Monday, 22 April 2019

Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan > Town Council to set up a Community Action Coordination Group

The Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan has been formally submitted:
A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN FOR THE SID VALLEY 2018-2032 - Submission Version

And is now with the Examiner:
Futures Forum: Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan > unanimously endorsed by District Council > consultation ends 8th March > Examiner appointed

Looking ahead, hopefully once the Examiner is satisfied and the plan is voted through by the residents of the Sid Valley, the next stage would be to look at the Community Actions:
Futures Forum: Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan: "the next phase of its contribution" >>> community actions

And the Town Council has just shown its commitment to the process of ensuring that the Community Actions happen:


Minutes of the Meeting of Sidmouth Town Council held at the Council Chamber, Woolcombe House, Sidmouth, on Monday 8 April 2019 at 6.30pm

Neighbourhood Plan Community Actions

Members were asked to consider the discussions and recommendations from an informal joint meeting of the Council and Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group regarding the Neighbourhood Plan Community Actions.


1. following Local Government Elections in May 2019, the Council sets up a Community Action Coordination Group, to help facilitate the implementation of Neighbourhood Plan Community Actions;

2. the steering group to consist of Councillors alongside a number of volunteers (in a similar model to the NHP Steering Group) and report progress to full Council quarterly;

3. the Council’s Committees and Working Groups champion relevant Community Actions as appropriate.


The Vision Group hopes to help with that stage:
Futures Forum: Help shape the positive development of our community > get in touch with the Vision Group!

Knowle relocation project: parkland transfer to Town Council > latest

Earlier this month, there was an announcement that there would be a transfer of Knowle parkland to the Town Council this autumn:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: parkland transfer to Town Council

At the Town Council meeting on 8th April, the issue was brought up again: 


Minutes of the Meeting of Sidmouth Town Council held at the Council Chamber, Woolcombe House, Sidmouth, on Monday 8 April 2019 at 6.30pm 

• District Councillor Rixson asked whether Pegasus Life had been approached to contribute to the management costs of the Knowle Parkland. The Town Clerk replied that in early discussions, Pegasus Life had indicated a willingness to make a contribution to the management costs as their residents would benefit from the open parkland adjoining the proposed development.

Transfer of Knowle Parkland 

The Town Clerk reported that Pegasus Life now had a revised phased timescale for the construction of their development at the Knowle. This meant that the Knowle Parkland would likely be offered for transfer to the Town Council in the autumn/winter of 2019 instead of in three years’ time as previously advised. Refurbishment work had also been carried out on the railings and brickwork along the Knowle boundary to Station Road as requested by the Town Council.

Transfer of Knowle Parkland 

– Financial Consideration The Town Clerk reported that following negotiations between the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council and District Council representatives, the Knowle Parkland had been offered to the Town Council along with a sum of money representing 2 years’ worth of maintenance costs. Members were asked to consider this offer and advise the basis for further negotiations. 

RESOLVED: that: 
1. The Town Council accept the transfer of Knowle Parkland with the sum of money offered for 2 years’ worth of maintenance costs. 
2. In addition to (1), the District Council must supply evidence of recent tree surveys and management and any remedial tree works carried out prior to transfer of the land. 
3. Pegasus Life be asked to make an annual contribution to grounds maintenance costs as this work will directly benefit their residents. 


Knowle relocation project: an overspend on loans

How much exactly has the relocation from the old District Council HQ cost?
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project >>> a spanking new HQ for £5.6 million... or for £10.6 million?

How much exactly is the new HQ worth?
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: or, how a new HQ costing £8.7m is valued at £3.5m

What is clear is that a lot of money had to be borrowed:

Here is one estimate of the amount of money being spent on the relocation project:

= £10.5 million (+ new road) for the Honiton HQ + £1.5 million for refurbishment of the Exmouth Town Hall 

= £12 million for both sites

= £7.5 m for Knowle from PegasusLife

= £4.5 m to be financed by borrowing

Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: ready to move, but at what cost...
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: financial profligacy in a time of austerity

And a 'twenty-year' window of borrowing is always fantasy in public administration:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: fantasy 'cost savings over twenty years' are of no interest to people in East Devon

But, then, the District Council's ways with money always seem to be a fantasy beyond our ken:
Futures Forum: District Council's £20m investment fund: motion to debate the issue rejected

And public finance bodies are warning that things are going to get worse for councils:
Council tax increases in England | CIPFA
Running out of road: the councils using rainy day reserves | Public Finance

As reported across the country:
South Tyneside Council borrowing tops £630m - Shields Gazette
Mix 96 - News - Bucks County Council borrow £302 million
Figures show Redbridge Council more than £200m in debt as experts warn of risk | Politics | Ilford Recorder

Including in East Devon - and as noted by the EDW blog, this is not unconnected with its vanity project: 


22 APR 2019

EDDC blames the overspend on loans (see last paragraph below) on “the purchase of assets related to service delivery, these being assets required “for recycling and refuse collection”. Are we to believe that it has ALL been spent on waste contracts and NOT on the £10 MILLION on HQ relocation (originally described as “cost neutral”)?

