Another developer attempts to rip-off EDDC (and the NHS)

.”A housing developer has been accused of ‘blackmail’ over a refusal to pay any contribution to the NHS.

Councillors had previously agreed to a land swap between the Exeter Science Park and Eagle One that would make the next phase of the Science Park expansion more deliverable and allow the 150 new homes to form an extension of the Redhayes/Mosshayne development.

The plans were agreed by councillors in April, subject to a viability assessment of a £216,000 contribution towards the NHS due to the impact of the development.

At last Tuesday’s East Devon District Council development management committee meeting, Chris Rose, the council’s development manager, said that the NHS contribution would not have a sufficiently detrimental impact on scheme viability to cause the proposed land transfer to fail.

But he said that Eagle One have said that as the overall transaction would not be in their interest, they will not agree to provide any NHS contribution.

Officers had recommended that councillors approve the application, even without any NHS contribution.

Mr Rose said: “In pure viability grounds, our viability consultant considers that with the contribution to the Trust, the development is still just viable but could certainly support a reduced sum of £81,422 as officers have tried to negotiate.

“However, the applicant is not prepared to enter into a S106 agreement which includes any contribution to the Trust as they consider it doesn’t meet the tests for acceptability and that the land deal is on the basis of what was previously agreed without the contribution to the Trust.

“The options open to the council are therefore to either refuse planning permission on the basis that the development does not adequately mitigate its impact on health services, or accept that no contribution to the Trust will be forthcoming and proceed.

“The main risk with a refusal is that the proposed land deal would be lost which would negatively impact on the delivery of the Science Park.

“To issue an approval of planning permission without the contribution to the Trust would secure the land deal and have huge benefits to the progress of the Science Park. Members would need to be clear that to do this would accept no mitigation for the impact of the development on health services.

While at the current time, significant weight should be attached to the request for a contribution to the NHS Trust, it is considered that greater weight should be attached to the proposed land transfer which will facilitate significant long terms gains for the delivery of a major science park integrated with the other development happening in the area.

“While there are grounds to secure a contribution to the Trust, nevertheless the applicant will not agree to a contribution and have advised that they will not enter into the land transfer on this basis. “The only way for the Council to proceed with confidence that the land swap transaction will go ahead would be without the NHS contribution.”

He added though that late documentation had been provided by the applicant from neighbouring councils to support Eagle One’s assertion that the NHS’s request was not justified, but that officers had not had the chance to fully assess the documentation.

Cllr Kevin Blakey, portfolio holder for economy, said that the application should be approved due to the benefits it would bring to the Science Park, and that if it was refused, the land swap deal was almost certain to fail.

He added: “Although the request is legal, this deal won’t proceed if there is a requirement for Eagle One to make a contribution. It may be unpalatable but if we want to see this happen and introduce opportunities for highly paid and highly skilled jobs, this deal should proceed.”

But Cllr Mike Allen, lead member for business and employment, said that while the land swap should proceed, there should be a contribution for the NHS as it was viable. He added: “This has been rejected by Eagle One and I think they have stepped over the line from negotiation to bullying.”

Cllr Steve Gazzard said that he had real concerns about the application and that Eagle One’s behaviour was ‘tantamount to blackmail’. He said: “They will build 150 homes so that could be up to 500 people, and it will increase pressure on the NHS. It is not an undemanding request that they should provide something.”

He proposed that the application be deferred to seek further advice on the legitimacy of the health contribution following additional information being submitted by the applicant.

Cllr Paul Hayward supported him, although said: “I wouldn’t use the word blackmail. I think undue pressure may be better. I am sure there is a reason why the NHS has asked, so we have to take it into account. We have asked for something, and they are saying they won’t pay and won’t move their position at all. We need to see the evidence.”

The council’s solicitor, Henry Gordon Lennox, said that officers had considered the benefits from the land swap were sufficiently great that the application should be approved, even if there is no contribution towards the NHS.

He said: “We were content that the contribution was justified, and we have now been given information that it isn’t, and we haven’t had a chance to look at it properly. But as they aren’t paying a contribution anyway, so it is irrelevant.

