Friday, 31 October 2014

The antidote to Stuffocation: "Sharing, lending, bartering, swapping and gifting networks can all play a part and creating things can be done collaboratively."

The Vision Group has recently posted a link to this website:
Positive News | Positive News

Here's a recent piece:

Re-thinking our ‘built to fail’ society

30 SEP 2014


In-built obsolescence may seem a forgivable quirk of the modern technology many of us love, but it has a force of its own, placing us on a wheel of consumer slavery. But there is another way, writes Lucy Purdy
Brompton Bicycle aims to build its bicycles to last     Photo © Brompton Bicycle
When I first heard of planned obsolescence – products being purposefully built to fail in order to fuel our buying more and more – I felt shock and disbelief. The concept was the very antithesis of the values I’d been brought up on by my dad, a skilled woodworker who had made a guitar and a clavichord from scratch, who had spent 18 months when I was younger, lovingly poring over the joints and cornices of an oak dresser. Pieces infused with expertise and care, built above all, to last.
But the story gradually came together for me. Members of planned obsolescence club range from the light bulb cartel of the 1920s who collectively decided to build their bulbs to fail more quickly, to the endless iterations of iPads, televisions and computers created and marketed today, creating a culture in which something more than 12 months old is worthy of being scoffed at and out-of-date. Or so we’re told. One of the pre-cartel light bulbs still shines in a fire station in Livermore, California, going strong after 112 years, a symbol of long-forgotten constancy completely at odds with our culture of trend and aspiration.
As James Wallman explored in his book Stuffocation, keeping people spending more and solving the problem of underconsumption became a key business focus, firstly in the US and then spreading quickly worldwide.
“A real estate agent in New York called Bernard London, in a pamphlet called Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence,” he writes, “suggested that the government stimulate demand by defining the time any product was allowed to be used. It would work like the use-by date that comes with food.”
“Instead of passively consuming, by making, mending and caring for ‘stuff’, we can enter into a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with the world.”
The likes of Henry Ford, Wallman explains, first resisted these sorts of ideas, stating a proud intention that those purchasing his cars would “only ever have to buy one.” But in the face of competition from the likes of Chevrolet, even he gave in, beginning to change Ford’s styling each year, fuelling the very throwaway culture to which he’d expressed an ideological opposition.
“Instead of needing things because our old ones were broken, we learned to want them for reasons of fashion and aspiration,” Wallman writes, “awakening a consumer appetite that could never be satisfied.”
Hurtling around in the maelstrom of endless upgrades are cars, clothes, home furnishings and technology, even our bodies have become commoditised – ripe sources for dissatisfaction-fuelled spending through the likes of cosmetics and plastic surgery. All of these things, seemingly promising freedom and expression, crash together in the form of stuffed-to-bursting landfill sites, global warming and climate change, making us slaves to production, complicit in the destruction of our planet.
It seems we’ve all been there. I’ve wandered through the cosily-lit aisles of Ikea, taken, despite myself, by the display bedrooms, the throws and cushions in cute Scandi-style patterns and warm, wood tones. The stuff seems innocent and attractive, and it seems cheap. But after lugging it home the appeal wears off and a familiar sense of unease washes over me. I didn’t even need this. Is it really what I even wanted? Monetarily cheap it may be, but at what real cost? It’s this kind of consumption, worryingly habitual, which is helping price the earth into ecological collapse.
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The psychology prompting this sort of behaviour is key. Advertising works by triggering fear and dissatisfaction with what we have or who we are. As Wallman describes it: “It is like living in an immense, stomach-churning session of snakes and ladders, where the game never stops and where everybody is a competitor. To play this paranoia-inducing game – and it is a game we all play – millions of us spend our days and nights worrying about our place in the pecking order, and scheming to get up the ladders and avoid the snakes. The end result is millions suffering from material-focused status anxiety.”
But shifts do seem to be happening. The Restart Project, for example, is a London-based social enterprise which encourages and empowers people to use their electronics longer, by learning fundamental repair and maintenance skills. They cite their mission as: “fixing our relationship with electronics.”
Will Butler-Adams, managing director of Brompton Bicycles, spoke to me about trying to instil in his company the ‘build to last’ ethic. While other bike manufacturers – many of whom are now based in Taichung, Taiwan – save cash by employing the latest technical advances, Brompton has never opted for cheaper, off-the-shelf products, instead preferring to implement the best solution to any engineering challenge. More often than not, this means a slower and more expensive route.
“I think we had a propensity in the 80s and 90s to make and use incredibly cheap stuff,” says Butler-Adams. “Everything was cheap, from lamps to hi-fis, and when they broke you chucked them in the bin and bought another one. I mean, who cares right? As it happens, I just don’t tick like that. My great grandfather’s pocket watch sits in a little wooden holder in my desk and I wind it up every morning. I also have my grandfather’s ink pen on the desk which is probably from the 1930s. And I use those things every single day. They are beautifully made and they give me great pleasure and not only that, parts are still available to ensure you carry on using them.”
Neither of these products would have come cheap, but both are “extraordinarily good value,” insists Butler-Adams. And this isn’t about a dogged ‘doing the green thing’ approach, but one based on a natural and positive human response to ‘things’.
“My great grandfather’s pocket watch sits in a little wooden holder in my desk and I wind it up every morning. It is beautifully made.”
“Of course there’s an environmental benefit to using stuff for years, but there’s also an emotional benefit,” says Butler-Adams. “Like that old jacket: you’ve done stuff in it, you’ve been on journeys with it. And this is our philosophy, to do things really beautifully well, to refine them and take time getting the detail right and ultimately to create better value for the customer.”
A pamphlet published by Ruth Potts called The New Materialism: How falling in love with the world could help us all live more, with less, offers one way forward.
“Instead of passively consuming, by making, mending and caring for ‘stuff’, we can enter into a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with the world,” she writes. “One which is more rewarding, inherently low impact and socially just, since it also involves better sharing what we already have.”
It describes a shift from being passive consumers to members of a fulfilling ‘producer society’, seeking to roll back the gradual de-skilling we’ve undergone in the Western world, and returning to a society where everybody can “confidently boil an egg, stitch a garment or build a wall.”
Sharing, lending, bartering, swapping and gifting networks can all play a part and creating things can be done collaboratively and offer potential for shared social joy and human exuberance too.
This resonates with me. Whether it is growing, cooking or making, doing things myself and for myself, or for those I care for, I know therein lies abundant joy and satisfaction for the taking.
“Don’t buy me anything, love,” said my dad when his birthday rolled around each year and I delved into my money box. Despite – or maybe because – knowing it would be a potato print card, a picture made from sticks, moss or leaves, or a lopsided, half-cooked cake, he said this with a gleam in his eye. Because he knew he was sharing a heartfelt, personal truth – the joy and meaning in crafting something and giving that to others.
“Make it!” he’d say.
This article was first published by Recycleopedia
More Information: www.stuffocation.org