Owl would be interested to see a breakdown of the costs (but bets they will be conveniently avoided under a “commercial confidentiality” clause with the contractor …

“More than £86.6million in outstanding loans is owed by East Devon District Council” | East Devon Watch

Here's the story from the Herald: 

District council has £86.8 million in outstanding loans to pay

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 April 2019

Harriet Clugston

More than £86.6million in outstanding loans is owed by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

The amount the authority has borrowed has also increased by £3million in just one year.

Experts have warned councils are risking taking on too much debt while others say that councils are simply adapting to plug funding gaps made by Government cuts.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy says delivery of public services could be put at risk by unsustainable borrowing, after debt among UK local authorities rose to more than £100 billion.

By the end of December, EDDC's outstanding loans stood at £86.6 million, according to figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This was a four per cent increase compared to a year ago, and one per cent higher than at the end of 2013-14. All the outstanding loans were long term advances, which last for more than one year and are used to finance large projects or purchases.

The Chartered Institute says many cash-strapped councils are taking out large loans to buy property, as the rent they collect can be higher than the interest they pay on the loans.

Funding for councils fell by almost half between 2010-11 and 2017-18, according to the National Audit Office.

The government's Public Works Loan Board was the sole lender to EDDC as of December. The loan board offers low-interest loans to councils, without requiring them to prove they can afford the repayments. There is no limit to the amount councils can borrow from it.

Don Peebles, head of policy at the Chartered Institute, said: “With government funding in decline, it is unsurprising councils are having to adapt and find alternatives. While councils are borrowing for a wide range of purposes, such as building houses and investing in major infrastructure, one trend which has been concerning is the growth in investment in commercial property - which exposes public finances to new risks.”

A spokeswoman for the MHCLG said: “Councils are responsible for managing their own finances and making the right decisions for the communities they serve – including making appropriate investments. Guidance on council investments was updated in April 2018 with new codes that strike the right balance between allowing councils to continue to be innovative while ensuring that taxpayers' money is properly protected.”

An EDDC spokesman said: “The annual increase in borrowing identified was used to finance the purchase of assets related to service delivery, these being assets required for recycling and refuse collection.”

East Devon District Council's has £86.8 million in outstanding loans to pay | Honiton, Axminster and Seaton news - Midweek Herald

Sidmouth Annual Town Assembly: record amount of grants to festivals and groups

The Town Council's annual assembly always provides an opportunity to showcase local groups - who are also recipients of council grants for that year, for example in 2013:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Annual Report: grants to local organisations

Last year, it was not only cash being handed out - but support for key projects, including:
Futures Forum: Getting the backing of the town council for a plastic-free Sidmouth @ annual Town Assembly > Monday 9th April > BREAKING NEWS: "100% support for the Plastic Free Coastlines bid"

This year's awards were particularly generous:

For events/festivals:
Sidmouth & East Devon Walking Festival 1,000 
Sidmouth Carnival 500 
Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub CIC (Seafest) 750 
Sidmouth Literary Festival 500 
Sidmouth Regatta 1,500 
Sidmouth Science Festival 3,000 

And for organisations - with the largest grants:
Citizens Advice East Devon 2,000 
East Devon Support Group (Parkinsons UK) 750
Revitalise Respite Holidays 750
Sid Valley Food Bank 750
Sidmouth Arboretum 1,500

Official Sidmouth Town Council Website - Sidmouth Town Council

Last week, three key groups gave presentations at the Annual Town Assembly, as reported by the Herald: 

Grants galore for good Sidmouth causes thanks to town council

PUBLISHED: 07:30 19 April 2019
Friends of the Byes volunteers young and old gave up their time to make the bee hotel which has won a prize.

More than £16,000 has been given to 19 different good causes in Sidmouth, the biggest amount of money the town council has ever handed out.

