Lib Dems at Mid-Devon challenge developers on zero-carbon development, Tories whinge

“A motion was passed at Mid Devon District Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, July 24, following on from the declaration of a climate emergency in June.

Developers will face a zero-carbon requirement on all future development taking place in Mid Devon.

A motion was passed at Mid Devon District Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, July 24, following on from the declaration of a climate emergency in June.

Councillor John Downes (Boniface, Liberal Democrats) who put forward the following motion: “That this council instructs the Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration to take the earliest available opportunity in planning policy terms to embed a zero-carbon requirement on all future development taking place in Mid Devon to respond to the climate emergency.”

Cllr Downes said he had wanted to word the motion so that planning which wasn’t zero-carbon would be refused as policy, and that it would be down to the planning inspector to agree to development or refuse. He added that the Chief Executive, Stephen Walford, had offered advice to defer to the head of planning to allow policy to change.

He said: “This is to make the point that we declared a zero-carbon target and any development we allow that is not zero-carbon is effectively carbon debt which is making the problem more difficult for us in the future.

“One developer, with the profit they made this year, could have made all their houses zero-carbon with the profit that they returned. The point is, if we do make the point and champion zero-carbon, technologies will need to change because that’s the way people are going to start making money and doing developments.

“It’s just about keeping it alive and making it current. I understand that policy will take time, but I think having declared a crisis, we need to show that we’re trying to do something, and planning and licensing are areas in which we can.”

However, Councillor Andrew Moore (Clare & Shuttern, Conservative) questioned whether the motion could be acted upon.

“Do we have any idea as to whether this can be done?” he said.

“An eco-home can operate carbon neutrally, and I’m advised that the likely uplifting cost to build is about 30 per cent, which of course is going to have a significant impact. That will come down in time naturally, but this is not necessarily a cheap thing to be imposing in policy.

“The thing that worries me though is what of the build cost in carbon terms? A study identified that on average, the carbon cost of simply constructing a home – forget the operational cost – is about 65 tonnes of CO2 on average. An average family car uses five tonnes per year, so that’s 13 year’s worth of car travel to build a house.

“Normally, one would amortise that over the life of the house, which is typically taken as 100 years, and how do you do that? Well a UK native tree would consume about one tonne in its whole life of 100 years, so build a house, plant 65 trees, and you know what, it equals out over time. But to be carbon neutral by 2030, that debt payoff model doesn’t work anymore because we’re saying it’s got to be neutralised at the point of the build.

“I have no idea, through my research, as to how on earth that is going to be accomplished. How at point of build, you’re going to get rid of 65 tonnes of CO2. I think it’s a great challenge and I am going to look forward to what actions and policies this motion will ultimately deliver.”

Councillor Richard Chesterton (Lower Culm, Conservative) applauded Cllr Downes for bringing the motion forward but warned that planning policy was a slow process.

He said the Council would also have to manage public expectations.

“I was at a parish council meeting recently in Uffculme where there was an assumption by members of the public that because we had made the decision we had made, that automatically a contentious planning application on the edge of the village wouldn’t happen because it wasn’t in keeping with that decision,” he said.

“I had to explain how the planning process works with policies set out at both national level and local level and that even the adopted local plan, while having some very good policies in them which will encourage the use of green technology and things like that, wouldn’t necessarily get to where you’re looking to get to, and wouldn’t necessarily be able to rely on that in their reason for why it should be turned down.

“The public expects that it will be different from the speed that we will meet, so we mustn’t get our hopes up too fast. It will also be complicated because any local plan and any planning policy that we bring forward has to be in line with national planning policies which don’t, at this moment in time, set out the same deadline and timescale that this Council has set out.

“That’s going be a stumbling block along the way. We need to be aware of that, and we need to know how the executive will push forward a planning policy that might be at odds with Government policy. It might not be of course by the time we get there.”

Cllr Chesterton quizzed the cabinet member for planning and economic generation, Councillor Graeme Barnell, (Newbrooke, Liberal Democrats) about a timescale, and whether or not the Council would have to introduce a revised Local Plan at the earliest opportunity.

He added: “Would it be through a revised local plan at the earliest available opportunity, or would it be just through maybe a revised development management policies? And what timescale do you see it being able to come forward?”

Cllr Barnell replied: “We haven’t been idle as a cabinet in responding to the green agenda. We have been very active in thinking through our policies, but as you quite rightly point out, there are a number of constraints including Government policies that are pre-existing and the plans we’ve inherited from the previous administration.

“We’re looking at a greener Devon policy which the biggest single thing we can do in making practical steps towards zero-carbon. We are looking to get people out of their cars, get people working locally, sustain the rural economy, plant trees and hedgerows. These are long term, not short term fixes. They are long term answers to a chronic problem.

“We have to take every practical step within our planning policies to be able to implement this, not just indulge in wishful thinking. We’re going ahead with careful thought about this and how it will impact on the Cullompton Garden Village, the Tiverton Eastern Urban Extension and making sure we have a mixed development with local jobs that aren’t reliant on commuting, that is reliant on high-quality local jobs that people don’t have to get in their cars to go to.

