Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Managing wildlife loss in Devon

The State of Nature doesn't look too good:
Futures Forum: State of Nature: one year on ....... the Conference for Nature
Futures Forum: State of Devon's Nature

In Devon, there have been concerns about 'what to do with the Otter River beavers':
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: plans to remove beavers "may be illegal"

There has been discussion on what to do with 'brownfield sites':
Futures Forum: Of 'urban wildlife' and 'brownfield sites'...

There has been debate about how to improve biodiversity:
Futures Forum: Biodiversity in Sidmouth: "Is planting a million bulbs a 'good thing'?" ..................... a second take
Futures Forum: Biodiversity in East Devon

There have been efforts to preserve natural habitat:
Futures Forum: Devon County officers recommend Mutter's Moor and Fire Beacon Hill bridleways remain closed to traffic ... Committee meets 25th February
Futures Forum: Devonshire hedgerows and verges - pilot project

There has been substantial research undertaken into the Sid Valley's wildlife:
Futures Forum: Upcoming book on wildlife of the Sid Valley ... ... ... contributions welcome

The Sidmouth Arboretum has been very active in raising awareness about trees:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Arboretum: how to protect trees and woodland
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Arboretum > Annual Tree Day Sat 28th June

The Friends of the Byes have done a lot for biodiversity and promoting the looking after of wildlife:
Futures Forum: Wild Flowers and Front Gardens in Sidmouth
Futures Forum: A talk on "the bee-friendly garden" - at the Friends of the Byes AGM - 6pm Thursday 23rd January
Futures Forum: Friends of the Byes: sponsor a tree
Futures Forum: Sid Meadow in July: third year in flower

But is this enough? In the latest edition of Shared Planet on Radio 4, Monty Don interviewed several of those in the field - including Exeter University's Prof Kevin Gaston:

Are We Getting Used to Less Wildlife?

First broadcast: Tuesday 23 September 2014

The diversity and abundance of wildlife is declining across the world. As people grow older they notice the changes but for each new generation the baseline is reset. Is each generation is getting used to living with less and less wildlife? With so many other distractions do young people today notice the wildlife around them? Monty Don explores whether shifting baselines are a problem for conservation or simply inevitable in a system already subject to natural fluctuations.

Professor Kevin Gaston

Kevin Gaston is the inaugural Director of the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) and Professor of Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of Exeter.

The ESI conducts cutting-edge research into solutions to problems of environmental change, thereby enhancing people’s lives through improving their relationships with the environment. It has staff drawn from a variety of backgrounds - including mathematicians, engineers and environmental, political and social scientists - reflecting the need for an interdisciplinary approach to such solutions.

An ecologist with diverse interests, a major strand of Gaston’s research is concerned with the health and well-being benefits that people gain from natural environments. This program of work includes determining the breadth and form of these benefits, the components of nature that provide them, the dynamics of this provision, and how the provision can most effectively be improved.

Twitter: @KevinJGaston

Professor Aubrey Manning, OBE

Professor Aubrey Manning is recognised as one of the country’s leading authorities on animal behaviour.

He rose from Assistant Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh to become a Professor of Natural History at the university in 1971, a position he retained until retirement in 1997.

Manning's storytelling skills have led to him presenting television programmes such as BBC2’s Earth Story and Talking Landscapes and he has worked on a range of radio output including recent Radio 4 programme The Sounds of Life, in which he explores natural sounds ranging from the seabed to the jungle.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, holds honorary degrees from Toulouse, the Open University and St.Andrews, and was awarded an OBE in 1998. He has been Chairman of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and a Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland and Project Wallacea.

George Monbiot

George Monbiot is an environmental campaigner, a regular columnist for the Guardian newspaper and the author of several best selling books, includingHeat: How we can stop the Planet Burning, The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order and Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain, as well as the investigative travel books Poisoned Arrows, Amazon Watershed and No Man's Land. His latest book is Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding

Twitter: @GeorgeMonbiot

Professor EJ Milner-Gulland

Professor E.J. Milner-Gullandworks on improving the design of conservation interventions so that they work better for both poor people and wildlife in developing countries.

She is the Director of Imperial College's Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment (GCEE) initiative and runs the Imperial College Conservation Science (ICCS) research group.

ICCS works at the interface of social and ecological systems, using a range of approaches to address key issues in current conservation. The underlying philosophy is that in order to make progress the incentives, pressures and challenges faced by individual decision-makers must be considered.

Twitter: @EJMilnerGulland

BBC Radio 4 - Shared Planet, Are We Getting Used to Less Wildlife?

Meanwhile, reports confirm the huge loss internationally:
Indicators and Assessments Unit | Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

HALF the world's wild animals have disappeared in 40 years: 

Humankind held responsible for plummet in figures as report reveals the US needs 3.9 planets to sustain current lifestyle
Mankind's need for land and resources, combined with hunting and poaching, are causing our wild animals to die out
Wildlife populations around the globe have declined by 52 per cent on average since 1970, a new report has found
The likes of forest elephants, African lions and tigers are under threat, as well as American sharks
Lion numbers dropped 90% in 40 years, tigers by 97% in 100 years and elephants 60% since 2002, WWF reported


PUBLISHED: 03:13, 30 September 2014 | UPDATED: 10:11, 30 September 2014

From the forest elephants of Africa, to India’s tigers and even our own great white sharks, wildlife is losing the battle for survival all over the world.

Human activity has been blamed for the plummet in numbers, as the United States reports dwindling populations of bumblebees and polar bears - and one of the world's biggest decreases in sealife.

Our ever-growing need for land and resources, coupled with hunting and poaching, has halved the number of wild animals in world in just 40 years, according to a shocking report.

