Both East Devon MPs voted three times against transparency and parliamentary sovereignty yesterday

Swire and Parish:

Voted that May was NOT in contempt of Parliament to refuse to publish full Brexit legal advice.

Voted AGAINST allowing full publication instead referring the matter to a committee.

And voted AGAINST allowing Parliament a say if May’s deal falls through.

Moral of this story: use your vote wisely next time these men stand for Parliament.

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!

“‘Staggering’ £2million spent on gagging former staff at Devon County Council”

“A Freedom of Information Request submitted by the Exmouth Journal has revealed between 2013 and 2017 the council (DCC) spent £1,965,370 on 145 separate settlement agreements, often referred to as gagging orders.

The confidentiality clauses in these agreements are usually agreed when an employee leaves an organisation due to a disagreement, workplace issue or redundancy.

None of the settlement agreements into which DCC entered in the last five years were for staff being made redundant. …”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/2million-gagging-staff-at-devon-county-council-1-5801603

“Tory-run Northamptonshire county council bailed out by government”

Owl says: just as well it is a Tory council that’s allowed to break the rules!

“Permission granted to spend £60m cash received from sale of HQ.

The government has in effect bailed out Tory-run Northamptonshire county council after giving it unprecedented permission to spend up to £60m of cash received from the sale of its HQ on funding day-to-day services.

The highly unusual move – accounting rules normally prevent councils using capital receipts in this way – means the crisis-hit authority is likely to escape falling into insolvency for the third time in less than a year.

Ministers gave the go-ahead for the bailout after commissioners sent in to run the council issued a stark warning that without a cash injection, Northamptonshire would be unable to meet its legal duties to run core services such as social care.

Opposition councillors called it a political move to save ministers from having to directly bail out the council. Labour group leader Mick Scrimshaw said: “It is clearly politics. The Conservative government did not want the political embarrassment and for that reason they have been allowed to use these capital receipts.”

Northamptonshire declared itself effectively bankrupt in February after it realised it could not balance its books. It declared insolvency again in July after a review revealed it had understated the extent of its financial problems. It must make good a £70m deficit by the end of March to avoid insolvency for a third time.

Although the council has already set in train a draconian cuts programme for the current financial year to try and overturn the £70m budget shortfall, the commissioners said this alone would not be enough to prevent insolvency.

In a report to the communities secretary, James Brokenshire, the commissioners Brian Roberts and Tony McArdle said the “extraordinary” scale of cuts to services needed in one year to fill the funding gap would breach councils’ legal obligations.

The report said: “Considered against the concomitant need to maintain the integrity of critical public service delivery, it is a challenge that is beyond being met in a single year. We are compelled to the view that the finding of an alternative mechanism for addressing this legacy will be unavoidable.”

The report notes that the council has been dysfunctional and that morale is poor among “long suffering” staff. It also criticises its “lack of credible leadership and direction over many years”, though it notes there have been some improvements in culture and management over the past few months.

The council’s leader, Matt Golby, said: “I am delighted the commissioners have been successful in their request for a capital dispensation. This will enable us to use our own resources to tackle the £35m deficit from 2017-18 and replenish our reserves to put us on a sustainable financial position.” The council is hoping to save a further a £35m this year from its cuts programme.

Rob Whiteman, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said the move was effectively a bail out for Northamptonshire. Although it went against accepted accountancy rules and practice, it could be justified on the grounds that the council was being abolished.

Northamptonshire is to be replaced by two unitary authorities under plans approved by ministers earlier this year after the inspectors’ report concluded that the council’s management and financial problems were so deep-rooted it could not be easily turned around.

Enabling the council to convert some of the £60m it received from the fire sale of its new state-of-the-art HQ earlier this year – just months after it moved in – will allow it to clear an underlying £35m revenue deficit, and removes the need for ministers to pump money into the council directly.

Ironically, a highly critical inspectors’ report in March was scathing of the council’s preparedness to compromise generally accepted accounting principles to present the councils’ finances in a better light. Earlier this month a task force was sent into oversee its failing child protection services.

Brokenshire said: “Clearly, the situation in Northamptonshire is very serious. I am grateful to the commissioners for uncovering the council’s true financial position and the robust steps they have taken to improve its financial management and governance.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/29/tory-run-northamptonshire-county-council-bailed-out-by-government

“‘Councils and crooks must feel relaxed’: why the loss of local papers matters” [and why blogs have to fill the gap]

Owl says: the article DOESN’T mention those local newspapers (they know who they are) which simply print council press releases, only supportive articles and “good news only” items from councils that keep them afloat by giving them a monopoly on printing their official notices and job vacancy adverts….. becoming quasi-council newsletters.

