Sunday, 21 January 2018

Improving Exeter's air quality and public transport through congestion-charging

Many UK cities have got problems with air pollution:
Futures Forum: Communities challenging air pollution @ BBC Two
Futures Forum: Air pollution: "So, are we facing up to what's being called an urgent public health crisis?"

With local councils having to deal with it:
Futures Forum: "Unfairly shifting the burden" of dealing with air pollution on to local authorities

Although, actually, it is central government which is being called to account:
Futures Forum: "The UK government is “flouting” its duty to protect the lives and health of its citizens from illegal and dangerous levels of air pollution."

Meanwhile in Exeter:
Futures Forum: A Sustainable Mobility Fund for UK Cities? >>> The polluter pays in Exeter?
Futures Forum: Gridlocked Devon >>> 'Devon Live' to debate "some of the major travel problems facing the county." >>> and to investigate "the attitude of local authorities to sustainable travel and highlight some of Devon's pollution hotspots"
Futures Forum: Air pollution and over-development: Exeter and East Devon "recording high readings" of nitrogen dioxide emissions

Exeter Council's only Green Councillor has written a piece for the Express & Echo:

A congestion charge would look less scary to Exeter residents if it paid for transport improvements

Last night's highly embarrassing voting scene would not have been out of place in an episode of the Thick of It

Chris Musgrave
12 JAN 2018

Exeter Labour would have you believe, Exeter is a well run council. However, one of the functions of council is scrutiny of its decisions. Basically here in Exeter, the 10 or so Labour councillors that make the city’s executive committee, make all the decisions that impact local residents. The role of backbench councillors is to scrutinise these decisions, accept or reject them, and to generally improve upon decisions and initiatives. At least in theory.

There’s been a fair bit of media attention recently about Exeter’s poor, and in some areas, illegal levels of air quality. Council has the legal responsibility to manage air quality and hasn’t had any plan in place since 2016. This week, after some considerable poking from me and my lean, mean and very green team of supporters, the council is finally consulting on a range of measures designed to improve Exeter’s air quality.

Some of these measures include a charge on businesses providing city centre parking, increases to car park charges and other measures such as pedestrianising certain roads or expanding cycle lanes. I support these measures and was happy to congratulate Labour on finally getting to grips with a widespread problem that causes serious ill health and premature death to local residents.

Traffic on the B3181 on the outskirts of Exeter

Scrutiny however, as I said to Labour this week, is about making proposals better. Whilst I welcome a consultation on these measures, I had a few suggestions for improvement. Number one – don’t say, as in fact council has been saying, ‘air quality is generally good’. It isn’t, but if air quality is good I asked, why do we need measures such as the ones being proposed, to improve it?

Number two – as part of the consultation council should be clear with residents about what the measures are and how they will work. Those that drive into work may be worried about increased parking charges or that their employer will remove their car space, should council introduce a new charge for employers. However, if the money raised was to be invested in making buses more reliable and affordable or for instance, certain city centre workers were issued with free or subsidised bus passes, these schemes might start to look less terrifying.

This leads on to number three – providing detail on how money raised might be allocated helps residents to decide whether they think these initiatives are a good idea. What happened next though was truly astounding.

Scrutiny committee was asked to vote on my very simple, very sensible suggestions to be clear about the problem, explain more clearly how proposals will work and provide some examples for how money could be allocated to make alternatives to cars more reliable and more affordable. There was a good five minutes where the committee couldn’t remember what I’d said, a full minute after I’d said it. There was a further five minutes pondering whether the committee could, or should, vote on my proposals. Then, most embarrassingly of all, a further five minutes where the committee tries to vote on my proposals, but can’t manage to put their hands up in the right order. Meaning the committee responsible for improving Executive decisions voted against being more clear with local residents. A well run council indeed.

You can watch the night’s proceedings here . The highly embarrassing voting scene which would not have been out of place in an episode of the BBC’s ‘the thick of it’, is roughly 15 minutes from the end and best enjoyed as I imagined it, overlaid with the theme to Benny Hill.



The idea of reducing congestion and pollution in the city is entirely laudable, as is the proposal to encourage the use of public transport. I hope, though, that provision for those from the further-flung reaches of the county who have to travel from, say, Bideford to the RD&E for outpatient treatment, will not be penalised as a result of not being able to use public transport simply on time and health grounds. For some patients, the car is essential in reaching the hospital - and getting home again.