The Living Planet Report by WWF and the Zoological Society of London has found that wildlife populations around the globe have declined by 52 per cent on average since 1970.

The authors compiled data on 10,380 animal populations, including 3,038 different species, as an index to judge how global wildlife is faring as a whole.

In the US, fish have decreased by 83 per cent between 1970 and 2010 - the second largest drop after Latin America which lost 86 per cent in the same period. American amphibians have also struggled in the modern world, with an overall decline of 73 per cent recorded, while the total number of reptiles dropped by 48 per cent nationwide. The great white shark is one of the United States' worst-affected species, having lost around 50 per cent of its population in just 20 years, largely due to oil spills in the ocean.

The number of rusty-patched bumblebees - crucial pollinators - haven disappeared from 87 per cent of their territory in the past 25 years, and monarch butterflies are down 90 per cent in the same period.

The global picture is worst for freshwater creatures such as amphibians, river fish and mammals, with average population declines of 76 per cent between 1970 and 2010, says the latest data available.

Land-dwelling animals declined by 39 per cent over the same period and sea creatures fell 39 per cent, the report found.

The authors said the main threats to wildlife are loss or damage to their habitat and exploitation through hunting and fishing.

They also warned that humans are using resources faster than the planet can provide, cutting down forests too quickly, overfishing and pumping out pollution faster than the world can cope with it.

Around 3.9 planets-worth of land and resources would be needed to sustain the typical American lifestyle as it is today for an extended period of time.

Kuwaitis had the biggest ecological footprint, meaning they consume and waste more resources per head than any other nation, the report said, followed by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. America came eighth in the list, behind Denmark, Belgium, Trinidad and Tobago, and Singapore.

Professor Ken Norris, director of science at Zoological Society of London (ZSL), said: ‘The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming. This damage is not inevitable, but a consequence of the way we choose to live.’

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, said: ‘The scale of destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call to us all. We all have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.
Mr Nussbaum said consumers could reduce their impact on wildlife by choosing products which were sustainable, for example fish with the Marine Stewardship Council and timber with the Forest Stewardship Council certifications. He said that they could also look at reducing their meat and dairy consumption.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at ZSL, said people should think about everything they do, from recycling to putting pressure on political and industry leaders, and getting their children outside to reconnect with nature.

HALF the world's wild animals have disappeared in 40 years say WWF | Daily Mail Online
BBC News - World wildlife populations halved in 40 years - report
Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF | Environment | The Guardian
Earth lost 50% of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF - Claire Wright

See also:
Futures Forum: New habitats, old habitats
Futures Forum: Environmental Economics
Futures Forum: "Ordinary people are reluctant to put wildlife ahead of immediate financial self-interest."
Futures Forum: Biodiversity and offsetting nightingales

Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part five... East Devon District Council "will imminently have no alternative whatsoever than to integrate anyway."

The notion that district councils will be no more is gathering momentum:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part four... IT services and "Another fat little privatisation through the back door approaching?"

Back in the late 2000s there were very strong moves afoot to abolish this tier of local government:
BBC NEWS | England | Tyne | District councils to be abolished
‘All local government should be abolished’ » The Spectator
44 district councils to be abolished - FT.com

There were attempts at the time to abolish East Devon and other Devon district councils:
boundary commission, unitary, devon ¦ this is north devon | North Devon Journal
Devon unitary plans | Appeal Court ruling | Boundary Committee | Western Morning News | West Briton

These were vigorously fought - on the grounds that there had not been enough 'consultation';

East Devon's legal team, advised by top QC Andrew Arden, says the consultation process carried out by the committee was flawed and the financial and other implications of such a fundamental change to local government in the county have not been considered thoroughly enough.

District Council lawyers were allowed to appeal - on the grounds of 'affordability' and spending 'even before any final decision has been made':

District lawyers go to the High Court

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LAWYERS for East Devon District Council go to the High Court tomorrow (December 19) - in the first stage of challenging proposals to abolish Devon's district councils and replace them with a 'super council'.

Radical proposals by the Boundary Commission call for East Devon District Council and seven other local authorities' to be scrapped, leaving just three unitary authorities; Plymouth, Torbay and one to cover the rest of Devon - but EDDC are challenging the move.

They say the plans are not legal because they do not address affordability - one of the five key criteria referred to in Exeter's failed bid for self determination last year- and their refusal to consider a 'two-tier' option.

However last week a judge ruled against a similar case against councils in Norfolk that had stark similarities and worrying overtones for East Devon.

The legal challenge could run into a six figure sum, and the judge ordered the councils to pay three-quarters of the legal costs incurred by the Boundary Committee as well as their own fees, adding to the spiralling multi-million pound bill even before any final decision has been made.

The Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, announced last week that the date when the Boundary Committee should provide her with its final recommendation was now February 13 2009 - six weeks later than previously scheduled.

A spokesman for the district council said: "The outcome of the Council's application for a Judicial Review into proposals for a Unitary Devon should be announced after the Christmas holiday." She is expected make her decision on the future of local government in Devon towards the end of March 2009.

District lawyers go to the High Court - News - Exmouth Journal

Interestingly, the final judgement agreed that there had not been enough 'consultation' - and that the proposals for a unitary authority could increase 'remoteness':

In a ruling handed down today (Thursday 8 January), Mr Justice Cranston:
Found the Boundary Committee had 'misdirected itself' at the very start of the review process
- Felt it did not consult properly on alternatives to its single unitary proposal
- Believed it could also have done better when consulting on affordability
- Agreed that EDDC concerns about democratic remoteness were valid
- Advised that accountants must spend more time on the overall financial impact of any change
- Accepted that this might mean a further period of consultation was necessary
- But the judge also stated that EDDC's challenge was "premature" - suggesting that the Council should have waited longer before challenging the Boundary Committee's actions.

