£2 million unspent on broadband cannot be reallocated

“Councillors in Devon have been told that they cannot use £2m of unspent funds from a major broadband project.

External funding has been used to finish the first phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset scheme, the largest government-funded superfast broadband programme in the UK.

However, councillors who wanted to use the extra £2m to accelerate the project have been told that it is not within the county council’s power to reallocate funds.

“Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council cabinet member for economy and skills, said: “The money isn’t for us to redistribute.

“We are not the accountable authority or the contract holder, so it is not for us to redistribute that money.”

The first phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset project has been used to install superfast broadband in homes on Exmoor and Dartmoor with other difficult areas due to be completed by next year.


Rural extra-fast broadband grants exclude East Devon

“Thirteen areas win funding for broadband

Thirteen areas have been awarded a share of £95 million to help with the rollout of ultrafast broadband – which delivers internet speeds of up to 1GB per second – which is currently only available to three per cent of the population. The successful bidders include Manchester, London, Blackpool, Cambridgeshire, Coventry, Mid Sussex, North Yorkshire, Portsmouth and Wolverhampton.”
Source: i p10

and full list:

Cranbrook will grow to 8,000 homes over 15 years

Owl says: and still it has no town centre and developers refuse to fund one!

“Feedback on how Devon’s newest town, Cranbrook, should grow and develop over the next 15 years, goes before councillors next week.

The Cranbrook Plan: Preferred Approach’ document sets out how the growth of the town up to around 8,000 households over the next 15 years will be achieved.

A community consultation ran for eight weeks from mid-November last year to early January and it gave residents of Cranbrook and its neighbouring communities the opportunity to comment on the proposals for the future of the town contained within the document ‘Cranbrook Plan: Preferred Approach’.

In addition to identifying land for new houses, the document also identified land for sport and community, economy and enterprise, schools, allotments and Gypsy and Travellers pitches. …

Outline planning permission for the first 2,900 homes at Cranbrook was issued in October 2010 followed shortly by the reserved matters for the first 1,100 homes in April 2011. Today there are approximately 1,700 households living at Cranbrook, equivalent to a population of around 4,000 people, but the Local Plan anticipates Cranbrook comprising approximately 7,850 new homes by 2031. This equates to a population of around 20,000 people meaning that Cranbrook will have quickly expanded to become the second largest town in the District.

The consultation revealed that there is a concern over relationship with properties at Broadclyst Station, who are keen to retain a separate identity, that the East Devon New Community partners say that the Treasbeare area could accommodate a minimum of 1,000 dwellings as opposed to the 800-950 stated in the masterplan, and that there should be a school in both of the Bluehayes and the Treasbeare area of Cranbrook..

On transport issues, the responses reveal that the delivery of a half-hourly rail service is a key ambition of the plan in order to encourage use of rail travel as an alternative to the car, but that despite the wishes of residents for the old A30, the B3174 London Road to remain as a bypass to developed, it is scheduled to be downgraded from its current status and to become an integral part of the town. …”


Blackill Engineering Extension – is this an excuse to drive a new industrial site into the heart of the Pebblebed Heaths?

These days most large developers pay for pre-application advice before submitting a planning application. A recent Freedom of Information request has uncovered the advice that was offered to someone (name redacted) seeking such advice on proposed business units at Blackhill Quarry, Woodbury in early October 2017.

Specifically this proposal was for the erection of AN ADDITIONAL industrial building to support the existing business, Blackhill Engineering, being operated form the site together with the erection of FIVE ADDITIONAL industrial buildings for use by other businesses.

In summary the advice given was that this would not comply with the protective policies that cover this sensitive site. A much stronger employment benefit case regarding the expansion of the existing business to justify a departure from these policies would be needed. The five speculative industrial buildings would not justify a policy departure.

On 20 December 2017, within three months of this advice, planning application 17/3022/MOUT was submitted for outline application seeking approval of access for construction of up to 3251 sqm (35,000 sq ft) of B2 (general industrial) floor space with access, parking and associated infrastructure.

