EDDC to help unauthorised Greendale businesses to relocate

Owl says: Here is EDDC’s version of the Greendale High Court decision.

With hindsight, EDDC might have been better served by not allowing the unauthorised businesses on to the site in the first place. And if the owners allowed businesses on an unauthorised site, maybe the owners and the businesses should be paying for specialists when those businesses have to move this time, not availing themselves of a free service from EDDC – especially as the rest of us are paying more and more for OUR EDDC services.

EDDC PRESS RELEASE

21 February 2018
Enforcement action taken to remove unauthorised development at Greendale Business Park
Council will work with park owners to find alternative locations for businesses

East Devon District Council has successfully fought a planning appeal by Greendale Business Park against an enforcement notice requiring the park owners to remove an unauthorised extension.

The business park has been extended into the countryside after four fenced compounds were created, concreted over and were used variously for the storage of mobile homes, shipping containers, portakabins and, in the case of one of the compounds, had two permanent buildings on it.

Following the latest High Court hearing, it now means that the owners of Greendale Business Park, FWS Carter and Sons, must comply with the enforcement notice, remove the extension and return the land to countryside within six months of the court’s decision.

Councillor Mike Howe, chairman of the district council’s development management committee, said that the council will work with the park owners to find alternative locations for businesses on the unauthorised site affected by the enforcement notice.

“This case demonstrates that we take unauthorised development very seriously and as a local authority are charged with using our enforcement powers to ensure that development carried out without planning permission is removed.

“We will work hard with the site owners to find alternative locations for the businesses currently operating from this unauthorised area.

“We’re pleased that the courts have now stopped this appeal from proceeding any further and the enforcement notice to get these works removed has now taken effect.”

The works were all carried out without planning permission and a subsequent planning application was refused due to the harm that the extension caused to the countryside and the visual amenity of the area.

Following the refusal of planning permission, the council served an enforcement notice on the owners requiring the uses to cease and the land returned to its former condition including the removal of temporary and permanent buildings, fencing and hard surfacing.

Although the owners appealed against the enforcement notice, a planning inspector ruled in favour of the council and directed the owners to stop using the land in the way it was and return it to its former condition within six months.

The owners subsequently appealed against the decision in the High Court arguing that the planning inspector had made an error in law by concluding that the East Devon Local Plan specifically covered the issue of development at Greendale Business Park.

In responding, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government argued that FWS Carter and Sons had misinterpreted the Local Plan and that their interpretation was “patently wrong”. Ultimately, the court did not grant the owners a further opportunity to proceed with an appeal and they will have to pay all costs arising from the case.”

“Find out if your local councillor is being wined and dined”

Of course, the complication we have in East Devon is that several of our district councillors are, or have been, in the “hospitality trade” as Owl has pointed out in the past:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/05/19/when-does-private-become-public-and-public-become-private-a-very-fine-line/

“The timeless practice of “gastronomic pimping”, as Nye Bevan put it, is a tool long used by commercial lobbyists to curry favour. These “meetings” are deliberately social occasions designed to create bonds, establish shared values and ultimately influence council decisions.

Robert Davis, the most wined and dined politician in Britain while he was chairman of Westminster council’s planning committee, was entertained 150 times by property industry figures in three years. But hospitality is not the only tool in the property lobbyist’s box. One of the surest ways to access and influence the officials you seek to influence is to employ people who know local government inside out. Councillors up and down the country are employed in the property lobbying business. They are elected to represent the public interest and at the same time employed by developers seeking to influence the public sphere.

Full list of Westminster councillor Robert Davis’s 514 freebies
Take one of the scores of firms in this business, which claims to have “won successful planning consents for over 20 years”. It employs numerous local councillors, including one who sits on a council planning committee, as well as prospective and former councillors, plus a former council leader. These people not only understand how decisions are made, but in many cases are the decision-makers themselves. This is valuable for any developer needing council backing.