Judgement’s mixed messages’ on Unitary Devon proposal- EDDC - News - Sidmouth Herald

In the end, the judgement meant that the whole project was 'extended indefinitely' - and then the 2010 elections intervened, putting a stop to these proposals:
EDDC leader demands Government put stop to Devon's unitary proposals - News - Sidmouth Herald
Devon unitary status advice delayed - News - Sidmouth Herald

There was indeed substantial disquiet from the public about these proposals:
Residents say no to unitary status - News - Sidmouth Herald

Although the Chambers of Commerce were very much in favour of abolition:
County Council welcomes East Devon businesses' support for Unitary Devon Council - News - Sidmouth Herald

A letter was sent to the press from the Vision Group:

Unitary proposal - democracy is paramount

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Madam - The Vision Group for Sidmouth has been seeking clarity on the specific powers that are to be transferred to the proposed unitary authority and the specific powers to be devolved to the proposed town boards. Our submission to the Boundary Commission is given below.

In the absence of such information, we cannot endorse any of the proposals on offer but can only insist that, whatever the outcome of the reorganisation, it must ensure the empowerment of local democracy.

Over the past few months the Vision Group for Sidmouth has researched the issues carefully and attended all consultative meetings. We have consulted all our 100+ members and discussed the issue in detail at three meetings attended by up to 40 participants.

We understand that the status quo is not an option. However, we recognise that the abolition of the EDDC as a significant local employer could have a damaging effect on the local economy.

As a non-party-political organisation, the Vision Group will continue to work with whatever government authorities are to be established, in order to maintain the unique character of our town and to promote its sustainable development.

Robert Crick

Chairman, Vision Group for Sidmouth.

Unitary proposal - democracy is paramount - Letters - Sidmouth Herald

And interestingly, the District Council was very keen for these voices to be heard:
Unitary Devon- EDDC wants residents to have a say - News - Sidmouth Herald

Then, in 2012, the proposal surfaced again:
No stone unturned: in pursuit of growth - Lord Heseltine review - Publications - GOV.UK

The effect was felt across the country:
Poll: New report by Michael Heseltine re-ignites debate over possible home rule for Norfolk and Suffolk - Politics - Eastern Daily Press - Mobile

The Town Council in Sidmouth responded accordingly:

Call to put council move on hold

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: November 22, 2012

THE chairman of Sidmouth Town Council has proposed that East Devon District Council should consider putting its relocation plans on hold.

Cllr Stuart Hughes put forward a motion which states: "In light of the recommendations to abolish district authorities in Michael Heseltine's No Stone Unturned report, this council should put on hold its relocation plans until Government has ruled on the recommendations."

The district council's proposals to relocate from Sidmouth to Honiton have proved very controversial with Sidmouth residents and those throughout the wider district.

The council have said that it is the intention for the move to be cost neutral. It plans to redevelop its current headquarters at Knowle, Sidmouth.

Call to put council move on hold | Exeter Express and Echo

And at the District Council in East Devon, questions were raised about the viability of relocating from Knowle:

New move to shelve Knowle sale plan

Dave Beasley Friday, November 23, 2012

Two district councillors are urging that proposals to move the authority’s HQ are put on hold because of proposals that could lead to the abolition of the district council.

Former Tory deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine has penned a 230-page report suggesting how to boost Britain’s flatlining economy. In ‘No Stone Unturned’ Lord Heseltine says that district council’s should be abolished in favour of unitary authorities.

The idea comes just two years after East Devon District Council (EDDC) spent £400,000 on a legal challenge against similar proposals by the then Labour government.

Councillors Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman feel proposals for EDDC to leave Sidmouth for Honiton - and subsequently sell Knowle for redevelopment - should be suspended until Whitehall has ruled on his recommendations.

Cllr Hughes this week tabled a notice of motion to that affect, seconded by Cllr Troman. Both want the request to be given consideration at EDDC’s next full meeting on December 5.

“We’ll be flying in the face of the council tax payers of East Devon to continue this (relocation) process,” said Mr Hughes. “Why spend all this money in times of austerity, ploughing ahead with something that might not happen, when you could find district authorities will be abolished?”

Mr Troman added: “At the next full council meeting I will second a motion to put on hold the proposed new council offices until the future is more certain. If, in the future, the land at Knowle is put on the open market, we should look at a community right to buy option.”

Lord Heseltine’s 230-page government-commissioned report outlines 89 recommendations to kick start the economy by reforming local government, business, education and Whitehall. Among them is to put more power into councillors’ hands. He says the system of English local government is “overly complex, inefficient” and “not suited to the demands of the 21st century”.

He argues the multi-tiered nature of the English system makes it difficult to exploit economic opportunities and calls for the Government to combine all two-tier authorities so that all services, currently divided between county and district councils, would be provided by one. He says unitary authorities run at considerably lower cost and provide “greater clarity and accountability about where responsibilities lie”.

New move to shelve Knowle sale plan - News - Exmouth Journal

... which brings us back to square one and the latest debate on the future of local government:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils...

Now, in an 'extraordinary revelation', Cllr Ken Potter has told Newton Poppleford parish council that he has been told by central government that district councils will not be around for much longer:


September 30th 2014

An extraordinary revelation by Cllr Ken Potter at last night’s Newton Pop parish council meeting.

He said in his report that he attended a recent meeting of the Local Government Association to discuss the future of post offices.

The meeting was addressed by a minister who predicted that within ten years “there would not be a single free-standing district council left”.

