“State-sponsored dissident” Swire at it again!

Swire and May… Swire and Rudd … Swire and … just about anyone who might get him out of the hell of being a backbench MP!

“… What the government wants

A crucial insight into Downing Street’s thinking lies in an amendment put forward to the “meaningful vote” by the Tory MP Sir Hugo Swire. The government’s fingerprints were all over it.

Beyond parliament directing the government on whether to seek an extension of the transition period to avoid the backstop, Swire more significantly proposed to place “a duty” on the government to agree a future relationship, or alternative arrangements, within one year of the Northern Ireland backstop coming into force.

It was essentially an attempt to give parliament a putative date by which the government would make all “best endeavours” to get out of the backstop, or have a very good reason for failing to do so.

The withdrawal agreement already says that the EU will make those “best endeavours” to have a free trade deal in place by 2020 – the end of the 21-month transition period. The government may well seek for the reiteration of that commitment, plus an additional statement of the EU’s intention to get out of the backstop by 2021. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/11/brexit-what-can-may-hope-to-achieve-in-her-dash-to-the-continent

NHS: Ministers want NHS head to promise he can run the service with unicorns

Owl says: Actually the government just wants him to lie for their next manifesto – and then, when it all comes tumbling down, they will then probably fire him – for lying.

“The head of the NHS and the government are at loggerheads over how much the health service can be improved for the £20.5bn extra Theresa May has pledged to give it, the Guardian can reveal.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has been having major disagreements behind the scenes in recent weeks with Downing Street, the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care about how much the forthcoming NHS long-term plan can promise to boost care.

“Tension” and “difficulties” have emerged during detailed horsetrading between the two sides amid sharp differences of opinion over the extent of the document’s ambitions, well-placed NHS and Whitehall sources have told the Guardian.

Negotiations have left ministers “fed up” and “deeply irritated” that Stevens is refusing to include explicit guarantees they believe will reassure voters that the service will improve dramatically over the next five years thanks to the extra money.

The plan, which will set out how the extra money will be spent, had been due to come out earlier this week but was delayed and is likely to finally appear in the week after next, subject to events at Westminster and further discussions between Stevens and ministers about its contents.

Ministers have told NHS England the plan should include specific annual improvements it will promise to make every year between 2019-20 and 2023-24 in its most challenging areas.

They want milestones written into it spelling out how close in percentage terms the NHS will get every year to once again meeting key waiting time targets covering A&E care, cancer treatment and planned operations, and also by how much the service’s dire finances will be turned round.

However, Stevens has left ministers frustrated by telling them privately that their ambitions are not realistic. Allies say he believes the £20.5bn more by 2023-24 is not enough for hospitals to get waiting times back on track after years of struggling to meet them and simultaneously honour headline-grabbing promises May and Philip Hammond have made recently, ahead of the plan being published, to expand and improve cancer and mental health care. They also want the money to pay for care to be transformed, with a major expansion of out-of-hospital services.

NHS England set up 14 different “workstreams” in the summer to draw up detailed proposals for how key areas of care needed to change to improve the nation’s health and keep the NHS sustainable, given the pressures of the ageing and growing population.

Stevens’s realism about the limits of the plan’s ambition has been reinforced by that process identifying improvements that would between them cost £80bn a year extra, four times the £20.5bn May has pledged. That has forced him to order a drastic culling of those proposals that are too costly to include in the plan.

Stevens has also warned them that the NHS’s chronic lack of staff – it is short of 103,000 doctors, nurses and other personnel – will also make it hard to drive the measurable progress they are seeking. Gaping holes in the NHS workforce are “dreadful and getting worse”, one senior figure said.

“Simon wants one thing and the politicians want another. The Treasury want to pin him to the floor over the action he will take to get all the waiting time targets back on track over the next few years, and he is resisting that. He wants flexibility,” said one source close to the discussions.

The Treasury is particularly exasperated by Stevens’s stance. But allies of the NHS chief say that he does not want to have his hands tied, sign up to timescales for progress that are likely to prove impossible to meet and to open himself up to criticism in the future for not delivering them.