Perhaps the City Council will accept that they have a greater responsibility than simply to their own residents given that the city is such an important regional hub for services such as healthcare.

A congestion charge would look less scary to Exeter residents if it paid for transport improvements - Chris Musgrave - Devon Live

Make Sidmouth plastic free > campaigns, actions and petition launched

There are more and more local initiatives to rid us of plastic pollution...

It's happening in small-town Devon:
Futures Forum: Plastic and Modbury, Devon: ten years on >>> getting things done in small places

Local councils are having to be more proactive:
Futures Forum: Plastic and councils: introducing national recycling standards

Volunteer groups are taking things into their own hands:
Futures Forum: "Stop plastic pollution in our oceans" >>> Surfers Against Sewage bring their campaign to Devon

And there are initiatives to encourage responsible tourism:
Futures Forum: Encouraging tourists to stop using plastic water bottles

The latest Herald carries two stories on what's happening in the Sid Valley:

Sidmouth and Ottery breaking news and sport - Sidmouth Herald

Meanwhile, a petition has been launched in Sidmouth:

Petition launched to make Sidmouth plastic-free

PUBLISHED: 10:55 08 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:55 08 January 2018
A petition has been launched calling for Sidmouth to become a plastic-free town.
Denise Bickley, who started the campaign, said the ‘beautiful’ resort ‘deserves more than being a litter bin’ and it should be at the forefront of change coming across the country.
She is calling on the town council to seriously consider installing water fountains, encourage retailers to stop selling bottled drinks and for eateries and supermarkets to stop giving away plastic straws, cutlery and cup lids.
The petition also says more recycling bins should be installed on the seafront and throughout the town and traders should be encouraged to stop using plastic bags.
Denise said: “Sidmouth is a beautiful town that deserves more than being a litter bin. “Let us take the brave step of encouraging local traders, local people and tourists all alike to look after our beautiful town and find ways to change our throwaway society. “We do regular beach and street cleans but this is not enough against the tidal wave of rubbish being thrown away every day.”
Click here to view the petition.

Petition launched to make Sidmouth plastic-free | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

Here it is: having collected over 5000 signatures so far:

Make Sidmouth 

a single-use-plastic-free town

Sidmouth is a beautiful town that deserves more than being a litter bin - we should be at the forefront of the change coming over the country, where we have all had enough of seeing plastic bags, straws, cups, balloons, and especially bottles, all over the ground, in the rivers, streams and sea, on the beach, in bushes and trees - everywhere. Let us take the brave step of encouraging local traders, local people and tourists all alike to look after our beautiful town and find ways to change our throwaway society. We do regular beach and street cleans but this is not enough against the tidal wave of rubbish being thrown away every day.
We ask that the Town Council:- 

seriously consider installing water fountains; 
encourage all local traders to stop selling bottles of drinks; 
encourage all local supermarkets, restaurants and cafés to stop selling or giving away plastic straws or plastic cutlery; 
encourage all local cafés to stop selling coffee in non-recyclable cups with plastic lids; 
provide more recycling bins on the sea front and throughout the town; 
encourage traders to stop giving away or selling plastic bags; 
and  promote awareness that Sidmouth is a plastic-free town.

Petition · Sidmouth Town Council Chairman - Councillor Ian Mckenzie-Edwards: Make Sidmouth a single-use-plastic-free town · Change.org

Brexit: and banning plastic pollution

The plastics industry is preparing for Brexit:

Plastics are one of the UK’s top ten imports and exports. Each year the UK imports £13bn of plastics material, products and machinery and exports £8.4bn.

Understanding Plastics Trade
Brexit and the plastics industry - British Plastics Federation

Why is the EU Plastics Industry concerned about BREXIT? - Plastribution

Meanwhile, the politics of plastic is hotting up, with the UK promising to lead the world in dealing with plastic:

The U.K. will be a global leader against the “scourge” of plastic pollution, Theresa May will promise ... Environment Secretary and leading Brexiteer Michael Gove has promised a “Green Brexit” once the U.K. leaves the EU.

Theresa May pledges Brexit Britain will lead global fight against plastic pollution – POLITICO

And the EU is promising to introduce a tax on plastic - as a green measure, but also to raise funds:
EU plans new Europe-wide tax on plastics to help plug £20bn Brexit blackhole | The Independent

But who started the anti-plastic policies?

