EDDC Development Management Committee makes another controversial planning decision

The planning application for the conversion of the South West Coast Path WW2 observation post into a holiday dwelling, covered by Owl here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/07/07/a-poignant-planning-application-on-the-75th-anniversary-of-d-day-and-enthusiastically-supported-by-clinton-devon-estates/

has been agreed. The roof will be “reconstructed and roof lights, doors, windows and solar panels will be added, thus destroying its original function as a historical building.

The owners of the land are, of course, Clinton Devon Estates.

What council in “no overall control” REALLY means

The full article has a very useful table at the end and includes a note that East Devon Alliance wants to change to a committee system.

“With the two main parties losing hundreds of council seats, and the Lib Dems, Greens and Independents gaining across England in May’s local elections, the number of councils where no single party had a majority increased in 2019. In the first of two articles, Chris Game details how this has shaped governing outcomes for English councils ­– and demonstrates why reporting political coalitions in local government matters. …”

England’s local elections 2019: council outcomes from ‘no overall control’ results

EDDC Tory DMC Chairman uses his casting vote in controversial planning application

“Plans for 10 new homes in Axminster have been approved, despite fears children could be flattened by lorry drivers who wouldn’t notice them until ‘they heard the screams’.

East Devon District Council’s development management committee via the chairman’s casting vote gave the go-ahead last week for outline plans for 10 homes to be built on land adjacent to the co-op supermarket in Axminster.

Serious concerns about highways safety had been raised by councillors as the front doors of the houses would open almost onto the road delivery drivers heading to the Co-op use.

But the committee heard that Devon County Council’s highways department had no concerns over the plans and hadn’t objected, and committee chairman Cllr Mike Howe used his casting vote to approve the application, saying: “I have to vote in favour as I cannot see a reason for refusal that would stand up and would not cost this council money at an appeal.”

Cllr Paul Hayward had said that he was very concerned about the safety aspects of the plan. He said: “This is building family houses next to a car park and the front doors will open directly onto the path of a reversing HGV from the Co-op. The lorry driver would only be focused on reversing into his spot and he wouldn’t even notice if a child run out of the doors after a ball or a dog or if they saw a friend across the road.

“A child wouldn’t even be on the radar until he heard the screams. Safety is paramount and I cannot conceive a worse place to build family houses.”

Cllr Sarah Jackson added: “The development is situated opposite a car park and alongside the car park access road. Family properties are likely to be occupied by young children who lack road sense and can easily run out unexpectedly, particularly as they may not perceive this as a road in the traditional sense.

“Equally, articulated lorries have incredibly limited visibility and when turning may not see a child in time. The nearest playing field/recreation areas are at Foxhill and Jubilee field. Both would require children to cross several roads.

“It’s worth noting that the play park at Jubilee Field is currently out of action due to a legal dispute and it is unknown as to when this will be returned to proper use, so it is therefore likely that children will end up playing in the car park.

“I just question the logic of putting family homes right next to somewhere where lorries will be reversing in and out to make their deliveries.”

Cllr Tom Wright added his concerns about kids running out and being run over, and added: “I also have environmental concerns. Encouraging people to live in an area which is being heavily polluted and there will be lorries running with their diesel engines is unbelievable and an absolute nonsense.”

And Cllr Paul Arnott said the development was the kind of thing you may see in inner-city London, but that ‘even there it would be turned down on environmental grounds.”

Planning officers though had recommended that the scheme, which would consist of three blocks, be approved.

Six homes would be on a terrace row which fronts on to the car park, with two semi-detached properties situated adjacent to the supermarket building and two further properties fronting onto the proposed car park for the new three bedroom homes.

Development manager Chris Rose said: “The application seeks to address the two reasons for refusal on a previous application which related to the unsuitable access and conflict with the loading area to Co-op and the lack of affordable housing contribution.

“The development can be accommodated without harm in terms of amenity, highway safety, visual impact or loss of character. Although these types of development would usually result in an offsite contributions toward affordable housing, in this instance viability information has been submitted which has demonstrated that such a contribution would render the development unviable.

“The proposal adequately addresses the two previous reasons for refusal on the previous application and as such is considered to meet the social, economic and environmental and thus achieves sustainable development.

Cllr Helen Parr proposed that the application be approved in line with the recommendation, saying: “It is going to be difficult to refuse this on highways safety grounds as Devon County Council’s highways team are satisfied that there is appropriate separation. I don’t see how we can object on highways grounds if they won’t support us. The other reason why development was refused was on affordable housing but there is now evidence that it would be unviable.”

Cllr Eileen Wragg seconded the proposal to approve the plans, saying: “If we don’t, I think that this is one that we would fail to defend on appeal.”

The vote to approve the application saw seven councillors vote in favour and seven against, before Cllr Howe broke the deadlock with his casting vote in favour of approval.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/homes-approved-despite-fears-reversing-3111980

“The way in which East Devon District Council is run could be changing” [HURRAH!]

Owl promises to stop using the phrase TiggerTories (the close working relationship between current and past Tories and The Independent Group led by Ben Ingham and which excludes the East Devon Alliance and Lib Dens) if this ever happens!!!

And note that officers are already suggesting “hybrid systems” – gosh, they MUST be scared that a committee system will weaken their powers!

“A review into the governance arrangements of East Devon District Council is set to take place.

The leader of the council, Cllr Ben Ingham, had promised to fully consider alternative arrangements to the current leader and cabinet system as a condition of the support from the East Devon Alliance when they seconded his nomination to become leader at the annual council meeting in May.