One ally said: “The Treasury are the ones who are especially looking for high-profile and concrete improvements in care that the government can sell to the public in return for the £20bn. There is a lot of anxiety [among NHS leaders] because everyone knows the extra money is barely enough to maintain current standards, let alone transform services.”

Stevens is understood to feel unable to make public his reservations about how much progress ministers should expect for the £20.5bn given that he welcomed the money – which May gave to mark the NHS’s 70th birthday in July – at the time as “a change of gear, a step up” after eight years of tiny 1% annual increases. Its budget will rise from £115bn now to £135bn in April 2023.

Another NHS leader said: “Ministers want all the key targets back to where they used to be, the £1bn annual deficit down to zero and a host of new commitments delivered, all within the 3.4% annual budget rises over the next five years that the £20bn involves. But the numbers, and the whole thing, just don’t add up. You simply can’t get all those improvements on those timescales on 3.4%. It isn’t deliverable. But that’s what the government wants.”

NHS Improvement, the service’s financial regulator, is helping to draw up the plan. It warned last week that hospitals had already overspent by £1.23bn by the end of September, halfway through the service’s financial year, and that it may take five years to restore waiting time performance.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, urged ministers and the public to be realistic.

“The NHS long-term plan is a vital opportunity to improve patient care and change the way we deliver services to the public. But we should not underestimate how difficult it will be to recover performance on waiting times and to move NHS trusts and other organisations back into the black.

“We must be realistic about what is possible within the extra £20bn – the last thing we need is to set local services up to fail. And, above all, we will need a plan for securing the staff we need to respond to changing healthcare needs.”

NHS England denied a rift, saying: “The NHS, patient groups, clinicians and government are working closely together to finalise the NHS long term plan ready for publication before Christmas.” The Department of Health and Social Care also said there was no dispute, and they were “working closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement to develop an ambitious long term plan for our health service.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/06/ministers-and-nhs-england-chief-at-loggerheads-over-targets

Yet Another Planning Saga at Greendale!

Clearly FWS Carter and Sons, the owners of Greendale Business Park are not taking “no” for an answer!

They have submitted two further retrospective planning applications 18/2661/COU and 18/2660/COU for two compounds on Hogsbrook Lane between Greendale Business Park and their farm at Hogsbrook.

There is a very long history going back 12 years for these two Industrial Compounds known as Compound East 6 at Greendale Business Park.

The area was an agricultural field up to 2007 when a Gas Pipeline Contractor building a new Gas Main through Devon used a “permitted development rights” application to construct a service yard for contractor’s equipment and storage, but with an agreed condition that it had to be returned to agricultural use following the completion of the project.

However, FWS Carter and Sons submitted a planning application APP 09/0099/FUL for the retention of hard standing and security fence for growing fruit! The retention was claimed by the applicant to be justified as fruit growing was an agricultural use and the project needed security fencing and a hard standing.

However, immediately after the approval, the site was used for the storage of scrapped vehicles by Woodbury Carbreakers. As the site did not have the appropriate planning nor Environment Agency permit a court case followed against the tenant and the site was eventually cleared after 3 years.

The Site Owners then used it for commercial and industrial purposes and finally submitted a retrospective planning application App 16/0568/FUL for Storage of HGVs in the Fruit Farm Enclosure. However, this application was refused. East Devon District Council were informed that the applicant would appeal. The applicant had 6 months up to 23/11/2016 to lodge an appeal, but no appeal was submitted, but the industrial use continued.

During this time EDDC Local Plan was approved in 2016 which included Policy E7 which allows extensions to Employment sites (except Greendale and Hill Barton that were considered too large for their rural locations). The East Devon Villages Plans approved in Feb 2018 also included a section on the “Greendale Employment Area” which excludes these specific locations off Hogsbrook Lane.