Re-thinking our ‘built to fail’ society | Positive News

Explore a little further:

In this brilliant and original book, James Wallman explains and analyses why Stuffocation is the most pressing problem of our time -- and then goes in search of its solution. On the way, he goes down the halls of the Elysée Palace with Nicolas Sarkozy, up in a helicopter above Barbra Streisand's house on the California coast, and into the world of the original Mad Men.

Through fascinating characters and brilliantly told stories, Wallman introduces the innovators whose lifestyles provide clues to how we will all be living tomorrow, and he makes some of the world's most counterintuitive, radical, and worldchanging ideas feel inspiring -- and possible for us all.

James Wallman, "Stuffocation" | Talks at Google - YouTube
Stuffocation -- An Interview With James Wallman
Stuffocation | REVIEWS
RSA - Why We’ve Had Enough of Stuff

The Restart Project

Futures Forum: The Story of Stuff: "You cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely"
Futures Forum: The Circular Economy
Futures Forum: Jeremy Rifkin and the Collaborative Commons

it's happening @ 10:10 >> "Real signs of a brighter future"

The 10:10 organisation has been doing some very positive things:
Cutting carbon 10% at a time | 10:10

This is what they are about:

We’re on the way to a cleaner, cleverer, low-carbon world, and everyone deserves a chance to help build it. 10:10 creates these chances.
The 10:10 community works together to...
It's positive, it's practical, and there's something for everyone.
10:10 is celebrating its fifth birthday this year.
After launching in September 2009 following the success of Franny Armstrong's crowdfunded climate docu-drama "The Age of Stupid" we challenged people, businesses, organisations and government to commit to cutting their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.
At the end of 2010 we continued bringing people together to take positive, practical action on climate change - launching the much praised Solar Schools programme in 2011 and maintaining an online community of over 60,000 carbon cutters.
In 2013 we helped to establish a community energy co-op in Balcombe, Sussex: the village which had been at the centre of protests against fracking.
About #itshappening | 1010