“Reducing car journeys, so people don’t have to take their children to school are really important issues, and they may sound small, but they’re an important contribution to implementing the climate change agenda, and they will be filtering through as soon as possible into local planning policy.

“The last thing we want to do is tinker with the Local Plan. The Local Plan has been subjected to repeated delays; we want to see it across the line. We will be bringing forward changes to local planning policies in line with our greener Devon agenda and moving towards sustainable local Devon communities and more details soon, you will be being asked to consider those.”


Just to remind everyone, when he was Leader of East Devon Alliance in 2013, Independent Group Leader Ben Ingham was an enthusiastic supporter of a change from the Cabinet system to a committee system. Since becoming Leader of EDDC in May he has been conspicuously silent on this matter:



Press Release:
8th July 2019

The Campaign for Local Democracy in Mid Devon was formed at the beginning of April this year, as campaigns for election to Mid Devon District Council were beginning.

The campaign arose from increasing concerns amongst the Mid Devon electorate about the lack of involvement of many District councillors in decision making and the ability of the Cabinet to ignore the wishes of large numbers of councillors. In particular, the decision of three members of the Cabinet to proceed with the sale to a private purchaser of the historic council building and council chamber in Crediton, against the expressed wishes of the majority of the 42 councillors, created uproar in the Crediton area. This resonated with concerns felt elsewhere in the district and led to the formation of the campaign group at a meeting in Tiverton.

With the all-up election pending, the group decided to wrote to all candidates advising them of their wish to see a more open and democratic system introduced and asking for their support.

The Green and Lib Dem candidates indicated their support, as did a number of Independent candidates.

The election resulted in the Conservative group losing overall control and subsequently deciding not to participate in a balanced Cabinet.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, the campaign group also decided that they would allow the new Council time to settle in before expecting to hear whether they were willing to introduce the necessary changes to governance.

As it is now two months since the election of the new Council, leading members of the group have now written to the Council Leader, Clr Bob Deed, on behalf of the campaign group asking what consideration they are giving to the need for these reforms.

In the letter, Mid Devon Alderman David Nation says that if the necessary reforms are not to be implemented, the group would wish to make an early start on seeking the support of the Mid Devon electorate for them. He clearly has in mind a public petition to require the Council to hold a referendum on switching from the present Cabinet structure to the previous Committee structure, where more councillors are involved in decision making and the decisions of full Council are supreme.

Ald. Nation said “We are hopeful that the new Council will share our concerns as so many of those now in control were sympathetic before the elections. If they cannot voluntarily agree the required changes, we are ready to canvass public support to force them to reform.”

Text of letter below:

Dear Councillor Deed

We hope that you are enjoying your new role and that options for changing the direction of travel of MDDC are beginning to emerge.

We are writing, of course, specifically about the concerns the Campaign for Local Democracy in Mid Devon have about the need to make decision making in the Council more open and democratic.

You may remember that at our inaugural meeting on 6 April, the election campaigns for the Mid Devon seats literally having just commenced, we decided to allow the new council time to settle in before expecting any statement about possible reforms.

As it is now two months since the new Council was elected, we are wondering if you are able to advise us whether this issue has yet been considered and if so, what the plan is to progress it.

In view of the changes at MDDC we are obviously hopeful that the Council will itself decide to implement the sort of reforms that meet our concerns but if not, we will wish to make an early start on seeking the support of the Mid Devon electorate for the necessary changes.

As we have discussed before, it is in everyone’s interest if that can be avoided, especially in terms of cost to the public purse.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes
Yours sincerely
David Nation Paul Tucker Judy Tucker”

What’s the future for the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan? Highly debatable … unless …

Exeter – minor changes on 2 May (new Green Councillor, first Independendent councillor) but Labour still in control

Mid Devon – now no overall control (Lib Dems, Indies and Greens outnumber Tories)

Teignbridge – Lib Dems won control

East Devon – now no overall control (Indies, Lib Dems and Greens outnumber Tories)

Oh dear, looks like GESP may have to go back to the drawing board …

UNLESS the previous (unelected) councillors controlling it (Diviani for East Devon) and their bossy officers stitched it up before the falls from grace …

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan – Exeter leaks its “vision”*

“But not yet in East Devon until July 2019 (see below). It seems East Devon is the only council keeping ALL its plans secret until after the 2 May 2019 district council elections.

Fishy? You bet!

Anyway, here’s what we currently know:

Interesting proposals for changes to Sidmouth Road and Junction 30 of the M5. The Motorway Services and Sowton Park and Ride being developed as a “Mixed Neighbourhood” (see image above).

The Governments require the Greater Exeter Housing target to be 53,200 new homes over the next 20 years. That is for the combined area governed by East Devon, Teignbridge, Mid Devon and Exeter.

