East Devon MPs and West Dorset MP now on opposite sides – Letwin expelled from Tory Party and now an Independent!

Swire and Parish, of course backed Boris Johnson this evening. However, Sir Oliver Letwin, in the adjoining constituency of West Dorset, who has held the seat for the last 22 years and who has been a Cabinet Minister, has been expelled from the Tory Party tonight for rebelling (along with several former Cabinet Ministers and Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames).

So, Letwin is now an Independent!

Rum old world … wonder what Swire has to say about that!

“Dorset council faces a legal fight over housing development in Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”

“DORSET Council is facing a legal battle over plans to build a large housing estate on countryside immortalised in Thomas Hardy novels, after locals complained of its “devastating” impact on rural communities.

The proposals would result in almost 1,000 homes on Vearse Farm in Bridport, the largest ever development permitted on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England.

But residents now hope to overturn the council’s decision in the courts after raising more than £30,000 through crowdfunding to finance a judicial review.

The challenge is backed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Thomas Hardy Society, whose members described the plans as a “nail in the coffin” of Hardy Country, an area named in honour of the Victorian author.

Outline planning permission was first approved by West Dorset District Council, which has since amalgamated to Dorset Council, in November 2017 but proposals were only finalised in April.

The development, which covers an equivalent of 63 football pitches, would see the population of Bridport increase by an estimated 25 per cent.

But residents objected on the grounds the scale of the housing estate was “inappropriate” and raised fears the surrounding countryside would be spoiled.

A specifically-created campaign group, called ADVEARSE, was created to set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise £34,000 in order to fund a solicitor and barrister to launch a judicial review.

Barry Bates, chairman of the group, said: “If we do not take this action now, nothing further can ever be done to challenge a development of this devastating scale on this site.”

Overlooking the development site is the distinguishable Colmer’s Hill, a beloved landmark in Dorset that is said to be an inspiration for artists and novelists including Hardy, who mentioned it in his 1880 short story Fellow Townsmen.

Dr Tony Fincham, chairman of the Hardy Society, said: “This proposal is just the kind of over-development which irretrievably destroys part of Hardy’s Wessex.

“So often West Dorset (Council) doesn’t realise the value of its very special landscape in both literary and tourism term.

“This plan is just another nail in the coffin of Hardy Country.”

Elizabeth Sims, the widow of eminent violinist Neville Marriner, known as one of world’s greatest conductors, has also put her name to the cause. …

Dorset Council is under pressure to build over 15,000 new homes in west Dorset – one of the worst areas in Britain for affordable housing – by 2036.

The average price of property in the area now stands at £318,000, well beyond the means of most people born and brought up there.

David Walsh, Dorset Council’s head of planning, said: “We are confident in the way the Vearse Farm application was considered.

“As this is a legal process, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this moment in time.”


“Rewild a quarter of UK to fight climate crisis, campaigners urge”

Rewilding would (according to the Environment Secretary) focus on:

Native woodlands
Salt marshes
Peat bogs
Ponds and lakes
Meadows and grasslands

all of which we have in abundance in East Devon.

Perhaps it is now time to revive the idea of a Jurassic Coast National Park (West Dorset would be an already-enthusiastic partner) which was squashed by the previous council because they feared losing their cosy relationship with housing developers …

And, as part of our climate emergency, make rewilding an integral part of all future neighbourhood, district and Greater Exeter development plans.

A tale of two AONBs

A gas-fired power station has been proposed for the East Devon village of Hawkchurch on the East Devon- West Dorset border NEAR an AONB (Area of outstanding Natural Beauty) in Dorset. It was not put out to consultation to the local community.

West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin says of it:

This development will have an impact on the West Dorset AONB.

“I do not believe it is appropriate, or in line with national planning policy, for industrial installations to be located in ways that have such impact on landscape of national importance. I hope, therefore, that this application will be refused.”

