INDEPENDENT COUNCILLORS SLAM TORY SUPPORT FOR HIGH RISK EXMOUTH STRATEGY

Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Temporary Exmouth seafront attraction set for extended stay”

“… In the planning application’s support statement, Alison Hayward, the district council’s senior manager of regeneration and economic development, said: “The council now has the ability to undertake the development as approved but this will not happen immediately.

“With that in mind, the council wishes to continue operating the temporary attractions from the site for another year until March 2020, after the current temporary permission expires in March 2019.” …”

http://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/temporary-attractions-exmouth-seafront-extension-application-1-5766604

Exmouth – road to nowhere?

“Work is set to begin on phase one of the Exmouth seafront regeneration scheme this month after East Devon District Council (EDDC) cabinet gave its approval despite not having ‘legal commitment’ from Grenadier Estates for ‘phase two’.

The developer, which is planning to begin construction on a new watersports centre in spring 2019, says it is ‘committed and on schedule’.

Councillors at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday (October 31) were told there were ‘verbal assurances’ from Grenadier but that waiting any longer for a written commitment would result in works on the road, which had originally been expected to begin in September, being put back until next summer. Members were told the council had sought independent commercial advice in case Grenadier decided to pull out.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Megan Armstrong warned that verbal assurances are not good enough, adding: “The council is incurring costs without Grenadier being legally committed and if the council is willing to spend all this money on possibly a road to nowhere then so be it but I actually despair of this council making this decision.”

However, councillor Jill Elson said: “We have already incurred costs of £63,000 and if we delay any more we will be adding another £63,000 and we need a better car park.

“I believe we should be saying to Grenadier we are pushing to get on and we want this done in the winter and don’t want it done in the summer.

“I think it would be horrendous in the summer, not only for the tourist industry but there will be a health and safety issue for members of the public.”

Councillor Ian Thomas, cabinet committee chairman and leader of EDDC, said: “It’s incredibly important that we keep the Exmouth regeneration programme moving than allowing it to stagnate.

“It’s important that building works aren’t scheduled in the middle of the summer season and the disruption it will cause on the seafront in Exmouth.”

http://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/exmouth-seafront-road-work-set-to-start-1-5766519

“Bombshell No Deal Brexit documents show councils fear billions in lost funding and soaring poverty”

Remember, EDDC has confirmed it has done NO Brexit planning:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/09/06/eddc-has-done-no-brexit-planning/

“Councils have compiled a dossier of No Deal Brexit documents which warn that thousands could be left destitute in communities across the country.

Local authorities fear they may be left “unable to effectively support local communities” but they warn that the Government is failing to heed the warnings.

They say that a post Brexit downturn could see businesses up and down the country go bust.

While a series of major investment proposals have been put on hold due to Brexit.

A number of councils suggested Brexit will make desperately needed regeneration projects “unviable”.

Strikingly some of the most stark warnings come from areas which voted to Leave.

Fenland District Council rank the risk associated with a no deal Brexit on the same level as that of a natural disaster.

The area in the East of England depends on unskilled labour from Eastern Europe and 70% of people living there voted to Leave.

It produced a corporate risk register in June which gave the risk of failing to take action to prepare for Brexit a score of 25/25.

That rating is reserved for items with the potential for “catastrophic impact” and equal to the threat posed by a natural disaster.

Hackney Council raised concerns over the impact of Brexit on local job growth, with one local business claiming Brexit had “traumatised our office and the sector we cover”.

Hackney also echoed other local councils in reporting a spike in hate crimes since the 2016 referendum.

Harrow Council in London also predicted an increases in levels of poverty, homelessness and health inequalities in the Borough.

Lancashire County Council highlighted the importance of EU trade, with 62% of Lancashire’s exports (£1,876 million per year) destined for the EU market.

Around 300 councils replied to the Freedom of Information requests which were put in by campaigning group Best for Britain- making the project one of the largest bodies of research into Brexit planning undertaken so far.

Commenting on the findings, Best for Britain champion Layla Moran MP said: “These internal council documents are devastating. They show Brexit will cause tremendous damage to their ability to provide the quality public services towns and cities up and down the country so desperately need.

“The only thing scarier than these documents is the fact that some councils haven’t done them – effectively they’re walking off a cliff blindfolded.

“The finger should point directly at those extremist Brexiteers in the Tory party with a gun to the country’s head. We cannot let this sinister gang of hucksters usurp common decency and sensible politics.

