Sunday, 17 June 2018

Into the Forest @ Radio 3

This week, Radio 3 will be taking us into the Forest:
BBC Radio 3 - Breakfast - Into the Forest

This evening we listen to the the summer forest in all its cultural and ecological glory: 

The Summer Forest

Once upon a time, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough woke up in the summer forest. At first, there were worse places to be lost. She hid inside giant oaks with historians, read Tolkein and Shakespeare with wise women. A kind witch, Moira Hodgkinson, even cast a spell to wish her good luck in her quest to discover the joys and traditions of the summer forest.

But it wasn't all about the mythical Forest of Arden and the English Romantic idyll. Eleanor watched as that got chewed up, trees turned into ships, into fuel for the furnaces of the industrial revolution. So she met legendary fairy tale guru Jack Zipes, and heard his tales from the Black Forest in Germany, travelled back in time to earth's primeval forests with their strange and leafless trees; and still found time to relax with a spot of Japanese forest bathing. Listen to the the summer forest in all its cultural and ecological glory.

Part of Radio 3's Into the Forest season 
- a week long celebration of the role forests have played in human creativity.

BBC Radio 3 - Sunday Feature, The Summer Forest

And every evening this week we will hear more:
BBC Radio 3 - The Essay, Forests

Hello Fixers, Handyfolk and Repairers! > Sidmouth Repair Café needs you!

A couple of years ago, the VGS Farmers' Market at Kennaway House held a 'Repair Café':
REPAIR IT - Sidmouth | Don't let Devon go to waste
Futures Forum: Repair It! >>> bring along your broken electrical goods to be fixed for free >>> at the Sidmouth Farmers' Market > Saturday 8th October

This is part of a big movement to help folk get things mended - rather than just throwing them away:
Futures Forum: Right to repair

Home - Repair Café
Repair café - Wikipedia

Repair Cafés are springing up everywhere:

Reparatur Café in Homburg: Einladung zum ersten Planungstreffen | HOMBURG1
Repair Café – Transition Regensburg im Wandel
Repair Café Neder-Over-Heembeek - Repair Café
Repair Cafe Palo Alto - Home

Including these parts:
Exeter Repair Cafe - Home | Facebook
Repair Café Exmouth - Repair Café
Tiverton Area Communities Transition - Repair Cafe

And it's about to happen in Sidmouth:



Wednesday 6th June 2018


Your community needs you!

At the end of September, Sidmouth will be hosting the first of what is intended to become a monthly ‘Repair Café’ at the Youth Centre in Manstone Lane.

 “I think this would be a great thing for us in Sidmouth,” says Angie Carney, who started the group behind the project. “I'd love to see it happen!”

The Repair Café idea has been tried in Sidmouth before – but the aim now is to get one up and running on a regular basis.

To quote from the repaircafe.org website, “Repair Cafés are free meeting places and they’re all about repairing things.

“Visitors bring their broken items from home and together with the specialists they start making their repairs in the Repair Café.”

They are already doing really well in the likes of Exeter, Exmouth, Honiton and Axmouth – all supported by the county and district councils.

But they couldn’t function without the enthusiastic fixers and the wider community.

As Dave Rafferty, the coordinator of the project, says, “it would be great to have several teams set up” – with both general repairers and specialist fixers.

The group is now looking specifically for volunteer ‘fixers’ and ‘menders’ – including carpenters, electrical repairers, bike repair people, textile repairers, jewellery fixers, techie repair people, ceramic whizzes and the like.

Also anyone with experience in tool and knife sharpening, fishing equipment, tennis racquets and sports gear, furniture and toys,  sewing and mending, phones and gadgets.  The list is endless!

If you are interested in getting involved and becoming a volunteer mender, please get in touch with Dave on drafferty@hotmail.com or 07977064498.

And then things can really start getting ready for the first Sidmouth Repair Café in September!