Exeter’s housing ambitions

Karime Hassan, chief executive and growth director of Exeter City Council revealed this week a proposal for 12,000 new homes in the City of Exeter over the next 20 years. His vision of “Liveable Exeter”, for delivering a transformational housing programme for Exeter from 2020 to 2040. involves the creation of 8 new neighbourhoods.

Exeter’s published Vision

Red Cow Village (St David’s) – 664 homes in new neighbourhood, including new work space, on both sides of the railway around St David’s Station.

Water Lane (close to Exe Valley Park) – 1,567 homes. A space for expanding leisure attractions near the quay, with low traffic or car-free development with attractive cycle and walking connections.

Marsh Barton – 5,544 homes in a new neighbourhood. It will remain an important employment and retail area, but with the integration of living and working, to make better use of riverside location. Development linked to the new proposed train station. Creation of new types of work space, including light industrial, workshops, office and shared work space.

East Gate (Heavitree Road) – 962 new homes, an enhanced approach to the city centre from the east, reduced traffic on Heavitree Road and a greater provision for public transport, walking and cycling. New places to live close to the city centre will exist alongside existing neighbourhoods.

West Gate (Western Way) – 617 new homes, opening up access to the river and canal from the city centre, a new cultural destination, an expanded and connected park at the heart of the city, a “Green Bridge” promoting active travel across the river.

South Gate (Holloway Street/South Street linked via Topsham Road) – 300 new homes, establishing an improved link between the city centre and the historic quayside, with a greater emphasis on the wall, city gates and Southernhay.

North Gate (North Street) – 308 new homes, a new approach to the city from St David’s, uncovering the medieval city wall.
Sandy Gate (land off Sandygate roundabout) – 1,050 new homes in a new sustainable and well-connected mixed-use neighbourhood, bridging the city and the new and existing neighbourhoods to the east, providing recreational, cultural and entertainment space where Exeter meets the proposed Clyst Valley Park.

Mid Devon’s published ambitions.

Mid Devon’s Local Plan is almost complete with a Planning Inspectors hearing due in the next few weeks to consult on their final draft.

Culm Valley on the South side of the M5 opposite Cullumpton create a new community of up to 5,000, with a new Motorway junction and railway Station.

Junction 27. A landmark project for a leisure and tourism development involving Tim Smit from the Edan Project
Tiverton Eastern Urban Extension will cover 153ha, to the east of Tiverton.

Teignbridge future ambitions.

Teignbridge has just started a review of their Local Plan and therefore their plans are in the infancy.

Brownfield Their preferred option to develop brownfield land for development however, the required number of homes the government require Teignbridge to build, is not possible to meet the housing needs from brownfield land only. Therefore, open countryside will need to be considered for development to meet the housing needs.

Garden village is being considered with the new settlement proposal to be between 1500-10,000 homes.

So – What are East Devon’s Ambitions?

Hard to say.

Although the other 3 Authorities are keeping their residents well informed on their sections of the GESP proposals, East Devon has been an almost total blackout! There has been a Local Plan in place since 2016 with most of new development being built in an area known as the West End. That is an area close to Exeter’s border plus the new Town of Cranbrook.

At East Devon District Council Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday 29th January it was hoped that Agenda item 12 would be able to explain more on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan strategy and provide councillors some clarity on the East Devon Local Plan, plus the East Devon Villages Plan only agreed last year which most councillors only learned the previous week, would be jettisoned and replaced with a brand new East Devon Local Plan by 2023.

Local Plan to be replaced

At the meeting last week, the Head of Planning Ed Freeman explained that the present Local Plan was in 2 parts, with the section on Policies would require total re-writing because the Policies would be “substantially superseded” by the emerging GESP Policies. He also explained that the Villages Plan policies, will be merged into the new Local Plan.

Tory Councillor Philip Skinner who along with Tory Councillor Paul Diviani who are the only 2 East Devon`s elected representatives on the GESP “steering group committee” along with 2 elected members from the 3 other Authorities gave only a few hints on some of the latest thoughts for the GESP Strategy for East Devon.

Higher Density Housing for Exeter proposed for GESP

Regarding a question on Housing, he explained that it had been decided by the steering group, that each authority had a certain quota of dwellings proposed and it was not correct that if one Authority was unable to provide the housing numbers, other Authorities were required to build extra dwellings to offset the shortfall. He also explained that Exeter City Council had to return to the drawing board to enable extra dwelling numbers through “much higher density” within the confines of the City.

East Devon will take on most of the Industrial and commercial development for the GESP

Councillor Skinner also told the meeting regarding business development that he aimed to “Get the best for East Devon” and explained that to “Our strength and Exeter’s demise, they do not have the capacity, but we do!” and claimed most of the commercial and industrial development “will be in our patch”

After 2 years of joint secret meetings.

Exeter’s residents know what to expect with “Liveable Exeter”, Teignbridge residents are being told that their local plan is being re-assessed and are having public consultations, and Mid Devon residents have been through their public consultations and an agreed local plan about to be approved.

