young people and adults not getting the help and support they need. …

Unison’s Prentis said: “This disturbing survey should ring alarm bells in Whitehall and also alert ministers to the crisis happening in councils up and down the country.

“Local authorities have had to cut so many vital services that they have now reached a point where vulnerable children and the elderly struggle to get the help that they need, entire communities are suffering, and the public are being put at risk.”

Unison’s survey shows that 83% of staff felt that reductions in government funding for local authorities in England have had a negative impact on their ability to do the job as well as they can.

A total of 53% of workers believe that their council no longer delivers quality services and 48% said that their employer doesn’t make the right decisions for the public.

Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds are concerned about the financial situation of their council.

The biggest challenges facing local authorities, according to council workers, was a lack of front line staff, adult social care, safeguarding children and young people, a lack of housing options and road repairs.

Prentis added: “With cuts to road and bridge maintenance, potholes in roads are left unfilled, and bridges are at risk of crumbling. Crematoriums are not maintained, streetlights stay broken, and parks are in disrepair as councils don’t have the equipment or the staff to adequately maintain them.

“There are now over one million people with an unmet need for social care because councils don’t have the resources to support them. Now is the time to reverse these cuts and invest in local government once more or the very fabric of our society will come unstuck.” …

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/unison-research-council-workers-no-confidence-cuts_uk_5b266acae4b0783ae12a0cfd

National parks and Devon unitaries – an intriguing solution

Councillor John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council appeared recently on BBC Spotlight, and explained that Devon was unlikely to become a Unitary Authority, because its population, at nearly 800,000, was greater than the Government’s preferred size for a Unitary, which is between 300,000 and 500,000. He may be right: Devon might be too big.

Meanwhile Michael Gove, Minister for the Environment, announces that he is to conduct a national review of National Parks, and says he is keen to create new ones.

Is there an opportunity here to kill two birds with one stone?

The Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks already exist, and there are proposals for a Dorset and East Devon National Park, and a South Hams National Park. Were these National Parks to be created, and significant powers handed over to them, the rest of Devon’s population would be significantly reduced.

There is also the Tamar Valley AONB and the Blackdown Hills AONB, which could be incorporated into an expanded Dartmoor National Park and Dorset and East Devon National Park respectively.

A redrawing of boundaries to, for example, link the South Hams AONB/National Park with Dartmoor opens the prospect of three large parcels of Devon being created to create new National Parks, which would be at least semi-autonomous administratively from the rest of Devon.

The rump of Devon, still centred upon Exeter, and including, essentially, Teignbridge, Torridge, North Devon, Mid Devon, and much of East Devon, would have a population of around 500,000, and thus meet the Government’s guidelines.

All the existing District Councils would disappear, thus at a stroke removing an entire tier of local government and saving tens of millions of pounds. And the new and expanded National Parks will bring in greatly increased tourism revenue, and provide much-needed protection to our glorious countryside.