Strategic Planning pitfalls? Certainly for Axminster

A reporter … reports:

“At Tuesday’s Strategic Planning Meeting at Knowle (29 /01/2019), chaired by Paul Diviani, the masterplan for increasing Housing in Axminster by a whopping 30% , was voted through almost unanimously (there was one abstention), despite serious cross-Party criticism of the plan.

As the debate ended, the considerable number of Axminster residents in the public gallery were astonished to hear the Chair’s quip, to Cllr Jill Elson, “ I felt confident that you would come out with something that would stir things up”.

Cllr Elson (shown on right of the photo, beside Cllr Philip Skinner), had argued firmly that “the problem with plans is that they change” , citing her Ward as an example.

“Exmouth ended up with two huge estates with no play space or amenities whatsoever”, she said. Cllr Mike Howe (Con) shared her concerns, saying, (the masterplan) “doesn’t give us much credence or security that we will get the right houses”. But the Deputy Leader of the Council, Philip Skinner (Con ), expressed his view that “Give and take is needed in negotiations with a developer”.

Shortly afterwards, when Cllr Geoff Jung (East Devon Alliance, EDA) observed that the plan might not suit young families, it became apparent that Cllr Skinner was not aware that the proposal to include a primary school had been dropped.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance (Lib Dem) had noticed significant typing and other errors in the masterplan document. Cllr Rob Longhurst (Independent) observed there was no mention of the words ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ in the document.. although Cllr Moulding had told the meeting that he had designed one for Axminster… and suggested this Strategic Plan Committee would like to see “if the community wants and needs” the masterplan.

Cllr Susie Bond (Independent) asked for clarity about the legal implications for the Council if the costs for the relief road “went through the roof” (So far, EDDC has agreed to borrow £7m to ensure the road, estimated cost £16.7m, can be delivered.)

Ian Hall (Con) admitted “this masterplan doesn’t sit easily with the residents of Axminster”, which Alistair Ferguson’s speech in Public Question Time, confirms. The text is reproduced below, with Mr Ferguson’s permission):

In support of the objections, other District Councillors, Cathy Gardner and Marianne Rixson (both EDA), also attended the meeting, though not on the Strategic Planning Committee themselves.

Cllr Gardner pointed out that agreeing to a massive increase in the town’s housing numbers “would not be for the right reasons”, if it was done primarily to fund a relief road. The masterplan “was being done to the people of Axminster, not for them”, she said.

And Cllr Marianne Rixson added that “delivery of affordables does not have a good record” in East Devon.

Having listened to the comments aired, Cllr Geoff Pook (Ind) cautioned the committee not to be “persuaded by the opposition”. “There are just as many people in favour”, he opined.

Finally, the fear that the time-limited government funding for the relief road would be missed, therefore putting in jeopardy the 650 homes allocated in the Local Plan, swayed the committee members to approve the masterplan, albeit with caveats based on their misgivings.

Is this how the wrong sort of housing so often gets built in the wrong place?

In Axminster’s case, how much will the masterplan impact on the historic former deer park? As Cllr Mike Howe, Chair of the Development Management Committee (DMC) told yesterday’s meeting, there’s an urgent need to know….’

New National Park for East Devon? Not while people like Diviani are councillors!

This is the aspiration:

“A new Dorset and East Devon National Park could be created.

Cllr Martin Shaw had called for Devon County Council to support the establishment of a Dorset and East Devon National Park and to submit a case for this to the DEFRA review of national parks.

But Devon County Council agreed that any expression of support for the establishment of a Dorset and East Devon National Park should be deferred until the overriding benefit was clearly demonstrated and that it would come from additional funding. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/new-national-park-could-created-2090631

This is the reality (November 2017 and nothing has changed:

It has been suggested that the area might secure some £10million of annual central government funding with more than 90 per cent of this being invested in the local economy.”

Responding to the question, council leader Paul Diviani stated that EDDC is not directly involved in the proposals and awaits further consultation as it progresses through the process of consideration.

