Greendale Business Centre: FWS Carter and Sons application fails at the High Court

PRESS RELEASE:

“After 3 years challenging the planning system, Greendale Business Park owners are required to return an area back to Agricultural use.

It may have taken 3 years but finally the Planning Department at East Devon District Council (EDDC) has succeeded in winning a long running planning and legal challenge.

It was the 8th Feb 2015 when earth moving and general building works were first reported to EDDC Enforcement Officers by neighbours of Greendale Business Park. This was on a 3.5Ha site, east of the existing permitted development area at the Business Park near the village of Woodbury Salterton.

Following investigation, the Local Planning Authority (EDDC) served an Enforcement Notice to the owners FWS Carter and Sons, but they chose to ignore the notice and carried on developing the site at “their own risk”.

A planning application was submitted nine months later (06/11/2015 15/2592/MOUT) but the development was considered to lie outside the agreed development area for Greendale Business Park and it was refused by EDDC. A second attempt was made with a similar proposal split into 2 separate planning applications the following December but this was also refused (06/12/2016 16/2597/FUL and 16/2598/MFUL).

The Local Planning Authority then issued the owners with an Enforcement Notice, requesting the removal of the industrial concrete hardstanding, fences, buildings and the return of the land to agricultural use. The company then appealed to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate in March 2017 for the decision to be revoked.

on Dec 7th, 2017 the Inspector found in favour of the Local Authority and upheld their enforcement decision, but within days the Company lodged an appeal with the High Court. Last week 08/02/2018 the Judge ruled that there was no case to answer and therefore the decision by the Local Authority was upheld and costs of £3998 was set against the applicants, FWS Carter and Sons.

The Company now has 6 months to remove all industrial activity and return the land to agricultural use. This work will be monitored very closely

Another section of the Business Park (an area approximately 1Ha) south of the Greendale Business Park and just off Hogsbrook Lane, has also been developed without planning consent. The owners FWS Carter and Sons claimed in Oct 2017 that this land has been in “unlawful” industrial use for more than 10 years and they applied for a little-known planning regulation loophole known as a “Certificate of Lawfulness ” (17/2441/CPE) to enable the area to continue to be used without requiring further planning approval.

However, the Local Planning Authority followed Legal Advice and concluded that the land had not been used “unlawfully” for 10 years because there was lawful permitted development with a gas pipeline contractor occupying the site for 3 years. Because of this, the Certificate of Lawfulness was refused and it is expected that an Enforcement Notice will be served on the Company for this breach of planning shortly.

Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC Ward Councillor for Raleigh Ward which includes Greendale Business Park says, “It is a great shame that the Company started to develop this area prior to any planning permission being in place. The efforts and costs incurred by the company in developing the site, including the cost of architects, planning consultants, barristers, solicitors, court costs, contractors’ costs and everyone’s time has all been wasted.”

“Add to that the considerable costs to the local authorities` planning, enforcement and legal teams in endeavouring to provide a sound and fair case.”

“It’s quite clear the Planning System has moved on enormously in the last 15 years, with much more openness and clarity, mainly down to modern technology. Planning applications and official documents are now open to scrutiny at the touch of a button and can be viewed without leaving your house.”

“Previously documents were available only at District and Town Halls, for interested parties to view but now the internet and Local Authority Planning Portals provide everyone with a better understanding of the planning regulations and legal issues involved.”

“I look forward to the day when all developers will follow the normal planning procedures and not proceed in such a cavalier way. This may have been the way it was done in the past but its proving much more difficult now.”

“I would like to thank the many local people who have frequently written to the Planning Authority to comment whenever it was required, as well as the Planning and Legal Team at East Devon District Council who ensured that the Planning Regulations were correctly upheld”

So, how is EDDC’s office relocation going?

With the new barn-like EDDC HQ taking shape in Honiton, how is the project going? How much has it cost so far? What is the current projected cost?

Hard to say. Owl searched for news of the “Office Relocation Project Executive Group” and was directed to its website:

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/committees-and-meetings/other-panels-and-forums/office-relocation-project-executive-group/

where readers are told to consult the project archive:

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/access-to-information/historical-information/relocation-project-documentation-archive/project-document-archive/

Alas, the last document posted there was on 20 February 2013 (in response to the requirement of the Information Tribunal which EDDC lost) and Owl’s attempt to find anything more up-to-date (including current costings and financing arrangements) has so far failed.

Perhaps an EDDC councillor or officer can let Owl know where the latest information is – and who is in charge of the project these days?

“Audit committee calls for review of threshold for misconduct in public office offences”

Again, plenty Owl could might add here!

“The chair of a local authority’s audit and risk assurance committee has written to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to express concern at the “extremely high threshold” for consideration of Misconduct in Public Office offences.

The letter sent by Cllr Liam Preece of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough came after the local authority had referred certain allegations about some elected members to the police.

However, the police – following a review of the evidence held by the council – reached a determination that there was insufficient evidence to meet the threshold for recording a crime.