However, the residents of East Devon only know that their local plan is now being superseded by a new plan with substantial more housing and more industrial, commercial and business development.

All will be revealed in July 2019 after the District Council Elections. Who will you trust to steer East Devon through the next few years of obtaining the most appropriate and suitable Planning Policies. Leave it to the Tory Councillors who have kept everyone in the dark?

Or choose an Independent who are the major opposition for East Devon?

Mid-Devon Scrutiny Committee consults residents on problems

People are happier in Crediton than their neighbouring district towns of Tiverton and Cullompton a survey has found.

Members of Mid Devon District Council’s scrutiny committee went to the three towns between May and August to gather opinion after it was agreed a lack of consultation was a key issue for the public. …”

You can’t build anything you like in the countryside (well, at least in Mid-Devon!)

“Councillors [in mid Devon NOT East Devon!]have warned residents who live in the rural areas that they cannot just build what they like after a two-storey outbuilding was refused planning permission.

Applicants Mr and Mrs D Hall had requested the retention of a replacement two-storey timber building at Forestry Houses in Chenson, between Lapford and Eggesford Station. The application was brought before Mid Devon District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, November 29 after a previous decision not to take enforcement action and to invite an application given the rural nature of the property and the limited negative impact of the application.

The proposed use of the building was purported to be a workshop with domestic storage over, a greenhouse and potting shed were also included within the lean-to structure.

In his report to members, area team leader Simon Trafford recommended refusal. His report said: “The development by virtue of its siting, scale and massing represents an incongruous feature on the site and furthermore contributes towards an unnecessary proliferation of built structures within this part of the countryside. For these reasons the development as it has been constructed is considered to be harmful to the overall character and appearance of the countryside.

“At the time of this decision the application site contained a single storey timber cabin building used as ancillary domestic accommodation, a pitched roof timber outbuilding with double doors used for the storage of building materials and a motorbike, a timber pitched roof field shelter, a timber store building and a small lean-to extension providing ancillary storage for the main dwelling. …

… All 11 members of the planning committee voted in favour of refusing the application.”

Oooohhh – a Devon MP gets a ministerial post and it isn’t Swire!

Tory Mel Stride, who held onto his central Devon MP at the general election by a comfortable margin, has been appointed financial secretary to the Treasury.

Stride, 55, who enjoyed 54 per cent of the vote and has a 16,000 majority over Labour in the rural seat he has won three times, was confirmed in the role on Monday after Mrs May’s meeting with the Conservative 1922 committee.

It is a junior ministerial post and the fourth most significant in the Treasury after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the chief Secretary to the Treasury, and the Paymaster General. …”

New “garden village” for Devon

To be called Culm Garden Village

Owl hopes that it will fare better than “Cranbrook Eco Town” where the “eco” got very quietly dropped some time ago!

The local blog Cullompton Eye says:

“Proposal for Culm Valley Garden Village was released this week by MDDC which included some very interesting issues for Cullompton.The obvious one being a new town development East of the Motorway of up to 5000 homes, enlargement of the Kingsmill Commercial area,provision of 2 new schools, retail & community facilities.

Most importantly the provision of a new road which loops from the back of the present Kingsmill site via Honiton Rd at Aller Barton then through the fields between the old greenhouse site & Upton Lakes to a proposed new road crossing site over the Culm ,Railway & motorway at a point approximately between the Jubilee Wood & the junior football pitches. The proposal also includes south facing slip roads onto & off the M5 & a junction with a new Town Relief Road running from Station Rd roundabout across the CCA fields via a route to be decided to join Meadow Way by the Pumping Station.

The timescale put on this is by 2023 meaning the town would double in size by 2030 but have the infra structure to cope with the traffic generated.

By itself the growth of the Commercial area demands a better motorway access as the traffic of artics is already having difficulty moving around the junction to access the M5 North let alone swamp the town via Fore St.

Within the proposal MDDC also suggests that the J28 as now configured has reached capacity & the congestion in town is affecting air quality levels as well a being detrimental to the development of the Fore St/ High St area so i would assume that puts emphasis for approvals .

This proposal also includes a section on the study into reopening the Railway Station which will be perfectly placed between old & new town areas.

Within the report there is a large section on flood alleviation & a country park looks to being developed around the NE fringe stretching to more than 100 acres to include attenuation lakes renewable forest area for fuel & leisure.”

Exeter Green Party wants transparency on proposed LEP and other secret partnerships including with East Devon

“Proposals by Exeter City Council to restructure decision-making in Devon are being challenged.

In a letter to Council Leader, Pete Edwards, Exeter Green Party has raised concerns about the ways Exeter City Council is developing initiatives to restructure the authority – all of which will give binding powers to new layers of local government.

[The letter states]

Exeter Green Party is deeply concerned about the ways in which the various initiatives to restructure local government decision-making in Devon are being pursued. We are referring to:

The “devolution” proposals for a combined authority covering the Heart of the South West, from which we understand the City Council withdrew at a meeting on 9 December.