Councillor tries to extend consultation period on ‘power station’

In East Devon, an industrial site is being planned WITHIN the AONB at Sidford – after it had been agreed that it would not be allowed in the Local Plan but slipped in because officers did not offer up evidence to a Planning Inspector to remove it.

The local MP, Hugo Swire, has said …

… absolutely nothing at all.

“A Dorset and East Devon national park could help with affordable housing”

Don’t get your hopes up – East Devon District Council has already stamped on it saying it would be just awful as they would lose control of planning!

“CREATING a national park across part of Dorset and east Devon could help ensure affordable housing goes to local people, according to campaigners.

The Dorset and East Devon National Park Team gave a presentation to Lyme Regis Town Council last week – pointing out the benefits the proposals could bring to the town and west Dorset.

Richard Brown, speaking on behalf of the national park team, said the proposals could “help affordable homes stay affordable”.

He added: “I think so many communities across Dorset are passing motions recognising that this is a great opportunity for Dorset.

National parks have a good track record in promoting the provision of affordable homes and keeping such homes affordable and available for local people.”

He added: “It would help develop affordable homes and a coherent Dorset tourism strategy.”

Speaking about a national park established in the South Downs, Mr Brown said that “people now stay longer and spend more”.

Although the project could be “five or six years away”, Mr Brown pointed out that “the proposed national park for Dorset remains unfinished business”.

The team say Natural England has already undertaken a positive first assessment of the proposal submitted to them in 2013.

The team’s current proposal for a national park includes the Dorset AONB land from Lyme Regis to Blandford Forum, excluding the Dorchester area, as well as much of Purbeck and east Devon, excluding Seaton and Sidmouth. But the national park boundary has yet to be finalised.

Mr Brown added: “The environment and the economy are two halves of the same coin.

“All of Dorset would benefit from the economic stimulus a national park brings. They are not against development. They work hard through local partnerships to deliver what local people want.”

The concept of creating a national park gained the backing of some town councillors.

Cllr Derek Hallett remained cautious, urging members to “look at it very carefully”, while Cllr Jeff Scowen described the proposals as “a marvellous idea”. …”


What happens when you put Oliver Letwin in charge of Brexit policy

“Reassuringly, the man in charge of the government’s ‘Brexit unit’ is the go-to guy for not having a clue.

People have always called David Cameron a pragmatist, but the morning after the referendum he must have become a nihilist. Nothing else can explain the appointment of Oliver Letwin to lead the United Kingdom government’s Brexit unit. A prime minister who basically won an election by holding up Liam Byrne’s “I’m afraid there is no money” note has effectively dumped Oliver Letwin on to his successor’s desk – in all senses of that verb. I’m afraid there is no plan. I’m afraid there is Oliver Letwin.

Oliver Letwin! And come to that: unit! “Unit” implies a crack squad, an elite fighting force, a sort of A-Team meets Delta Force outfit whose moral grey areas are a trade-off with the extreme effectiveness best distilled in the famous Jack Nicholson speech in A Few Good Men. Deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want that unit on the wall. You need that unit on the wall.

Instead, you’ve got Oliver Letwin. To fully absorb the fact Oliver Letwin is our guy at the sharp end of Brexit planning is to realise that even as the pound was nose-diving that first morning, we hadn’t reached rock bottom. There was a very deep concealed basement, into which we are only now beginning our journey.

Our tour guide is Oliver Letwin, a man whose chief claim to fame was once being the victim of one of those idiosyncratic Tory burglaries (see also Liam Fox). You know the sort of thing: when you let two strange men into your house at 5am in your pyjamas because they ask to use the loo, only to find – in a development that could only have been predicted by a computer the size of Los Alamos – that they nick your wallet. Or at least, that was Letwin’s chief claim to fame until last year’s declassification of a 1985 report he wrote for Margaret Thatcher in the wake of the Broadwater Farm riot, in which he suggested that social malaise was down to “bad moral attitudes” among black people, who would only re-route regeneration funding into the “disco and drug trade”. (He apologised when this came to light 30 years later.) …