An opinion poll commissioned by 10:10 was published yesterday:


Opinion poll data shows that people want to know what works and how they can get stuck into taking action on climate change

The British public would overwhelmingly be willing to take greater action to tackle climate change if they heard more about the solutions and knew that their actions were making a difference, according to a ComRes poll conducted for 10:10.
71% of those surveyed say that people are less likely to take action on climate change because they are unsure of the difference their actions will make, while 68% thought that people would be more inclined to support action to reduce carbon emissions if they heard more about the solutions to climate change.
The survey comes as 10:10 unveils its annual #itshappening online gallery on Wednesday 29th October showcasing positive, practical action on climate change being taken by people, businesses, governments and communities around the world. The idea is for people to share these examples via social media to counter climate defeatism and connect their personal actions to a wider global effort.
This year the #itshappening gallery includes: Dutch style bike lanes planned for gas-guzzler capital Los Angeles, a solar powered hospital in Haiti, a state of the art low-carbon lifeboat station in Cornwall, community-owned river turbines in the Philippines and a rapid-recharge electric ferry in Sweden. There is even an Aberdeenshire hair salon that’s using 87% less energy after an eco-overhaul.
The ComRes survey showed that people are most likely to say that they personally would be more motivated to take action to help tackle climate change if they heard more about the solutions (41%) and the benefits of acting (39%). Less likely - though still one third of those surveyed - was that hearing more about the impacts of climate change would make them more likely to take action (33%).
10:10's #itshappening curator Mal Chadwick said: "Everyone needs to understand what’s at stake if we don't step up our carbon cuts, but by itself this won't lead them to act. This survey shows that allowing the facts to create concern about the impacts of climate change without giving people an understanding of the role they can play in tackling it, and showing that the solutions are out there, risks people turning off.
“It's vital that we promote a sense of possibility about climate change action as well as an understanding of the risks. There's an amazing story unfolding around the world, and people shouldn't have to dig into pdfs and energy trade journals to find it. The can-do spirit embodied in these pictures is exactly what we need to see more of.
"Right now, the biggest threat to progress isn't climate scepticism. It's cynicism - resigning ourselves to climate change because we don't think we're up to the task of fixing it. This is a time for new ideas, taking risks and thinking big, and #itshappening offers real-life examples of people, communities, governments and businesses doing just that.” 
Jonathan Rowson, Director of the Social Brain Centre at the Royal Society of the Arts and author of its recent report, A New Agenda on Climate Change said: 
"The public largely accept the scientific consensus on climate change but currently lack the information and sense of agency required to walk the talk. These poll results show we urgently need to draw attention not just why we should act, but more precisely to where, when and how we can act effectively, and build a shared global effort around that shift of perspective."

"Tell us what we can do to tackle climate change" says UK public | 10:10

Go to the #itshappening site for some inspiring stories:
#itshappening | 1010

Knowle relocation project: a further analysis of the Deputy CEO's 'Office Relocation Update'

Further to this look at what the Deputy CEO had to say at the recent Overview & Scrutiny Cttee:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: analysis of the Deputy CEO's 'Office Relocation Update'

... here is a thorough examination of the the audio recording at the EDA blog:


30 October 2014

… which raises many more questions than it answers:


and simply “noting” this report at an Overview and Scrutiny meeting is disgraceful.

Our Overview and Scrutiny Committee – not so much a toothless tiger as a toothless teddy bear.

3 thoughts on “Knowle relocation: Deputy Chief Executive’s “update””

Paul says:
October 30, 2014 at 11:15 am

I am NOT the most knowledgeable person when it comes to Knowle issues, but here are the issues that these minutes raise in my mind:

1. He (again) failed to explain why the figures remain confidential – i.e. both the business justification and the legal basis.

2. Why are some parts of the Council located elsewhere (e.g. in the East Devon Business Centre in Honiton) if there is really c. 3,700 sqm of space unused at the Knowle?