The accompanying justification reads:

“There is considerable and clearly identified need for the existing business at Blackhill Engineering to expand as a result of that business having grown considerably over recent years and with its existing premises now at full capacity. The provision of additional facilities on the application site would allow the company to continue its expansion and so deliver additional economic and employment benefits to the local area…. With the winding down of the existing quarry use of the site, there is a short and fortuitous window of opportunity in which to address BESL’s growth requirements with the reuse of an area of former minerals processing site….It is a crucial part of both local and national employment strategy to protect existing businesses and to encourage their expansion. If approved, the scheme would allow the existing business not to only remain at the site but also to expand. The resulting investment will enable a substantial increase in the provision of highly skilled jobs in the area, increased training opportunities for apprentices and added value to the local economy. Furthermore, the expansion of the Blackhill Engineering will help reinforce the vitality of its parent organisation…”

So, is this application all about the needs of Blackhill Engineering to expand, having already designed flood defence gates for New York City Hospital, worked for the European Space Agency and the pier at Hinkley Point, which in October seemed to require only one building; or more about Clinton Devon Estates trying to generate rent from a new industrial park? Restoration provides no income.

For those interested here is the detailed pre-application advice, given on an informal basis and without prejudice, in about half the words:

The extant planning permission on the site requires a restoration and aftercare scheme to be implemented following cessation of the quarrying operations. As part of this condition, alternative schemes (subject to planning permission) can be considered but two policies are of particular relevance:

East Devon Local Plan- Strategy 7 – Development in the Countryside.

This strategy states that development in the countryside “will only be permitted where it is in accordance with a specific Local or Neighbourhood Plan policy that explicitly permits such development”. In this instance, there is no local or neighbourhood plan which would permit the proposal and, therefore, it is considered that it would not comply with Strategy 7.

East Devon Local Plan- Policy E5 – Small scale Economic Development in Rural Areas.

This policy states that the expansion of existing businesses designed to provide jobs for local people will be permitted where

1. it involves the conversion of existing buildings. Or

2. if new buildings are involved, it is on previously developed land. Or

3. if on a greenfield site, shall be well related in scale and form and in sustainability terms to the village and surrounding areas.

In this instance, the Local Planning Authority recognise the previously developed nature of the site, however, in the ‘Glossary of Terms’ section of the Local Plan (which echoes those contained in the National Planning Policy Framework) previously developed land specifically excludes land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill purposes where provision for restoration has been made through development control procedures.

Accordingly, the land would be considered as greenfield.
In terms of Policy E5, as the site would not be well related in sustainability terms to Woodbury or surrounding areas, the proposal would be contrary to policy.

However, if sufficient justification can be made in terms of the needs of the existing business being operated from the site to expand into an additional building, then the economic benefits may outweigh the environmental harm, of the unsustainable location as a departure from the Local Plan.

For this purpose, an economic benefits statement would need to be submitted as part of an application.

The five speculative units being located in an unsustainable location would not be acceptable.”

Developers and loopholes – go together like a horse and carriage!

Owl says: as millions of pounds meant to be used for affordable homes was returned to the Treasury by the Department of Communities, Local Government and HOUSING, we can only assume this government doesn’t give a stuff about this.

“Property developers have used a legal loophole to halve the number of affordable homes that they are building in the countryside.

A study of more than 150 new housing developments found that confidential viability assessments had been used to cut the number of affordable houses by 48 per cent. The assessments let developers break promises made to get planning permission, if they can show those commitments will eat into profits.

The research, which was commissioned by Shelter, the charity for the homeless, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), found that eight rural councils lost 938 affordable homes after viability studies over the course of a year. “The viability loophole is slashing affordable housing supply in the countryside,” the report said. “The profits of volume housebuilders are rocketing, yet affordable housing provision by the same developers is being undercut on the grounds that it is not profitable enough.”

In one instance in Cornwall, the owners of a disused tin and copper mine promised that 40 per cent of the site’s 99 new homes would be affordable. They cut that commitment to zero with a viability study. The owners then advertised the plot for sale, boasting in the brochure that all of the plots had been approved for “open market housing” without any “liabilities”.

Central Bedfordshire, which was the worst affected of the eight councils in the study, lost 533 affordable homes in the 2015-2016 financial year.

Affordable housing includes homes for social rent, shared ownership and other intermediate tenures. “The term affordable in this context does not necessarily mean that these homes are in fact genuinely affordable to local people,” the report said.

The profits of Britain’s three biggest builders, Barratt Developments, Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon Homes, have quadrupled since 2012 to £2.2 billion a year. Yet they regularly cite financial constraints to reduce the percentage of affordable homes at new developments.