… What’s the plan? “I’m trying to give you the truth,” Letwin twinkled terrifyingly, “which is that I have a completely open mind.” “Which is that you haven’t a clue.” Well of course he hasn’t. Oliver Letwin is your go-to guy if you want someone not to have a clue about something. In 2003, he pledged that a Tory government would automatically deport all asylum seekers to a foreign island “far, far away”. Where? He conceded he did not have “the slightest idea”. He is one remove beyond even Captain Hindsight, the South Park superhero whose speciality is showing up to disaster scenes and explaining what could have been done to avert them. Letwin is Captain I-Haven’t-the-Slightest-Idea. That’s the guy running the Brexit situation room.

“Why was there no mention of Brexit in the national security strategy?” wondered Blunt. “Because,” reasoned Letwin wholly unreasonably, “the government’s firm intent was to remain part of the EU.” And yet, for a government whose firm intent is not to be involved in a nuclear war, it sure has a lot of nuclear weapons. Perhaps it wishes to move to a situation where we wait to be hit by an intercontinental ballistic missile, then appoint Oliver to scratch around for some kind of plan for how to build a nuclear deterrent from the ashes. After all, the ever-upwardly-failing Letwin may be surely added to the list of things that would survive a nuclear holocaust.”


Oh Lord No: Letwin to head Brexit unit in Whitehall!




Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin is to lead a cross-Whitehall unit to prepare for Brexit ahead of the election of David Cameron’s replacement as prime minister.

Cameron told MPs yesterday that the EU unit would bring together officials and policy expertise from across the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

He said the Brexit negotiations would be the “most complex and most important task that the British civil service has undertaken in decades”, so the unit would report to the whole Cabinet on delivering the outcome of the referendum. This will include objectively exploring options for the UK’s future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world from outside the EU.

This will ensure the new prime minister, who is set to be chosen by 2 September, would have the best possible advice from the moment of their arrival, he told MPs.”



“According to official government documents from 1985, released in December 2014 under the 30 years rule, Letwin recommended the Prime Minister to “use Scotland as a trail-blazer for the pure residence charge”, i.e. the controversial Community Charge or ‘Poll tax’, having trialled it there first, and to implement it nationwide should “the exemplifications prove… it is feasible.”

Another 1985 internal memo released in December 2015 showed Letwin’s response to the Broadwater Farm riot, which blamed the violence on the “bad moral attitudes” of the predominantly Afro-Caribbean rioters, claiming that “lower-class, unemployed white people lived for years without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale”. It also criticised some of the schemes proposed to address inner-city problems, suggesting David Young’s proposed scheme to support black entrepreneurs would founder because the money would be spent on the “disco and drug trade”. Letwin later apologised, saying that parts of the memo had been “both badly worded and wrong.”

Letwin coauthored Britain’s biggest enterprise: ideas for radical reform of the NHS, a 1988 Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet written with John Redwood which advocated a closer relationship between the National Health Service and the private sector. This is regarded as providing a theoretical justification for NHS reforms carried out by subsequent governments, particularly the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Letwin unsuccessfully stood against Diane Abbott at the 1987 election for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and against Glenda Jackson for the Hampstead and Highgate seat in the 1992 election.

He went on to win the historically safe Conservative seat of West Dorset at the 1997 general election, although he only achieved a majority of 1,840 votes over the next candidate. …

… May 2005, Letwin was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Times reported that he had requested a role less onerous than his former treasury brief so that he would have time to pursue his career in the City. Until December 2009, he was a non-executive director of the merchant bank NM Rothschild Corporate Finance Ltd.

Following the decision by Michael Howard to stand down as Conservative Party leader after the 2005 election, Letwin publicly backed the youngest candidate and eventual winner David Cameron.


The Daily Telegraph reported in 2009 that Letwin agreed to repay a bill for £2,145 for replacing a leaking pipe under the tennis court at his constituency home in Dorset, which he had claimed on his parliamentary expenses.