3. The fact that the receipts for selling only the excess space (the hotel part) of the Knowle would be lower is not in itself relevant. The correct comparison needs to be of the overall business cases for each option i.e.:

a. Stay at the Knowle and sell off the hotel part – whilst the receipts from the sale of the “hotel” would be lower, EDDC would not incur ANY of the other costs of relocation. So this could be a good business case?

b. The current plans to sell off the whole of the Knowle and Manstone Depot and Heathpark and buy land and build new offices and pay to relocate and pay compensation to staff – and be hypocritical about stated goals to increase small business units (not sell them off), be open about lifetime-cost based business cases (not hide the costs or pretend ignorance) etc.

c. Stay at the Knowle and find alternative uses for the spare space in the “hotel” part of the Knowle for e.g. local groups, to house the new shared services IT organisation, to let it out as office space to commercial organisations etc. etc.

d. etc. etc.

4. Once again the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has abdicated its responsibility to hold the council and council officers to account by simply “noting the report”. Shameful!!! Disgraceful!!!

P.S. The minutes are of course a summary – I would be interested to see a transcript of the detail of what Richard Cohen said.

Paul says:
October 30, 2014 at 1:53 pm

A couple more questions:

1. Businesses in EDBC have been “reassured” that there will be no change in the next 6 months – which is not much reassurance for any business which needs to look ahead much further than 6-months.

2. Will mobile working reduce the need for office space to the point that the council could e.g. move some people to the Exmouth Town Hall and the remainder into the hotel part of the Knowle (retaining the council chamber which Mr Cohen was so concerned about) and allowing the newer part of the Knowle to be sold for redevelopment into flats?

And some points having now listened to the audio recording:

3. I don’t quite understand why Mr Cohen says that EDDC only needs 3,300 sqm but also says that it can’t fit into the new part of the Knowle (disregarding issues of a council chamber) which is presumably bigger than the hotel part? These statements appear to say different things.

4. Mr Cohen objected to “a confrontational approach” (15:35 into the recording) – well IMO the answer to that is “Tough”. Senior council officers appearing in front of an Overview and Scrutiny committee should accept that the committee’s approach may be confrontational – particularly if the officer concerned is keeping information confidential or is declining to answer previous questions openly and fully or if he has previously admitted to the Information Commissioner’s First Tier Tribunal that he had edited a consultant’s report and presented it to councillors as if it was not edited i.e. retaining the consultants name, logos etc.

5. When asked about the sale of EDBC being against the old policy, Mr. Cohen has said that EDBC is not economically viable whilst at the same time stating that small-business units are in short supply. Again this seems to be contradictory and no explanation has been given.

6. When asked about the costs of mileage compensation to staff, Mr Cohen said that the costs were known but was not able to give any detail.

7. When asked about cost of internal staff, Mr Cohen said that even estimates were not included in the project costs (despite the whole-life cost approach which is council policy).

8. When asked when confidential would be released, the chairman said he assumed it would be once it ceased to be commercially confidential rather than the completion of the project, however Mr Cohen said (35:20 into the recording) that it would be at the LATER of these two dates rather than the earlier of these two dates as we might expect.

9. Andrew Ellins from the SW Audit Partnership is attached to the relocation project (unclear whether the costs of this are included in the project).

10. Mr Cohen stated (c. 38:00) that the work undertaken by Mr Pratten was verified by (his employers) AECON aka Davis Langdon – which is presumably the director’s signature on the report. (Though presumably they did not verify Mr Cohen’s edited versions – it is unclear whether he removed any statements of verification or sign-off by AECON before republishing his edited version to councillors because it is deemed confidential.) Whilst Mr Cohen implied that this oversight by Mr Pratten’s bosses was a separate service from Mr Pratten’s services as a consultant (or “embedded pseudo employee) I am not sure how such oversight can be considered separate from oversight of Mr Pratten’s work as a AECON employee.

11. According to Claire Wright (43:00 onwards), EDDC are planning to make a decision to sell the Knowle in December without being certain about whether to move to SkyPark (just getting an update) potentially leaving the council without a home. So on the one-hand, EDDC claims commercial confidentiality because revealing finance numbers would jeopardize negotiations, whilst on the other hand is willing to commit to selling the Knowle and open EDDC up to time pressure in its commercial negotiations with SkyPark owners who by spinning things out can pressure EDDC into paying more. Ironic or what?