The proposal for a Greater Exeter Growth and Development Board (GEGDB], agreed in principle by the City Council’s Executive on 8 November.

The proposals which emerged at the end of last week for a South Devon Unitary Council, involving Exeter, Plymouth, East Devon, Teignbridge, Torbay and possibly South Hams councils.

We do not at present wish to take a position on the merits of the various alternatives, though there are many concerns and questions to be addressed.

At this stage, we ask the following questions:

1. What mandate does the City Council have from the residents it serves to:

(a) attempt to reorganise local government decision-making structures?
(b) propose arrangements which would suck key decisions upwards from the elected representatives of the people of Exeter to a new superior authority – the GEGDB – which would not be directly elected?
(c) propose a strategic authority – the GEGDB – which on the evidence of the 8 November paper would focus solely on economic growth to the exclusion of social and environmental considerations?

2. When does the City Council plan to publicise its thinking and actively consult residents and businesses on whether they actually want new local government arrangements and, if so, on the form they should take and how any new body might be fully accountable to local people?

Because we believe there should be public debate now on these issues, we are issuing this letter to the media. I am also sending a copy to Karime Hassan.
I look forward to your reply.

In a surprise move proposals emerged at the end of last week for a new super South Devon Unitary Council. It could see a ‘super mayor’ governing Exeter, Plymouth, East Devon, Teignbridge, Torbay and possibly South Hams councils.

The Greens concerned that decisions are being made without any public consultation or mandate to give power to unelected bodies.

Exeter City Council had previously committed itself to the Heart of the South West “devolution” proposals for a combined authority. It is now understood Exeter City Council withdrew from this plan at a meeting on Friday. The Council’s Executive has also agreed in principle to set up a ‘Greater Exeter Growth and Development Board’ with East, Mid and Teignbridge Councils, and give this new body powers to make binding decisions on each Council.

Green Party spokesperson, Diana Moore, said:”These decisions about major changes to the structure and functions of local government are taking place behind closed doors.

“We want to know what mandate the City Council has for these proposals and when they intend to consult residents and businesses on whether they actually want new local government arrangements.

“They need to be transparent about their intentions and the power they intend to give away.

“The proposed arrangements would take away key decisions from the elected representatives of the people of Exeter and hand them to distant unelected bodies.

“The economic growth priorities of any of these bodies doesn’t address social and environmental considerations or the rising inequality in the city.

“Councils must focus on their duty to co-operate – and do that to the benefit of local people and not obsess about new structures which will only serve vested interests.

“Any new proposals for local government must be fully consulted on and that whatever structure emerges must be transparent and accountable to local people.”

Oh, oh, trouble: a mini Local Enterprise Partnership or a maxi East Devon Business Forum on its way?

Another unelected, unaccountable, non-transparent secret society on its way?

Another shady group of “private sector representatives and business community” Tories wetting their pants with the excitement of yet another trough for their snouts?

Cabinet Agenda for 14 December, 2015
Item 19
Page 147

The “Exeter Travel to Work Area (TTWA) area recommendations:

Click to access 141216combinedcabagendafinals.pdf

“It is presently proposed that the desired formal body for the Exeter TTWA will be a ‘Greater Exeter Growth and Development Board’ (GEGDB) including the local authorities covering the Greater Exeter functional economic area.

The Board would be a Joint Committee under s101 (5), 102 Local Government Act 1972 and s9EB Local Government Act 2000 and pursuant to the Local Authorities (Arrangement for the Discharge of Functions) (England) Regulations 2012.

It will comprise the 5 local authorities [Exeter, East Devon, Mid Devon, Teignbridge and DCC] as voting members

and a number of non-voting co-opted private sector /other representatives drawn from the wider business community.

This approach was agreed by Exeter City Council in principle on 8 November and is now being considered by the other potential partners.”

“Journalism is finding out what someone else doesn’t want you to know – everything else is public relations

Mid-Devon is one of the four councils that makes up the secretive “Greater Exeter”.

“THEY say that journalism is finding out what someone else doesn’t want you to know – everything else is public relations, writes Katie French.

This week especially that distinction has felt rather relevant.

With the news that two prominent councillors had been removed from their high-profile positions at Mid Devon District Council, it was important to find out why.

But how can a reporter get to the bottom of a story when those involved are not speaking to you?

This paper is regularly inundated with requests from the council for photo opportunities and self-congratulatory coverage but in the last seven days, the phones have been nigh on silent.

In a quest to get to the bottom of the Tiverton Portas Company investigation, repeated attempts have been made to contact councillors Sue Griggs and Neal Davey.

Neither has answered calls nor responded to emails.

This would all be very well if they hadn’t chosen a life in public office. But when you begin to take an allowance from the taxpayer to stand as a councillor, your decisions as a public servant open you up to a reasonable expectation of scrutiny.

Through their roles at the Tiverton Portas Company – Cllr Griggs as chair and Cllr Davey as secretary – the pair have become the trusted faces responsible for the £100,000 of government money supplied to improve the town.

