Have we reached ‘peak industrial estate’ in East Devon? Seems so

If industrial estates are essential sites and supposedly we don’t have enough of them, why is Taylor Wimpey being allowed to build more than 200 houses on the former Parkhurst Close Industrial Estate in Exmouth – the largest town in East Devon?

Greendale owner 30th most influential Devonian

Our old friend Karime Hassan (CEO Exeter City Council) is in 19th place, Steve Hindley (Chair,Local Enterprise Partnership) is 18th, Alison Hernandez (Police and Crime Commissioner) in 12th place, John Varley (CEO, Clinton Devon Estates) in 9th place, with Devon County Council’s CEO Phil Norey in 2nd place and DCC Leader John Hart in first place.

“30. Rowan Carter, Director Greendale Group

The company behind the Greendale Farm Shop and Waterdance fishing fleet, incorporates a diverse range of businesses. From its beginning as a farming enterprise set up by the Carter family more than 150 years ago, the group includes the farm shop, Waterdance Fishing, Greendale Living, Greendale Business Park, Greendale Haulage, Exmouth Marina and Greendale Leisure. Last year, the Carter family unveiled major expansion plans for the Greendale Farm Shop to create 30 jobs and provide ‘significant benefits’ to East Devon.

The family has also made a £5million commission of two new fishing boats, including the largest beam trawler to be launched under the British flag in over 20 years. The company also wants to build more agricultural buildings and intends to acquire more farmland in order to expand its farming business.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/business/50-most-powerful-people-devon-2450702

Exmouth campaign to retain current Post Office

Message from an Exmouth campaigner. If you agree, councillors (town, district, county) will need to be contacted.

“I am trying to encourage local community organisations to campaign against the proposed franchising of the Post Office in Exmouth which currently is based in the WH Smith Store to be run from February 2019 by WH Smith. I think this could be very bad for the community and the future of the Post Office as a government organisation for a number of reasons.

1. WH Smith is not a public organisation with a remit to provide a public service. The legal duty of its directors is to maximise shareholder value. Therefore the cost of running a well resourced post office could be in direct opposition to the aims of WH Smith which is to maximise its profits and maintain a viable commercial enterprise.

2. The value added service which the current Post Office staff provide is not directly quantifiable in monetary terms. The Exmouth Post Office provides an invaluable resource to elderly and vulnerable people. It is a safe place for people with dementia; the staff know their customers, many of whom have been using the Post Office for many years so the staff can look after their customers in a range of ways, from safeguarding their financial arrangements to alerting other services if they have concerns over the health and/or welfare of their customers. Recently a customer on a motability scooter was persuaded to wait in the store until the ambulance service was able to help him as staff were rightly concerned that he was on the verge of a heart attack.

3. The current staffing levels will not be guaranteed once WH Smith takes over the running of the Post Office; indeed it has been suggested that there could be as few as two members of staff on duty at any time running the Post Office. This will lead to longer queues which is a real trial for elderly or disabled people.

4. Existing staff have received several months of training to do their job. The CWU contrasts this with the poor training of a few days provided for staff where post offices have been franchised so that mistakes are far more likely to occur. Furthermore with limited staff, the level of personal customer service which is so key to community wellbeing will be lost.

5. Post Office staff who decide to stay may be TUPED over to WH Smith, but a few months down the line, if WH Smith puts forward a business case for reducing pension benefits or other work benefits which are not offered to its other staff, then the TUPED staff will lose those benefits. New staff will not enjoy the same level of benefits as staff formerly in the employ of the Post Office.

6. The Post Office is making a healthy profit up from £13 million to £35 million in 2017/18. It also received £370m in network subsidy from the government. Furthermore, customer numbers have increased at the Post Office with the number of bank branch closures. The continued uncertainty over the stability of the banking sector has made the Post Office an attractive savings option, so it is well placed to continue as a thriving public institution serving communities where private organisations have abandoned their customers.

7. This is not a private commercial organisation which needs to focus primarily on profitability and it should be true to its public service remit. Franchising reduces costs but it is also privatisation by the back door; vital public services suffered a damaging effect when they have had privatised services forced on them. The schools are a prime example of what can happen to public services when the private sector takes them over. Schools have been closed after gaining academy status and being transferred to private hands. This publicly funded asset is lost to the public sector and children lose their school when the academy trust runs into financial difficulties. The Post Office once franchised to WH Smith will be at the mercy of the market place not protected by public funding.

8. WH Smith has had mixed trading fortunes in recent years. It is currently increasing sales but not profits. It has closed 30 stores in the last year and opened 24 new ones but these have been based in travel hubs – bus and rail stations and airports – and hospitals. WH Smith is under no legal obligation to keep stores which it considers insufficiently profitable. The post office services could be lost if this happens in Exmouth.
I think the Post Office has been economical with the truth in its ‘information leaflet’ about the transfer of business to WH Smith. It has not provided the opportunity for the public to comment on whether they want this change or not, just feedback on accessibility issues. This is in no way a consultation; it is a purely commercial decision made by an organisation which should focus on communities not profits.

I hope you will be able to raise these issues on your website.”

Michael Caines to open new restaurant on Exmouth seafront

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/michael-caines-restaurant-confirmed-exmouth-2266592

Let’s hope prices won’t be too high for locals. Bed and breakfast at his nearby Lympstone Manor starts at a cool £250 per person per night – or a reasonable offer of £330 per room on Hotels.com.