“Our officers are suggesting you approve it without any contribution to the NHS. If you are not willing to do that, then deferral is the right option, as we need to understand the legitimacy of the health contribution.”

The committee agreed to defer a decision for a further month to seek further advice on the legitimacy of the health contribution.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/blackmail-claims-over-housing-developers-3205288

Not the first time Eagle One has hit the headlines:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/06/25/eddc-current-planning-policy-encapsulated-in-one-planning-application/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/11/19/more-development-between-exeter-and-cranbrook-when-will-it-stop/

Area around Science Park and western Cranbrook has high radon levels

“Radiation: You would imagine it’s more of a concern for those living near the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disaster exclusion zones.

But in truth Devon is notably radioactive and one of the worst affected parts of the UK as our soil and rock constantly seeps decaying uranium gas: Radon.

Above average levels of radon in Devon and Cornwall remains a silent killer in the rural parts of the county – and some residents are sat in homes that pose a greater risk of radiation absorption than working in a nuclear plant.

A map by Public Health England shows starkly how bad it is in comparison to other places. Even in the same county. For example, Exmouth shows little sign of radiation whereas Cranbrook has high than average levels.

Sobering facts also reveal thousands of deaths in the UK are linked to radon induced lung cancer, as the government works to help those impacted by it by ‘making safe’ their homes and workplaces. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/devon-surprisingly-radioactive-parts-worst-3111033

Enterprise Zone “gazelle” companies (some in Devon) have unintended consequences

“Britain’s fastest-growing businesses could be contributing to job losses, according to research that claims the government’s policy of backing entrepreneurial companies “may be fundamentally at odds” with tackling regional inequalities.

A study of the performance of more than six million companies over a period of 17 years found that high-growth businesses had a “spillover” effect that could damage local employers.

Fast-growing companies, sometimes dubbed “gazelles”, have been identified in recent years as a way of boosting job creation and improving the nation’s productivity. Despite accounting for less than 5 per cent of businesses, these companies create about half of all new jobs and typically show higher levels of productivity.

However, the study, conducted by the Enterprise Research Centre, found that companies with the fastest employment growth — 20 per cent growth every 12 months for three consecutive years — tended to grow by “hoovering up” jobs from slower- growing businesses in the same region, in what the researchers called a “crowding-out competition effect”.

A 1 per cent rise in the incidence of high-growth businesses in a region was found to actually slightly cut employment, by 0.35 per cent on average — equivalent to a net loss of about 122,000 jobs UK-wide over the period studied, 1997-2013. The worst affected regions included the Scottish Highlands, Cheshire, the North East, Lincolnshire and Devon. In contrast, many urban areas in the South East and Midlands saw a net jobs gain.

Negative effects were most pronounced in the manufacturing sector and rural parts of the UK, where competition for skilled workers was most intense, the researchers said.

The fastest growing companies often attract the most skilled workers in a region where such staff are scarce, leaving slower-growing rivals struggling to attract employees and having to pay more to keep existing team members. As a result they hire fewer people and could be forced into job cuts.

Mike Harding, director of Inspira Digital, said that his ecommerce agency based in Barnstaple, Devon, competes with a London-based agency with a satellite office in north Devon. “If you have someone offering London wages here, that is a black hole that sucks up the local talent,” he said.

The issue can be exacerbated by large companies being offered tax breaks to open an office in Devon in the name of local development, Mr Harding said.

Professor Jun Du of Aston University, one of the authors of the research, said that “while encouraging clusters of fast-growth firms can bring productivity benefits to whole supply chains, some regions and industries with acute skills shortages could see unintended consequences”.

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Sidford Business Park – disproportionate industrial development?

Recently posted comment:

“At the full EDDC Council meeting at the end of October 2018, independent Councillors Ben Ingham and Roger Giles, supported by 11 other councillors, tabled a motion to discuss the over provision of housing needs in our Local Plan and called for an independent assessment. In answer to a question as to why East Devon is taking a disproportionate share of development [58% more than Exeter, 53% more than Teignbridge and nearly three times that of Mid Devon according to independent analysis conducted by CPRE] Councillor Paul Diviani said:

“Because we have the land and we are good at it”!

