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.

Click to access 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.”

Click to access 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?

No Tories in new EDDC Cabinet? Depends what you mean by Tory

Ian Thomas, former Leader of East Devon Tories, said when he resigned from the party after nominations had closed. This is what he had to say by way of explanation:

… Cllr Thomas said: “With a heavy heart, I confirm my resignation from the Conservative Party on April 17, 2019.

“My decision was in no way related to the excellent case being presented by East Devon District Council Conservatives in the pre-election period. Theirs is an outstanding presentation based on the performance delivered by a capable and experienced Conservative led team.

“It rather reflects deep disappointment in the performance of the Party elsewhere. …”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/ian-thomas-resigns-from-conservative-group-1-6017272

So, is he or is he not a LOCAL Tory?

East Devon District Council: will the Tory bodies ever be exhumed?

One of the reasons so many Independent councillors were elected was because they were not Tories! People had become sick of the way the district had been run for the last 45 years and demanded change. Part of that change was to see exactly what Tories had been up to in those 45 years when transparency was in short supply.

So, on 3 May, we were presented with:

31 Independents (20 mostly eastern-based/central-based Independents, 11 mostly western-based Independent East Devon Alliance)
19 Tories
8 Lib Dems
2 Greens

An alliance of Independents, Lib Dems and Greens would have produced 41 non-Tories – easily outnumbering 19 Tories.

What we now know happened is that eastern-based Independents (Leader Ben Ingham, Exmouth) refused to work with East Devon Alliance. We assume that Lib Dems (who agreed to work with an Independent majority, but not form a coalition with them), were similarly excluded by Mr Ingham from working with his group.

Instead, Mr Ingham chose to work with the 19 Tories, an ex-Tory (former Tory Leader Ian Thomas) and several so-called Independent councillors whose late-onset Independent roots had never been obvious or put to the test. He gave the job of Chairman of the Council to Stuart Hughes, a Cabinet post to Ian Thomas, one of the jobs representing EDDC at Greater Exeter Strategic Plan meetings to Tory Philip Skinner and several other posts to other Tory councillors. Owl has no idea what the two Green (Exmouth-based) councillors think of this arrangement.

Despite this, CEO Mark Williams presumably decided that there were NOT 31 Independents, but two kinds of totally different Independents (Independent Group, EDA) and declared Tories as the “official opposition” – in spite of them holding Cabinet and other posts. Is this constitutionally correct? How does one decide? One asks the CEO – dead end there, then!

This has led to a Tory (“official opposition”) Alan Dent, being the head of the Scrutiny Committee – the only committee that now has wide investigative powers. The Chair of this committee can say Yes or No to requests for scrutiny of any subject – his word is the only word on what goes on an agenda (as long as the CEO agrees, of course).

So, is there any chance of the Scrutiny Committee holding the previous Tory administration to account? No, zero, zilch, nada in Owl’s view.

So those Tory bodies – lying quietly tucked away for the last 45 years are almost certain to continue enjoying their slumbers.

And all because some Independents can’t or won’t work with other Independents and local Lib Dems are keeping themselves well apart where, in other areas, coalitions of Independents, Greens and Lib Dems is promising real change in formerly true-blue districts.

What is so ironic about this whole story is that, in his political career, Ben Ingham has been a Tory councillor, an Independent Councillor and Leader of the East Devon Alliance!!!

Pitiful and shameful.

Is nationalisation now a Conservative Party policy?

Perhaps THIS is why EDDC ex-Tory Leader Ian Thomas left the party (though Owl is STILL waiting to hear his explanation).

Imagine the debates at EDDC as Twiss and Skinner have to argue for it!

“The British government will renationalise the management of probation services in England and Wales five years after a heavily criticised programme of privatisation was deemed to have put members of the public at risk.

The supervision of about 200,000 low and medium-risk offenders will be removed from part-private companies and taken over by the government when the current contracts end in December 2020, said Justice Minister David Gauke.The existing model was intended to drive down re-offending levels when it was introduced but the chief inspector of probation, described the system last month as being “irredeemably flawed”.

The probation watchdog had previously found thousands of offenders were being managed by a brief phone call once every six weeks. Some prisoners were being given tents on their release from jails, an inquiry into homelessness published in March found.

“Delivering a stronger probation system, which commands the confidence of the courts and better protects the public, is a pillar of our reforms to focus on rehabilitation and cut reoffending,” Gauke said.

The U-turn marks a fresh embarrassment for Transport Minister Chris Grayling, who introduced the shake-up when he was justice secretary and has been dubbed “Failing Grayling” by the British press.

In his current job, Grayling awarded a 14 million pound contract for companies to ferry in essential supplies to Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit to a company that owned no boats.

The decision to partially privatise the probation service was heavily criticised at the time.

Companies including France’s Sodexo, the United States’ MTCnovo and British firms Working Links and Interserve have been given contracts to oversee probation services.

The government has already announced it would abolish the use of handing out of new contracts to private companies to run government projects after reviews revealed little evidence of financial benefits.

It has also moved to strip some companies of their contracts because of poor performance or due to financial trouble.

Last month, the government announced it was taking over the running of a Birmingham prison from private operator after inmate violence made it unmanageable.

Last year the collapse of Carillion, one of the biggest beneficiaries of such privatisation contracts, forced the government to step in to guarantee services ranging from school meals to roadworks that the company had previously provided.