At Sowerby Gateway in North Yorkshire, Taylor Wimpey promised to build 256 affordable homes. A viability study cut that promise to zero. “Too much of our countryside is eaten up for developments that boost profits, but don’t meet local housing needs because of the viability loopholes,” said Crispin Truman, the chief executive of CPRE.

Councils can challenge viability studies but the government has guaranteed big builders at least a 20 per cent profit. If the builders can show that they stand to make less, the government will side with them.

“Developers are using this legal loophole to overpower local communities and are refusing to build the affordable homes they need,” said Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter.

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, has promised to review how “viability is assessed” when he starts a consultation next week to overhaul the planning laws.

Separate research by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank, found that the number of people sleeping rough in rural parts of England increased by 42 per cent from 397 in 2010 to 565 in 2016.

Houses are 26 per cent more expensive in the countryside because of pressure from wealthy retirees and buyers of second homes, but wages in rural areas are 26 per cent lower, which has created an exodus of young families.

Andrew Whitaker, from the Home Builders Federation, an industry body, said local authority targets were always negotiable. “There is a limit as to what can be extracted from development sites before they become unviable and you get no homes of any sort,” he said.”

Source: Times (paywall)

Are EDDC Tory councillors having broadband problems?

Written Answers – Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Broadband: East Devon (26 Feb 2018)

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what estimate his Department has made of the number of homes that have access to superfast broadband in East Devon.

Written Answers – Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Broadband: East Devon (26 Feb 2018)

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what estimate his Department has made of the number of businesses that have access to superfast broadband in East Devon.

“east devon” : 1 Written Answer

Written Answers – Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Broadband: East Devon (26 Feb 2018)

Margot James: According to Thinkbroadband, currently 90.02% of premises in *East Devon* can access superfast broadband. This is up from 9.4% in 2012. DCMS does not hold data on broadband coverage which distinguishes between homes and businesses.

EDDC to help unauthorised Greendale businesses to relocate

Owl says: Here is EDDC’s version of the Greendale High Court decision.

With hindsight, EDDC might have been better served by not allowing the unauthorised businesses on to the site in the first place. And if the owners allowed businesses on an unauthorised site, maybe the owners and the businesses should be paying for specialists when those businesses have to move this time, not availing themselves of a free service from EDDC – especially as the rest of us are paying more and more for OUR EDDC services.


21 February 2018
Enforcement action taken to remove unauthorised development at Greendale Business Park
Council will work with park owners to find alternative locations for businesses

East Devon District Council has successfully fought a planning appeal by Greendale Business Park against an enforcement notice requiring the park owners to remove an unauthorised extension.

The business park has been extended into the countryside after four fenced compounds were created, concreted over and were used variously for the storage of mobile homes, shipping containers, portakabins and, in the case of one of the compounds, had two permanent buildings on it.

Following the latest High Court hearing, it now means that the owners of Greendale Business Park, FWS Carter and Sons, must comply with the enforcement notice, remove the extension and return the land to countryside within six months of the court’s decision.

Councillor Mike Howe, chairman of the district council’s development management committee, said that the council will work with the park owners to find alternative locations for businesses on the unauthorised site affected by the enforcement notice.

“This case demonstrates that we take unauthorised development very seriously and as a local authority are charged with using our enforcement powers to ensure that development carried out without planning permission is removed.

“We will work hard with the site owners to find alternative locations for the businesses currently operating from this unauthorised area.

“We’re pleased that the courts have now stopped this appeal from proceeding any further and the enforcement notice to get these works removed has now taken effect.”

The works were all carried out without planning permission and a subsequent planning application was refused due to the harm that the extension caused to the countryside and the visual amenity of the area.

Following the refusal of planning permission, the council served an enforcement notice on the owners requiring the uses to cease and the land returned to its former condition including the removal of temporary and permanent buildings, fencing and hard surfacing.

Although the owners appealed against the enforcement notice, a planning inspector ruled in favour of the council and directed the owners to stop using the land in the way it was and return it to its former condition within six months.

The owners subsequently appealed against the decision in the High Court arguing that the planning inspector had made an error in law by concluding that the East Devon Local Plan specifically covered the issue of development at Greendale Business Park.

In responding, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government argued that FWS Carter and Sons had misinterpreted the Local Plan and that their interpretation was “patently wrong”. Ultimately, the court did not grant the owners a further opportunity to proceed with an appeal and they will have to pay all costs arising from the case.”