Several astonished members of the public tried to ask why, then, was EDDC planning to spend many millions building a new HQ, but the Chair moved on to discuss Himalayan balsam in the Otter.

4 thoughts on ““No District Councils in Ten Year’s Time””

Paul says:
September 30, 2014 at 10:59 am

Q: “Why, then, is EDDC planning to spend many millions building a new HQ?”

Please add your own answers here, with a small prize for the most humorous, ironic or potentially truthful one.

Rory Jones says:
September 30, 2014 at 5:00 pm

In answer to Paul,

A: Because they are too ashamed to admit that between 2007-2011 they spent a king’s ransom of our money fighting being integrated into a Unitary Devon – purely to protect their own political skins and the jobs of the senior officers.

And now they’ve realised that with the economic downturn (which was ALREADY HAPPENING back then) they will imminently have no alternative whatsoever than to integrate anyway. Only now they are doing it in an underhand way, without a mandate, and defying the Information Commissioner.

Graham says:
September 30, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Is EDDC facing dissolution?
Strange how senior officers job share with South Somerset while it’s IT service is linked up with Teignbridge and Exeter.
Will there be anything left in the district after the council builds a new HQ in Greater Exeter?
As the district council is so evidently failing surely the simplest way to save public expenditure is to remove the triple layer of local bureaucracy by dissolving EDDC.
In which case why is the ED ratepayer expected to underwrite the vanity HQ project when EDDC has lost the trust of the residents and is vanishing before our very eyes?
What are we paying for – surely a case of the king’s new clothes if ever there was one.
Graham Sidmouth

Diana N says:
September 30, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Perhaps it’s on their “One Hundred things to do before you die list” After all, there is no accounting for other peoples’ quirky aspirations!

“No District Councils in Ten Year’s Time” | East Devon Alliance

Monday, 29 September 2014

Knowle relocation project: What exactly is 'consultation' in East Devon?

The question as to what exactly amounts to 'consultation' is rather important when it comes to legitimising decision-making...

A lot of these exercises are not only top-down
Public and councillors clash over consultation on Winchester developments (From Hampshire Chronicle)

... but also don't even try to connect with the people they are professing to address:
Enough already: or why we should ban 'top-down capacity building' and 'third sector interfaces' | Herald Scotland

In East Devon, the District Council has responded to a Freedom of Information Request on the 'consultation process' around their relocation project.

One interesting comment on the WDTK website is:

P Freeman left an annotation (25 September 2014)

The FoI Act requires EDDC to:

1. State whether they hold the information requested or not;

2. If they hold it, to provide it.

The FoI Act does NOT allow EDDC to restrict the information to that already published if there is more information available (provided of course that the additional information is not confidential).

So, for example, I cannot believe that the "illustrative" timeline already published constitutes the whole information held by EDDC on the timescales for the Knowle move, and to withhold the additional information (or indeed to withhold details of whether additional information is actually held) is contrary to the FoI Act.

The overall implication in the answer provided by EDDC here is that they consider all information that is not already public to be confidential - whereas the law requires them to treat each piece of information individually and to justify why each piece is being deemed confidential.

This is IMO prima facie evidence of secrecy and should be used as evidence to the First Tier Tribunal.

Meanwhile, a review has now been requested following the response from the District Council:
Clarification of the public consultation that took place about The Knowle relocation project - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

The full list of questions and responses to the District Council's 'communication events' on their proposal to move from Knowle back in July 2014 is here:
EDDC - Moving and Improving - Communication Events - July 2012

Meanwhile, the Deputy Leader of the District Council has been quite vociferous about the 'lack of consultation' when it comes to proposed health reforms:

Andrew Moulding, county councillor for Axminster, said there “had not been a two-way dialogue” prior to the publication of the plans.

“GPs feel there is no substitute for 24-hour care – two have contacted me since the decision to vent their concerns and said there has been a lack of meaningful discussion,” he told the meeting at County Hall.

“The consultation seemed to be a reporting mechanism for decisions already made – in other words a done deal.”

NHS Devon | Western Morning News

Looking at the national picture...

In a recent article by Mark Steel in the Independent, spotted by the East Devon Alliance blog, the issue is highlighted as to how an obvious but unofficial 'consultation' processes can be totally sidelined by the powers that be:


September 29th 2014

some thought- provoking thoughts from an EDA member:
An argument often used by EDDC Councillors when they wish to ignore local opposition to an unpopular decision is to appeal to their instinctive knowledge of the real wishes of the “silent majority”.

Here is a cautionary tale of an attempt to turn a school in Sussex into an academy using just such an argument which appears to have backfired. The story appeared in the Independent last week written by columnist Mark Steel. Mark Steel’s style is to intersperse facts with wry comment – here are the facts extracted from the article:

“In March, the head…… announced his plan for the school to become an academy, subject to a “consultation”. Because the rules decree there must be a consultation……. A meeting was called in which parents, students and teachers expressed outright opposition, but the consultation went on, in the form of a series of presentations by the head and his executives. These included an “artist’s impression” of the gleaming structure – linked with magical walkways and smiley children – that the school would surely become once it was an academy.

On the other hand, we were told, if it remained as it was, that there would be “no money” for repairs, and we were shown a photo of a decaying art block...

Despite this, hundreds of our children wore badges in opposition to the plan, posters went up in countless windows, there was a march, and the teachers went on strike. Then the local council, sticking to the obsolete definition of “consultation”, arranged a ballot of parents. The head and his allies contacted parents personally to win their vote, but the result was 29 per cent for the academy and 71 per cent against, on a turnout of 40 per cent...

Immediately those pushing for the academy responded by insisting the vote was irrelevant. A local Conservative councillor told me: “It counts for nothing, because if you add the Yes vote to those who didn’t vote that’s a majority for those in support”...