Theresa May ridiculed in European Parliament for claiming credit for EU regulations

Scrapping credit card charges and plastic bag fees were Brussels regulations

Jon Stone Brussels  4 days ago

Theresa May has been ridiculed in the European Parliament after her Government took credit for two major EU regulations in the space of a week – without mentioning where the laws had come from.

The Prime Minister spent part of last week hailing the introduction of a ban on credit card charges, as well as mandatory fees for plastic bags in shops, as a win for consumers and the environment. But despite Conservative-branded publicity being prepared for social media and a major set-piece speech about the environment off the back of the latter policy, the two laws were in fact EU regulations and directives. 

The irony of the party delivering Brexit trumpeting the policies imposed by Brussels was not lost on Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, who said there was clearly “widespread” confusion in Britain over the role of the EU. “I see the confusion is a little bit widespread in Britain at the moment. Michael Gove for example has forgotten that the ban on plastic bags is an EU regulation,” he said, speaking on Tuesday morning in Strasbourg. “The Prime Minister, Ms May, doesn’t know, apparently that the abolition of charges on credit cards is a consequence of a directive of the EU.”

A spokesperson for the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs disputed the claims about EU regulation being the source of the plastic bag charges. “It is not true to claim that our plastic bag charge is a result of EU regulation. We set out our plans before the EU and we have gone further than EU regulations require,” she said.

Theresa May ridiculed in European Parliament for claiming credit for EU regulations | The Independent

UK silent on EU origins of plastic bags law


BRUSSELS, 10. JAN, 09:27

UK prime minister Theresa May and her environment minister Michael Gove are due to unveil a broadening of a ban on free plastic bags to tackle the UK's "throwaway culture", UK media reported on Wednesday (10 January). A mandatory 5p charge on plastic bags will apply to all shops in England, including those with fewer than 250 employees who had been exempt from the rule until now.

But while the news is framed as the Conservative government showing its greener side, other motives are at play as well.

What has gone mostly unreported in the UK is that the plastic bag charge is needed to fulfil a requirement in an EU directive. In 2015, the UK government and its 27 European counterparts unanimously agreed to new pan-European rules on plastic bags. A large majority of the European Parliament – 539 votes in favour, 51 against, 71 abstentions – also supported the directive.

The directive requires national governments to do at least one of two things: either ban shops from giving away free lightweight plastic bags, or to come up with other measures that will reduce plastic bag consumption drastically. If member states choose the second option, they have to make sure that by the end of 2019, their citizens use no more than 90 such bags per year. By the end of 2025, plastic bag consumption per capita has to be down to 40.

The deadline for putting in place the first option – charging plastic bags – is 31 December 2018. Several member states introduced a mandatory surcharge on plastic bags as of 1 January 2018, including Greece, Italy, and Slovakia.

While the UK government's motives may be inspired by becoming "the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we inherited", as quoted by government spokesmen on separate occasions, the EU angle is noticeable by absence. The 2015 bill which introduced the 5p charge for shops with more than 250 employees does not even mention the EU or the directive, unlike transposition bills in other EU countries.

Then again, environment secretary Michael Gove, a major figurehead for the Leave campaign, may want to portray the success of the 5p charge as a domestic affair. Since the ban was in place, single-use plastic bags consumption has dropped by almost 90 percent.

UK silent on EU origins of plastic bags law - EU Observer

Back in 2014, there was already 'a power struggle of the UK versus the EU' happening over plastic - with an Italian company lobbying for a ban on non-biodegradable bags:
EU bag law stirs up Italy-UK row over "good" plastic and bad

Trying to be a little less political, here's a comparison of British and EU policies from the Independent: 

How does the new EU plastic strategy compare to the UK’s plans to cut pollution?

Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent  2 days ago

Plastic waste is the environmental issue of the moment.

Long acknowledged by ocean scientists, Blue Planet II brought the threat of marine plastic pollution into the nation’s living rooms. Viewers saw the horrific impact that long-lived plastics could have on underwater environments when creatures accidentally consume or become trapped in them.

Since then, the Government has made plastic waste a centrepiece of its November budget, as well as its recently announced 25 year plan for the environment. In recent months we have also seen the UK making moves to tackle plastic bottles, disposable coffee cups and microbeads in cosmetics.

Meanwhile, as China bans imports of “foreign garbage”, the UK is under more pressure than ever to find new ways to deal with the mountains of plastic waste the country produces every year.