Three of the selected few gave special presentations at the authority's annual meeting, which was held on Monday (April 15) at St Francis Hall in Woolbrook.
The first talk was given by Norma Self, of the Sidmouth and East Devon Walking Festival - which received a grant of £1,000.
The eight-day event, which is now in its sixth year, will take place between September 21 and 27. It offers a choice of free inland and coastal walks every day and celebrates East Devon's scenic views. Norma said: “It gets bigger and better every day. We bring in visitors from all over the countryside and we also have had people from as far as Australia and Canada. It really does bring in people from everywhere. We just love showing people our wonderful countryside.”
Louise Cole was the next person to give a presentation on Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub (Seafest 2019) - which received a grant of £750. This year's event will take place on Saturday, May 18, and celebrates everything in, on and from the sea. The 2019 Seafest will have a special focus on promoting difference, inclusion, environmentalism and sustainable development through music, art, food, singing, crafts and coastal heritage.
Louise said: “This will be our sixth Sidmouth Seafest. We run it completely voluntarily. Our vision is about connecting people with the coast and to enjoy the sea carefully together. It is about celebrating our coastal location, picking up all the issues around us, in a beautiful environmental location.”
The last presentation was given by Monica Matthews from the Friends of The Byes (FOTB) - which received a £280 grant.
She said: “This lovely area is quite unique. FOTB was set up in 2010 with money from the lottery and the idea was to improve the biodiversity of The Byes to make it an education resource for people in the town and over the years a lot has happened.”
Over the years, FOTB's work has included planting a community orchid which also now has picnic tables, a herb garden and soft fruit. Children have also used it to learn about the environment and some have built bug hotels.

Grants galore for good causes thanks to Sidmouth Town Council | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

"Independents have taken initial steps in showing what can be done by committed and organised locals outside of Party Politics, looking to change the focus to inclusive participation and ownership of decisions by the community."

Four years ago, at the last local council elections, there was a lot of noise being made around the rise of independents:
Futures Forum: The rise and rise of independent candidates

Subsequently, there has been a lot of coordination between the independents:
Futures Forum: A national policy framework for independent candidates?

Especially in the South West:
Futures Forum: Independents in the West Country

This time round there appears to be even more energy, as reported by the founder of the Flatpack Democracy movement and leader of the Frome independents:

Rights of Spring

2 APRIL 2019

Social activist recent Mayor and Leader of Frome Town Council, undertaker, international development consultant, new grandfather...

As comedians Laurel and Hardy said: “Well , here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into “….. Why so many? Why endless dead ends and unanswerable conundrums? If we’d written fiction to demonstrate that the Party political, system with elected ‘representatives’, is totally unfit for purpose, it could never have been as well put together as the farce we see before us.

Elsewhere that mashup of fact and fiction is becoming reality as 41-year-old Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays a president in a popular Ukranian TV series, gained twice the vote of his nearest rival in the first round of Presidential elections. He’s following in the footsteps of M55 Five Star Movement in Italy, founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, which gained more votes than any other party in 2018 elections.

Do the people really want to have comedians in charge? Well, if it’s going to happen, why not have a professional comedian rather than those who fall into that role by mistake? A similar idea comes from Greta Thunberg ‘….and since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago’. Let the children and fools step up. Her powerful words remind us constantly that the system and leaders we have somehow chosen are simply not capable of dealing with the complexities of Brexit, let alone climate change.

At the root of all this is the gap we have built between the representatives and the people. (Which is inextricably intertwined with the ever increasing gap we have created between rich and poor.) The latest of John Harris’ Anywhere but Westminster short films comes from Wigan where a significant majority voted to leave the EU. Despite everything we now know, most of the people John talks to would still vote leave. He concludes that ‘the tragedy of Brexit is that places like this have been all but forgotten in the Westminster drama, more than ever they have things to tell us and we ought to listen’.

Listening is the key. The energy of 6m people voting and 1m marching last week is all redirected into anger and frustration when it is met with someone’s fingers in their ears. The tragedy is that this will not change quickly. I don’t see it change with a different government either because they are all so entrenched in the current system. The new Independent Group of MPs ‘Believe that our parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people’. Based on current form, they are simply wrong.

We cannot wait to be ‘consulted’ then ignored. On the largest issue life on earth faces, Extinction Rebellion (XR) has clearly recognised this and head for London on April 15th to demand change. And at a local level, Frome’s Independents (ifF) have taken initial steps in showing what can be done by committed and organised locals outside of Party Politics, looking to change the focus to inclusive participation and ownership of decisions by the community. Placing these together in one paragraph is very deliberate. If we have any chance of facing the climate emergency without extreme chaos, it will be through political engagement at a community level (the sort of work the Alternative UK and her partners are embarked upon in Plymouth).

IfF return to the polls on May 2nd, along with at least 40 other groups of Independents in other towns – committed community activists who have had enough of not being listened to. I believe both these Movements are essential, the high profile approach of XR, alongside a steady tidal wave of people reclaiming politics. Reclaiming it not only from the Political parties, but from the money which funds their dominance.