Lunch costs £39 for 2 courses, £49 for three courses with a nice dinner for £125 per person – lobster, grouse, passion fruit souffle as an example.

Perhaps the seafront restaurant will use the leftovers!

“Save Exmouth Seafront campaigners challenge ‘arrogant’ Queen’s Drive plans”

Is Grenadier’s funding perhaps contingent on EDDC moving the road? A big gamble for EDDC …

“Save Exmouth Seafront campaigners have expressed concerns after East Devon District Council pushed through plans to realign the Queen’s Drive road and car park.

Seafront campaigners have hit out at ‘arrogant’ plans to fast track the redirection of Exmouth’s Queens Drive to make way for a new watersports centre.

Save Exmouth Seafront (SES) said it ‘views with grave concern’ the decision by East Devon District Council (EDDC) to proceed with diverting Queen’s Drive behind the proposed Watersports centre, because the decision was ‘taken at very short notice’.

The campaign group’s concerns are in response East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet approval for work to begin on phase one of the regeneration, despite no ‘legal commitment’ from Grenadier Estates for ‘phase two’.

Nick Hookway, SES chairman, said: “This decision by the EDDC cabinet, taken at very short notice and voted through before residents had a chance to speak, shows yet again the arrogance of this council and the contempt with which residents’ views and concerns are considered.

“This decision raises a whole range of questions.”

He said the campaign group wants to know why the new road is being moved behind the before the developer has fully signed up to the project, and questions why EDDC was funding it.

The group asked what would happen if Grenadier Estates did not go ahead with the watersports centre and whether there was a contingency plan, fearing residents face a future with a derelict seafront site.

EDDC said it was ‘making sure’ it was on track to deliver what residents want.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “The council is not prepared to allow further delays on the delivery of a new road and car park, which will pave the way for the much awaited water sports centre and a vision for the wider Queen’s Drive site.”

She added: “We also appreciate that there are a number of long term detractors who have their concerns about how the new seafront is taking shape, so we want to provide reassurance that we are constantly keeping under review the programme of development and maintaining progress while keeping Exmouth people informed on what we are doing.”

She said the council was ‘fully committed’ to the ongoing consultation with the public about changes to the seafront.”

http://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/save-exmouth-seafront-group-challenges-redirection-of-queen-s-drive-1-5788976

INDEPENDENT COUNCILLORS SLAM TORY SUPPORT FOR HIGH RISK EXMOUTH STRATEGY

Press release:

“A series of East Devon District Council Independent councillors strongly criticised Tory proposals to commence work on a replacement car park, as part of the Queens Drive Regeneration Project, at the EDDC Cabinet meeting on 31 October.

Leading the criticism was Exmouth Councillor Megan Armstrong (Exmouth Halsdon – Independent) who referred to the planned new road as “a road to nowhere”.

Other Independent Councillors expressing concern about the Tory course of action were Independents Roger Giles, Ben Ingham, and Rob Longhurst and EDA Members Cathy Gardner and Geoff Jung.

The first criticism related to timing. Although it was a major and contentious issue, the report for the meeting was issued just 24 hours before the meeting.

Megan Armstrong urged that the report be deferred to allow councillors time to properly consider the proposals, and the implications. She said that sending out the report so late was “manipulative management.”

Cathy Gardner said it was “extremely regrettable that such short notice was given for such an important issue”.

It had originally been agreed that the go ahead for construction of the car park would only be given when agreement had been reached between EDDC and Grenadier about construction of the Watersports Centre by Grenadier.

However the EDDC Cabinet was informed on 31 October that no such agreement had been reached. Merely that verbal assurances had been made.

Roger Giles warned the Cabinet that going ahead without the required agreement carried substantial risks. He cited paragraph 2.7 of the report which said : `Cabinet should be aware that this represents a risk that the council is incurring costs without Grenadier being legally committed to delivering the Watersports Centre thereafter.`

Roger Giles asked whether independent audit advice had been sought about the inherent risk. He was told it had not.

Ben Ingham was strongly critical of undertaking such a high risk strategy.

Rob Longhurst criticised the lack of a business plan, and the absence of costings, and said there was a lack of justification for the departure from the previous strategy.

Geoff Jung questioned the income assumptions; he asked how a smaller car park than the original would generate increased income. He also expressed concern about EDDC`s responsibilities anf financial burden, should Grenadier not develop the site.

Megan Armstrong pointed out that the Cabinet agenda papers (item 10 pages 31 to 35) contained the minutes of the meeting of the Exmouth Regeneration Board on 20 September. The minutes contained no reference to the proposed early construction of the car park!

Megan Armstrong asked a series of critical questions, including about the three outstanding `condition precedents`, and seeking explanation of the beach access agreement.

She complained that questions asked by herself, and by other independent councillors, had not received proper answers. Council Leader Ian Thomas told her he would ensure that she received answers after the meeting; Megan Armstrong was very critical of councillors being asked to make a decision – and then to receive the pertinent information AFTER the decision was made: she said “That is a very poor form of decision making.”

In spite of the failure to achieve the necessary agreements the (Conservative) Cabinet agreed to proceed with early construction of the car park after only 3 Cabinet Members spoke very briefly.

After the meeting Megan Armstrong was highly critical of the Cabinet decision.

“Tonight Tory councillors made an important decision relating to Exmouth, and they denied the people of Exmouth the opportunity to comment on it. The Tory councillors agreed a very high risk strategy without justification for it, and without proper safeguard for public funds for which they are responsible. It is irresponsible political management; Exmouth deserves better.”