A few months later, it renationalised the rail route between London and Edinburgh, taking back the line from a private company after it over-estimated profits.”

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-justice/britain-to-renationalise-probation-services-after-failed-privatisation-idUKKCN1SM0KC?

Diviani blames Tory “vendetta” for de-selection in Yarty …

This communication from ex-Leader and now also ex-councillor Paul Diviani really deserves a far wider audience than former Yarty voters:

“Dear All

As there is not a lot of substance to report other than repetition and the ghastly shenanigans afoot nationally, regionally and within the Conservative Party, I feel I should draw a line under my 20 years representing Yarty.

I have appreciated the many friendships I have made in that time and will always have your best interests in mind.

For the sake of clarity, I was deselected by the Conservative Executive as a result of a personal vendetta from standing in Yarty and had to find another ward away from Tiverton and Honiton with a disastrous personal result.

Wishing you all the best for the future and if I can help in any way (without interfering!) I am at the end of a call.”

No, Paul, everything really is fine in Yarty, the voters have spoken, so its time to hang up your Tory council boots … no-one appreciates old Grandpa insisting he’s the only one who knows how things should be done! And those disastrous results would almost certainly have been just as bad in Yarty.

Though, for the sake of even more clarity, Owl thinks you might name a few names before you hang them up!

And it certainly shows that there is definitely “something VERY nasty in the woodpile” if the current and ex-Leader complain about the party that served them so well until recently.

Owl is STILL waiting for Ian Thomas to explain exactly which of the national Tory policies he disagreed with (since he is on record as saying all was fine among East Devon Tories when it so obviously wasn’t).

Former EDDC Tory leader writes to explain his defection – well, sort of … not quite!

Minimally enlightening, unfortunately. Hard to explain why you defected when you agree with everything your former party did/is doing/will do!

Sorry, for Owl he’s still “Not-quite Independent LiteTory”! And Owl is STILL waiting for him to explain which NATIONAL policies caused him to resign.

Come on, Mr Thomas – no whip now – you could speak your mind if you wanted to.

Or is it too close to 2 May to speak freely …

Post 2 May actions will speak louder than these vague words.

 

 

Can you be TRULY independent if you agree with EVERYTHING the Tories are doing locally?

Ian Thomas has updated his website (though it still has a Tory blue background.

In his statement, he says:

“… My decision was in no way related to the excellent case being presented by East Devon District Council Conservatives in the pre-election period. Theirs is an outstanding presentation based on the performance delivered by a capable and experienced Conservative led team.

It rather reflects deep disappointment in the performance of the Party elsewhere. …”

Can he REALLY then call himself Independent?

The full statement:

“With a heavy heart, I confirm my resignation from the Conservative Party on 17th April 2019.

My decision was in no way related to the excellent case being presented by East Devon District Council Conservatives in the pre-election period. Theirs is an outstanding presentation based on the performance delivered by a capable and experienced Conservative led team.

It rather reflects deep disappointment in the performance of the Party elsewhere.

I have resigned the leadership of the East Devon District Council Conservative Group but, remain Leader of the Council until the Annual Meeting on 22nd May, if re-elected; otherwise I will step down on 3rd May.
I am arranging that all 2,192 electors in my home Trinity Ward receive a personal letter, hand delivered by my team and me. This explains that should I be honoured by re-election, I will sit as an Independent Councillor not aligned to any political party or group.

To ensure that East Devon District Council delivers the services Axmouth, Combpyne-Rousdon and Uplyme residents want and value, in a caring, open and transparent environment.

Please note; as my resignation dates from after the closure of nominations, your ballot paper on May 2nd will still identify me as representing the Conservative Party. It is not possible to change how this is displayed, however I confirm that, should I be re-elected to serve Trinity I will immediately do so as an Independent Councillor, not aligned to any political party or group.

Ian”

Trinity Ward Member resigns from Conservative Party

Tory EDDC Leader defection goes national (on a pro-Lib Dem website)

“Very odd timing for this news about the now former Conservative leader of East Devon Council, Ian Thomas:

The leader of East Devon District Council has quit the Conservative Party…

Cllr Thomas blamed the performance of the Party nationally for his departure and emphasised it had nothing to do with local issues.

He also added that if re-elected, he will sit as an Independent. [Devon Live].

What makes the timing so odd is that this has come after his nomination papers went in… with the Conservative Party name and logo.

Ian Thomas is therefore still appearing on ballot papers as the Conservative Party candidate.”

Conservative council leader leaves it oddly late to quit his party

EDDC lays down the law on Ian Thomas defection

“… Mark Williams, East Devon District Council’s chief executive, said: “This is a personal decision taken by councillor Thomas. From a returning officer perspective the election for the Trinity ward will continue.

“Cllr Thomas has been validly nominated to stand in the Trinity Ward and the ballot papers will show that he is standing as a Conservative candidate as this was the basis on which he was nominated. The change in circumstances does not countermand the election process and it will go ahead on May 2.

“From a chief executive perspective, cllr Thomas is the Leader of the Council and remains as such until the circumstances set out in Article 6.03 of the Council’s Constitution occur. These are that either cllr Thomas resigns as leader; is suspended from being a councillor; is no longer a councillor; is removed by resolution of the council; or another leader is elected at the Annual Council Meeting on the May 22.”

https://honiton.nub.news/n/east-devon-council-leader-resigns-party-days-before-election