Sidmouth Repair Cafe - Home | Facebook

Sidford and developers lobbying to exempt retirement complexes from affordable housing obligations

Back in 2011, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism looked into who was donating to the party in government at the time - and a modest amount was given by a certain developer of housing for the elderly:

Churchill Retirement (Group) Ltd £9,250

The biggest Conservative donors from beyond the Square Mile — The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Last year a group listed a similar amount:

£10,000.00 Churchill Retirement Living Ltd

Donations to Tory party – largest first « Stop UK lies & corruption

Interestingly, Churchill is owned by the McCarthy family, who are also a developer of housing for the elderly - both of whom have been the subject of investigations into the value of their developments:
Campaign against Residential Leasehold Exploitation reveals abysmal retirement housing re-sale values - Leasehold Knowledge Partnership
Housebuilders shares crash over ground rents, with McCarthy and Stone down 10% - Leasehold Knowledge Partnership

Private Eye has been looking into these issues - as captured by the East Devon Watch blog - which puts the donation now a little higher:

Churchill Retirement … big Tory donors | East Devon Watch
Private Eye | Official Site - the UK's number one best-selling news and current affairs magazine, edited by Ian Hislop

Meanwhile in Sidford:
Futures Forum: A tale of two developments > affordable housing in Sidford ... but not at Knowle
Futures Forum: Proposals for sheltered housing for the elderly in Sidford > refused as it still did not include ‘an adequate amount of affordable housing’ or a ‘provision of an overage clause’.
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project >>> and comparisons with other proposals for sheltered housing for the elderly in Sidford >>> A planning officer recommended the application be refused as it still did not include ‘an adequate amount of affordable housing’ or a ‘provision of an overage clause’.
Futures Forum: District Council gives way in Sidford over affordable housing: “Under government guidance, we are required to reduce our requirements where a development is unviable and so we have no real choice but to accept this position.”

Brexit: and “That’s your bloody GDP, not ours.”

The editor of the Financial Times has written a book entitled 'The Growth Illusion' - and wrote earlier this year in Time magazine to make the point:
Why the GDP Is a Terrible Measure of Success and Wealth | Time

The wider population seems to agree:

Findings of an opinion survey, commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) found 72% of people think they have little or no influence over big economic decisions:

Whose economy is it anyway? - BBC News 

With a report from the RSA and openDemocracyUK:

In the RSA’s new Citizens’ Economic Council interim report we caution that decision-makers need to find new ways of engaging citizens earlier and upstream in economics.

Drawing upon roadshow workshops held in Clacton-on-Sea, Port Talbot, Glasgow, Birmingham, as well as nine day-long workshops on economics with randomly selected citizens, we show how the UK public’s decline in trust in politicians, economists and business as revealed by the ‘Brexit’ vote and by the Edelman Barometer 2017 is closely connected to the distance they feel from decisions made about the economy. In Port Talbot, a town deeply affected by the steel crisis, one participant sketched the following when asked to draw an image of how they saw the economy:
Drawing, from RSA Citizens’ Economic Council Inclusion Roadshow workshop in Port Talbot

Our report illustrates how inequalities, such as gender and regional effects, are often overlooked or rendered invisible by national narratives about the economy and economic performance, which often aggregate figures and mask the varying levels of income and wealth distribution for different sections of society. This was a point somewhat more bluntlymade by a Newcastle resident when Europe expert Anand Menon invited an audience to contemplate a plunge in the UK’s GDP as a consequence of Brexit: “That’s your bloody GDP. Not ours!” she yelled at him.

Citizens, participation and economics: Emerging findings from the Citizens’ Economic Council - New thinking for the British economy - openDemocracyUK

The New Economics Foundation looked at these issues last month: 



17 MAY, 2018 | 


If there’s one thing that we learned from the political turmoil of the past few years it’s that people have woken up to the failings of our old economic model.

The splintering of the electoral map– with the success of UKIP, the Green surge, the SNP and Corbyn inside the Labour party – is testament to a widespread rejection of business as usual.

When the Remain campaign lined up every establishment political figure and economic expert they could find to argue that a vote to leave the European Union would fundamentally threaten our current economic system, 51% of voters said: yes please.

Probably the most poignant moment for me was a woman in Newcastle who responded to economic predictions about the effects of Brexit on GDP with the heckle: “That’s your bloody GDP, not ours,” perhaps sums this up best.

Her comment not only spoke to the depth of inequality that undermined the Remain campaign’s economic case for the EU, but also something deeper than that: the meaninglessness of GDP as an indicator of economic progress. When economic growth is no longer convincing as an overall economic goal, our economy feels rudderless.

The arguments against GDP as an indicator of national progress – or even of economic progress – are well-rehearsed. In fact, they are so well known that few, if anyone, defends it any more.