Both have enjoyed ample column inches celebrating their successes. Yet when asked to comment on this investigation they have been silent.

This refusal to respond to reasonable requests has infuriated the chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

John O’Connell said: “Local residents will be incensed. This repeated refusal to speak to reporters shows a shocking contempt for scrutiny and transparency.

“The individuals responsible must be held to account. This is an utter disgrace and the council needs to sort it out without delay.”

But the councillors are not the only ones who have been difficult to reach.

Mid Devon District Council carried out the investigation into the Tiverton Portas Company after a complaint was made by a member of the public.

Numerous sources told this paper that a deficit of £18,000 had been discovered. That claim turned out to be unfounded but had the findings of the investigation – as presented to the standards committee on October 6 – been held in public, the claim would have had no credibility in the first place.

This increasing trend for public-funded bodies to attend to matters in private is not good for anyone – and it is not good enough.

As taxpayers we have a right to learn how our money is spent. Press and public should stand together and challenge unreasonable attempts to keep private matters relating to the taxpayer’s purse.

Next week a meeting will be held at Tiverton Town Council to discuss the findings of Mid Devon District Council’s audit.

It has been hinted that it will be held in chambers – meaning the press and public will be excluded.

This is not acceptable and the Gazette will be challenging the motion.

After all – if it is deliberately being held away from a reporter it’s likely there is going to be something worth hearing.”

Two mid-Devon Conservative councillors removed from committees following investigation

News announced in a press release, presumably from the council, that very carefully excludes the reasons why they were removed:

Neil Parish gets pompous (and evasive) about his tax affairs too

Note: MP Mel Stride represents a small part of the East Devon area. Mr Parish was an MEP from 1999 to 2007.

THREE out of four Devon MPs would not answer questions about wjhether they have benefited from offshore accounts, the Echo can reveal.

Hugo Swire, Neil Parish and Mel Stride chose not to respond to questions from the Echo about their tax affairs.

It comes after leaked documents showed politicians, footballers and celebrities had benefited from offshore investments designed to avoid UK taxes. Following calls for greater transparency amongst politicians, the Echo asked the MPs if they had ever used offshore accounts and whether they were prepared to publish their tax returns.

But Mr Swire, whose family was listed at 42 in the most recent Sunday Times Rich List, mounted robust defence of MPs’ right to keep their tax affairs private, which the Echo is publishing in full [see Owl’s post below for Swire’s letter].

His family’s business, which owns a stake in Cathay Pacific, has scores of subsidiaries operating from Panama, Bermuda and the British Virgin Isles.

A county councillor has criticised the 56-year-old foreign office minister for failing to answer the questions posed to him and said he should reveal his tax affairs.

Councillor Claire Wright, who represents Ottery St Mary Rural, said: “Hugo needs to be open and transparent about whether he has offshore investments or not.”

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, was the only politician in the Echo’s circulation area to respond to all five questions.

He answered “no” to questions one, two and three, meaning he and his family to the best of his knowledge had not benefited from any offshore investments.

Mr Bradshaw said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant. I have no problem with MPs who, after all, make the laws, being required to publish their tax returns and perhaps the same should apply to our tax-exiled newspaper proprietors too.”

Meanwhile an assistant to Mel Stride, MP for Central Devon, said he was not prepared to make a statement on whether Mr Stride had benefited from offshore accounts at the moment.

The assistant said: “All I can state is he has no offshore trusts.”

The office for Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, did not respond to any of the questions, but came back with the following statement.

Mr Parish said: “This Conservative Government has done more than any other Government to close tax loopholes, a move which I welcome and I voted in favour of these measures.

“All of the items where I have a pecuniary interest have been registered in the Register of Members’ Interest which can be found online.”

Cllr Wright, however, said she believed MPs should be open following the scandal.

She said: “Tax avoidance has been a growing public concern and after the release of the Panama papers, it has reached a point where it is a top story on the news every day.”

“It is beholden on every MP to be open and transparent. They are in a position of public trust if they do have money in off-shore accounts,” Cllr Wright said.

“Hugo is a government minister and as the government make attempts to try and tighten up tax avoidance, the public needs to have confidence in its MPs so we know that they are practicing what they preach.”

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, however said he thought it would be unfair for MPs to have to publish their tax returns.

He said: “David Cameron made a rod for his own back by moralising about the legal tax arrangements of others in the past and was clearly clumsy in his handling of questions about the Panama papers.

“But it would be unfair to start forcing politicians into publishing their tax returns. MPs already have to declare external sources of income, significant shareholdings and so on in the publicly-available Register of Members’ Financial Interests but enforced publication of full tax returns would be an undue invasion of privacy.

“Our politicians’ energy would be far better spent simplifying our labyrinthine tax code instead of pontificating about the tax arrangements of those abiding by the very laws which they have written.”

