EDDC wants us to donate to Sidmouth beach protection!

Presumably so their £10 million vanity relocation doesn’t have to be cut! Note: only Sidmouth beach management plan is being dealt with this way (so far) – no other town. We pay council tax – now we are expected to make donations! Though perhaps they will soon install a “make donations to our relocation” boxes in the Knowle reception!

“East Devon District Council is asking you to help fund a multi-million pound plan to protect the beach in Sidmouth. The council is appealing to residents and visitors to Sidmouth to help contribute financially to the town’s beach management scheme via a donation box on the seafront.

A £5.7million grant from central government will go towards delivering a scheme to protect the coastline. But a further £3.3m of partnership funding is required for the scheme.

A donation box and its accompanying explanatory sign has been designed to help visitors understand the role of the beach in flooding and coastal erosion and has been placed on Sidmouth seafront, and the public are being asked to donate to help fund it.”


More travellers arrive in Cranbrook

“Residents in Cranbrook have hit out after more travellers arrived overnight near the town’s train station.

The number of caravans parked at the station car park are reported to have been increasing in recent weeks with three more vehicles pitching up on a grass area next to the car park on Wednesday evening.

Local resident Caroline Williams said that locals are ‘fed up’ by the situation. “Devon County Council and Cranbrook Consortium have to rid this peaceful town of travellers who turn up cause havoc,” she said.

“When they finally get moved on the mess and filth is there for weeks and then just when it gets cleared another group turns up.

“Everyone has complained and nothing seems to be being done other than the travellers being provided with mobile toilets. We have asked for better security around the train station as it is now seen as an easy target but no one seem willing to help. It’s beyond a joke.

“People no longer use the park and ride and many more now taken then bus to avoid the area – something needs to be done. Residence (sic) here love Cranbrook and are building a community that is being ruined and seemingly forgotten about.”

A spokesman for Cranbrook Town Council said the it is hoped that the travellers will be moved on by the end of Thursday.

“This morning (Thursday) we received confirmation from the Consortium, who own the Country Park, that they have arranged for the eviction of travellers on the Consortium land and hopefully eviction will happen today,” said the spokesman.

“They are also contacting Devon County Council on an hourly basis regarding their enforcement action on the station car park, which is owned by Devon County Council.

“We understand that no repair works to anything will take place until the travellers have departed. We fully understand how frustrating this situation is and empathise with residents’ feelings. We keep doing everything we can to keep the pressure up so that those who are responsible for resolving this unsatisfactory situation initiate action.”

Sally Woodbury, chairman of the Romany Gypsy Advisory Group and spokesman for travellers groups in the region, has called on councils across the region to provide more provision for them.

A new government policy blocks anyone identifying as a Gypsy or Traveller from staying on permanent caravan sites unless they can prove they have travelled several times that year.

She said: “There is definitely a real lack of sites for travellers and transport provision in Devon. I have been speaking on behalf of travellers for several years now and the issues are getting worse and there are less and less places for them to go.

“It is all very well people saying that we don’t want travellers here, but then there needs to be a provision for somewhere for them to go instead. Most travellers I speak to would be happy if there were sites for somewhere for them to go and pay rent, have toilet and rubbish collections facilities, and stay there for a while before then moving onto the next site. But until there are enough sites put in place for this to happen, everyone’s hands are tied and the occupation of sites will keep happening each year.

“There needs to be more provision for travellers as we are just going around in circles year after year, and it feels like it is getting worse.”


Knowle: magic bean or white elephant?

The big question is ‘what is the chance of Pegasus winning an appeal?’

Probably not that great:

The application is for more than a hundred units when the Local Plan allocation is for fifty.

The application does not include any affordable.

The application is opposed by Sidmouth Town Council and a large and vociferous group of local residents.

Most importantly, the Planning Consultants at the time of the provisional sale to Pegasus foresaw that the application would be refused. So did the Planning Team, who miraculously changed their minds when the application came forward. Both EDDC and Pegasus were warned in advance that the Development Management Committee could not approve the application. Remember: this information came into the public domain as a result of the successful Freedom of Information request.

If the application goes to inquiry, as seems likely, then we, and EDDC, will have to wait for 24 months with little confidence that the appeal will be successful.

Then comes the situation of ‘what happens next?’ Well, we know the answer because Grant Thornton have helpfully predicted four scenarios, all of which will lead to receipts well below the price currently agreed with Pegasus.

The whole process would have to begin again, against a backdrop of a planning appeal refusal. New tender, new negotiation, new design, new application, and perhaps even another refusal.

Eventually an application will succeed, and a sale result, but we could easily be four years down the road, and at a substantially reduced price in possibly a very different property market.

Knowle site value plummets to £3.22 – £6.8 million depending on affordable housing requirement

It is interesting that all scenarios put to the Scrutiny, Audit and Governance and Overview Committee take no account of depreciation on the Honiton HQ.

The committees might want to request the attendance of internal and current external auditors KPMG at their joint meeting, as the relocation finance paper was, for some reason, compiled by former external auditors Grant Thornton.

page 10

“Revolution in council lending could tackle irresponsible borrowing”

“Most coverage of local government finances falls into two categories of story. The first concerns the egregious rewards paid to “town hall fat cats” for often mediocre performance. The other concerns “savage cuts” being made to this or that service due to a reduction in central government grants.
There is truth in both of these. What has not gone reported so much is that a genuine revolution in local government finance is under way.

The traditional model of financing, in which grants are doled out by central government, is gradually being replaced by a system in which councils, collectively, are self-funding and individual councils bear more risk as a result of their own spending and revenue-raising decisions.

