Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lobbying and transparency, continued...

In view of the forthcoming District Council meetings:

Tues 16th July Development Management Cttee: Knowle 2pm: DMC to consider 5 year land supply figures and Local Plan detailed update.
Thurs 18th July Development Management Cttee: Knowle 10am: DMC  to debate local modifications to Local Plan.
Tues 23rd July Standards Cttee: Knowle 10am: to consider public speaking rights at meetings, social media policy and discussions on Cllrs acting with integrity over planning issues. [see: Futures Forum: lobbying: follow-upFutures Forum: Probity, accountability and transparencyCall for tighter rules on planning conduct | This is Exeter]
Weds 24th July Full Council: Knowle 6.30pm: to approve DMC recommendations to Local Plan.
See East Devon District Council - Development Management agendas. minutes and remit East Devon District Council - Council Agendas and MinutesSave Our Sidmouth and Claire Wright - Your Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural for information.

Below are two current postings on Independent District Councillor Claire Wright's blog.
Firstly, on the replacement to the East Devon Business Forum, scroll down to the final comment...
[see: Futures Forum: East Devon Business Group]

New business group rises from the ashes of EDBF

comments (4)
A new representative business group has been created from the fragments of what was left of East Devon Business Forum, reports this week’s Sidmouth Herald.
The new East Devon Business Group is for everyone - from sole traders to large employers and it wants representatives from as many organisations as possible, including chambers of commerce and trade associations to join up.
The East Devon Business Group will be entirely business-led and largely self-funded with regular meetings for members.
Serving councillors will not be eligible to serve as officers but, where appropriate, representatives from district, county and regional authorities, will be invited to hear the views of businesses.
A chairman is being sought and nominations are required before the group’s next meeting at the Deer Park Hotel on Thursday 27 June, at 5.30pm.
Businesses that wish to attend or find out more, should contact Val Baker at info@bhba.org.uk or on 01823 681484.
This is wonderful news and very best of luck to them!


1. At 09:23 pm on 16th Jun John Artmony wrote:
Yes great news!  The old EDBF was too much of a clique and misunderstood / not transparent.  This new body looks much better.  Lets hope it is given a fighting chance by the EDA, Sidmouth Sid and his / her mates!!
2. At 09:27 am on 17th Jun Chris wrote:
When somebody says they are ‘largely’ self funded I get very suspicious.
‘Serving councillors will not be eligible to serve as officers’.  Does that mean they can be members?
The item gives the impression of having been carefully written to give a false impression.  Perhaps I am being over pessimistic, but we have been misled before.
I very much hope that this will be a pressure group that has absolutely no connection to anybody in the council.
If so good luck to them.
3. At 08:26 pm on 17th Jun Sandra Semple wrote:
Proof ... pudding ... eating!
4. At 12:06 pm on 03th Jul hulhamx1 wrote:
The news reported to the ERaTA committee is not very good. The first meeting of this new group was chaired by an ex Councillor who forced through a constitution despite concerns voice by some of the traders associations and although it was not accepted attempted to impose a chairman who is not even qualified to be a member according to that new constitution and has set up a divide within the new group. So much so that it could come about that the traders representative groups will separate and set up their own democratic organisation, also forced through that a member would have to pay a subscription of £100 a year that will set many small businesses outside the group because they are not able to find that sort of cash. Watch out it aint over yet!  The saga continues

And read what seems to be unfolding about the Overview & Scrutiny Committee's TAFF on the East Devon Business Forum, again with comments from today...
[see Futures Forum: Lobbying]

No employment land scrutiny until plan has been agreed               


comments (5)

Councillors on the East Devon Business Forum (EDBF) scrutiny committee, have this morning, been advised against examining employment land issues in the EDDC draft local plan, on the grounds that it could delay its progression.
There has been ongoing and significant public interest in examining the input that East Devon Business Forum had in the process of the inclusion of employment land in the local plan.  It emerged last year that the forum, formerly led by ex councillor and planning agent, Graham Brown, boasted that the forum had made an “enormous difference” to the amount of employment land in the local plan. 
Two independent reports commissioned by EDDC have recommended much lower levels of such land.
During the EDBF scrutiny sub committee meetings (which I am a member of) there have been ongoing discussions and debate about looking at planning issues since it was set up last September.  But the subject of planning had always been disallowed by the chief executive, on the grounds that it would not be appropriate and possibly unlawful for the committee to look at planning issues.
Then in March, EDBF scrutiny sub committee chairman, Cllr Graham Troman, brought the issue back to the main scrutiny committee for discussion.  At this meeting, councillors narrowly voted through a proposal that the committee should look at planning issues, as it was in the public interest.  Particularly after the revelations in the Daily Telegraph on 11 March. 
At this meeting the recommendation was “that the remit of the Business Task and Finish Forum include employment land planning issues (but not individual planning allocations) without delaying the development of the Local Plan or impinging on the Police Investigation currently being carried out “
This recommendation was then agreed by full council at its meeting on 22 May.
Following this decision, at last week’s EDBF scrutiny sub committee meeting, I proposed the following: “To consider the appropriateness of the amount of employment land provided in the East Devon Local Plan, and the methodology for reaching this level of provision, including possible flaws in the analysis employed. To establish clearly the process by which land allocations were suggested and by whom”.
This morning’s email gives the following reasons why the committee is advised not to look at employment land issues.  Officer advice is that it would risk:
- preempting and/or duplicating the work of the local plan inspector
- undermining EDDC’s democratic processes
- interfering with and potentially delaying the inspector’s consideration of the local plan
- damaging the reputation of the council because this action would cause confusion and doubt in the public’s mind
The EDBF scrutiny committee is advised via this morning’s email that if it wants to look at the local plan’s process, to study its decision-making timeline and leave any scrutiny of more in-depth procedures, until after the local plan has been adopted.