Our questions

The questions put to the four Devon MPs were:

1. Have you used a tax haven, tax incentive or deliberate means of avoiding tax in the past to your knowledge?

2. To the best of your knowledge has anyone in your immediate family?

3. Have you ever benefited from any offshore investments?

4. Are you prepared to publish your tax return?

5. What are your thoughts on the PM and Chancellor’s connections to the tax havens in Panama?

A letter from East Devon MP Hugo Swire in response to The Echo’s Offshore Tax questions

East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge recognised as developers’ friend

The three councils make up the “Greater Exeter” consortium and, along with other chosen council Mid-Devon, ensures a speeded-up planning process in a continuous ring centred on Exeter.

Half a dozen councils across Devon and Cornwall have been chosen to pilot a new Government scheme designed to speed up the creation of new homes.

Housing ministers have selected the six local authorities to take part in the trial launch of their brownfield register initiative.

Under the policy, councils will draw up lists of derelict land and other underused sites which could be used for new developments.

Records will then be available to investors and construction companies to highlight prime redevelopment opportunities. …

… Cornwall, East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon, Torbay and Teignbridge council have all had their bids to pilot the scheme accepted. They will join 70 other local planning authorities in trialing the scheme, and helping to shape the future implementation of the policy.

Registers will eventually become mandatory for all councils under proposals going through Parliament in the Housing and Planning Bill. Other measures in the Bill will enable “permission in principle” to be granted for registered sites, giving developers “a greater degree of certainty” and ultimately speeding up the planning process. …”

The keywords are “under-used” and “prime redevelopment opportunities”- who decides? EDDC, helped by developers, of course!

Another nail in EDDC’s “high growth” coffin

Shares and oil prices around the world have seen further falls, sparked by renewed fears over the health of the global economy.

In China, the authorities intervened again on the stock market to little effect. Shares in Shanghai fell 1.5%.
And in Washington, expectations of a US interest rate rise dimmed after Federal Reserve policymakers said the economy was not ready yet.

European markets in Paris and Frankfurt were down 1% in morning trade.

London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index shed 0.5%, while the price of Brent crude oil was down 1.1% at $46.66 a barrel. US crude was down 0.4% at $40.95. …”

The trouble is we residents who get buried, not our misguided (to put it VERY kindly) officers and councillors:

Mid-Devon opted for “sustainable growth”. Oh, how they must be chuckling now.

Plus, the policy of asset-stripping will look remarkably like a fire sale in a pound shop.

“Economic growth” (EDDC choice) or “Balanced growth” (Mid Devon choice) for Local Plans

Based on the same reports from the same consultants, East Devon District Council has chosen “Economic Growth” but Mid Devon has chosen “Balancec Growth” . Here, in their Core Strategy, is why Mid Devon made its choice:

Economic growth strategy alternative:

5.7 Economic development would be the main priority for this strategy option, with social and environmental objectives set at a lower level of importance.

· High housing and employment growth, with sites chosen largely for economic viability.

· Limited affordable housing provision.

· Housing concentrated at Tiverton and Cullompton

· Employment to be promoted at locations such as motorway junctions.

· Employment provision in the rural areas strongly encouraged.

· Efforts to attract major tourist attractions.

· Retail development promoted in the three Area Centres.

· No limitations on car use.

5.8 This strategy is in many ways the converse of the environmental protection strategy and the Sustainability Appraisal found that its costs and benefits to sustainability are therefore largely a mirror image. It would involve the greatest use of Greenfield land for development for both housing and employment, with inevitable landscape impacts arising. Notably, the location of development, with its emphasis on car – based access, will lead to greater travel overall than the other strategies, with much worse impact on climate change.
Balanced growth strategy alternative

5.9 The Balanced Growth strategy option would seek to minimise the conflict between social, environmental and economic objectives, and promote the balanced achievement of sustainable development. It was an evolution of the current strategy and policies set out in the Mid Devon Local Plan First Alteration.

· Development of new housing concentrated on the Area Centres, particularly Tiverton.

· Housing density generally higher than in the past but based on design – led solutions.

· Smaller dwellings provided, with maximum affordable housing provision.

· Rural housing generally limited to local need.

· Employment close to housing, encouraging town centre provision

and homeworking.

· Small scale employment and tourist provision encouraged throughout the rural areas.

· Promotion of a significant retail provision in Crediton.

· Some increased control over design, particularly in historic areas,

with targeted environmental enhancements continuing.

· Renewable energy schemes encouraged, together with low energy development.

· Car restraint, and provision of alternatives to the car, to concentrate on the Area Centres.

5.10 This strategy is the most sustainable of the strategies proposed, being positive in the majority of the factors, and negative in none. It would provide for both housing and economic development in locations which minimise traffic generation, allowing for small rural economic diversification. For these reasons, it formed the initial basis for the Core Strategy policies.

Local Plans: with the same figures, Mid-Devon opts for low growth in housing numbers East Devon opts for high growth


The hugely controversial industrial estate, proposed at Sidford was today struck from EDDC’s Local Plan, following a proposal by Cllrs Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman.

The five hectare site was inserted into the Local Plan at the last minute when I was a member of the panel back in 2011.