Still the school, backed by the Department for Education, marched on with its plans...

But, amazingly, and who could have predicted this, their response made people even more furious. More strikes were planned, elections for vacant governor posts were won overwhelmingly by opponents of the academy, and on Monday this week it was announced that the plans had been dropped entirely, due to the scale of opposition.

Full text here:


Paul says:
September 29, 2014 at 1:22 pm

The moral of this story is that if we want change, then we need to make it happen in the next local elections. Which is exactly what Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said in a recent letter in answer to a question I asked:

“Local authorities are independent bodies and accountable to their electorate rather than Ministers, and it is right that councils are properly held to account by their electorate. To help the public hold their councils to account we have, for instance, changed the rules on openness and transparency of council decision making, most recently putting in place new rules to allow the public to report on council meetings. I consider this approach [i.e. localism], rather than centralist, top-down control, is the right one and allows an informed public to hold their council to account when exercising the ultimate sanction at the ballot box.

That is why it is important that when there is an election, the public take the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.”

So, there you have it!!! Stated in plain english, pretty much as bluntly as it can be phrased, by a senior Government Minister, a Secretary of State no less! If you don’t like secrecy, alleged corruption, lack of consultation, lack of accountability etc., then the only solution available is to use YOUR vote at the next local council elections (in May 2015) to vote in a different set of councillors.

On whose side is the “Silent Majority”? What is “consultation”? | East Devon Alliance
We’ve won the battle to prevent our school becoming an academy - Comment - Voices - The Independent

Indeed, central government is proposing less 'top-down' and more 'bottom-up' decision-making;

Cutting red tape to breathe new life into local communities

From: Department for Communities and Local Government and Brandon Lewis MP First published:31 July 2014Part of: Making the planning system work more efficiently and effectively, Giving communities more power in planning local development and Planning and building

Local residents to have a greater say over the future development of their area.

Local residents will have a greater say over the future development of their area, under plans announced by Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis today (31 July 2014).

Radical reforms of the planning system have been made as part of the government’s long term economic plan - scrapping top-down targets, giving people a greater say over planning decisions that affect their neighbourhood, and reducing 1,300 pages of disparate policy into one 50-page document.

Today’s wide ranging proposals are the next stage, making it easier for communities to devise neighbourhood plans, help builders get onto sites with planning permission without delay and reduce bureaucracy and red tape.

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said:

Since 2010 we’ve made significant strides in reforming our planning system from one of draconian top-down targets, to one where local people are in charge and it’s working well. Last year alone, planning permission was granted for 216,000 new homes.

Today’s proposals will help scrap even more red tape and make it even easier to get the homes and shops communities want built, while at the same time breathing new life into our vital industries.

The proposals include:

Giving more local communities a greater say over development

Already more than 1,000 communities are making use of their new right to produce a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order - today’s proposals would speed up the process to encourage more to follow suit. New measures include requiring local planning authorities to decide whether to designate certain neighbourhood areas within 10 weeks and removing the minimum 6-week consultation and publicity period. But parish and town councils and neighbourhood forums would still need to consult and win a local referendum on the final neighbourhood plan or Order.
Making better use of land to deliver more homes

There are currently permitted development rights to allow offices to be converted into new homes. Today’s proposals would put this on a permanent footing, as well as making it easier to convert empty and redundant buildings into new homes. New measures would also ensure planning conditions are cleared on time so that new homes that have planning permission can get built without delay.

Supporting the Great British high street

The current rules governing change of use from a shop to a restaurant, and from a shop to leisure use, would be relaxed in order to help high streets adapt to changing customer needs. Payday loan shops and betting shops would be excluded from a new, wider “retail class”, so councils have a greater say over these being set up in their area.
An end to EU gold-plating

Today’s proposals would remove the unnecessary gold-plating an EUdirective which slow down the process, by reducing the numbers of homes and other urban development proposals that would be screened unnecessarily for environmental impact assessments. This would reduce both the cost and time taken to get planning permission for these projects.
Improving the way major infrastructure projects are planned

Proposals for a more flexible and streamlined system so practical changes can be made to planning proposals where these are beneficial and developers can use a “one stop shop” for more of the consents they need.

Cutting red tape to breathe new life into local communities - Press releases - GOV.UK

And there are projects to include the public more actively in local bugdeting decisions:

Participatory Budgeting at the Consultation Institute Annual Conference

DulvertonJez Hall of PB Partners is running a workshop at this year’sConsultation Institute annual conference on the 22nd October 2014, at the America Square Conference Centre, London. The conference, entitled "The Power of the People", is one of the most high profile events in the UK consultation world.
Speaking in the workshop section on the the theme Power in Practice –  Local Communities , Jez will consider how Participatory Budgeting can add value to existing community engagement work, and mobilise 1000’s if done well. People like it when they have a say, and know when they don’t.
Adding PB into your consultation mix can radically change the normal top down dialogue. moving from ‘what do you think of what we are doing for you" to "tell us how we do this more effectively", and even "we need you to do our job better".
Reflecting the often forgotten reality that public servants are just that. Paid by citizens to spend their money wisely.
Participatory Budgeting at the Consultation Institute Annual Conference – PB Network

Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part four... IT services and "Another fat little privatisation through the back door approaching?"

The conflation of the issues of East Devon District Council relocating to Skypark and helping with the expansion of Exeter seem more and more evident...
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part three: Skypark and "the full economic potential of Exeter"

Is the long-term intention idea the 'integration' of neighbouring District Councils?

Moreover, as the comment below suggests, there might be longer-term issues around the integrity of local government:


And he says it will make it easier for officers to deal with “clients”:


One thought on ““Greater Exeter” initiatives continue – EDDC “driving force” says Diviani”

Rory Jones says:

September 29, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Another fat little privatisation through the back door approaching.