Now, the EU has thrown its hat into the ring with the announcement of a “European strategy for plastics in a circular economy”. Some environmentalists have already commended the strategy for being more substantial than UK proposals, indicating that while the UK Government has gone big on anti-plastic rhetoric, it has not supported this with ample legislation.

“Europe has thrown down the low-plastic gauntlet for Mr Gove to show if a post-Brexit UK really will be an environmental leader,” said Julian Kirby, plastic and waste campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said he wanted to make the UK “a world leader in tackling the scourge of plastic,” and a Defra spokesperson has stated this mission is "a critical part of our Green Brexit plans".

But as Brexit looms, how do British proposals weigh up against those of our European neighbours?

Legislation to make businesses deal with plastics

A key sticking point for many on the announcement of the Government’s 25 year environment plan was the lack of firm legislation emerging from it. For a document heralded by its authors as a way to leave the environment “in a better state than we found it”, some experts said it was not concrete enough to make a real, long-term difference.

“We will encourage manufacturers to take responsibility for the impact of their products, and rationalise the number of different types of plastic they use,” said Theresa May on the launch of the plan.

The key word here may have been “encourage”. 

READ MORE: Plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2030 as part of new EU strategy

“The European Union is always more comfortable putting in place rules and regulations that require action from businesses,” Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth, told The Independent. “The UK is much more inclined to ask for voluntary measures."

Such requests are great when companies like Iceland and Wagamama implement measures to cut plastic use, but for real change to take place there is a need for rules and regulations. “This is why we have been a laggard on the environment for so many years, and why the European Union has improved our performance,” said Mr Childs.

Making recycling easier and more widespread

The key take-home message from the EU’s new plastic strategy was its goal to improve recycling rates in Europe. Currently only 30 per cent of the 25 million tonnes of plastic waste produced across the continent is recycled annually.

This is what prompted EU policy makers to call for “a more circular economy” in which recycling and reuse are encouraged, and they have put their money where their mouth is by pledging €100m (£89m) to finance the development of “smarter and more recyclable plastics materials”.

READ MORE Theresa May’s environment plan is ‘fundamentally flawed’

“The EU’s announcement was more ambitious in terms of the timeline they are looking at,” Dr Lyndsey Dodds, head of marine at WWF told The Independent. The EU intends to make all plastic packaging on the European market recyclable by 2030, while the UK is aiming to achieve “zero avoidable plastic waste” – but not until 2042.

As for actual targets for the proportion of waste that is recycled (and not just recyclable), in 2015 the European Commission proposed that by 2025 at least 55 per cent of all plastic packaging should be recycled. This has not changed with the new strategy, though environmentalists have indicated they would like a more ambitious target.

As a current member of the single market, the UK has the same recycling goal, and the Government has indicated this will not change following Brexit.

Plastic bags, microbeads and single-use plastics

EU policy makers have praised the UK for its progressive approach on plastics, and there have certainly been a handful of measures that have staked the nation’s claim as a “world leader” in tackling plastic, just as the Chancellor wanted.

The ban on microbeads in cosmetic products came into force at the beginning of January in the UK. It is estimated that up to 300,000 tonnes of microplastics – including microbeads – are released into the environment every year in the EU. While the EU’s new strategy said it would “take measures to restrict the use of microplastics in products,” the form such measures will take remains to be seen.

“The microbead ban is brilliant, and the UK Government has been ahead of the game in that regard,” said Dr Dodds. 
“Equally the plastic bag tax has been successful, and has greatly reduced consumption of plastic bags.” 

Wagamama to end use of plastic straws
Iceland to go 'plastic-free' for own products in landmark announcement
Scotland to ban plastic cotton buds from being made

The 5p charge on plastic bags has been applauded for apparently reducing use by 85 per cent. However, there has been some controversy as the UK Government appeared to take credit for the policy’s success, despite claims it originated from EU regulations.

“I see the confusion is a little bit widespread in Britain at the moment. Michael Gove for example has forgotten that the ban on plastic bags is an EU regulation,” Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt told European Parliament recently.

In response, a Defra spokesperson said: "It is not true to claim that our plastic bag charge is a result of EU regulation. We set out our plans before the EU and we have gone further than EU regulations require".

While British and European politicians can quibble about who came up with what policy, the truth is that like the UK’s strategy, the EU’s new goals still require plenty of fleshing out. Though their recycling targets are more ambitious, many of the actual ways of dealing with plastic are left ambiguous in the new strategy, at least for the time being.

