So, how is EDDC’s office relocation going? Update and some odd figures

With the new barn-like EDDC HQ taking shape in Honiton, how is the project going? How much has it cost so far? What is the current projected cost?

Hard to say. Owl searched for news of the “Office Relocation Project Executive Group” and was directed to its website:

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/committees-and-meetings/other-panels-and-forums/office-relocation-project-executive-group/

where readers are told to consult the project archive:

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/access-to-information/historical-information/relocation-project-documentation-archive/project-document-archive/

Alas, the last document posted there was on 20 February 2013 (in response to the requirement of the Information Tribunal which EDDC lost) and Owl’s attempt to find anything more up-to-date (including current costings and financing arrangements) has so far failed.

Perhaps an EDDC councillor or officer can let Owl know where the latest information is – and who is in charge of the project these days?

Well, officers and councillors must read this blog! I have been pointed to ANOTHER website (thanks):

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/access-to-information/historical-information/relocation-project-documentation-archive/

and here is the latest update:

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/access-to-information/historical-information/relocation-project-documentation-archive/

Archive 8 states on 18 October 2017:

“Progress – going well. Costs remain within budget allowances. Spend to date is £3.745,000 leaving a balance of £6,840,148m.”

and on 15 November 2017:

“Progress – going well. Costs remain within budget allowances. Spend
to date is £1.403m leaving a balance of £6.482m with a contingency of £245,000. Completion date is scheduled for 15 October 2018 with a relocation date of 21 December.”

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/2373382/joint-project-exec-and-officer-wkg-group-minutes-151117.pdf

Now – Can anyone explain the discrepancy? £3,745,000 spent to date in October 2017 and £1,403,000 to date a month later?

Oh no! EDDC pledges to become “more commercial” – HELP!

“East Devon District Council say they are taking a ‘more commercial approach to generate income’ as they tackle a predicted budget deficit of £735,000.

A Council Tax increase of £5 a year, giving a Band D council tax of £136.78 a year for 2018/19, is recommended for approval by the council’s cabinet committee when they meet on Wednesday night.

But Cllr Ian Thomas, the council’s portfolio holder for finance, said that as only 25 per cent of income is generated through council tax, they need to find alternative ways of raising money.

Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said: “The council is developing a more commercial approach to generate income for key council services but as we take our various ideas forward, consultation will be key – for example, consultations about various car parks and public toilets and consultations about other initiatives including how we can make our assets more commercial and income generating.” …

… Future reductions combined with other budgetary pressures mean that the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) is currently predicting a budget deficit of £0.735m in 2018/19, rising to £3m by 2020/21 and potentially to £5.4m by 2027/28. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/east-devon-become-more-commercial-1170128

A 16-year old talks more sense about housing than MPs and councillors!

Student Euan Trower, 16, lives near Stokeinteignhead and studies in Exeter:

“With all the political parties targeting young potential voters, I, as a 16-year-old college student, am a key target for the next election. One of the key issues right now is housing. There simply aren’t enough houses to go around. All the parties are promising to build more houses and to relax planning laws for councils in rural areas. But does it solve the problem?

Simply concreting over England’s green and pleasant lands – isn’t going to solve a national crisis. The South West is a prominent victim of these failed policies with over development dividing and destroying both rural and urban communities. In his book ‘The Death of Rural England’, Professor Alun Howkins says that, “During the last century, the countryside has changed absolutely fundamentally”. Large housing developments without the necessary infrastructure to support these extra people mean pretty villages and market towns are reduced to an urban sprawl of poorly built suburbs.

The economic arguments for these policies are that it reduces the demand for housing and that it encourages local economic growth. Both of these are false.

The demand for housing, especially in rural areas, is down to the sickening number of second homes which is killing off the local way of life. A survey in 2011 showed that there were 4000 second homes in the South Hams alone. The Influx of people coming for “a slice of country life” is driving up house prices and driving out local people. The same survey showed that in 2010, the house-wage affordability ratio for Devon was 2.52 points above the rest of England, with that gap expected to rise. Farmer’s barns, the old mill, the old bakery, the old shop, the old forge, they’ve all been converted into houses, many of them only lived in for half the year.

As for those who argue this promotes local economic growth, oh no it doesn’t. While there will be a short-term demand for skilled tradesmen, something of which we have very few, the South West is a low skill low wage economy, so where are the jobs for these new home owners to go too?