Cllr Preece said that the audit and risk assurance committee had accepted the police’s decision, “but were ultimately concerned that there is an extremely high threshold for consideration of Misconduct in Public Office offences which in turn could lead to a lack of public confidence in the process”.

He added in the letter, which can be viewed here, that the committee hoped that the relevant guidance issued to police forces in relation to the threshold criteria for such offences could be reviewed.

“The Committee feel that in cases of multiple serious breaches of the code of conduct, the police should feel more justified to bring charges against elected members to restore and maintain public confidence,” Cllr Preece told the DPP.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=34242%3Aaudit-committee-calls-for-review-of-threshold-for-misconduct-in-public-office-offences&catid=59&Itemid=27

“Westminster councillor received gifts and hospitality 514 times in three years”

Surely not the only one. So many councillors in Devon accept such hospitality …..particularly at sporting events …..

Full list of this councillor’s freebies here:
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/19/full-list-of-westminster-councillor-robert-daviss-514-freebies

“Westminster city council’s deputy leader has emerged as a contender for the title of the most schmoozed politician in Britain, receiving entertainment, meals and gifts more than 500 times in the last three years.

From tickets to the hottest West End shows to exclusive dinners in London’s finest restaurants and trips to the south of France, the official declarations reveal an extraordinary lifestyle that included one day in Mallorca, when Robert Davis managed two lunches, the first at the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

Davis, the Conservative deputy leader of the central London borough and until last year the chairman of its powerful planning committee, was entertained by and received gifts from property industry figures at least 150 times since the start of 2015 – a rate of almost once a week.

His entertainment was paid for by some of the country’s wealthiest property developers including Gerald Ronson, Sir Stuart Lipton and Sir George Iacobescu, the chief executive of Canary Wharf Group.

The Cambridge-educated solicitor was entertained or received gifts on 514 occasions since the start of 2015, suggesting he received benefits worth at least £13,000 although then overall total is likely to be several times higher.

Councillors must declare gifts and hospitality worth £25 or more, but some of the hospitality would have been worth much more. For example, property developers twice flew Davis to the south of France and put him up for four-day stays.

He was also gifted a ticket to the musical Hamilton by the impresario Cameron Mackintosh, which can cost as much as £250. Steaks at the M steakhouse, where he dined 20 times at others’ expense cost up to £100 each. Other property figures treated him to lunch at exclusive restaurants including Sexy Fish, Scott’s, the Colony Grill Room, the Ritz and the Ivy.

Davis was entertained 15 times at the expense of the Westminster Property Association, which represents major developers, including an expenses-paid trip to the south of France and dinners at the Grosvenor House and Goring Hotels in London.

Labour said the extent of Davis’s register of interests was evidence of a “broken culture at Westminster council” and said there was a “clear perception that senior Conservative councillors have a very close relationships with developers”. It has accused the council of letting developers get away with building far fewer “affordable” homes than required under Westminster’s planning policy.

Between 2013 and 2016 only 12% of the new homes built in Westminster were classed as “affordable” while the target was 35%. Davis chaired the council’s planning committee, which approves deals with developers over how much affordable housing they must build as part of private developments, between 2000 and January 2017. …

… a spokesman for Westminster city council hit back saying: “The idea that any councillor has been ‘bought’ by the property lobby is demonstrably untrue.”

“Westminster is a target for investment for UK and national developers, so it is hardly surprising that the chair of planning for Westminster city council – the largest planning authority in the UK – undertakes a large number of meetings,” he said. “Where hospitality is offered, these meetings are all declared in the register of interests and have absolutely no sway on planning decisions.”

Davis added: “As planning chairman it was an important part of my job to meet groups ranging from developers to residents, property agents, heritage associations, arts groups and trade organisations. These meetings were all properly declared and open to anyone to examine. Their sole purpose was to ensure and encourage the right kind of development in Westminster and ensure that anything put before the council was going to benefit the city as a whole.”

The records show Davis also dined with several planning consultancy companies whose job it is to help their clients secure planning consent. When he was chairman of the planning committee he was given breakfast at the Carlton Club in St James by the consultancy Thorncliffe which boasts on its website: “We get clients planning committee approval.”

There is no suggestion that Davis breached any rules.

Davis’s declared entertainment dwarves that of the leaders of his own council and the neighbouring Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The current leader of Westminster, Nickie Aiken, has registered only nine instances of gifts or hospitality for the first half of 2017. Nick Paget-Brown, the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea until the Grenfell tower disaster, recorded 43 instances since the start of 2015.

Hug said the extent of the entertainment Davis received during some periods was “ludicrous”.

On one day, while in Mallorca during August 2015, he registered two lunches: the first at the home of Madeleine Lloyd Webber, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s third wife, and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

The property developers that entertained or gave gifts to Davis include: the Crown Estate (13 times), Clivedale Properties, Capco, Irvine Sellar, Derwent London, Berkeley Homes, British Land, Land Securities, Grosvenor Estates, Soho Estates, Dukelease. Architects included Zaha Hadid, Make, Terry Farrell, Michael Squire and John McAslan.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Davis or any other named individual.