“Thankfully, the fight isn’t over. We can still put a stop to this madness through a people’s vote with the option to stay in the EU. Only then will the people of this country be able to compare the devastation of Brexit – as shown in these documents – with the bespoke deal we’ve been building up over the past four decades.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/bombshell-no-deal-brexit-documents-13238369

Manchester regeneration makes inequality worse

“Glitzy high-rise developments have been on the march in Manchester for the past 30 years but they have left poorer families out in the cold, according to a damning report.

Predictions have been made that Manchester is facing a looming housing crisis due to a “misguided” developer-led regeneration strategy.

Almost 50,000 new and mostly private homes are planned in central Manchester by 2040 – yet some 80,000 people are currently on Greater Manchester’s social housing waiting list.

The report from Alliance Manchester Business School said regeneration over the past 30 years has focused disproportionately on new flats and offices in the two central boroughs of Manchester and Salford. It said this has resulted in a centre filled with one and two-bed buy-to-let flats built for one demographic – young white-collar workers – and is failing to meet the demands of others such as families and those on lower incomes.

The report also argued that there is a danger of the creation of “social clearances” where expensive new developments could create community tensions. As central Manchester expands, the planned developments in areas such as Angel Meadow and Collyhurst could intrude on existing communities, many of them in areas of social deprivation.

Over the past 30 years, according to the reports’ authors, local authorities have allowed private property developers to lead the city’s regeneration, focusing primarily on building new flats and offices in central Manchester and Salford. The repercussion of this, they said, is that the city is no longer meeting the needs of many of its residents and does not have the social infrastructure such as schools, libraries and broadband “that communities need to thrive”. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/13/manchesters-building-boom-has-left-poorer-families-out-in-the-cold

Misleading headline about future of Sidmouth’s Drill Hall

The Midweek Herald website has an article entitled “Concerns over Sidmouth’s redundant Drill Hall site quelled”. On reading the article it will become patently clear that, far from being quelled, the future of the Drill Hall looks extremely insecure:

“… In June, community groups were given six months to make a bid for proposals to redevelop the site – they have until February 4, 2019.

Exeter-based agent JLL, which was appointed by East Devon District Council (EDDC), plans to open the bidding up to the commercial property sector in the Autumn, giving them three months to put forward a bid.

Two members of the public came forward at the latest Sidmouth Town Council meeting on Monday. Resident Di Fuller raised issues with there being no published criteria on what the bids would be judged on. While, resident Simon Fern spoke out about his fears that the owners of the Drill Hall (EDDC) will simply sell to the highest bidder.

District and Town Councillor David Barrett said: “It would be impossible for me properly discuss the details of that criteria until it is discussed in the forum that decides the criteria.”

He added that the forum was hoping to meet soon and that he believed they would be looking at the criteria then.

Town Clerk Christopher Holland said: “My understanding is that it isn’t this council that gets the final say on this, it is not even this council who will have a say on this as such. We are being consulted and that is about it.

“My understanding is that when the criteria has been agreed they will be made publicly available to everybody but that will be through the agent. It won’t be through us, it won’t be through EDDC. It will be through the appointed agent so that they are fair to absolutely everybody and that is commercial and community bids both. They have to be fair to everybody and treat everybody in exactly the same way. So approaching us or EDDC for other information is just not going to work, you have to deal with the agent.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/concerns-over-sidmouth-s-redundant-drill-hall-site-quelled-1-5685665

Are your fears quelled? Owl’s are not!

Exmouth: dunes to disappear to replenish beach sand 2020-2025?

Fascinating that one of EDDC’s “old guard” councillors, Ray Franklin, got it SO wrong!

“… Cllr Ray Franklin, the portfolio holder for environment at East Devon District Council back in 2004, said: “The dunes will recover – it’s the way of nature. Sand has been lost, but it’s likely that the next storm will come from a different direction and bring more sand with it.”

And implications for the water sports centre?

“… Exmouth Beach is expected to be depleted over time, with the 2015 Beach Management Plan anticipating that beach recharge (importing new sand onto the beach) may be required between 2020 – 2025. The Beach Management Plan recommends that consideration is given to recycling of the material comprising the dunes to reinforce the beach between the new lifeboat station and Orcombe Point. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/what-happened-exmouths-iconic-sand-1935782