With methods for reducing single-use plastic consumption and dealing with abandoned fishing gear due from the EU later this year, it remains to be seen how helpful they will be for tackling what is, after all, an issue that transcends borders.

How does the new EU plastic strategy compare to the UK’s plans to cut pollution? | The Independent

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Beach Management Plan: and asking the public to fund a public project >>> nine months on and £165 richer

Late summer, the District Council put a 'donation box' on the seafront to encourage the public to support plans for new groynes - but the response wasn't exactly enthusiastic:
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: and asking the public to fund a public project >>> four months on and £100 richer

What is particularly interesting is that the District Council will be writing to Sidmouth residents and businesses - and yet the same 'stakeholders' have either walked out or feel locked out of the process so far:
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: report from 10th January meeting 
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: meeting 10th January
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: moving on, but still with so many unanswered questions

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that there has been no surge in enthusiasm...

Collection box for Sidmouth sea defences has raised just £165 to date

PUBLISHED: 12:30 19 January 2018

The preferred option in the Sidmouth beach management scheme is to construct one or two rock groynes to the east of Sidmouth, improve maintenance access onto east beach by reducing the length of the River Sid training wall, import new shingle onto the beach, and periodically recycle shingle

Council bosses will soon write to Sidmouth residents and businesses to ask if they will help to fundraise the £3.3million needed to pay for much-needed sea defences.

The collection box installed on Sidmouth seafront.
And a Freedom of Information request has revealed that, as of December 18, a collection box on The Esplanade asking for contributions to the BMP had taken just £165.75 since it was installed last April – less than half its £400 overall cost.
Project leader and East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) consultants, Royal HaskoningDHV, has been conducting extensive calculations and computer-modelling waves hitting the beach and the floor risk of them overtopping the seawall.
The results will be used to update the number of residential properties that will be protected by the new scheme and to estimate the effect on the area’s economy. This will in turn allow EDDC to justify Defra providing an estimated grant of £5.7million for the scheme.
Under current funding rules, the scheme will also require partnership funding of £3.3million – including future maintenance costs – which will have to be secured before the project can progress beyond the outline design stage.
Councillor Phil Twiss, the steering group’s chairman, said: “Sidmouth is a beautiful coastal town, which benefits enormously from the beach both in terms of amenity and protection, so I hope that the local community can step up to the challenge of helping fund the works required to maintain that protection for current and future generations.
“It is critical that we can provide reasonable assurance to Defra of securing the necessary partnership funding to finance the scheme, in order that the Government grant of around £5.7million can be realised.”
The authority has allocated a further £300,000 towards the future scheme costs, which will go before full council for approval at the end of February.
Over the next six months, Royal HaskoningDHV will progress the outline design for the scheme, alongside an environmental impact assessment.
Businesses that contribute could benefit from tax relief.
Nearly three-quarters of voters in a Herald poll said they would not be willing to put their hand in their pocket to pay towards implementation of the beach management plan (BMP).

Sidmouth seafront collection box has only raised £165 of £3.3million target | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

More historic blue plaques for Sidmouth nominated > including Woolcombe House

A piece in the Herald a couple of weeks ago put the number of nominations for a 'blue plaque' in Sidmouth at 20:
Futures Forum: More historic blue plaques for Sidmouth nominated

The heading this week is a little misleading, though, as there will still be 22 nominations for new plaques - plus replacements for the current 35.

The example plaque pictured shows that the present crop are indeed in need of renewing:

Project seeks to place up to 57 new blue plaques in Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 18:00 19 January 2018

The Historic Sidmouth blue plaque at Alma Bridge in Sidmouth. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref shs 4258-35-12SH To order your copy of this photograph visit www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on myphotos24

A project seeking to place up to 57 new blue plaques in Sidmouth is seeking support from owners of interesting buildings.