1. At 04:49 pm on 01th Jul Sandra Semple wrote:
Well, that’s strange because Councillor Mike Allen, who chaired the Local Development Framework Panel, moved a motion last year that the process and decision-making of that Panel should have been scrutinised in March 2013!!!  That month came and went with no scrutiny - and that would have left time for the correct figures to have been determined for the “minor amendments” to the plan that are being passed this month.
And is it not predetermining the outcome of any scrutiny to do it after submission of the Local Plan?  What if the panel finds that there WAS manipulation of the figures?  The Plan will have gone in with them in and we will be stuck with wrong figures in the wrong plan until 2026 with developers having had a field day not only with housing but also with employment land too. 
It is a lose/lose situation for us.  If the figures had been found sound for the Local Plan, no problem; if they had been found wrong the correct figures could have been inserted in time.  This way if we have the wrong figures we are landed with them until 2026.
2. At 10:25 am on 02th Jul Tony Green wrote:
Yet again this raises serious constitutional issues. Scrutiny committees are intended by law to hold officers and council leaders to account on behalf of the public.
It struck me as totally unacceptable that the chief executive should have attempted to limit the remit of the TAFF enquiry into the East Devon Business Forum.
Now we have “officer advice” purporting to dictate to a scrutiny committee what matters it may or may not consider.
Ironically, the watchdog is warned against “undermining EDDC’s democratic processes!
3. At 12:12 pm on 02th Jul Graham Cooper wrote:
Clearly this is against the public interest.
It is common knowledge the employment land supply allocation in the Local Plan is flawed and unsustainable.
Overcooked a deep brown there is no evidence for the excessive industrial land as determined by members of the East Devon Business Forum.
Presenting a document to the Planning Inspectorate knowing it is contaminated is a dereliction of responsibility and accountability on behalf of EDDC.
4. At 04:35 pm on 03th Jul Mike Allen wrote:
I was away on holiday when this scrutiny group met but I believe that occasional comments on this blog may help separate ire and fact for more clarity.
All along I have asked for facts. Claire obligingly asked for data from Planning and it turned out that around 4% of employment land had vacant premises. this has been consistent for years compared to a regional average of 8%. It is therefore not surprising that the Local Plan Forum voted to have business land allocated to each town that needed it non a one job per one new home basis, as recommended by the Planning Policy Department. The fact that Claire and others may not have liked the conclusions we drew does not alter the facts that we need more employment land. At that time we cut the planned homes to 15,000. and therefore there was and is a need to reassess the employment land equation.
The EDBF had no influence on this equation. The developers lobbied hard directly and even then unnecessary rural greenfield proposals were rejected
The one strange event which I did take exception to and voted against was the late addition of the business land in the AONB at Sidford, which I voted against but was outvoted.
There is one last special meeting of the special Development Management Committee in July which can make minor amendments to the plan following the final public consultation. I intend to challenge this Sidford decision again on several material issues which can carry weight with the Planning Inspector. I am also in the process of assessing the comments made in the consultation to understand what Town Councils and members of the Public AND businesses want. This includes comments about the Sidmouth Seafront and the EDDC office site redevelopment, which I note that the DM Committee rightly turned down
The democratic process is being followed despite constant unfounded accusations of covert influence and shouting at the Committee which only serves to antagonise.
I have really appreciated Tony Green’s challenges and several other people who disagreed but coupled their opinions with facts we could act on. Unfortunately,Claire Wright often uses the old approach that something repeated often enough becomes believed as fact. This will not work in our Council.
Mike Allen
5. At 05:47 pm on 03th Jul Paul wrote:
In one way it is good to see Cllr Mike Allen contributing to this debate. But Mike, please, could you consider in future playing the ball and not the man.
I speak for many thousands of East Devon council tax payers who cherish everything Claire has done to cast light on the workings of the district council. Indeed, you have the opportunity today yourself to comment precisely because Claire takes the time and trouble to run this blog.
Please can I ask you, Mike, in all sincerity, to accept that those who have held power and sway at EDDC for many years have failed to be transparent or accountable in many issues, particularly those of Planning and Open Government? In that context, Claire has been a hurricane of fresh air - and you will have seen from the ballot box that she commands respect and support.
Amongst many other reasons for this support is that she has done more to hold the council to account in the last five years than the rest of you have done combined in the previous forty. So please, we enjoy hearing your side of the debate - and we do not prejudge it. But if you cannot see that your council has many miles to go in reforming its practices and treating other councillors with respect you are missing the greatest problem of all.


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