FWS Carter and sons in 2017 then applied for a Planning Variation order 17/2350/VAR to remove a planning condition to the original 2009 application which required the security fence and hardstanding to be removed if the fruit farm business failed. This application was held up for approximately 12 months due to legal matters. The Application was finally agreed in Oct 2018 but with a condition stating that the use must remain agricultural.
East of Compound 6 and further from the Hogsbrook Lane is an area that over the years has become a storage area for Industrial and agricultural products and equipment. It was originally used for the Gas Pipe line contractors and following their departure in 2009 it has been used by the landowners and their tenants.

In 2017 the owners submitted a Certificate of Lawfulness 17/2441/CPE. These Certificates are used by landowners who have used a specific area for more than 10 years without the correct planning permission and therefore are able to claim that the current use is now “lawful” after 10 years illegal use.

However, it was highlighted to the Planning Authority by the local “Woodbury Salterton Residents Association” that some of the use was agricultural and anyway the Gas Pipe Line Compound was “permitted development”, so the application failed the 10-year time requirement. Therefore, the submission failed.

It is normal practice that a planning Authority would inform landowners that an “Enforcement Notice” would eventually be served in cases like this where there has been breaches in planning regulations.

To presumably delay the Enforcement Notice, FWS Carter and sons have now submitted two further retrospective applications for a change of use application 18/2661/COU at compound East 6 and a further application 18/2660/COU for the compound relating to the failed “Certificate of Lawfulness”

Therefore, the Enforcement Notices will not be served whilst these applications are considered, with the decision to serve the Enforcement Notices being subject to the decision on these latest two applications.

The Saga of Hogsbrook Lane therefore continues!

LEP Growth Strategy branded “ludicrous” but still supported by (Tory) South Hams council!

Owl says: Owl has a strategy to catch twice as many mice as it catch now. The fact that there are far fewer mice, much less farmland, Owl is getting very much older and no owl has ever caught that many mice ever is immaterial – but it gives Owl “something to aim for”!

Councillors really do need to sit a test before they pretend to represent us!

“Plans to double SW productivity branded ‘ludicrous’

Plans to double the productivity of the South West by 2038 have been slammed as “ludicrous and a fairytale”.

The Heart of the South West Joint Committee has a vision for the whole of the region to become more prosperous, for people to have a better quality of life and to create a more vibrant economy where the benefits can be shared by everyone.

The productivity strategy says: “Our ambition is simple – to double the size of the economy over 20 years. We have ambitious local plans that outline needs and opportunities for housing and economic growth. To accelerate our progress towards our ambition and vision, improving productivity is our collective focus.”

South Hams District Council’s executive were noting the progress report they made since it was established in March.

Cllr Julian Brazil questioned how realistic and achievable the plans to double the economy in the next 20 years really were.

He said: “We haven’t seen that kind of growth in my lifetime. It is ludicrous and rubbish, and if they follow these fairytale and fictitious views about the economy, it doesn’t give it any credence. They should be much more realistic and things like this doesn’t give me any confidence they will come up with anything of any use.”

Cllr John Tucker leader of South Hams, said it was a stretch target but gave the LEP something to aim for.

And Cllr Trevor Pennington said the economy has grown over the years and there is more employment than there has ever been.

The executive unanimously noted the progress report, agreed to delegate development and endorsement of the HotSW Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) to the HotSW Joint Committee, and said it had made a £1,400 annual budgetary provision for it.”

Source: Western Morning News

CEO of Clinton Devon Estates shows how to be a gamekeeper and poacher at the same time!

It seems that, to CDE CEO Varley it’s a case of “Don’t do as we do, do as we say”:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/11/04/east-budleigh-rare-bats-or-bulldozers-special-council-meeting-7-november-2018/

and the fact that they are happy to cut down vegetation wilky-nilly at Blackhill Quarry to expand the engineering company!

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/09/06/gove-wasting-his-time-wild-woodbury-responds-to-blackhill-quarry-incursion-further-into-aonb/

When it comes to Network Rail it seems things are totally different!

“Twigged: rail chiefs behind the misery of leaves on the line”

Leaves on the line have been causing misery for rail commuters for decades. Far from Network Rail solving it, however, the problem has become worse under the public company that runs the tracks.