It has taken local people four years of campaigning for the council to finally agree to delete it. Many votes of a similar nature have been taken in the past and have failed. Today’s got through.

The move took place at today’s extraordinary full council meeting to discuss revisions to the local plan.
I blasted the council for opting YET AGAIN for unevidenced and huge levels of growth that are contrary to consultants recommendations.

How many consultants have to tell EDDC that the right way forward is low growth before they actually listen? The answer is they never will listen. They (who I am not entirely sure) wants big big levels of development in East Devon – and so shall it be.

That is, until the planning inspector takes a look at it and wonders what on earth is going on.

A press release was issued by EDDC earlier this month which contained a grossly untrue statement about the planning inspector recommending the levels of growth that EDDC have opted for.

The planning inspector made no such recommendation. This was a disgraceful attempt to try and fool the public into believing that EDDC is doing the will of the planning inspector, who threw out the draft local plan last year.

See here for my blog earlier this week on what EDDC has done ….…/eddc_proposes_highest_housin…

Frankly, the council has sold the western end of the district off to the highest bidder. Villages like Clyst Honiton, Rockbeare and Blackhorse are set to be absolutely swamped in urban sprawl.

The council promised Rockbeare that it would be protected by a green wedge. If you saw the area that Cranbrook is set to expand now, massively south of the old A30, you would be shocked. Rockbeare is set to be lost amid bricks and concrete.

Whimple was supposed to have a green wedge to protect it from Cranbrook.
Not any more.

Whimple’s green wedge is proposed to have a great chunk eaten out of it as Cranbrook also sprawls to the east.

Given that councillors have never had the chance to question the consultants I moved an amendment that both sets of consultants are invited to the next overview and scrutiny committee meeting.

This amendment was argued against by the chief executive, who for some reason decided to mention my “parliamentary ambitions.”
It was voted down mainly by the conservative group.

My second amendment proposed an extension of the consultation period by two weeks, making a total of an eight week consultation period. This proposal was carried, despite some senior conservatives arguing against it.

Interestingly, I informed the council that Mid Devon District Council (which has been working with EDDC on this) has opted for a low growth scenario for its district. This is because Mid Devon councillors did not wish to concrete over any more of the countryside than they had to.

So why has EDDC opted for such a high growth level?(it is impossible to even match the levels to any figures in the reports!)

The chief executive said it was because East Devon is a “growth area.”
But I replied, the consultants knew this before they drafted their report didn’t they.

Yet they still recommended a preferred approach of significantly lower development, that is also in line with government growth projections.
Why oh why is EDDC doing this?

The Local Plan, with some minor amendments, was voted through by the majority of councillors.

Pity DMC’s concerns aren’t consistent

The agenda for today’s meeting of the Development Management Committee at EDDC includes an officer recommendation for a representation to the Mid Devon Local Plan consultation:

5. That potential commuting patterns, especially for work
purposes, of the future residents of Cullompton are
accurately assessed. This is especially significant noting the
ease of car travel from Cullompton to the strategic
employment sites in the West End of East Devon (e.g. a drive
time of 11 minutes from M5 Junction 28 to the Science Park).

There is quite a lot more including a reference to the A373 Cullompton to Honiton road being ‘narrow in places’.

An EDWatcher comments, “It’s intriguing that EDDC are so concerned about the traffic implications of commuting from Cullompton, and yet no similar concern was expressed for the impact of our 1400 job industrial estate between Sidford and Sidbury, where the road through the village is much narrower than the A373.”

EDWatch says, “We’d burst out laughing, if this were a laughing matter!”

EDDC making a complete U-turn on housing figures before elections?

First they had to be concealed until after the election because they were “politically sensitive” and now news that they might be published within the next 10 days according to this blog:

What on earth is going on at the Fawlty Towers known as Knowle? How can they be ” politically sensitive” one week and not politically sensitive the next week? Is panic mode the default mode at EDDC these days with no-one knowing what is going on?

Is it a case that Mid-Devon jumped the gun on consultation – putting their new draft Local Plan out to consultation without the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA)figures and saying they would be available to the public by the end of February? Mid Devon has relied on the same consultants’ reports that East Devon is relying on. How could they put a draft plan out for consultation without the figures? Surely you cannot consult on incomplete information?

So, EDDC do we get the figures AND the consultants reports behind them before the elections or after? If before, what was the justification for trying to conceal them until after?

And if we get only your figures and not the reports, why?

And how come you are “tweaking” the reports anyway if Mid Devon has already used the information?

What’s that smell?

Mid-Devon Local Plan consultants reports to be published by the end of February

This is what it says in the Mid devon Local Plan consultation document:

” Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments, Reports and Availability” –

” Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) – Anticipated to be published by the end of February 2015″

Presumably based on the same consultants’ reports that EDDC says must be kept secret because of “political sensitivity”.

So, it’s politically sensitive in East Devon and not politically sensitive in Mid Devon.

What a difference a few miles makes.