Currently there are around 35 blue plaques in the town, all provided by the Sid Vale Association (SVA). Over the years, some have gone missing or have been damaged.
The association is hoping to gradually replace the plaques with new, more resilient signs, which should last around 10 years. Each one will cost in the region of £100.
The SVA has also been looking at 22 other interesting properties which it thinks would be blue plaque worthy and is in the process of contacting the owners to ask for their consent in principle. It is hoped the new plaques will all be up by late spring.
At its latest meeting, Sidmouth Town Council gave consent, in principle, for a plaque to be placed on its Woolcombe House HQ.
Councillor John Rayson said: “I think it is great that the SVA is considering this building for a blue plaque. This building used to be in my family and was used by builders, carpenters and undertakers and at one time all the coffins used in Sidmouth were made here. It has a very interesting history.”
Cllr Ian Barlow added: “The more things we can have for different sorts of walkers, and to appeal to different sorts of people, is for the better.”
Richard Thurlow, SVA’s planning and conservation group chairman, said: “We are hoping to have a general launch when all the blue plaques are up. We are also intending to release a new booklet with all the information about our interesting buildings.
“It will give the public the ability to be able to see what important people have lived in buildings here. The plaques will also be put up on buildings which are architecturally significant. It is something interesting to the public. The blue plaques are placed all over the country. It will hopefully be an aid to visitors and will hopefully aid tourism.

Project seeks to place up to 57 new blue plaques in Sidmouth | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

Woolcombe Hall is a Grade II listed building with a lot of history:

Woolcombe House (C) Anthony Vosper :: Geograph Britain and Ireland
WOOLCOMBE HOUSE, Sidmouth - 1228508| Historic England

How fake news misdirects us from the elephant in the room

It's always a good idea to distract attention from the things that really matter...

From the last Winter Olympics:
How Russia Is Scapegoating Gays to Distract from Most Corrupt Olympics in History | Alternet

To the second Iraq War:
And ENRON Begat IRAQ: How War Saved Bush From Enron Accountability - Daily Kos

Whilst we don't have things on quite this scale happening in East Devon, nevertheless, it has been suggested that  little distraction is being used to keep our minds off the bigger things - even in this quiet corner of the world.

As the latest comment on the EDA blog notes:


19 JAN 2018

Notice the contradiction here: one councillor says the idea is not being looked at, another group of councillors say town and parish councils have been asked to look at “other uses” for toilets! Left hand and right hand perhaps need an introduction.

And a £100,000 subsidy for Honiton’s Thelma Hulbert Gallery!


Conrad Black says:
19 Jan 2018 at 9:47pm

Might I suggest that there is fake news (or misdirection).

Instead of concentrating on the big savings – the biggest costs/budgets under management, we are being misdirected to something we actually understand (don’t forget the seaside towns are over endowed with the elderly, whose needs include lavatories) so that we can gain a small ‘win’ by demanding the facilities, so that we forget the elephants in the room. And there are several of them.

> A gallery that only Councillors want.
> A move of headquarters that only Councillors want.
> A drastic reduction in healthcare services, that only Councillors want.
> Seafront developments that only Councillors want.

William of Occam would say I have over-made the point.

Do you suppose there is a picture developing here?

I could add the absolutely fantastic budget demand coming from a Police body that has a management cost out of all proportion to its actual size. You could make significant savings by firing the bosses and not lose any quality of service?

And what about getting rid of the LEP, which, in my view, has achieved precisely nothing since it was created (except increase the salaries of the leaders although they have yet to achieve any results). That would make some tidy savings.

Maybe we can afford a health service after all!

Best regards

Friday, 19 January 2018

Listing flint walling as local heritage assets: part two

Sidmouth is pretty well endowed with flint walls - many of which have Grade II protection:
Garden Wall of No 21 Bridge House, Sidmouth, Devon - British Listed Buildings
Garden Wall of Barrington Villa, Sidmouth, Devon - British Listed Buildings

Here is another flint wall - on Manor Road - but it is covered by no protection at all: 

Harrison-Lavers & Potbury's

Such heritage assets might well end up being given some protection:
Futures Forum: Listing flint walling as local heritage assets

The 'local listing' process is proving very slow, with promises that things will be going to the District Council 'in the spring' this year:

Officers are "preparing a heritage strategy for East Devon and ... the first draft will be out to consultation during Spring 2018. 

"The strategy will set out proposals for a formal local list of assets that is recognised by the Council, working with communities to establish, update and review such a list."

Back in January 2015, the SVA carried out its own consultation asking for suggestions for the listing of local heritage assets - and this was one such proposal:

"I would like to nominate the flint walls of Sidmouth to be preserved. There are many fine flint constructed walls with a lime and mortar bonding, which give an attractive look to Sidmouth and add much character to the town. Unfortunately many of these walls have been lost as they are expensive to repair, and it is easier and cheaper to replace them with brick or block walls. Many of these walls have also been repaired incorrectly (as in Manor Road) with modern cement and often the wrong coloured sand, using Exeter red sand instead of Branscombe/Wilmington or similar honey coloured sand.