12. Cllr Humphries (45:00) was asked by the Chair to ask his questions but instead he used the time to make a statement thinks that Mr Cohen’s report is “excellent” – and since the project is “within budget” then there is no reason to question it. My question is therefore “Why should Cllr Humphries be on the Overview & Scrutiny Committee if he doesn’t see his role as probing, questioning etc.???” Shame on him!! Roger Giles apparently agrees with me – he said that “noting a report has no place whatsoever on Overview and Scrutiny” … “is a dereliction of duty” and “We are here to scrutinise and to hold the council to account, we are here to ask awkward and challenging questions and to get some answers and ‘noting the report’ has no place in that.” At least Roger seems to understand the role of Overview and Scrutiny even if the “toady” Cllr Humphries doesn’t.

13. For reasons of segregation of roles, the relocation project has not verified (c. 49:00 – 53:00) either whether the land on the Heathfield Park estate can actually get planning permission for a supermarket or what planning permission could be obtained for the Knowle – so it is unclear whether any capital receipts can be achieved on these at all. A developer would be unlikely to purchase outright either of these sites without having planning permission, though they might be willing to take an option to purchase once planning permission is obtained. So capital receipts that will fund this project are not at all certain, and therefore the project as a whole must be very uncertain.

14. Mr Cohen committed to providing a report (though presumably it will be confidential) in December. Cllr Howe requested Mr Cohen to provide a document in December explicitly listing the gaps and unknowns in the project. Mr Cohen did not respond to this request.

15. Mike Allen gets my great respect AGAIN by requesting that Cllrs are notified immediately if Skypark becomes rejected as an option.

16. A Cllr requested that the December report should contain considered alternatives to SkyPark in order to demonstrate “best value”, and Mr Cohen responded by saying that this was legally required so it would be done, but not necessarily by him (as the leader of the relocation project). Which prompts questions as to:

a. Whether anyone else can make a like-for-like comparison of alternatives without having the detailed knowledge of requirements, costs etc. that Mr Cohen has; and

b. Whether such comparisons can be considered meaningful if they have not been seriously considered as alternatives by the project leader;

c. Therefore, whether Mr Cohen is therefore acting in the best interests of the electorate or not by seriously considering and costing alternatives rather than putting all his eggs in the Skypark basket.

Perhaps most importantly, the Overview and Scrutiny committee voted down Claire Wright’s and Mike Allen’s motions (with Cllr Humphries speaking against these motions, again saying that Mr Cohen’s report was excellent and should just be “noted”) and so Overview and Scrutiny effectively agreed that:

A. The council are allowed to sell the Knowle, Manstone Depot and Heathpark Estate without having bought a new site, thus leaving the council open to becoming homeless (though Mr Cohen assured the Cttee that the December recommendations would not leave the council in this position);

B. Decisions on sale of these assets can be made without the costs of the project being known i.e. without knowing that the project has a sound business case and is actually viable;

C. The decision can be made at the December Cabinet / Council meeting despite being just before Christmas (and therefore likely to have less scrutiny and publicity).

D. Councillors, and therefore the Overview and Scrutiny committee itself) can be kept in the dark (presumably for some weeks, and presumably at a critical point for this major project) if SkyPark falls through, even if the decision to sell the Knowle has already been made.

You couldn’t invent this stuff if you tried!!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Knowle relocation project: analysis of the Deputy CEO's 'Office Relocation Update'

A fortnight ago, the Deputy CEO presented the District Council's Scrutiny Cttee with a report:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: report to be considered by Council's Scrutiny Cttee: Thursday 16th October

There were serious questions beforehand about the ability of the Scrutiny Cttee to fulfil its remit:
Futures Forum: The lack of scrutiny at East Devon ... Council's Scrutiny Cttee meets Thursday 16th October

These fears were realised by many observers:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "Merely noting a report has no place on Scrutiny."
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Councillors "in the dark, as no-one within the EDDC hierarchy was telling them anything."

The District Council has just released the minutes from that meeting - together with an 'update' from the Deputy CEO:
Overview and Scrutiny Committee minutes for 16 October 2014 - Office relocation update - East Devon District Council

The following is an analysis (in red) of that report (in black):

5. Office relocation update

Minute 39

Richard Eley, a local resident, outlined his concerns about the complexity of the relocation project and his estimate on the final cost of the project being double the amount of the build cost of a new office. He stressed the importance of a robust procedure and that the project must be open to scrutiny, as well as the ability to reassess the value and viability of the project. Following the Scottish referendum, he questioned the logic of pursuing relocation when the future of district councils was in doubt with local government reforms pending, and the significant depreciation in his opinion of any new office building.