Set it up, nice long contract, sell it off, and suddenly East Devon employees will be working for the Chinese.

If you want to be the mastermind for this shabby little enterprise, the job’s in the Guardian this week. http://jobs.theguardian.com/job/4958285/chief-operating-officer/

“Greater Exeter” initiatives continue – EDDC “driving force” says Diviani | East Devon Alliance 

This report from the Exeter Express & Echo highlights the notion that this project 'could pave the way for closer links between the three councils in the future'...

Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge councils to approve ICT merger paving the way for closer links in the future

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: September 28, 2014

EDDC HQ in Sidmouth

East Devon District Council Cabinet members are due to approve the next stage of plans for the implementation of a shared computer network system with Exeter City and Teignbridge District councils, which could save the councils millions of pounds.

As previously reported by the Echo in November, East Devon’s cabinet agreed in principle to the creation of a shared Information and Communications Technology (ICT) service with the neighbouring authorities which executive members backed in December.

The collaboration could pave the way for closer links between the three councils in the future. The idea was first mooted by East Devon as a way of making services more efficient in light of ongoing financial pressures on local authorities.

As part of the proposals, a joint executive committee will be set up to govern the company which will deliver the services, Strata Service Solutions Ltd, and a joint scrutiny committee to scrutinise the company. Strata will be wholly-owned and controlled equally by the three councils and resourced from existing ICT staff to ensure vital experience and expertise is retained. It will also include the building of a single new data centre in Exeter to supply ICT services to all partners.

Set up costs of around £2.2m, £970,000 of which was covered by a Government grant. The resource is expected to facilitate savings of £8.3m over the course of the next five years.

Councillor Paul Diviani, leader of East Devon District Council, who has been a driving force behind the initiative, previously said the council was also looking into how other services could be combined.

There will be no redundancies under the proposals.

Councillor Phil Twiss, cabinet member for corporate services, explained some of the practical implications an improved, shared ICT service will have. He said it would facilitate mobile working of council employees, for example, certain officers may be able to travel to a client instead of the client travelling to the offices.

Software will also be shared. And instead of data being hosted and stored locally, it will be stored remotely. The improved system will also improve conditions for staff as well as reduce the authorities’ carbon footprints and save energy.

Cllr Twiss, added: “Fundamentally, it’s about providing a more efficient service to the tax payer, it’s not so much about saving money but that is a bonus because it will save money that can go back into the coffers and spent elsewhere.”

Similar discussions are due to be had by Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council with Exeter's full council due to approve the arrangements at the meeting on October 15.

Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge councils to approve ICT merger paving the way for closer links in the future | Exeter Express and Echo 

From the Guardian jobs pages:

Chief Operating Officer

This is a unique role offering you the opportunity to shape the future of service delivery across three councils in Devon through business critical IT systems. You will deliver transformational strategic and operational solutions to build a modern, resilient and cost-effective IT infrastructure.

About the role

Exeter, Teignbridge and East Devon Councils have come together to form a shared IT service, delivered through a wholly owned company called Strata Service Solutions Ltd. Each council will have an equal say in the direction and management of the company, formed in order to deliver cost savings and resilience through team and systems convergence. In fact, this ambitious collaboration aims to save more than £6 million over the next decade.

An inspirational leader, you will drive the strategy for Strata, setting a direction that ensures we achieve the best value and most efficient operation possible. Motivating a team of 70 people based across three locations, you will develop a positive and results-driven culture. Delivering a solid return on investment, you will be accountable for the company’s bottom line, so you will need good budgetary management skills as your role will include regular financial reporting. By maintaining strong working relationships with key internal and external stakeholders and partners, you will ensure we deliver long-term value from our IT solutions. It is an exciting time for everyone here as we look to significantly improve our IT capability, and you will thrive on managing and driving these changes, which will ultimately see us transform the way all three councils operate.

You could be based in any one of our three council offices, but will need to be happy to travel between all of them regularly.

About you

Along a degree in a business-related subject (or equivalent experience), you’re a proven leader of a significant IT function and are looking for a new challenge to test your operational and managerial skills. You should also have a thorough understanding of the complexities of local government. With significant understanding of, and practical experience in, managing and improving IT systems, you are confident in providing strategic direction. You have a solid track record in delivering complex systems over multiple sites. Adept at managing resources in the context of increasing business demands and rising customer expectations, you are decisive and results-orientated. As well as first-class communication and stakeholder management skills, you have the charisma and ability to influence everyone around you.

About us

Strata Service Solutions Ltd is a company limited by shares and wholly owned by Exeter, Teignbridge and East Devon Councils. This is a brand new company formed specifically as a vehicle to deliver IT services to the three partner councils. On 12th September 2014, Strata received a welcome boost of £970,000 as part of the government’s £9 million Transformation Challenge Award. The funds will greatly support Strata in its commitment to provide a managed IT service to improve services for residents and reduce costs across all three councils.

To apply

If you wish to discuss the vacancy in more detail please contact Simon Davey, Board Member for Strata on 01395 517490 or sdavey@eastdevon.gov.uk Further information can also be found on our website www.eastdevon.gov.uk

To apply, please send an up-to-date CV and covering letter by email to Simon Davey. Closing date for applications is midday, Friday 10 October 2014. Interviews will be 23 October 2014.