Besides trying to ensure that elected officials are onside with their clients’ development plans, these planning lobbyists also deal with any resistance from local communities. Developers have a statutory duty on large projects to consult with communities. Consultation, however, in the hands of lobbyists, is a tool that serves to draw out community opposition and provide it with a managed channel through which to voice concerns, but with no hope of tangibly changing the outcome. As the ex-Tesco lobbyist Bernard Hughes explained: “Businesses have to be able to predict risk and gain intelligence on potential problems. The army used to call it reconnaissance; we call it consultation.”

What do developers want from their relationships? It may be straightforward planning permission; or relief from paying a tax used to fund local amenities; or an agreement with the council on the amount of affordable homes the developer has, or doesn’t have, to provide. All of which can be, and is, negotiated by the councils upon which such lavish hospitality is poured.

That the “local lobbying” industry has got away with such practices for so long is no surprise. It lacks the one thing necessary to drive them out – scrutiny. As Davis says in his defence, all his meetings with developers “were all properly declared and open to anyone to examine”. But people need to have a proper look at what is happening in their council. Take a look at the registers of interests to see if any of your councillors double up as lobbyists. Get hold of the registers of hospitality and see if they are taking from the developers they should be overseeing. Use freedom of information law to dig deeper into who is meeting whom, and what they are seeking to do, and then hand the information to your local paper.

Until a light is shone on these relationships they will continue to flourish, and we will continue to get developments that serve no one but the investors and developers.”

• Tamasin Cave is co-author of A Quiet Word and a campaigner with Spinwatch

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/21/local-councillors-lobbying-entertainment

A planning committee chairman, a developer and his “viability consultant” walk into a bar …

Read the rest of the sleazy story and marvel at the fact that the City of Westminster’s planning committee appears to have just FOUR members …

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/20/robert-davis-the-councillor-meets-the-property-mogul

“New financial watchdog is a tax avoider …”

“The man appointed to police Britain’s financial system yesterday admitted using a notorious scheme that helped cut tax bills.

Charles Randell was given the job despite admitting in his Treasury interview that he had been made to pay back £114,000 to the taxman, plus interest.

The scheme he used, Ingenious Film Partners 2, collapsed after an investigation by HMRC.

Grilled by MPs yesterday, the 59-year-old corporate lawyer accepted making a mistake.

Campaigners said Mr Randell’s appointment as the next chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority amounted to ‘self-policing by the financial elite’ – and should be blocked.

Nikki Turner, of the SME Alliance for bank fraud victims, said: ‘If you or I were to try to dodge our taxes for thousands of pounds, sorry wouldn’t be good enough.

‘We need somebody in the post who’s open to seriously trying to resolve the problems with the financial sector.’ Robert Palmer, of Tax Justice UK, added: ‘Charles Randell appears to be someone who is willing to play the system to make himself richer.

‘It can be really tough for someone like that to crack down on abusive banks. This is self-policing by the financial elite.’

The chairman of the FCA is one of the most senior figures in the City.
The role involves overseeing the staff of the regulator, which investigates bad behaviour by thousands of financial institutions, and ensures customers of big firms are treated fairly.

Mr Randell made his name at ‘magic circle’ law firm Slaughter and May as the Government’s top legal adviser on bank rescues during the financial crisis, reportedly earning fees of £500 an hour. It is thought his firm earned as much as £33million. ….”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5414951/New-financial-watchdog-tax-avoider.html

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? Update and some odd figures

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?

Well, officers and councillors must read this blog! I have been pointed to ANOTHER website (thanks):

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

and here is the latest update:

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

Archive 8 states on 18 October 2017:

“Progress – going well. Costs remain within budget allowances. Spend to date is £3.745,000 leaving a balance of £6,840,148m.”

and on 15 November 2017:

“Progress – going well. Costs remain within budget allowances. Spend
to date is £1.403m leaving a balance of £6.482m with a contingency of £245,000. Completion date is scheduled for 15 October 2018 with a relocation date of 21 December.”

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/2373382/joint-project-exec-and-officer-wkg-group-minutes-151117.pdf

Now – Can anyone explain the discrepancy? £3,745,000 spent to date in October 2017 and £1,403,000 to date a month later?