In response to Mr Eley and the public 

[ie: Richard Thurlow, chair, and Marianne Rixson of the Save Our Sidmouth group: For urgent attention of EDDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Chair | East Devon Alliance] 
speaking earlier in the meeting, the Deputy Chief Executive, Mr Richard Cohen, outlined:

# Assessment of the sale of the “hotel” part of the existing offices had been made and the conclusion reached that: 

> the remaining office space was insufficient for the council to run its business 
[No 'independent analysis' of the floorspace has been accepted - and yet extensive figures have been provided: Futures Forum: "A truly green alternative to EDDC's proposal"; Futures Forum: Knowle: refurbishment vs redevelopment]

> the chamber would be lost, which is required for the holding of council meetings 
[There has been no discussion of which parts would be 'lost'. 
Here is further analysis at Futures Forum: Knowle plans: 1970s building:
"EDDC claim to require 3353m2 of floorspace for their new offices and Council Chamber. My estimates suggest the potential floorspace which could be provided by the 1970s offices at Knowle plus the Council Chamber in the older part of Knowle would amount to 3290m2. This 63m2 shortfall – the size of a large sitting room – would amount to just 2% less than they say is required.
"EDDC want space for 250 desks. This would require 1125 m2 of floorspace under Health and Safety Executive recommendations. But 2630m2 of office space is already available within the 1970s office buildings – more than double what is required."]

> close proximity of council premises to a redeveloped hotel section would impact significantly on any sum offered by a developer 
[And yet in the 1970s, the building was shared between council-flats in the 'hotel' and the Urban/District Council in the 'new build': Futures Forum: Knowle plans: flats]

# Mr Eley’s calculations were not recognised and members were reminded of confidential reports and figures presented to them at past meetings under Part B conditions. The Council had already agreed a series of recommendations in February 2014. 
[The assessment has been carried out 'in private': Futures Forum: Costs of relocating District Council offices vs costs of refurbishing Knowle; Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: getting the figures straight; and yet the Deputy Chair of the Scrutiny Cttee has voiced disquiet about the lack of information available - which has not been mentioned in these Minutes, but which has been referred to: EDDC scrutiny cttee votes against holding cabinet to account (which is its job, actually) - Claire Wright]

# Capital receipts for the assets of the Knowle and Manstone depot would not be known until the results of the marketing exercise had been completed.
[The Minutes do not record the lack of clarity over when the 'results of the marketing exercise' will be 'completed' - other than the Deputy CEO saying that interested developers would tender their submissions at the last moment: it appears, therefore, that these tenders will be presented to the full council on 17th December:  
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: December meeting set to confirm its selling price ... although the decision to relocate was made long before ....

# Process of local government reform had been ongoing for over 40 years and the council should not use present uncertainties as a reason to fail to act on the current needs of the council.
[Many commentators have pointed to the effect of the Scottish referendum: Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils.... This seems to include Cllr Ken Potter: Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part five... East Devon District Council "will imminently have no alternative whatsoever than to integrate anyway."]

The Deputy Chief Executive outlined recent developments of the relocation project to the committee, including:

> Marketing of the Knowle and Manstone sites

> Outcome of the town and village green inquiry

> Objections to rights of way orders lodged, pending with the planning inspectorate
[The attitude of the District Council towards the ROW Orders has been described as 'Chippy, cocky, unrepentant …': AND naughty DCC and Planning Inspectorate – you have upset EDDC too! | East Devon AllianceFutures Forum: Knowle relocation project: the current issues... District Council cabinet to consider its "Relocation Update": Weds 4th June. This has affected the 'marketing' of Knowle: commercialsearch.savills.co.uk/content/assets/3732/Brochure - Knowle 020914.pdfSidmouth - Definitive Map Review

> Heathpark - continued contract negotiations with Terrace Hill – the supermarket commitment to the site had changed due to a revised retail shopping strategy that has reduced the size of the required floor area that is required and has therefore reduced the offer price. The impact on users of the East Devon Business Centre was also a consideration.
[In other words, the big supermarkets are in trouble and can't afford more expansion: Futures Forum: Supermarket saturation point: Is there really room for more in Sidmouth and in Honiton?
There is also considerable disbelief, if not anger, at the almost contemptuous disregard of the importance of the Business Centre to the Honiton and East Devon economy. Here is further comment:
"The Knowle project includes the sale of the East Devon Business Centre in Honiton in order to create capital receipts to pay for the move. Yet both the recent annual report and the agenda for yesterday’s council both state that the council needs to provide more serviced office space for small businesses. How can EDDC say they need more office units for small businesses at the same time as planning to destroy an existing one?" EDDC scrutiny cttee votes against holding cabinet to account (which is its job, actually) - Claire Wright
Meanwhile, local councillors have expressed concern about the future of Honiton: Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Honiton "up for sale"]