Unfortunately, however, discrediting GDP as an indicator isn’t enough. It’s a bit like trickle-down economics. Few now have the audacity to openly defend it as a credible economic theory, but its shadowy assumptions still lurk behind arguments for policies benefitting the already wealthy.

We need statistics that really get to the heart of how people’s lives are going. One of the best ways of understanding how people’s lives are going is simply to ask them. That’s the foundation of the rise of wellbeing as an academic discipline and the growing movement (including at a local level) to use people’s reported satisfaction with their lives as a key indicator of progress.

At New Economics Foundation we’ve argued for a while that looking at averages of wellbeing isn’t enough, and that an economy with economic and social justice at its core must focus first and foremost on those struggling most. We have been working for years to develop to alternative measures of progress – most recently arguing for a dashboard of five indicators, a recommendation adopted by the IPPR.

And that’s why we’re so excited today to be publishing our report on measuring wellbeing inequalities.

Commissioned by the ONS and produced in partnership with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, it recommends that a measure of low wellbeing – the percentage below a threshold such as 4 on a scale of 0 to 10 – is reported alongside average wellbeing. Today, the ONS is adopting this recommendation and publishing their own analysis of the drivers of low wellbeing. Also today, the ONS are announcing a centre of excellence on inequalities.

New statistics and indicators might sound dry, but they’re an essential foundation if we are to change our economy into one that works for everyone. In the face of Brexit, this has never been more important. Without a clear sense of what we’re trying to achieve in a post-Brexit economy, we’re in danger of prioritising growth for growth’s sake to the detriment of our environment and wellbeing. Let’s make reducing misery and tackling unhappiness a central economic goal.

Read the full report

Introducing…wellbeing inequality | New Economics Foundation

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Knowle relocation project: "The true cost of relocation is almost certainly at least £20 million."

The final press release of the week from the District Council has its political leadership 'celebrating' at the site of their soon-to-be HQ on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Honiton:
15 June 2018 - Top hole East Devon! Council celebrates topping out ceremony at new purpose-built modern HQ - East Devon

Most of them probably won't be in power in twenty years time when the 'savings' which were promised will not in fact be realised:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "Hard to say how much it has cost so far, what the current projected cost is..." (February 2018)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: latest FOI request on costs (November 2017)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project 2008: “We’ll be seriously looking at the future of us staying in this building for numerous reasons.” OR: "Given current market values and the likely cost of relocation, it would be a close run thing as to whether a move was viable.” (August 2017 - and 2008)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Cabinet to consider 'options' as costs spiral even further: part two >>> Weds 5th March (April 2017)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Cabinet to consider 'options' as costs spiral even further >>> Wednesday 5th March (March 2017)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: What are the costs to date and what are the projected costs? (January 2017)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Cabinet meets Wednesday 14th December >>> "Members have previously agreed that they want to leave the Knowle site in a manner that is cost effective and does not add to the Council Tax bill of East Devon’s residents." (December 2016)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: on being 'cost neutral' and 'fit for purpose' and asbestos free >>> comparing the Knowle and Exmouth Town Hall sites (December 2016)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: of devolution and rising costs (December 2016)

etc, etc, etc...

In a brilliant analysis from today's East Devon Watch, these figures are picked over and not only found seriously wanting - but reveal how fundamentally skewed the whole 'relocation project' has been: 


16 JUN 2018

“Remaining at Knowle with essential and basic repairs undertaken would have cost the council £ 4.5m over 20 years. In contrast moving to the new HQ in Honiton will provide a cash saving of £ 1.4m over the same period. That’s a difference of £5.9m.’

The above quote is lifted from the EDDC web-site.

So even using their figures, it will take 20 years to recover half the cost of the new building. Only after 40 years will we get our money back.

So if we see a Devon unitary authority in the next 40 years we will lose money.

But, of course, it’s much worse, because the EDDC numbers assume that there will be no ‘essential and basic repairs’ to the new building over those 40 years. Impossible, of course.

Even worse, no-one wanted EDDC to remain in the whole of the Knowle building. Those opposed to the move recommended that EDDC retrench to the modern buildings that were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Half the size of the Knowle as it now stands. So, even using EDDC’s figures, half the size would mean half the ‘essential and basic repairs’, so only £2.25 million, and half the ‘cash saving’ of £1.4 million, so a trifling £700,000 over 20 years. Peanuts.