[Perhaps he should be reminded that two thirds of East Devon lies in an AONB, or perhaps he doesn’t care].

This is not the argument that was put to Inspector Thickett at the public examination of the EDDC local plan in 2015 by Ed Freeman. Then, the argument for pitching the EDDC target at a minimum of 950 houses/year [about 30% more than could be supported by the evidence] was that we had jobs coming down the line. Specifically he mentioned 1,000 full time equivalent jobs a year.

Thankfully, we are effectively at full employment. Office for National Statistic population projections shows the South West population as a whole growing over the local plan period at around 0.8% per annum, including expected migration. However, we have an ageing population and the annual increase of those classified as of working age is only going to be 0.16% (16 to 64 for all genders). To satisfy this annual demand to find new jobs in East Devon [population 142,300] would only require around a couple of hundred a year, nowhere near the 1,000 that are being planned for.

The creation of jobs is generally a good thing but pursuing jobs as a primary objective is, I suggest, not what we need in Devon. What we need are better quality jobs to lift earnings and I am pleased to see that that is what ratepayers’ investment of £1.1M in the Exeter Science Park is aimed at achieving. But it only creates a one-off 158 jobs against the 1,000 a year needed to justify the development plan.

Can anyone provide an evidence based explanation of where these housing and job targets come from? Anyone believe that this is what they were voting for when they elected their councillors? And who are the “we’s” in Councillor Paul Diviani’s explanation?”

Why do we “need” Sidford Business Park when we have the Science Park Enterprise Zone down the road?

Enterprise Zones give favourable start-up arrangements such as business rate relief to businesses that take space in them – Sidford is not in an Enterprise Zone.

“East Devon District Council’s Cabinet last night agreed to invest £1.1m in the development of a new Open Innovation Building at Exeter Science Park, in the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone.

The investment will bring forward 20,000 square feet of space under one roof for growing small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) sectors.

Funding has been raised against future business rates income from the growing list of businesses seeking to establish offices and laboratories alongside leading regional science and tech companies already based at Exeter Science Park.

Councillor Ian Thomas, Leader of East Devon District Council said: “The Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone is a significant and strategically important development site for the area, with the potential to create over 10,000 jobs.

“This investment will bring forward the opportunity for up to 158 high value jobs in the Open Innovation Building for local people as well as boosting the local economy.

“The £1.1m grant is 15% of the total cost of the building, providing an additional 20,000 square feet of employment space at the Science Park. It means the Open Innovation Building can be ready for occupation in the second half of 2020.”

The Enterprise Zone investment will help fund the building, including the fitting-out.

Dr Sally Basker, Chief Executive of Exeter Science Park Limited said: “Exeter Science Park is growing rapidly and is on-track to become a community of around 700 people by 2021.

“The Science Park helps innovative STEMM companies to deliver extraordinary growth and this Enterprise Zone grant will help us meet accommodation needs of STEMM businesses – both those already located at the Science Park and new firms wishing to take the next step in their growth journey and create a sustainable business.”

Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone is part of the Heart of the South West’s multi-site enterprise zones offering economic opportunities in the area’s key sectors. These enterprise zones, with other sites at Oceansgate in Plymouth and at Gravity in Somerset, enable the local areas to retain a greater share of business rates to re-invest and attract new jobs and growth.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “This is another welcome investment in the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone. The site is key to economic growth in Devon and the Open Innovation Building will add to the portfolio of excellent facilities being developed within the Zone. New infrastructure will attract new businesses and help create high value job opportunities in the area.”

The Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone is in its second year of operation, with businesses benefiting from Government-funded business rate relief.

In April 2018 the Council agreed in principle to borrow up to £8m, with detailed approval for £3.4m of expenditure. Projects include the launch in September 2018 of an enhanced ConnEXions bus service with free wifi, a park and change site near Exeter Science Park which will be delivered this year, and design work for an upgrade to Long Lane adjacent to Exeter Airport.”

https://heartofswlep.co.uk/news/east-devon-district-council-agrees-1-1m-enterprise-zone-investment-exeter-science-park/