Public Sector Reform
Speaking to consultancy firm KPMG on 27 July 2011, Letwin caused controversy after stating that you cannot have “innovation and excellence” without “real discipline and some fear on the part of the providers” in the public sector. This was widely reported, with The Guardian headline stating Letwin says ‘public sector workers need “discipline and fear”‘.

Government Document Disposal
In October 2011 the Daily Mirror reported a story that Letwin had thrown away more than 100 secret government documents in public bins in St. James’s Park, with no real care to dispose of them properly.[31][32] Enquiries made by the Information Commissioner’s Office found that Letwin did not dispose of any government documents; they were in fact his constituents’ personal and confidential letters to him and did breach data protection rules.[33] Letwin later apologised for his actions.

In 2003, The Independent reported comments Letwin had made saying that he would “go out on the streets and beg” rather than send his children to the state schools in Lambeth where he and his family lived.

After two strangers on his London street had asked if they could use his lavatory in 2002, and he agreed to let them do so, they then stole his credit cards and other belongings. He retrieved his credit cards after chasing the accomplices in his dressing gown and pyjamas.


West Dorset: referendum triggered to change from cabinet to committee system

“A REFERENDUM on the future of governance at West Dorset District Council is set to cost the authority an estimated £95,000, councillors have been told.

Campaigners from the Public First group triggered the referendum after attracting more than 6,000 signatures calling for the vote to consider introducing a committee system as opposed to the existing cabinet style system. …”


Unfortunately, the council does not have to abide by the result of the referendum which makes one wonder why they were ever touted by this government as a vehicle for change. Especially, as it would be the cabinet which decided on what happens next. But good luck West Dorset – at least a start.

Oliver Letwin not Dorset’s golden boy these days

“?..Whilst 36% of the constituency did vote for him in the last election I genuinely feel that his views do not represent those of the vast majority of people living in West Dorset which, whilst it does have an affluent side, also has a large population on very low incomes, reliant on tourism and farm work to make ends meet. We need an inclusive society and these divisive opinions do nothing to foster that. I look forward to the revelation of his opinion on the Poll Tax riots which were mostly by people with white skin. …”


Quiz question

Who said this to Mrs Thatcher about black people in 1985:

“The root of social malaise is not poor housing, or youth ‘alienation’, or the lack of a middle class. Lower-class, unemployed white people lived for years in appalling slums without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale.”

Laying out their Thatcherite interpretation that the unrest was purely due to moral decay, the document continued: “Riots, criminality and social disintegration are caused solely by individual characters and attitudes. So long as bad moral attitudes remain, all efforts to improve the inner cities will founder.

“[Lord] Young’s new [black] entrepreneurs will set up in the disco and drug trade; Kenneth Baker’s refurbished council blocks will decay through vandalism combined with neglect; and people will graduate from temporary training or employment programmes into unemployment or crime.”


Answer: West Dorset MP and friend of Cameron and Swire, Oliver Letwin – recently appointed Flooding Czar. Wonder what he thinks of Northerners!

Unfortunately, he didn’t suggest how “bad attitudes” could be changed.

Only the district has been changed ….

Letter in Independent 24 December 2015


Some of us here in Dorset have laboured for a year raising a petition to put an end to the “cabinet rule of law”‘ that reigns supreme in West Dorset District Council (WDDC). We now have enough signatures to force a referendum giving the electorate an opportunity to vote for a change to “committee” governance.

In 2011, from 43 per cent of votes cast, Conservatives were elected to 67 per cent seats of seats available in WDDC. Seven of these councillors occupied all of the executive seats. The national figures at the last general election were worse; the Tories were elected on about 25 per cent of eligible votes. In essence, West Dorset’s main towns are unrepresented politically; not one of their elected representatives sits on WDDC’s executive committee.
What sort of democracy do we live in when it has become necessary for citizens to demand that their representatives have a voice in decision-making?