> Business space review – a study has been commissioned using external contractors, to provide information to help inform a case for the future of serviced business spaces in the district, and the Council’s role in that provision
[Of course, all these issues are connected: the Knowle is currently a B1 site (ie: business use); its loss, together with that of the Business Centre further undermines the District Council's policies on providing employment land: Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: connected to the draft Local Plan ... connected to employment ... local business ... retail parks vs the high street ... proposed Sidford employment land ... building on floodplains ... tourism ... 
Some would argue that the ghost of the East Devon Business Forum has not been laid to rest and still stalks the District: the area's larger companies continue to dominate, whilst the small business which are the mainstay of the local economy are given short shrift: Reader’s Letter: Time for East Devon Council to change ways | Exeter Express and Echo]

> Transformation and modernisation of how the council conducts its business continues, including the roll out of mobile devices to better equip a mobile workforce; and review of facilities across the district. Now that Devon County Council had vacated Exmouth Town Hall, he was looking at how that resource could be developed to expand and evolve the services offered from Exmouth.
[The whole issue of 'transformation and modernisation' is deeply flawed. There has been a lot of discussion about hot desking and home-working - and yet it is very unclear as to whether they provide best value, or are even proven in the case of District Councils: Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: hot-desking: latest

> The budget for the preliminary implementation costs stands as £705,568, of which £475,669 has been spent up to the end of August 2014.
[This does not include Officer time: there have been several attempts to gain these figures: 
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: the letters of objection 
Moreover, this figure of £705k is clearly not 'fixed' as, in May 2013, the sum given by the District Council was £244,000: "There are no other amounts specifically costed to the office re-location project." Breakdown of relocation costs of the Knowle - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

A number of questions were asked by the committee, including:
> What the required office floor space was for the council? The current space at the Knowle was approximately 7000sqm; the requirement was approximately 3,300sqm. 
[The origins of the 3300 sqm figure are questionable: the District Council leadership has constantly claimed that 'the Knowle is not fit for purpose and the staff are working in difficult conditions'. In one case, it was claimed that they were forced to work in ‘converted toilets’. And yet the space available is more than twice that proposed for the new building. 
It appears that the figure of 3300 sqm has been derived from standard tables for office workers - and that no one at Knowle has in fact allocated space in the new building.
The alternative proposal has been for the ‘modern buildings at Knowle plus Chamber and Member’s Lounge, etc.’ option, as this will provide more than 4000 sqm. (See figures above.)

The political leadership at the District Council claim that the Davis Langdon reports are 'independent' and will not countenance any new reports on the Knowle buildings to be commissioned: Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "Committee members agreed by eight votes to none, with four abstentions, that a motion would go to cabinet recommending a professional survey of the building be carried out – not undertaken by EDDC."

> Had there been expressions of interest in the Knowle building? Yes, considerable interest but the extent of actual offers will only be known at the point that that tender process closes.
[These figures, however, will not represent the 'final selling price' of these assets: See above, re the tendering process.
The District Council has been reluctant to provide more than the barest minimum of information: Correspondence with potential Knowle developers - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow]

> Were options other than Skypark as the preferred location still open? Yes, there is always the possibility that the council will not relocate to Skypark.
having made a 'clear decision' earlier in the year: East Devon District Council - Moving and Improving; Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: moving to SkyparkFutures Forum: Knowle relocation project: moving to Skypark... further comment
But perhaps the question to be asked is to what extent the whole 'relocation project' is all very top-down: Futures Forum: Skypark and “authoritarian high modernism”]

> If the supermarket now wanted a smaller site, why not protect the East Devon Business Centre rather than loose an asset; it cannot be assumed that the private sector will take up the slack to provide business units – Negotiations with the developer on the Heathpark site, which are still ongoing, will still provide a capital receipt worthy of consideration. Honiton was recognised as an important town for business provision, but review was needed of the best way to deliver support to small and medium enterprises. The traditional approach of providing such a form of business centre may no longer be the best method of serving the business community. Consultant work was underway to evaluate the best way forward for the council.
[Why have the Minutes gone to such length to record such an unclear answer?
See above re the Business Park.]