So even using EDDC’s own numbers, the new building cannot produce any savings for 80 years.

Even, even worse, EDDC has borrowed the money to build the new building. The cost of borrowing £11 million, the notional build cost of Blackdown House, is of the order of £400,000 per annum, dwarfing the expected savings.

Even, even, even worse, the costs of the new building do not include the fees charged by various advisers over many years, the cost of the move itself, compensation to staff forced to travel further, new equipment, officer and councillor time, and the cost in terms of disruption. Plus all the costs of disposing of the Knowle.

The true cost of relocation is almost certainly at least £20 million.

Even, even, even, even worse, those EDDC numbers do not take into account the ‘essential and basic’ repairs conducted at their new Exmouth office, which came in at a whopping £1.7 million. Nor the running costs of Exmouth, which will surely be at least £1.4 million over that 20 year period. Almost certainly much more: Exmouth is, of course, an old building from the 1920s, far older than the modern brick buildings at Knowle.

Blackdown House will be a tremendous drain upon the finances of EDDC from the day it opens, and the expected cost savings thereafter will be microscopic compared to the huge borrowing costs.

But the biggest problem of all is that EDDC’s own consultants informed them that the building constructed at a cost of £20 million would only have an open market value on its completion of £3 million. That included the value of the land on which it sits.

So, if Devon goes unitary any time in the next few years, we will have lost £17 million.

The only good news for residents of East Devon is that the whole of Devon will then have to pay the bill and the borrowing costs.

Sums on Knowle relocation not adding up for us, the taxpayers | East Devon Watch

Sidford business park >>> “Sidmouth’s outstanding natural environment is a key asset - and conservation, enhancement and sensitive management of the landscape, heritage and wildlife of the area is critical.”

There is actually no need for this proposed industrial estate on the edge of Sidford:
Futures Forum: VGS comment on Fords planning application 18/1094/MOUT >>> "there is no proven need for this particular business park"
Futures Forum: Sidford business park >>> "One of the many reasons why we do not need a new site in Sidford is that many of our employment sites are dormant - because East Devon’s current Local Plan is based upon an anticipated annual UK economic growth rate of 3% from 2007, which has turned out to be just over 1%."

These and other points have been powerfully put together by Graham Cooper, who has sent in the following submission, reproduced here with permission: 

FAO Central Planning,EDDC Knowle Sidmouth Devon

Outline Application for the development of Employment facilities on land adjacent to Two Bridges Sidford. 18/1094/MOUT

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to register my opposition to the above proposed application and refer you to my previous objection dated 8th June 2016 which remains relevant.

According to East Devon Local Plan - strategy 26, “Sidmouth’s outstanding natural environment is a key asset and conservation, enhancement and sensitive management of the landscape, heritage and wildlife of the area is critical” While strategy 46 in Local Plan states that development inside an AONB ‘must conserve and enhance the landscape character of the area’.

A renowned Regency resort, Sidmouth, is situated in magnificent natural surroundings which will be irreparably damaged by such a development. Scaring the Sid Valley’s picturesque countryside, the environmental and economic impact of this ugly intrusion will be considerable. The development would be detrimental to the long-term viability of the Sid Valley as a high-quality visitor destination. It makes no strategic or economic sense having another industrial estate development along the A3052 in a location which will damaged the tourism trade and be harmful to businesses in the Sidmouth town centre. Tourism is the main economic driver and due to its commercial vibrancy, Sidmouth has very low unemployment and has long attracted workers from across the district. Undermining the future sustainability of the community. there is no evidence that a speculative out-of-town business park can be justified. Building commercial estates on AONB land is regarded as bad planning practice, particularly when there is sufficient brownfield capacity available elsewhere in the Sid Valley.

Unsupported Need: 

The demand for industrial/commercial space is low and no evidence has been provided by the applicant of significant shortage to support this development. The proposed employment land is excessive and bears no relation to local need and an increasingly retired demography. The Local Plan places “particular onus on B1 spaces” (with ancillary retail) but there is no local shortage of office space and any further retail will undoubtedly divert business away from the town centre. East Devon’s current Local Plan is based upon an anticipated annual UK economic growth rate of 3%, which from 2007 is reported to be just over 1%. Many of the employment sites across the district therefore remain dormant while the High Street shops are struggling. According to EDDC’s own statistics, even with 3% economic growth we would still have an estimated over-supply of 33% employment land above what is required. There simply isn’t the demand which is one of the many reasons why we do not need a new site in Sidford.