Politicians talk only in ideological “tongues” but invariably display an insatiable hunger for power. Unless we pull together for proportional representation and make politicians listen not only to us, but more importantly to each other, party politics will continue to divide and betray us.

Mike Joslin
Dorchester, Dorset

Strange things happening on the Devon-Dorset border


It appears that, whatever the decision, the Minister at the Department of Communities and Local Government had already decided to call it in.

Whilst this might be an unpopular development, it is no more or no less unpopular than many other current applications, so what has made it so special? It might, however, be the first of several applications that eventually could link Axminster to Lyme Regis.

The Devon MP is Neil Parish, the Dorset MP is Oliver Letwin, good friend of David Cameron. The site is closer to Dorset’s Lyme Regis than Devon’s Seaton and Axminster.

Following the 2015 election, Letwin remained Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as Cameron reappointed him as an official ministerial member of the new Conservative government’s Cabinet. He has been given responsibility for overall charge and oversight of the Cabinet Office.

Wonder what they think of this really strange situation?

It also appears to have been decided by “Chairman’s Delegation Committee” – anyone heard of this before?

See Councillor Ian Thomas’s comments on this in Comments section.

Which begs the question: if a developer or one single interested party can persuade the DCLG to consider call-in of a planning application BEFORE a decision is made – what is the point of having the meeting!

Should the DCLG be asked to clarify their behaviour?

A masterclass on how to turn bad news into no news into good news

To read this EDDC spin you would assume that the project on Sidmouth coastal defences has gone fantastically well. In reality it has dragged on, and on, and on. And reading between the lines, that is exactly how it will continue.

A particular masterpiece of spin that has us laughing out loud is this from Andrew Moulding:

It is tremendously exciting to have reached the fourth stage of this long and technically challenging coastal defence project – we are now only a short step away from being in a position where we can actually start to produce the BMP itself and provide a detailed plan for the short, medium and long-term management of the beach and cliffs.”


A short step away from STARTING!

Oh, and they forget to mention that, with 25-40% cuts in government spending, the chances of anything happening are slim.

Contrast this with Lyme Regis where a £20m four-phase scheme was completed in one year in 2014 which consisted of a 390m (1,200ft) stretch of sea wall should last 50 years and will safeguard nearly 500 homes and access to the town.


WHY are the consultants reports on housing to remain secret until after district elections?

We know what the Leader of East Devon District Council gives as his “reason”

We are very much aware of the need to finalise our Local Plan, but at the same time we have to take the reports with proposed changes to the Plan to our members for consideration and consultation. We had envisaged that the earliest we would have been able to take the reports to our members would be March or early April 2015. The process of consultation would then take around six-weeks.

“However, because of the forthcoming local and national elections this would not appear to be a viable route to follow, as there is concern that the process could be seen as politically motivated, which would overshadow the soundness of the plan.

“While mindful of the need to progress quickly, the significance to the process of members consideration and consultation should not be overlooked, and consequently it is unlikely that we will take the report to our members until shortly after the May election.”

but let us look at this forensically.

The Planning Inspector, when he looked at the Draft Local Plan, threw it out.  A main reason was that the number of houses to be built had no evidence to support the figure.  What slight evidence given was very old, based on out of date information and therefore not to be trusted.  He basically told EDDC to go back to the drawing board and give him hard evidence for his figures.

Under the National Planning Policy Framework, EDDC had a “duty to co-operate” with adjoining local authorities in case those authorities had housing needs that could not be met within their areas and must therefore be shared.  For reasons never explained, although this meant in practice liaising with Exeter City Council and West Dorset, EDDC took the decision (where? when?) to extend the area to include Teignbridge, Mid Devon and Dartmoor National Park.  This meant that consultants had more information to gather and more situations to take into account.  It should be noted that the “duty to co-operate” is NOT a duty to agree – only to be seen to be consulting with neighbouring authorities on their needs.

So, two sets of consultants were employed.  Edge Analytics were employed to look at the link between housing and employment, Ash Futures Limited were employed to look at future job growth levels in East Devon only.  It appears now that both companies have produced their reports.