So with development even proposed for the beautiful market town of Moretonhampstead, perhaps the way to deal with this growing crisis is not to try and rapidly increase the nation’s housing stock but rather to fairly distribute the houses we already have. The government should also look to drastically reform the way we rent property while any new developments should be very carefully assessed to reduce the impact on the local area to an absolute minimum. In essence, rather than building houses, developers must build communities.

And it takes all sorts to make a community, not just the privileged few.”

http://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/over-development-rural-england-1106412

Well, that’s it: PegasusLife wins Knowle appeal

“An application to create a 113-home retirement community at East Devon District Council’s current HQ has been allowed on appeal by the Planning Inspector.

PegasusLife lodged an appeal following the scheme’s refusal in December 2016.

A public inquiry was held over five days in November 2017.

The new development will be classed C2, which means Sidmouth will miss out on thousands of pounds’ worth of contributions towards affordable housing.

Read reactions in Friday’s Sidmouth Herald.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/developer-wins-appeal-for-113-home-retirement-community-at-knowle-1-5365209

Council 2018-2019 budget – many elephants in the room!

Recent comment on “pay to pee” article (below):

“Notice the contradiction here: one councillor says the idea is not being looked at, another group of councillors say town and … [quote from original article]

Might I suggest that there is fake news (or misdirection).

Instead of concentrating on the big savings – the biggest costs/budgets under management, we are being misdirected to something we actually understand (don’t forget the seaside towns are over endowed with the elderly, whose needs include lavatories) so that we can gain a small ‘win’ by demanding the facilities, so that we forget the elephants in the room. And there are several of them.

A gallery that only Councillor’s want.
A move of headquarters that only Councillors want.
A drastic reduction in healthcare services, that only Councillors want.
Seafront developments that only Councillors want.

William of Occam would say I have over-made the point.

Do you suppose there is a picture developing here?

I could add the absolutely fantastic budget demand coming from a Police body that has a management cost out of all proportion to its actual size. You could make significant savings by firing the bosses and not lose any quality of service?

And what about getting rid of the LLP [LEP] which, in my view, has achieved precisely nothing since it was created (except increase the salaries of the leaders although they have yet to achieve any results). That would make some tidy savings.

Maybe we can afford a health service after all!”

“Knowle developer will only pay for affordable housing if profits exceed expectations” – yeah, right!

Over 100 flats selling at around £400,000 or more with massive service charges. Will they make a profit? Of course not – developers never do in these circumstances!

“PegasusLife had argued its proposals should be classed under ‘residential institutions’ – branded ‘C2’ in planning terms – meaning it would not need to make a contribution.

Landowner East Devon District Council (EDDC) had contested it should be classed as C3 for housing, meaning there would normally be a payment towards off-site affordable housing.

An agreement between the parties, revealed last week, shows there is an ‘overage’ clause, so PegasusLife would only pay out if the scheme exceeds its forecasts.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “PegasusLife has submitted viability evidence to demonstrate that the scheme would not be viable if it were to provide affordable housing, which the council has accepted.

“The council has had this information independently assessed by specialists in development viability who have confirmed that the development cannot afford to meet the council’s policy requirements for affordable housing.

“Accordingly, the council has required an overage clause to be included within the section 106 agreement, which will seek to obtain a contribution towards affordable housing in the event that the scheme is more profitable than currently envisaged.

“This approach has been used before and supported by planning inspectors at appeal. If the development is found to be C2 by the inspector then there would be no affordable housing required to be provided.

“However, the Knowle inquiry is still ongoing and is timetabled to conclude today (Tuesday).

“We anticipate receiving a final decision from the inspector in January.”

The section 106 agreement shows that the land is valued at £5.8million.

The deal with PegasusLife is worth £7.5million to EDDC, which will put the cash towards its £10million relocation to Exmouth and Honiton.

The dispute about whether the development should be classed as C2 or C3, as well as concerns about overdevelopment and the impact on the site’s listed summerhouse, led councillors to refuse planning permission last December.

The developer took its appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

The inspector, Michael Boniface, is set to make a site visit this afternoon to inform his decision.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/knowle-developer-will-only-pay-for-affordable-housing-if-profits-exceed-expectations-1-5308352