Saturday, 18 October 2014

Happy news coming out of Cranbrook... churnalism and the partnership between developers and politicians...

Questions have been raised about the viability of the 'eco-new town' of Cranbrook:
Futures Forum: Cranbrook: What's the difference between a housing estate and an eco newtown?

It now seems that shops are indeed moving in:
Charity shop for Cranbrook? | East Devon Alliance

Although to what extent the 'Cranbrook Herald' is simply an organ of happy news is not clear:
Works begins on Cranbrook’s first shops - News - Cranbrook Herald

As with so much of the 'press', it is difficult to find 'objective' - ie: critical - news and comment, as it's reckoned that 80% of any pieces published are directly copied and pasted from press releases:
Churnalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Churnalism” tracker catches journalists copying press releases, Wikipedia | Ars Technica

Cranbrook set to double in size under new proposals

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: October 15, 2014

CRANBROOK could double in size under ambitious proposals to expand the town.

The New Community Partners consortium of developers, comprising Hallam Land, Persimmon Homes, and Taylor Wimpey Homes, have announced their proposals to expand the town from the currently agreed 3,500 homes to 7,000 to 8,000.

In addition to the homes, the developers are also proposing additional services and amenities that a development with a population of around 20,000 people “warrants and deserves”.

Ideas include a health and wellbeing centre, a library, shops, offices, and a leisure centre with a swimming pool, sports pitches, a pub, restaurants, and more affordable housing.

Prior to drawing up a planning application, the consortium has launched a public consultation to gauge local opinion on its proposals for the future of the town.

An exhibition was due to go on display at St Martin’s Primary School yesterday, and at the Younghayes Centre today from noon to 6pm.

Mike Owen, consortium project manager, said: “The journey to date has already been dramatic; it was mid-2011 that the first access works commenced, and in July 2012 that the first home was occupied. Now there are more than 800 homes occupied, a community centre in full use, the first primary school heading towards full capacity, works underway to deliver a new station at Cranbrook early in 2015, and the opening of a second primary school and a secondary school next September. The new town even has its own vicar. It is already truly a new and vibrant community. So, we are setting out our proposals for an even more exciting future for Cranbrook. We are genuinely excited to work towards the delivery of all the things you would expect to find in a new town.”

In December the partnership team responsible for co-ordinating the projects that make up the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point became the first tenants of the Younghayes Centre, Cranbrook’s community hub.

The Exeter and East Devon Growth Point is a partnership between the four local authorities of Exeter City, East Devon District, Teignbridge District and Devon County Councils and a wide range of other public and private sector partners.

The community hub formed part of the town’s first phase during which 1,100 homes will be delivered and the primary school opened.

The second phase, with 2,400 homes, making a total of 3,500, is when the town centre including shops, will take shape.

The Clyst Honiton bypass also opened during 2013.

Cranbrook set to double in size under new proposals | Exeter Express and Echo

Indeed, the press and official organs regularly report on if not endorse the 'comments' from the Consortium Project Manager:
Heavy Rain not a problem for Cranbrook: Latest News - Exeter and East Devon Growth Point

... as well as 'comments' from representatives of the construction companies:
Homes snapped up as Cranbrook opens | Exeter Express and Echo
Buyers are showing interest in moving to Devon's new town | Exeter Express and Echo
Thousands flock to Cranbrook showrooms - Exeter and East Devon Growth Point Website

... which seem to echo the 'comments' from the builders themselves:
House hunters flock to Cranbrook | Taylor Wimpey

Central government has also been keen to talk up its 'investment' - and, again, the official press release and the private company press release seem to be pretty much in tandem:
Housing Minister announces £20m investment in Devon's new community | Homes and Communities Agency (HCA)
Housing Minister announces 20 million investment during visit to Cranbrook New Community to accelerate building | Taylor Wimpey

And who should take the credit for these new homes?
Government funding to unlock delivery of 12,000 new homes - Announcements - GOV.UK
Cranbrook - Case studies - GOV.UK

Meanwhile in East Devon, the District Council makes much of the 'partnership' between state and private interests, as in its Annual Report from 2013:

Another example is taking shape right in front of our eyes
in the form of Cranbrook, our award-winning, exciting new
carbon-friendly and people-friendly community at the western
end of the district. Cranbrook is a prime example of successful
working with the private sector.