“This month, with the announcement that Johnston Press, the third-biggest group in the local news industry, had gone into administration, this building in Hendon, along with hundreds of other empty newspaper offices across the country, became a monument to the fragile and shrinking world of regional reporting. More than 300 titles and 6,000 journalists have been lost in a decade, creating what many see as a democratic deficit, never mind a future dearth of trained reporters.

The Times, part of the Newsquest group, still exists, but these days there is just one edition and much of the action happens online. Its webpage invites readers to send in their own news and photos, and the phone number for the news team is harder to find than the GRU’s in Moscow. When I do get through to a reporter, he is silent when I ask where he is. “Do you still have a base you can use in the borough of Barnet?” I persist, at which point he tells me to email his editor.

Newsquest, like Johnston Press, is at the centre of big changes in local journalism, not all of them bad, and it is more than anyone’s job is worth to speak off the cuff to the press. But as Barry Brennan, former group editor of the Hendon Times and my old boss, confirms, all coverage of the boroughs of Barnet and Hertsmere is now run from Watford.

“Councillors and crooks must surely feel relaxed,” Brennan says, “now that so few weeklies have sufficient space or journalists to cover councils and courts. It may sound trite, but we really are missing out on big chunks of knowledge, and that’s bad for a community.”

More cheeringly, Times reporters do still get to some Barnet Council meetings, although not many, according to Labour councillor Claire Farrier: “We don’t see them much any more; maybe when there is a big planning story. They do their best, but they often repeat the press releases we put out fairly closely – which we quite like, of course.” …

Perhaps when the Cairncross report comes out next year it will propose something radical: something akin to a series of tax incentives launched in Canada last week. Over a decade, more than 250 Canadian news outlets have closed and since 2012 newspaper revenues are down by up to 40%. Now the federal government has stepped in, offering C$600m (£350m) in new tax credits to the media industry for the next five years.

Whatever Cairncross recommends, her committee must bear in mind that it will always be hard to show exactly how local reporting aids democracy. Because you can never find out exactly what people have got away with when no one was looking.”

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/nov/25/why-local-papers-loss-matters-councils-crooks-feel-relaxed

“Former academy head given £850,000 payoff” (and other sleazy details)

“The former head of a controversial academy is being paid an £850,000 severance package out of proceeds from a private leisure centre run on the school grounds, MPs have heard.

Details of the payment to Sir Greg Martin, the former head of the Durand Academy in Stockwell, south London, emerged on Monday during a hearing of the Commons public accounts committee, which is investigating academy accounts and performance.

It is the latest development in a long-running saga involving Martin, who was knighted for services to education and was once a favourite of Tory ministers, before falling out of favour as concerns grew about financial management and governance at the school.

Durand Academy has since been transferred to a new sponsor and has been renamed the Van Gogh primary school, but the Durand Education Trust (DET) retained ownership of the private leisure centre developed on the site, as well as two accommodation blocks, which originally generated additional income for the school.

John Wentworth, a DET trustee, told MPs the assets – the leisure centre and accommodation – were still generating £400,000 a year but “most” of the money was going towards Martin’s severance pay rather than going towards’ children’s education.

“At the moment, we have a considerable liability to the previous executive headteacher of Durand Academy,” Wentworth told MPs, adding that the severance figure had been “considerably higher” but had been reduced after negotiations between Martin and the Charity Commission.

Wentworth told MPs there were ongoing discussions between the DET and the Education and Skills Funding Agency about what would happen to the leisure centre and accommodation blocks. He said if the DET retained control they would be used in line with its charitable objectives “to support the wider education objectives of children in Lambeth and to support the children at the Van Gogh primary school”.

The hearing offered some fascinating insights into the complexities of transferring schools from one trust to another. The Dunraven Educational Trust, which finally took over Durand, was given just 48 hours to make a decision after the Harris Federation pulled out, though Harris helpfully shared all the information gathered during its investigations. Nevertheless, committee chair Meg Hillier described it as “a 48-hour fire sale”.

The hearing was also told about troubles at Bright Tribe, which ran 10 schools in the north and east of England which are now being rebrokered. The academies troubleshooter, Angela Barry, who was brought as interim chief executive, refused to give details about ongoing investigations but apologised for past failings.”

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/nov/19/former-academy-head-given-850000-payoff