Chief Operating Officer jobs, Locations across Devon, £70,000-£75,000 per annum + relocation package | Guardian Jobs

More information:
Strata Service Solutions Ltd. - Open Company
Devon councils push ahead with shared service IT plan - Government Computing Network

Ottery St Mary and sewage... and politics

There has been a lot of noise made of late about 'overdevelopment' and under-provision of sewerage:
Futures Forum: Limits to development: Feniton and sewage

There has also been a fair amount of politiking over the sewage system:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth and sewage

... with MP Hugo Swire stepping in to help Sidmouth's badly-functioning works:
Town's arteries clogged with fat | Hugo Swire
Sewage shock for parading Sidmouth scouts - News - Sidmouth Herald

A bit of a stink has arisen over the MP's visit to Ottery to inspect the sewers there - as reported by Cllr Claire Wright, who will be standing against MP Hugo Swire at next May's general election:

MP Swire: ‘Problem drains must be cleared’

Friday, 26 September 2014 by Claire


The story below is published on page 3 of today’s Ottery Herald, accompanied by a photograph of Mr Swire peering into a drain .....

East Devon’s MP has stepped into fast-track the clearing of drains in Ottery town centre in a bid to reduce the risk of further flooding this winter.

Following a meeting with mayor, Glyn Dobson, Hugo Swire spoke with highways officials at Devon County Council (DCC) to request that the blocked drains and gullies be cleaned as soon as possible.

Mr Swire said: “Although I am happy to help with this problem, I would have thought that Ottery’s county councillor would have sorted this by now. Unfortunately, I felt compelled to intervene as no such progress has been made. The blocked drains that Cllr Dobson showed me are so obviously causing a number of problems for residents.”

A DCC spokesman said this week that highways officers had cleared 12 gullies and drains in Silver Street and Broad Street.

Claire Wright, Ottery’s county councillor, said: “Thanks very much to Mr Swire for his efforts on helping to get the drains unblocked.”

She added that she trusted residents could expect their MP to become active on issues including keeping the hospital beds open, retaining services like the youth centre and library and opposing damagingly high levels of development in and around the town. “Mr Swire has been rather quiet on these issues so far.” said Cllr Wright.

1. At 12:54 pm on 26th Sep Roger Giles wrote:

Good to see Hugo Swire in Ottery. Look forward to his second visit. Perhaps at the public meeting Claire has called for Tuesday 7 October to fight to stop Ottery Hospital losing all its in-patient beds as well as its minor injury service. Pity that Hugo didn`t know that Ottery`s Mayor is Glyn Dobson; in his press release he twice referred to “Glyn Donson.”

2. At 05:13 pm on 26th Sep Janet Beddall wrote:

I hope the gullies down from Patteson’ s Cross will receive similar attention

3. At 08:55 pm on 26th Sep Chris Wakefield wrote:

One of the great joys of an election run-up is watching incumbents demonstrate their intimate savvy about their constituency and its concerns. Or not, as the case is with Hugo Swire MP who, once he’d worked out where Ottery St Mary was, paid us a visit to inspect our drains. In company with his pal the mayor (whose name he wasn’t quite sure of) he set off for a photo opportunity - and what could be more appropriate, given the context of the mission, than a snap of him looking down a drain - there is surely nothing so evocative of concern for drainage than looking intently down one of them - in Ottery. It was all a rather sad effort to conjure a negative comment about our estimable local county and district councillors.

Now clean drains are good - there’s no doubting it, but Ottery’s main preoccupations are a tad more on the surface than that - hospitals, children’s centres and libraries spring more readily to mind, there being an inclination on the part of the authorities to close them - all of them. And then there’s the overdevelopment issue- where we are set to grow by 25% against our better judgement and without the resources to cope. All these things keep distracting us from proper attention to the state of the drains.

But maybe we do need to start somewhere - and luckily - under the Government’s ‘buddy’ scheme (where all ministers are teamed up with a big business to make sure our neoliberal agenda doesn’t slip out of gear and lose momentum) Hugo, I hear, is teamed up with Proctor and Gamble - a giant among cleaning agent manufacturers - so maybe we can rely on a few backhander bottles of Mr Muscle or whatever to dose our errant drainage system. If that fails perhaps he can dash us some discount packs of P & G’s cosmetic offer from the HUGO range (Oh yes, this is a close relationship).

It has famously been noted that while we are all in the gutter, some of us are facing the stars. Hugo is clearly not - he’s irredeemably a downward looking drains man.

4. At 07:41 am on 27th Sep Sandra Semple wrote:

Surely it is no coincidence that there are markings on the road in the picture on his website that show that utility companies are already planning work in the area and that he chooses Ottery St Mary to suddenly pop up in his constituency where his biggest threat can be found (and it isn’t drains)..

And my BIG question: who put the large “mugs” sign in the shop window behind them: naughty!

5. At 09:34 am on 27th Sep Tim Todd wrote:

I believe that the county councillor for Exmouth’s Colony area, long beset by flooding problems, is a Tory - so they needn’t expect any interest from Mr Swire as there will be no opportunity for cheap point scoring.

6. At 03:33 pm on 27th Sep Paul wrote:

So, if we ignore what Hugo Swire said and look instead at the facts (perhaps in a more chronological order):

1. “A DCC spokesman said this week that highways officers had cleared 12 gullies and drains in Silver Street and Broad Street.”

2. “Following a meeting with mayor, Glyn Dobson, Hugo Swire spoke with highways officials at Devon County Council (DCC) to request that the blocked drains and gullies be cleaned as soon as possible.”

So, being the cynic that I am, my interpretation is that:

a. Hugo Swire’s team asked DCC when they would be clearing the drains.

b. A week or so before, he met with fellow Tory Glyn Dobson and then organised a press event in order to appear to have made something happen with the drains.