A government review that is published today has revealed that delays caused by falling branches and leaves on the line have increased by two thirds since the start of the decade.

Network Rail’s failure to manage vegetation by the side of the 20,000-mile network had the “potential to impact as much on safety and performance as on biodiversity”, the review concluded.

There are about six million trees on Network Rail land, typically a boundary of 10 metres either side of the line, but the review, commissioned by the Department for Transport, said they were often viewed as an “afterthought”.
In 2009-10, there were 11,500 incidents of trees and branches falling on to lines, rising to almost 19,000 in 2017-18. Last year more than 1,750 trains were cancelled by falling trees. Separate figures showed that leaves on the line, which can cause train wheels to slip, caused 3,261 hours of delays last year, a 70 per cent rise in a decade.

John Varley, the chief executive of Clinton Devon Estates who led the review, said that management of vegetation had been “under-resourced for decades”. His team found that “overstretched resource and no dedicated budget results in the maintenance of line-side vegetation being squeezed by other priorities”. Network Rail has spent £40 million a year over the past four years on vegetation management, up from £15 million, but the company still has a huge backlog.

The company’s bosses also face losing their bonuses for over-running engineering work under new plans. The Office of Rail and Road said that senior staff could be required to surrender a proportion of performance-related pay, which totalled more than £52 million last year, to fund improvements.

Network Rail said that it welcomed the review’s findings and that it would provide a plan to implement its recommendations in the next six months.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Housing minister threatens councils on housing numbers – NOT developers!

The Express headline is:

‘Make their EYES water!’ Housing minister WARNING to councils who FAIL to meet targets

and the article goes on to blame councils for low housing numbers rather than developers who are hoarding hundreds of thousands of planning permissions, trickling out completions to keep house prices artificially high.

Message to Minister: stop shooting own foot, stop shooting councils, start squeezing developers till THEIR pips squeak!

Oh, and that bit about “developers starting on site” within two years. Legally, all they have to do is put in minimal foundations then they can leave the site unbuilt for as long as they want.

“Kit Malthouse MP was speaking to Nick Ferrari on national radio this morning to explain how the Tories are intending to “up the ante” for both developers and council planning teams so as to roll out new housing.

Mr Malthouse cited the introduction of a new scheme, the ‘Housing Delivery Test’, as one way in which the government’s building objectives might be more effectively met.

He said councils “have to hit a certain percentage of the forecast housing in their plan, and if they don’t we essentially take it out of their hands.

“If they drop below 85 percent of delivery they have to use an action plan, but if they drop below 25 percent delivery the government takes it out of their hands and they lose the ability to control a certain amount of housing in their area.”

“We want them to issue two year planning permissions, not three or five years, and if the developer doesn’t start on site within the two years that they’re able to say ‘your site’s out now’.

“You only have to do it once or twice for the development community to realise that we’re serious about this.”

The Minister explained that the Tories would give developers “big tools” to compel them to develop.

He concluded: “We’re putting big pressure on local authorities, big pressure on developers to come together.

“I do feel sometimes a bit like a marriage guidance councillor between the two because they do all shout at each other and point across the table at events that I’m at.”

Ministers say they will build 300,000 new homes a year, considerably up on the current build rate and more than in any year since the 1960s.

But a survey for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that only 12 percent of members expressed any confidence in that number of new homes being delivered.”

“Tory MP Philip Davies lavishes praise on Esther McVey – but misses crucial detail” (they live together – mostly)

“Philip Davies lavished praise on the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey for her work on Universal Credit. He told MPs: “I know better than most how hard the Secretary of State worked to get the support from the Chancellor in the Budget. “Can I commend her for doing that.”

But the Tory MP failed to mention that they are not just parliamentary colleagues. The pair have long been close, arriving at a Tory fundraiser in February arm-in-arm and leaving hand-in-hand.

In March Ms McVey was quoted in the Daily Mail saying: “We’re partners but we haven’t done any official commitment stuff… yet.” It’s understood that they have had an on-off relationship for around five years and live together in London. …”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-mp-philip-davies-lavishes-13540557