Some of these reforms have already attracted attention, chiefly the changes to business rates, over which individual councils will have greater, but still limited, autonomy in future.

Another big change coming has attracted surprisingly little attention. The UK Municipal Bonds Agency (UKMBA) was launched in 2014 with the aim of helping councils to finance their spending. The agency, a public limited company owned by 57 local authorities and the Local Government Association, aims to issue bonds with maturities of between ten and twenty years. Because it is backed by a number of councils who have pooled their borrowing requirements, the theory is that it should be able to create “benchmark” size issues for which there should be greater demand from institutional investors. And because more than one party is responsible for repayment of the bond and servicing the interest payable on it, a “joint and several guarantee” in the jargon, in theory the bonds should be less risky to investors. That should also, in theory, lower borrowing costs for councils.

The idea is common elsewhere. Kommune Kredit has been operating in Denmark for more than a century, while BNG in the Netherlands has been going since 1914. Kommunalbanken has been funding local authorities in Norway for 90 years; other such funding agencies exist in Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland, among others.

One of the key aims of UKMBA is to allow local authorities to borrow more cheaply than the existing lender of choice, the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), a 224-year-old body that currently accounts for about three quarters of local authority borrowing. Traditionally, the board has charged 20 basis points above the prevailing gilt rate but in October 2010, in an attempt to discourage borrowing by local authorities, the coalition government raised this to a 100 basis points premium.

The board now, in most cases, lends to local authorities at 80 basis points over the gilt rate. It was when the cost of borrowing from the board was increased that leading figures in the local government world began to talk about an alternative finance provider.

Aidan Brady, the former Deutsche Bank chief operating officer who is chief executive of the UKMBA, is on record as saying: “Clearly, we have to beat the Public Works Loan Board [in terms of offering a cheaper rate], that’s as simple as it gets.”

The irony is that just as the new agency is about to offer some proper competition to the board disquiet is growing about the extent to which local authorities have been borrowing from the latter.

The Sunday Times reported last weekend that a number of local authorities had gone on a “£1.3 billion binge” of buying commercial property with the aim of using rental incomes from those assets to supplement spending or reduce the extent of budget cuts they would otherwise be making. The danger is that these authorities have exposed themselves and future generations of council tax payers to swings in the commercial property market. Traditional property market buyers have been astonished at the prices paid for assets such as some sub-prime shopping centres, grumbling that local authorities are distorting the market.

This has been made possible over recent years because by linking the PWLB loan rate to the gilt rate and allowing the latter to be depressed by the Bank of England’s asset purchase scheme the government has created a “carry trade” opportunity for local authorities in which they can borrow at about 2 per cent and invest the proceeds in an asset yielding between 6 per cent and 8 per cent.

None of this has made the job of the fledgling UKMBA any easier. The agency was reported as long ago as June last year to have signed up nine local authorities to participate in the first debt issue, which was expected by the end of 2016, with a panel of eight banks, including three to act as “lead runners”, in place to run it. But no issues have yet taken place. Market sources suggest that this is because the agency is still waiting on one more council to sign off on its participation.

This ramp-up in local authority activity could be because the PWLB, which is currently an arm of the Debt Management Office — the Treasury agency that issues gilts and manages the national debt, is about to be absorbed into the Treasury, which may lead to more control being exerted on its future lending. That was certainly suggested in a government statement last year noting that transferring the PWLB back into the Treasury would “secure greater accountability to ministers and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of central government lending to local authorities”.

In other words, local authorities are borrowing now, while they can. The sooner they are subjected to either greater Treasury scrutiny on the one hand or the superior credit checks being promised by the UKMBA on the other, the better.

The Times Comment (paywall)

Sidford Fields industrial estate: no appeal by developers … but

… stay on guard! It probably simply mean that they are formulating a new planning application to overcome objections. And they have very, very influential backers and allies.

And DO remember that it has been DCC candidate Marianne Rixson (Independent East Devon Alliance) that saw off this application – not ex-Monster Raving Loony Party member and current Conservative candidate for DCC Sturat Hughes.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) said it is now up to the landowner to consider future options for the site off Two Bridges Road.

However, the wider 12-acre plot has a strategic allocation as employment land in the authority’s Local Plan, so EDDC expects the site will be developed by 2031, according to a spokeswoman.

EDDC refused plans for the major development in September.

Councillors said the proposed development would harm the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, depend on ‘unsuitable’ roads and impact on neighbours without adequate mitigation.

A petition to ‘say no’ to the business park attracted more than 1,100 signatures and 384 objections were lodged with EDDC.

The applicants had until last Monday, March 27, to appeal the refusal.

The Sid Vale Association was among the opponents.

Richard Thurlow, its conservation and planning committee chairman, said: “We were all delighted when the application was refused in September last year, but there was always the chance that the decision might be appealed.

“We can now feel relieved that this ‘Sword of Damocles’ has been lifted.

“However, the site still exists in the Local Plan as an ‘employment site’ and we must still be aware that other proposals might come forward – and we must be prepared to fight them if they do.”

The landowner and applicant were approached for comment.


How did TV companies get to Knowle so quickly?

How were BBC Devon and Westcountry News able to get to Knowle so quickly when the Exmouth “regeneration” Development Management Committee didn’t start its meeting till 10 am yet Mark Williams was able to give an interview for the 1.30 pm edition of Spotlight and one that appeared on West Country News at 6 pm? And TV cameras were inside the meeting too.

Somehow they never seemed to be interested in the public’s protests about the same issues ….. though West Country News did at least balance the news today with local campaigners who were in disagreement with the decision.

And should Mark Williams have said he favours Grenadier’s watersports centre – after specifically naming them in his interview – isn’t he supposed to be neutral?