> Had any further staff surveys been carried out on staff preference for location? No; costs had been calculated and included in the project, looking at a period of time for allowances for staff that would have to travel longer distances. Green travel plans had also been factored in.
[The statistics around who wants what are contradictory:
It is clear that these proposals will act particularly against staff from Sidmouth, especially part-time staff, which will, over time, lead to these being a decreasing percentage of the workforce; whilst this is not an overall consideration for the District Council in considering the 'overall picture', this will present a severe problem for Sidmouth residents. See points below on Sidmouth.]

> When would the detail of capital receipts from the main assets be released to the public? Currently the information was commercially sensitive. There was an expectation of publication either at the end of the project or when the information became no longer commercially sensitive.
[A very interesting report on 'commercial sensitivity' in the Guardian was referred to in an earlier posting: 
Futures Forum: 106 payments and the NPPF... the repercussions for East Devon
“Without some commercially sensitive information remaining private, developers could simply refuse to work with councils, leaving boroughs without the housing and regeneration we all need,” says a spokeswoman for Southwark Council. The borough brought a legal challenge against a decision by the Information Commissioner’s Office last year ordering the council to disclose the full details of the viability report, after a freedom of information request was denied.
"The tribunal concluded that the information must be disclosed, stating that “the importance … of local people having access to information to allow them to participate in the planning process outweighs the public interest in maintaining the remaining rights of Lend Lease”. 
The truth about property developers: how they are exploiting planning authorities and ruining our cities | Cities | theguardian.com]

SWAP involvement in the project was confirmed and the officer from that partnership was fully aware of the confidential project information and figures. Councillor Howard suggested that a project management spreadsheet would be helpful to members, to demonstrate the progress of the project and where gaps in knowledge existed.
[Although it was not confirmed as to how or indeed whether this would be forthcoming.]

It was confirmed that both internal and external legal advice has been provided to the project team while external professional advice in terms of planning advice has been provided on the Knowle site (published on Savills website). 
There has been a conscious decision not to involve the planning department in discussions given their role as the local planning authority. 
In response to debate on the loss of 400 jobs from the town of Sidmouth, the committee was informed that around 30% of the current workforce lived in or in close proximity to Sidmouth.
[Cllr Graham Troman's concerns about the loss of jobs to Sidmouth were not properly addressed: the point being that not only will the proposed relocation affect Sidmouth the most in this regard, but the knock-on effects to the town's economy in terms of spending power is considerable. This has been recognised by the District Council itself:

"The relocation of the Council’s Offices would lead to a significant loss of 
employment in the town and would cause harm to local businesses." www.eastdevon.gov.uk/combined_special_dmc_agenda_010313.pdf
Indeed, the Economic Impact Study (January 2013) from consultants Peter Brett was pretty clear, to quote from the Economic Development Manager, "that if the changes proposed are approved and implemented this would have an immediate and lasting impact upon Sidmouth’s economy." www.eastdevon.gov.uk/economic_impact_assessment_knowle_final.pdf]

The Chairman highlighted that, as a report on relocation was due to Cabinet at their December meeting, there was an opportunity for members to question the content of the report at that time. Officers also outlined to the committee that any recommendation to sell sites would be subject to delivery of a new location.
[And yet many would assume that it should be the function of the Overview & Scrutiny Cttee which should 'question the content of the report' - rather than simply 'note' it: 
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "Merely noting a report has no place on Scrutiny]

A proposal by Councillor Claire Wright seconded by Councillor Roger Giles and amended by Councillor Mike Allen, with agreement of the proposer and seconder, was as follows:
>that no decision on the sale of the assets Knowle building, Manstone depot and the Heathpark site be made until complete certainty on the council’s new relocation;
>that no decision on the sale of the assets Knowle building, Manstone depot and the Heathpark site be made until all costs, expenditure and new build costs are published;
>any decision is not made at the December Cabinet meeting but deferred until after the Christmas period, as it is too close to the Christmas period for a decision of that magnitude.
>instant notification if the Skypark option was known by officers to have become unviable

The proposal was put to the vote and lost.


The report on relocation update be noted.