(The Rights of Spring poster is available from www.flatpackdemocracy.co.uk)

Rights of Spring - Flatpack Democracy

Climate change quiz: rank the solutions

Climate change is in the news as it never has been before:
Extinction Rebellion: Olympic canoeing champion Etienne Stott arrested in climate change protests - BBC Sport

Although this is actually hardly news:

50 Years Ago, President LBJ on Climate Change - YouTube
LBJ's climate warning 50 years ago - do we have your attention yet?
1965 President's SAC Report on Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide/

As mentioned on this morning's Book of the Week on Radio 4:
Futures Forum: Climate change: 'Losing Earth' @ Radio 4's Book of the Week

Here's a quiz from CNN:

The most effective ways to curb climate change might surprise you

Published April 19, 2019

The planet is barreling toward 1.5 degrees of global warming as soon as 2030 unless we enact “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” a dire United Nations report warned in October.

To reduce our impact on the climate and avert disaster, it’s going to take more than switching to high-efficiency light bulbs. But the most effective ways that individuals, policymakers and businesses can reduce our carbon footprint might surprise you.

Let’s see how much you know about what can be done to fight climate change.

Rank the solutions

The group Project Drawdown has ranked the most effective climate change solutions, and below, we’ve separated some of the top ones by category.
Actions are labeled to indicate whether they can be implemented by individuals, companies or policymakers.

What you can do
What industries can do
What policymakers can do

Drag the solutions below to rank the ones you think would have the biggest effect on curbing climate change.

Quiz: Climate change solutions - CNN.com - CNN.com

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Sidford business park >> A PUBLIC Inquiry to be held >> further details

A week ago, we learnt that the appeal over the rejected plans for an industrial estate at Sidford will be heard as a public inquiry:
Futures Forum: Sidford business park >> A PUBLIC Inquiry to be held >> "The appeal will now proceed by means of an Inquiry and not a Hearing"

The campaign against the industrial estate provided more information:
Futures Forum: Sidford business park >> campaign group's latest update > Inquiry to start 16th July

And now Devon Live has more:

Date set for controversial Sidford business park planning inquiry

East Devon District Council planners in October rejected plans to build industrial, storage and non-residential institutions on agricultural land to the east of Two Bridges Road in Sidford.

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporter
14:33, 20 APR 2019



A date has been set for a planning inquiry into controversial plans to build a new business park on the edge of Sidford.

East Devon District Council planners in October rejected plans to build industrial, storage and non-residential institutions on agricultural land to the east of Two Bridges Road in Sidford.

The scheme, which could create up for 250 full-time jobs, was refused on the grounds of harm to highway safety, relating to increased heavy goods vehicle usage of the area’s narrow roads

Applicants Fords of Sidmouth have appealed the decision, and it has been confirmed that a planning inquiry in front of an inspector will be held to determine the decision.

It will begin on Tuesday, July 16, at 10am, at East Devon District Council’s HQ at Blackdown House in Honiton and is scheduled to last for three days.

Luke Fleming has been appointed as the inspector and anyone wishing to submit comments or evidence, either for or against the proposals, must do so by May 17.

The outline application is for a change of use of land from agricultural use to employment use. It aims to provide 8,445 sqm of new floorspace, new highway access, cycle and foot paths, improvements to flood attenuation, building layout and road layout, new hedgerow planting and associated infrastructure.

The plans have proven controversial in the village with over 250 submitted letters of objection, 1,400 residents signing the Say NO To Sidford Business Park Campaign petition objecting to the proposed Business Park, and signs and placards against the development all over the village, although not everyone was against the scheme

The site is allocated in the Local Plan, but primarily for light industrial uses. When refusing the plans, and East Devon District Council spokesman had said: “The applicants included a significant amount of warehouse space in their application, which would be reliant on HGVs to deliver goods to the site and then distribute them from there. Devon County Council, as Highway Authority, objected to the application based on the number of HGVs likely to be generated by the proposal, which significantly exceeds the figure envisaged when the site was allocated.

“East Devon District Council has agreed that the numbers of HGVs combined with the narrow roads, both in the vicinity of the site and through Sidbury, would lead to conflict between vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians to the detriment of highway safety, and it was on this basis that the application was turned down.”

When plans were submitted, the applicants said that 250 new jobs would be created as part of the scheme and that the site’s development will secure a cycleway to the employment site.

It was the second time the application had been refused – a similar, but larger, scheme was rejected in 2016 as the application failed to demonstrate how the developers would achieve the high standards of design and landscaping.

Date set for controversial Sidford business park planning inquiry - Devon Live