There is enough spare capacity on the Alexandria Industrial Estate to meet Sidmouth’s future employment needs. Instead of concreting over class 2 agriculture land it is more sensible to refigure the Alexandria IE which will easily accommodate the amount of land required for the modest amount of employment space required in the town. (All it requires is a simple T junction onto the road at Bulverton.) The above application is not about accommodating future employment need or benefit to the community and there is no “exceptional need” to build over AONB land. In fact, the controversial two Bridges site should not have been in the Local Plan from the outset as there was a clear indication from the Atkins and Tym Reports that the demand for employment land in Sidmouth was comparatively low. Instead the excessive designation was based on exaggerated claims made by the applicant through the now disbanded East Devon Business Forum and its disgraced chairman and former district councillor, who through a back-channel network considerably increased the amount of employment land in the Local Plan.

Poor connectivity and access: 

The development will cause major congestion on the local village roads, which mostly without pavements are too narrow and dangerous for any additional traffic. Contrary to the Local Plan, the development will increase inward-commuting and heavy-goods vehicle movements across the valley causing environment pollution and impacting further on inadequate roads and the forty or so listed roadside cottages in the villages of Sidford and Sidbury. The increase volume and size of vehicles will result in the narrow School Street being jammed, causing a backlog of traffic attempting to leave Sidmouth at the Sidford Cross junction. This congestion will disrupt public transport in the area, causing people to miss their train connections. In Sidbury there are width restrictions at the Cotford bridge and elsewhere in the village where the narrow road and blind-bends regularly lead to traffic blockages. There are also concerns in the village about speeding vehicles and the safety of families taking their children to and from the primary school.

The emerging Neighbourhood Plan refers to numerous compelling planning reasons why the above application must be rejected.

These include:

Policy 02 Protection of Key Views (Trow Hill, north west to Sidbury Fort)

Policy 03 Settlement coalescence and green wedges (Impact on AONB)

Policy 04 Green (Wildlife) Corridors (River Sid and tributaries from Sidford to Cotford.

Policy 08 Light Pollution (Noise and light pollution}

Yours sincerely

Graham Cooper

18/1094/MOUT | Outline application accompanied by an Environmental Statement (with scale and appearance reserved) for the change of use of agricultural land to employment land (B1, B8 and D1 uses) to provide 8,445 sqm of new floorspace, new highway access, cycle and footway, improvements to flood attenuation, building layout and road layout, new hedgerow planting and associated infrastructure. | Land East Of Two Bridges Two Bridges Road Sidford

Sidford business park >>> deadline for comment on planning application extended by two weeks

The public meeting ten days ago was packed:
Futures Forum: Sidford business park >>> campaign group calls for help and funding

It was also attended by Cllr Mike Howe, the chair of the DMC (the planning committee of EDDC) - who told the meeting that it would be quite acceptable to continue sending in comments for a further two weeks:
Futures Forum: Sidford business park >>> How to comment on the planning application > before 15th June

Although clearly, the earlier comments are sent in the better - as the report on the campaign Facebook pages point out: 

On Tuesday evening 150 people attended our public meeting to oppose the planning application to build business park in AONB in Sidford. Make sure you object to EDDC by the deadline of next Friday 15 June. Go do it. See information on how to object at the post pinned to the top of this page. 👍⌨️✍️😡👏

Say NO to Sidford Business Park - Home | Facebook

More details on how to respond:

Say NO to Sidford Business Park

WRITE TO: Planning Central, East Devon District Council, Knowle, Sidmouth, EX10 8HL or 
Outline Application for the development of Employment Facilities on Land Adjacent to Two Bridges, Two Bridges Road Sidford
Please do not copy/paste comments from others, as identical responses do not count! If you have a personal story, or photos to back up what you say, then please include them.
● Traffic size / volume and its consequences
● Flood mitigation and overflow
● Visibility from surrounding area
● Impact on AONB
● Light & noise pollution
● Unsupported need

Say NO to Sidford Business Park - Home | Facebook