When asked if he agrees with claims that a national park would bring significant economic benefits to the district, Cllr Diviani said: “National parks and AONBs are not about making money. The AONBS are much more localised than national parks ever can be.

“It is an opportunistic type of approach that people in Dorset are taking about our assets here in East Devon.”

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/11/09/dorset-positive-about-national-park-we-cant-join-up-as-diviani-doesnt-want-to-lose-control-of-assets/

Sidford Business Park – a grubby history

Tim Ford, once a much-respected plumbing and electrical contactor in Sidmouth, is renewing his controversial application to build a business park in the AONB at Sidford. (18/1094/MOUT)

Incredulous locals wonder how it was possible for a council to allocate an ‘employment site’ in its local development plan that is on a flood plain, is a rich wildlife habitat, and whose main access would be a narrow street where two lorries can’t pass without mounting the pavement!

For the dominant Tory group on East Devon District Council it was easy!

First, they let landowners and developers decide where to build. In 2007 they asked East Devon Business Forum how much employment land the district would need over the next 25 years. EDBF was a lobby group which included the Carters of Greendale, the Stuarts of Hill Barton and Tim Ford of Sidmouth. Their answer was predictable: lots and lots!

Second, they put Chair of EDBF, Cllr Graham (‘I ain’t doin’ it for peanuts!’) Brown:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/12/17/the-disgraced-ex-eddc-tory-councillor-graham-brown-if-i-cant-get-planning-nobody-will-scandal-refuses-to-die/

in charge of quietly asking landowners where they would like to build. Apparently, the proposal for a Sidford business park was first mooted at one of these confidential meetings in July 2010.

Third, in 2011 they elected Paul Diviani, founder member of EDBF, as leader. Under him the District Council became what many saw as a ‘Development Corporation’, the planning system became less about protecting the environment and more about encouraging building.

Fourth, they didn’t listen to the public or community groups whom they ignored or misrepresented. Sidmouth Chamber of commerce said the business park would be catastrophic for local businesses, Council minutes recorded the Chamber as supporting it!

Fifth, they whipped their large political majority to vote through the Sidford allocation. When hostile public reaction worried them just before the 2015 council elections they voted to ‘remove it’ from the Local Plan. Universal Rejoicing! But in 2016 the Inspector kept it in the Plan. Why? Because East Devon’s chief planning officer had not been instructed to give the Inspector reasons for the council’s change of mind!

Former EDDC Leader Diviani is now EDDC’s representative on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan. In its confidential meetings he is helping to oversee a gigantic overspill project along the A3052 in the west end of the District where hundreds of acres of land are being earmarked for a massive expansion of business parks and thousands of new houses.

Indeed one such expansion was announced only this weekend near Cranbrook, where the developer is quoted as saying:

“The first, ‘Scenario 1’ is a response to existing market demand with the provision of a single large unit of around one million square feet (92,9000 sq.m.).

‘Scenario 2’ would see the site offer a multi-unit option, providing a range of sizes and configurations informed by ongoing market need.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/huge-distribution-centre-near-cranbrook-is-given-the-nod-by-planners-1-5564832

Which all makes the wretched Sidford application even less necessary!

Would you choose immediate A-road and motorway access to Exeter and the M5 or access down a country road where two medium-size vehicles cannot pass?

“Rural businesses say the government’s review of national parks could fuel economic growth in the countryside”

This will be a REAL test of what EDDC councillors’ priorities: a clean, green environment (remember Diviani promising this years ago!)

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/03/30/from-the-archives-1-clean-green-and-seen-promise-east-devon-tories-in-2011/

or more concrete.

“… Country Land and Business Association president Tim Breitmeyer said boosting economic growth and productivity in designated landscapes should be at the centre of the review.

“Designated landscapes are crucial to the wellbeing of the nation, providing opportunities not only for visitors but most especially for those who live and work there,” he said.