Wednesday night’s cabinet meeting saw them unanimously agree that the overview committee should carry out that review.

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the East Devon Alliance, told Wednesday’s meeting it was a very welcome development.

He said: “This idea didn’t come from me but came from Ben who in 2015 made it a principal of his manifesto when he was the East Devon Alliance leader to abolish the cabinet and bring in the committee system. The proposals are potentially excellent but the devil is in the detail.”

“When the governance arrangements changed it was with the quid pro quo that the scrutiny function worked. But the scrutiny function has been a eunuch function in East Devon as many suggestions and motions have been refused or ignored by officers. In my view, the cabinet system is not working because scrutiny is not working.”

He said there were two winkles of the recommendation that concerned him though, as one was that the report from overview would come back to the cabinet, so it would be like ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’. He was also worried about the ‘due course’ wording as any decision on governance changes can only be made at the annual council meeting.

Cllr Paul Millar, portfolio holder for transformation, said that it was important that the recommendations did come back in time for the next annual council in May 2020. He added: “This review needs to be done fairly and to establish the rationale for change and if the preferred solution will deliver a satisfactory outcome and, if so, at what cost would it do so.”

The report of Henry Gordon Lennox, Strategic Lead Governance & Licensing & Monitoring Officer, said that if the council did agree to change to either an elected Mayor and Cabinet system, or committee structure, then they would be forced to stick with the change for the next five years.

His report added that there are also hybrid options where elements of the cabinet and committee system could be combined that the council could adopt, but it is the view of officers that it is for Members to determine why the necessity for change and to establish what the objective of the governance arrangements should be.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/way-east-devon-district-council-3082739

EDA Councillor helps out Exmouth with acceptable compromise on Queen’s Drive

Officers sought to get permission to use land it owns at Queen’s Drive, which previously housed recreation facilities, as a temporary overflow car park for 3 years. Exmouth councillors were appalled but could see no option but to agree. Colyton EDA Councillor proposed that the land should be so designated for 14 months only until September 2020.

Compromise achieved and agreed.

Lesson learned? Hhhmmm … let’s wait and see.

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/queen-s-drive-seafront-car-park-plan-approved-1-6152147

CAMPAIGN GROUP STEPS UP PRESSURE FOR REFORMS AT MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL

Just to remind everyone, when he was Leader of East Devon Alliance in 2013, Independent Group Leader Ben Ingham was an enthusiastic supporter of a change from the Cabinet system to a committee system. Since becoming Leader of EDDC in May he has been conspicuously silent on this matter:

 

 

Press Release:
8th July 2019

The Campaign for Local Democracy in Mid Devon was formed at the beginning of April this year, as campaigns for election to Mid Devon District Council were beginning.

The campaign arose from increasing concerns amongst the Mid Devon electorate about the lack of involvement of many District councillors in decision making and the ability of the Cabinet to ignore the wishes of large numbers of councillors. In particular, the decision of three members of the Cabinet to proceed with the sale to a private purchaser of the historic council building and council chamber in Crediton, against the expressed wishes of the majority of the 42 councillors, created uproar in the Crediton area. This resonated with concerns felt elsewhere in the district and led to the formation of the campaign group at a meeting in Tiverton.

With the all-up election pending, the group decided to wrote to all candidates advising them of their wish to see a more open and democratic system introduced and asking for their support.

The Green and Lib Dem candidates indicated their support, as did a number of Independent candidates.

The election resulted in the Conservative group losing overall control and subsequently deciding not to participate in a balanced Cabinet.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, the campaign group also decided that they would allow the new Council time to settle in before expecting to hear whether they were willing to introduce the necessary changes to governance.

As it is now two months since the election of the new Council, leading members of the group have now written to the Council Leader, Clr Bob Deed, on behalf of the campaign group asking what consideration they are giving to the need for these reforms.

In the letter, Mid Devon Alderman David Nation says that if the necessary reforms are not to be implemented, the group would wish to make an early start on seeking the support of the Mid Devon electorate for them. He clearly has in mind a public petition to require the Council to hold a referendum on switching from the present Cabinet structure to the previous Committee structure, where more councillors are involved in decision making and the decisions of full Council are supreme.

Ald. Nation said “We are hopeful that the new Council will share our concerns as so many of those now in control were sympathetic before the elections. If they cannot voluntarily agree the required changes, we are ready to canvass public support to force them to reform.”

Text of letter below:

Dear Councillor Deed

We hope that you are enjoying your new role and that options for changing the direction of travel of MDDC are beginning to emerge.

We are writing, of course, specifically about the concerns the Campaign for Local Democracy in Mid Devon have about the need to make decision making in the Council more open and democratic.

You may remember that at our inaugural meeting on 6 April, the election campaigns for the Mid Devon seats literally having just commenced, we decided to allow the new council time to settle in before expecting any statement about possible reforms.

As it is now two months since the new Council was elected, we are wondering if you are able to advise us whether this issue has yet been considered and if so, what the plan is to progress it.

In view of the changes at MDDC we are obviously hopeful that the Council will itself decide to implement the sort of reforms that meet our concerns but if not, we will wish to make an early start on seeking the support of the Mid Devon electorate for the necessary changes.

As we have discussed before, it is in everyone’s interest if that can be avoided, especially in terms of cost to the public purse.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes
Yours sincerely
David Nation Paul Tucker Judy Tucker”