Usually, when consultants have produced reports, they are circulated to councillors who then have the opportunity to comment on them.  Unfortunately, in East Devon, this has often been misinterpreted as an opportunity to rewrite them almost in their entirety.  When EDDC doesn’t like numbers, it likes to have them changed, rather than accepting that they might be right!  Take the employment land figures that were produced by two consultants for the Draft Local Plan.  EDDC (or rather the East Devon Business Forum under its Chairman, disgraced ex-councillor Graham Brown) decided the figure was too low, gave their own much higher figure and this was the one which EDDC chose to go with.

Now, here we are with two reports and the Leader has decided that their contents are too politically sensitive for the public (and councillors not in the “need to know” group?) to have sight of.

What is politically sensitive about consultants reporting hard facts and evidence?

As we noted earlier, there are only two possible explanations:

1.  The number of houses is below that which EDDC put in its Draft Local Plan.  In this case, EDDC has egg on its face.  Not only does it have egg on its face, all the current developments rushed through because we have no Local Plan would be surplus to requirements.

2.  The number of houses is higher than that which EDDC put in its Draft Local Plan, either because:

(a) they just got the number wrong or

and this is more likely

(b) now that they are having to take the housing needs of not only Exeter and West Dorset into account but also Teignbridge, Mid Devon and Dartmoor National Park, EDDC will have to commit itself to taking overload from all these areas into its own area (for example, by making Cranbrook even larger than planned).






Massive West Dorset solar farm on SSSI passed in completely unrecorded vote!

East Devon, Dorset – different counties, same old stories!

Michael McCarthy in today’s Independent writes about a 24-megawatt solar farm planning proposal on Rampisham Down, Dorset “protected” by SSSI and AONB designations. Natural England objected, even the planners advised it went against the NPPF, yet two weeks ago it was voted through in an unrecorded vote. Will Eric Pickles call it in?

Here are some extracts, a link the full article is given below:

If one were to draw up a list of the most benign technologies ever invented, it seems obvious that solar power would be near the top.

Electricity produced merely by the action of sunlight falling on a silicon panel seems to be drawback-free – no moving parts to go wrong, no combustible materials and most important of all, no harmful emissions of noxious gases to damage human health, or wreck the Earth’s atmospheric balance. If we are to meet our commitments to deal with climate change through the switch to renewable energy, solar will be more necessary than ever.

Yet the recent runaway expansion of the technology in Britain is now clashing headlong with nature protection in a key case in Dorset, which ultimately involves high stakes, concerning a solar farm – a concept that did not exist in the UK until five years ago………………..

Rampisham Down has never been put to the plough: it is one of the largest remaining sites of what is now a very rare habitat – lowland acid grassland. It has an unusual mosaic of plants and has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England, the Government’s wildlife agency. Natural England strongly objected to the proposal when it came up before West Dorset District Council, as did the Dorset Wildlife Trust, and indeed, the council’s own planning officers, who recommended rejection, pointing out that the proposal went against the National Planning Policy Framework: yet two weeks ago the council’s Development Control Committee voted it through.

I asked the committee chairman, Councillor Ian Gardner, what the vote was, and he said he did not know. Not quite understanding, I asked him to explain, and he said the figure had not been recorded, although it was definitely a majority in favour. “That’s just the way we do things down here,” he said. (He himself had voted against, he added.)
It is now up to Natural England, and the Dorset Wildlife Trust, and other interested parties, to ask the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, to “call in” the decision and have another look at it.

It is important that they do, and that he does. Solar power is terrific, and we greatly need it, but that does not mean that our need for it has to ride roughshod over every other environmental consideration. The issue is one of statutory environmental protection: is a wildlife site with a double governmental defence, being a declared Site of Special Scientific Interest within a declared Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, protected – or isn’t it?

If it isn’t, Mr Pickles, we need to know, and make our dispositions accordingly.”