"We have just lost one of these walls this week as Magnolia Cottage has just pulled down their flint wall and is replacing it with a block construction which will probably be rendered. This wall is in a conservation area but when I brought this to the attention of EDDC I was informed nothing could be done about it. In the Council’s words “These works are deemed to be permitted development and do not require a formal application for planning permission”. I surmise from this that all the flint walls in the town could be demolished with impunity."

What makes the Sid Valley special? | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald
Futures Forum: "What's important to our local heritage?"... The Sid Vale Association's "local heritage assets project" asks for nominations

Meanwhile, here is an excellent homage to pebble and flint construction in Sidmouth and East Devon:

Pebble Buildings, East Devon

Whilst researching local materials used in construction and decoration of old buildings, I came across some information about the use of pebbles, a very local supply of material from the Pebble Bed Heathlands in East Devon. The area, between the Exe estuary and the River Otter, is one of the largest lowland heathlands in Britain and is significant for its archaeology and history, especially pertaining to it's prehistoric past. It has long been the source of building materials along with the more readily available pebble beaches in the area.
Having previously taken a couple of photos of Pebblestone Cottage in Sidmouth whilst walking around town (above and below), it gave me an idea for a new project! My mission...should I accept it...is to find more buildings using pebbles in their structure and to document them. ;)
Pebblestone Cottage is a Grade II listed building, originally two cottages built circa 1820, and was probably a toll house. The size and shape certainly fits the criteria of a toll house, as does the time it was built for the Honiton-Sidmouth Turnpike; situated at the corner of a junction with entrances on both sides. A delightfully unusual little building, the red brick dressings and quoins contrast quite sharply with the soft grey pebble walls, which adds to its quirkiness, along with the hipped, almost circular, slate roof and funky little chimneys.
Another walkabout around Sidmouth led to this wonderful wall (above and below) in one of the little alleys between buildings. During research I found that the house itself, Beach House, is another listed building, and looks quite different from the front. However, it's only at the rear where pebbles have been used as surface decoration on top of the flint and rubble wall. Flint can be seen on the raised surround of the gate entrance and has also been used decoratively upon the tops of the wall crenellations.
The colour differences between pebbles is dependant upon where they occur in the landscape. The stones in the wall above are a mixture, whereas those used on Pebblestone Cottage are all of the same hue. Although now illegal, pebbles were once often taken from the beach, although they also came from gravel & pebble pits, streams and river beds, as well as quarries. 
Another entrance in the wall further along shows the use of pebbles as edging, which interestingly also bonds with the brick alongside it...possibly an adjacent wall between Beach House and the next property.
One of the more obvious erstwhile uses for pebbles was that of street and path surfacing. The photo below was taken outside the Georgian Assizes (within Exeters Rougemont Castle walls), where pebbles have been used decoratively. It is here that we can see the use of two different naturally occurring colours; white stones laid in diamond shapes, surrounded by black ones laid in the opposite direction...with the odd interloper!
One of the villages in the pebble bed area is Newton Poppleford. Popple is an old Devon word for pebble...you can see where I'm going with this, can't you! ;) ...and it's original meaning is new town built by a pebble stream.
These two photos are of St Luke's church in Newton Poppleford. As can be seen in the photo above, pebbles are a part of the flint rubble wall, especially near the roof edging. Below is a clearer photo of the wall surrounding the doorway. During my research I discovered that there are many examples of pebbles in the village, therefore I'll be making another visit there soon to see what I can find. The page for St Luke's, with more photos and further information, can be seen here.
The next building is similar to some of the other examples where pebbles have been used in the construction of the walls instead of flint rubble...both of which are used extensively in the vernacular buildings of East Devon coastal towns.
This was a boat house situated above the old lime kilns near to Jacob's Ladder beach in Sidmouth. There was no access to the sea from the cliffs then, therefore boats had to be raised or lowered using a pulley system. It's now a cafe (and a very good one too) and part of the fabulous Connaught Gardens situated on top of the cliff. I'll be adding a page about the Jacob's Ladder area at some point, and will add a link here when I do.
I'll be adding to this page with new photos and information when I have more examples of pebble buildings and the decorative use of pebbles. There's also a ton of research to go through regarding the geology and other pebbly facts, so I'll add some other bits later on.
Meanwhile, these and some other photos can be viewed in the Photo Gallery album.

Past Remains - Pebble Buildings