The crucial challenge is to strike the right balance between ensuring designation that delivers natural beauty, alongside encouraging the right types of economic activity.

Together, this more positive balance will sustain these areas and create thriving communities, said Mr Brietmeyer.

“Most businesses within designated landscapes experience significant opposition and hostility to development of any kind.”

Success would see more landowners, users, park authorities and conservation boards working together to identify opportunities to deliver sensitive development, said Mr Breitmeyer.

This could help improve the use and enjoyment of these unique areas, he added.

Two-thirds of people in England live within 30 minutes of a National Park or AONB, with visitors contributing more than £6bn each year to the local economy.

Game-changing

Emma Marrington, senior rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), described the review as “potentially game-changing”.

It was an opportunity to shine the spotlight on national parks and AONBs – and to consider whether there should be new additions to the current network of designated landscapes. …”

http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/rural-groups-react-to-national-park-review

East Devon National Park? Not in EDDC’s (many thousands of) back yards!

Gove wants more national parks. Dorset wanted a Jurassic National Park for Dorset and East Devon. Then EDDC Leader Paul Diviani said NO, NO, NO – we would lose control of planning (housing growth is heavily restricted in national parks).

And Clinton Devon Estates is most definitely against it too:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/11/09/dorset-positive-about-national-park-we-cant-join-up-as-diviani-doesnt-want-to-lose-control-of-assets/

And we wouldn’t want that, would we ….. well, naturally, of course, Owl would! And Owl suspects many others would welcome it.

A test of new Leader Ian Thomas’s green credentials?

“New wave of national parks could be created under Michael Gove’s plans for a ‘Green Brexit’

A new generation of National Parks could be created under Michael Gove’s plans for a “Green revolution”, The Telegraph can disclose.
The Environment Secretary is announcing on Sunday a sweeping review of the country’s protected landscapes, 70 years after the designation of the first National Parks.

The review, to be conducted by a panel led by Julian Glover, a former Downing Street adviser, “will look at both extending existing sites or creating new ones”, Mr Gove’s department said.

It is likely to consider calls for landscapes such as the Chilterns and South Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to join the list of 10 National Parks, which include the Lake District, Snowdonia and New Forest, and are protected by dedicated planning authorities and given special status in law.

Earlier this month, Dame Cheryl Gillan, the former Conservative cabinet minister, warned the Chilterns AONB was “threatened by development on all sides” and said National Park status “would provide safeguards at the highest level”.

Writing for the Telegraph, Mr Gove describes how National Parks are made particularly precious by the fact they are legally required to “promote opportunities for enjoyment” for visitors and to “provide homes for the farmers who keep our countryside both productive and beautiful”.

He adds: “In order to ensure our protected landscapes are in the best possible shape to meet future challenges I have asked the acclaimed writer Julian Glover, a passionate advocate for the countryside and a resident of one of our National Parks, to lead a review into how we can guarantee our most precious landscapes are in an even healthier condition for the next generation. The goal of Julian’s review is not to diminish their protection in any way, but to strengthen it in the face of present-day challenges.
“Are we properly supporting all those who live in, work in, or want to visit these magnificent places? Should we indeed be extending our areas of designated land? Could we do more to enhance our wildlife and support the recovery of natural habitats?”

The review, a key plank of the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan for a “Green Brexit”, will seek to “enhance natural habitats and protect plants and wildlife” as well as consider “expanding [the] network of National Parks and AONBs, supporting people who live and work there,” the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said. It will also look at ways to improve public access, in line with a separate pledge by Mr Gove to replace EU farming subsidies with a new system which pays farmers to improve access to their land.

The last time a new National Park was created was in 2009. Dame Cheryl has said designating the Chilterns as a National Park would help to “enhance the environment”.

Campaigners have also called for the Dorset AONB to be upgraded to National Park status, while others have advocated designating the Forest of Dean and Herefordshire Black Mountains as AONBs. While both statuses afford special protections, National Parks have a second formal purpose, under the 1995 Environment Act, to “promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities” of the areas by the public.