Importantly  all  the  financial  doom  and  gloom  hasn’t 
stopped  us  getting  on  with  the  day  job  and  nor  has  it  stopped
us  planning  ambitiously  for the  future.  As you’ll  see  in  this
report,  the  services  you  care  about  such  as  waste  collection,
street  cleaning  and  providing  top  quality  parks  and  open 
spaces,  have  continued  to  perform  well  in  2012/13.  At  the
same  time  we’ve  made  a  lot  of  progress  on  our  draft  Local
Plan,  the  district’s  blueprint  for  the  next  15  years,  while 
also  moving  forwards  with  major  projects  such  as  the  new
community  of  Cranbrook.

Over  the  past  year  we’ve  seen  a  fascinating  mix  of  real  life
results  and  ideas  for  the  future.  The  flagship  development  of
Cranbrook  is  now  providing  an  ongoing  source  of  eco-friendly
homes,  excellent  employment  opportunities  and  a  good  quality
of  life , showing  what  happens  when  ‘vision’  becomes  reality.

Annual report East Devon – an outstanding place 2013/14

In which case, blogs might be better than the mainstream media and official organs for a more critical take on what is happening...


October 17, 2014

The developer exhibition for the extension to the extension of Cranbrook took place at the Younghayes community centre in Cranbrook on Thursday 16 October from mid-day to 6 pm.

There was very little advance notice of the exhibition (most people heard about it only the day before on the local news) and those hours would have excluded many working people from seeing it and asking searching questions about the “suggestions” the developers have put forward about the infrastructure that MIGHT support the extra dwellings.

Surely this cannot be the only “public consultation” on these plans?

Oh, and do these new houses count towards the Local Plan unlike earlier ones? And what will be the difference between affordable housing promised and delivered?

More on “consultation” – this time in the extension to the extension of Cranbrook | East Devon Alliance

The East Devon Alliance blog has been asking questions for some time about the new town - including questioning the up-beat presentation of a recent poll of residents:
Cranbrook: residents speak – and it isn’t all sweetness and light (or even “vibrant”) | East Devon Alliance

Besides these web-based sources of comment, there is of course the independent politician...

As the once-A-grade farming land and hedgerows were being grubbed up two years ago and the first housing was being sold, the independent Cllr Claire Wright expressed a rather different view to the official one:
An honest look at Cranbrook and ‘growth point’ - Claire Wright

There is the embarrassing possible connection between the London borough of Newham and Cranbrook:
Comments on "Newham Council accused of 'social cleansing'" - Claire WrightNewham protestors agree to leave occupied flats | News | Inside Housing
Newham council drops plans to evict housing campaigners in 24 hours | UK news | The Guardian

However, most embarrassing should be the connection between 'developers' and 'politicians'...

Firstly, there is the obvious case of former Cllr Graham Brown which is or is not under police investigation: 
'If I turn a green field into an estate then I’m not doing it for peanuts' - Telegraph
Pressure heaped on East Devon District Council to discuss controversial Graham Brown in public | Exeter Express and Echo

But more insidious are the unspoken and unrecorded links between developers and the dominant local party - and again these questions have only been raised by independent Cllr Claire Wright - and not the District Council's own Scrutiny Cttee:

How much cash have developers given the East Devon Tories?

Monday, 09 April 2012 8 Comments by Claire

I have lodged a written question for the East Devon District Council Full Meeting on Wednesday (11 April) querying how much funding has been donated to the local Conservative Party, by developers.

The question was prompted by the inquiry into the Prime Minister’s ‘cash for policies’ scandal and revelations that big developers have ploughed millions into Tory party coffers at a national level, prior to the planning laws being weakened last month.

My question is as follows:

“Given that the Prime Minister has said he will have an inquiry into “cash for policies” will the Leader of the Council, Chairman of the Development Management Committee and Chairman of the East Devon Local Plan Panel be disclosing which developers they have met and whether these developers have made donations to the local, regional or national Conservative party and, if so, how much”.

The format of full council meetings means that I will receive a written answer on Wednesday evening at the start of the meeting and am then entitled to ask a supplementary question.

How much cash have developers given the East Devon Tories? - Claire Wright

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