From my own experiences with Hugo Swire, I cannot believe that he had either the time nor the interest in really doing something for OSM. In the several months I have been following Hugo Swire’s speeches in the Commons he has not mentioned East Devon once. He only did something with a letter I wrote after I chased his secretary persistently, and has ignored most of my other communications with him - but he did send me a reply that should have gone to a different constituent!!!

If he is worried about Claire beating him in next year’s general elections (and he certainly should be worried), then he is smarter than I previously thought - though if he thinks that the electorate can’t tell the difference between genuine caring and scoring cheap points, then maybe he isn’t so smart after all.

MP Swire: ‘Problem drains must be cleared’ - Claire Wright.

Limits to development: Feniton and sewage

This blog has already considered the issue of waste water in Sidmouth:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth and sewage

... and in Budleigh: 
Futures Forum: Limits to development: a return of the 'Sewerage Embargo'?

It's very much a question of 'how to handle development' and 'who pays for infrastructure':
Futures Forum: Persimmon, Sidmouth and "promoting well-designed housing that is sustainable and provides much-needed new housing..."
Futures Forum: Crony capitalism and lemon socialism in East Devon... The costs of "substantial growth and expanding business"

... as well as who should be taking responsibility for water:
Futures Forum: The Circular Economy ... and looking after our water at a local level
Futures Forum: Peak oil, peak soil, peak water... peak everything

We return to Feniton:
Futures Forum: Feniton, development and scaremongering

... where Wainhomes recently won an application to build 50 houses on appeal :
Fight for Feniton's Future - July | 2013 |
BBC News - Hundreds join Feniton protest against homes
Fighting for Feniton – yet again; Wain Homes continues its onslaught | East Devon Alliance

It now seems there are fears about the capacity of the site to handle both surface water and waste water from the new buildings:
Wainhomes – anything but watertight |

Cllr Susie Bond has been pushing for clarification:
Conditions? What conditions? | Susie Bond

... and has just received some feedback:
Update on ’Conditions, what conditions?’ | Susie Bond

In fact, the whole issue was highlighed two years ago by Cllr Claire Wright:

‘Serious risk’ that Feniton sewers would be unable to cope

Thursday, 23 August 2012 by Claire

Lawyers for South West Water have written to East Devon District Council expressing deep concern that further development in Feniton could lead to the sewerage system overflowing onto the village’s roads.

In an email from SWW legal representative Alison Langmead to EDDC’s lawyers on 26 July, she spells out the consequences of building more houses in Feniton without first upgrading the sewage system.

The email was in response to the Wainhomes appeal inquiry for 50 houses, which took place a couple of weeks ago.

Ms Langmead’s email is technical but certain paragraphs are stark in their warning: She said: “There can be no doubt as to the principle of sewerage inadequacy - and its potentially serious consequences - as a material planning consideration. The LPA (EDDC) has been made aware that there is a serious risk that, should this development be allowed to proceed without securing the necessary investigations and improvements first, the foul sewer network would be unable to cope. Further resultant flooding would occur, including flooding of the public highway with foul sewage.

Ms Langmead adds: “There should be no confusion that the increased demand of this development would be likely to lead the public foul sewer network to surcharge, with resultant flooding of foul sewage. Please ensure that the (Planning) Inspectorate is again made aware that, unless the necessary improvements are funded and secured in advance of the development, this development would remain unacceptable and contrary to policy.”

Ms Langmead also expresses surprise and concern that EDDC did not list inadequate sewerage as a reason for refusal for the application.

The representation makes for sobering reading and raises questions about a planning application for 32 houses in the centre of the village, which will come forward for a decision following the results of the Wainhomes inquiry, in a few weeks.

Another developer interested in Feniton - Strategic Land Partnerships - which applied (and was refused) to build 120 houses on land next to Ottery Road (half of which is in my ward) still appears to be waiting in the wings for another chance. SLP appears to now own much of Feniton and even made representations against Wainhomes at its recent inquiry.

Incidentally, Wainhomes was quoted in today’s Express & Echo, during a story entitled ‘developers laying siege to our village’ carrying an interview with Feniton Action Group’s Dr John Withrington and Val Jones, who express their concerns about their village being targeted by developers and the risk of further flooding, in a community already with a major flooding problem.

Strangely, in the article the Wainhomes spokesperson claimed that EDDC supported its application. This is likely to come as a surprise to EDDC’s planning department, which spent an entire week with their legal team, fighting Wainhomes appeal inquiry!


1. At 07:18 pm on 26th Aug val jones wrote:

Thank you Claire for highlighting the serious problem with sewage at Feniton. As we all know when it rains, sewage comes up the manholes and floods on to the road. Some people get it in their gardens - not nice.

I read with interest SWW’s comment about a sewage reason for refusal on the Wainhomes application. I think we were all surprised that one wasn’t put on particularly given the strong opposition SWW made to this application and in fact any development in Feniton, stating that improvements must be made to the sewerage system before any development is allowed.

Something must have gone very wrong that no such reason was applied, given the strong backing EDDC had from SWW.

Regarding the Express and Echo report, Wainhomes comments are very misleading and totally untrue. But after reading their planning application form which is full of spelling mistakes and being given a plan drawn up by their consultants which had the wrong address on it, I wouldn’t really expect them to get anything right.

‘Serious risk’ that Feniton sewers would be unable to cope - Claire Wright

The issue of waste water and 'over-development' seems to be escalating at many contentious sites across the country:
‘Stop flood of homes destroying villages’ | Western Gazette
Sewage fears for proposed Billingshurst homes - Local - West Sussex County Times
Floods and Flushes – About Waste Water Capacity | WeAreResidents.org
Fears of ‘over-development’ in Dereham as Hopkins Homes plan resurfaces - News - Eastern Daily Press - Mobile