The Government pledged to conduct a review of protected landscapes as part of its 25-year Environment Plan. In its foreword, Mr Gove stated: “The plan looks forward to delivering a Green Brexit – seizing this once-in-a-lifetime chance to reform our agriculture and fisheries management, how we restore nature, and how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/05/26/new-wave-national-parks-could-created-michael-goves-plans-green/

EDDC Independents lead call for action on local health provision

Owl can’t quite see why Tory Councillor Allen felt the need to table his amendment – perhaps he felt Independent councillors were rather too Independent and therefore needed a dash of Tory policy! Now we just have to hope that new Leader Thomas doesn’t go and do exactly the opposite of what was resolved when he attends to DCC health scrutiny meetings – as Diviani notoriously did last year.

“A motion calling for the community hospitals which have lost beds to be maintained as health hubs, that services and clinics should be moved out of Exeter to local community hospitals and that more outpatient services should be provided in each community hospital was discussed by East Devon District Council at their meeting last week.

Proposing the motion, Cllr Marianne Rixson [EDA, Independent] said that health hubs in local areas need to be supported by the Council.

She added that the need for less travelling and difficult local bus services needed to be taken into consideration and that if place-based care was to be effective then the level of out-patient services need to be increased overall or at least maintained in every town.

She was supported by Cllr Val Ranger [Independent] who added that those people discharged early from hospital, children and elderly living with long-term health conditions should be able to access out-patient services locally in every community.

Councillors voted for an amendment, proposed by Cllr Mike Allen [Conservative], that said that this Council resolves to welcome the proposal of the Devon CCG’s to develop placed-based health care where strong evidence suggested that it would deliver high-quality patient care and sustainable services.

It added: “However, due to lack of supporting clinical evidence and clear future planning, the Council has strongly opposed closure and removal of community hospital beds and hospital-based services throughout East Devon.

“All efforts are made, in consultation with local communities, to ensure the existing estate of community hospitals was retained for health care purposes, where appropriate, the potential development of ‘Health Hubs’ was investigated, and council members received from the Clinical Commissioning Group a review of service changes (bed-based to home/community based care) made during 2017/2018 in East Devon, to include clinical evidence highlighting levels of patient safety and outcomes achieved and an evidence-based forward plan of proposed changes to health services in East Devon, for initial discussion at a future Cabinet.

After the meeting, Cllr Martin Shaw [DCC East Devon Alliance], said that he has written to Cllr Ian Thomas, who is due to become the new leader of the council on May 16, asking for assurances that each of the hospitals which has lost its beds (Axminster, Honiton, Ottery and Seaton), as well as Exmouth and Sidmouth, to be kept open and that a formal public consultation in the affected town and surrounding area should a closure of any community hospital, involving substantial relocation of outpatient services, be proposed.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/health/closure-removal-hospital-beds-should-1530794

Committee promises to double the number of unicorns in Devon and Somerset

How will we know that this committee can or will double productivity in 20 years? They will tell us in 20 years time! How will we know if they are correct? Answers on a postcard …

From the press release:

“Representatives from 23 organisations across Devon and Somerset today agreed steps to drive up productivity at the first meeting of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Joint Committee.

The inaugural meeting of the Joint Committee unanimously endorsed the Productivity Strategy that has been taking shape over the last two years and aims to double productivity over 20 years.

At the meeting in Plymouth City Council offices, the committee also voted unanimously to appoint Councillor David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, as the first Chair of the new committee and Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, as the Vice Chair. …

… The Productivity Strategy aims to double productivity in the area over 20 years, focussing on themes including promoting business leadership, housing, connectivity, infrastructure, skills and training. It looks at growth, capitalising on the area’s distinctive assets and maximising the potential of digital technology. … [just as a large part of digital technology has gone into freefall!]

Somerset County Council is acting as the host of the HotSW Joint Committee and meeting agendas and further information including the full Productivity Strategy can be found here:

http://democracy.somerset.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=357