Davis was also gifted seats at 10 theatre shows at the expense of the impresario Cameron Mackintosh and a further 51 performances at venues including the Royal Opera House and the Regent’s Park open air theatre. In 2016 he was entertained at the expense of Harvey Weinstein at the after-party for the Bafta awards.

Since January he has been in charge of council policy on theatres and major public realm schemes.

Labour said that if elected to run Westminster council in May’s elections its councillors will not accept hospitality from individual developers or their agents.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/19/westminster-councillor-received-gifts-and-hospitality-514-times-in-three-years

Auditers – what are the good for? Papering over cracks?

“Carillion’s investors fled the failing company as it headed for disaster, according to MPs.

The construction firm’s annual reports were a worthless guide to its financial health and raise major questions about corporate governance, the MPs say.

The comments come in a joint report published on Monday by the Work and Pensions and Business committees.

Carillion’s former auditor, KPMG, will be questioned by MPs on Thursday.
Britain’s second largest construction company collapsed last month, with the loss of almost 1,000 jobs. There were also job cuts and widespread disruption among sub-contractors. …

… Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, said there was a “disconnect” between what Carillion directors told MPs and the information from shareholders.

“On one hand, the Carillion directors told us all was sunny” until a major contract in Qatar went wrong.

“On the other hand, investors were fleeing for the hills, and it appears those who looked closest ran fastest,” Mr Field said.

It has emerged that one leading investor – Kiltearn Partners – considered suing Carillion. …

Rachel Reeves, who chairs the Business Committee, said: “Investors spotted that Carillion was heading for disaster and fled.

“The company had unsustainably high levels of debt, weak cash-generation and was saddled with a widening pensions Rachel Reeves, who chairs the Business Committee, said: “Investors spotted that Carillion was heading for disaster and fled.

“The company had unsustainably high levels of debt, weak cash-generation and was saddled with a widening pensions deficit.

Carillion’s annual reports were worthless as a guide to the true financial health of the company.”

She said the fact that it was impossible to get a true sense of Carillion’s financial health “raises serious” corporate governance issues.

“KMPG will have to explain why they signed-off on accounts which appeared to bear so little relation to reality,” Ms Reeves said. …

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43107500

240 councils have taken out high-risk “toxic” loans

“A cash-strapped council which has banned all new spending is currently repaying £150m in “toxic” loans.

Northamptonshire County Council has invoked the ban on expenditure as it faces a £21m overspend for 2017-18. It said it would cost more than a quarter of a billion pounds to immediately repay the LOBO – or Lender Option Borrower Option – loans, described by critics as “risky”.

A council spokesman said “interest rate risk is inherent” in all borrowing.
The county council has a total of 19 LOBO loans, which are unregulated and typically spread over 40 to 70 years. They were used to meet expenditure on highways, infrastructure, schools and other such assets.

The authority said said it would cost £256m to repay them straight away.

Critics say the repayments would be better spent on under threat services such as bus subsidies and Trading Standards. Joel Benjamin, from campaign group Debt Resistance UK, called the loans “toxic”. He said the county council has “fallen victim to a lethal cocktail of cuts”, poorly run shared-services and “high interest, risky LOBO borrowing.” Financial expert Abhishek Sachdev said LOBOs “contained huge quantifiable risk at the outset”.

Mr Sachdev, who gave evidence about LOBOs to the Communities & Local Government Select Committee in 2015, added: “There is a reason why none of our large PLC corporate clients would ever enter into such a loan.”
Freedom of Information requests by Debt Resistance UK show around 1,000 LOBO loans have been taken out across 240 local authorities.

The figures show these have a face value of £15bn, while Mr Sachdev estimated it would cost about £26bn to exit them straight away.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-42977061

“Government spent £108m in failed attempts to stop people’s disability benefits” (to which they were entitled)

And how are they going to fix this? By employing 190 more officers!!!

“The Government has spent £108million in two years trying to prevent disabled people claiming benefits they are entitled to, it has emerged.

Freedom of Information requests have revealed how much taxpayers’ cash has been spent on unsuccessful legal battles to prevent vulnerable people receiving help.

The Department for Work and Pensions spent £108.1million on appeals against disability benefits in just two years, new figures reveal, reports The Mirror.

Neil Heslop, chief executive of disability charity Leonard Cheshire, said: “To spend this amount on admin fighting to uphold flawed decisions that shouldn’t have been made in the first place is staggering. “Thousands of disabled individuals have had to fight to receive support to which they are legally entitled.” …

The monthly cost has been steadily rising and in December the DWP spent £5.3million on mandatory reconsiderations and appeals for PIP and ESA.

The equivalent figure for October 2015 was £2million.

Since October 2015, 87,500 PIP claimants had their decision changed at mandatory reconsideration, while 91,587 claimants won their appeals at tribunal.

In the first six months of 2017/18 some 66% of 42,741 PIP appeals went in the claimant’s favour. …

A DWP spokeswoman said it was working to improve the process, including recruiting around 190 officers who will attend PIP and ESA appeals to provide feedback on decisions.