Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Environmental Law Foundation

The strapline of the Environmental Law Foundation makes it very clear what it stands for:



The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) is a charity registered in England and Wales no. 1045918. Our current President is HRH The Prince of Wales.

We help the voice of ordinary people and communities to be heard on matters affecting the environment in which they live.

It’s about participation and access to justice.

It’s about your views and feelings – not ours or any ‘green elite’ – on the quality of the air you breathe, on the open spaces, wildlife, land use and waterways near your home.

It’s about promoting the collective, good decision-making which is at the very heart of civilised, democratic and stable societies.

We do this by providing free information and advice on environmental issues to individuals and communities via our in-house and university based law clinics, and via our network of specialist environmental lawyers and technical experts.

We exist primarily to help socially and economically disadvantaged communities which want to address their concerns, but lack the resources or information to do so. All, however, are welcome to enquire.

The Environmental Law Foundation |

Environmental Law Foundation from Blue Moon Creative on Vimeo

Comment from the East Devon Watch blog:


Charlie Hopkins, a local planning and environmental consultant, 
Planning inquiry and environmental consultant - Charlie Hopkins
who represented Feniton at their super-inquiry and a founder member of the
Environmental Law Foundation:
The Environmental Law Foundation |
(motto: Everyone has a Right to Participate in Decisions About their Environment: We Help the Voices of Ordinary People to be Heard and Respected),

has sent the following letter to East Devon District Council which is refusing to release the consultants’ reports on the number of houses required for the Local Plan because they may be “politically sensitive” during the run up to local elections. This, of course, delays the Local Plan by several more months and does not allow the information into the public domain.

As we have covered before, there is a period before elections when local authorities go into what is called purdah. There is an explanation of this HERE. The legislation says:

“During the period between the notice of an election and the election itself, local authorities should not publish any publicity on controversial issues or report views or proposals in such a way that identifies them with any individual members or groups of members. Publicity relating to individuals involved directly in the election should not be published by local authorities during this period unless expressly authorised by or under statute. It is permissible for local authorities to publish factual information which identifies the names, wards and parties of candidates at elections.35. In general, local authorities should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters. However this general principle is subject to any statutory provision which authorises expenditure being incurred on the publication of material designed to influence the public as to whether to support or oppose a question put at a referendum. It is acceptable to publish material relating to the subject matter of a referendum, for example to correct any factual inaccuracies which have appeared in publicity produced by third parties, so long as this is even-handed and objective and does not support or oppose any of the options which are the subject of the vote.”

So, basically, EDDC Tories are saying that their reports would identify with individual members or groups of members. This is crazy: they are independent reports commissioned by East Devon District Council, not by individual members or groups of members. The bills for the two reports will be paid by East Devon District Council NOT East Devon and Honiton and Tiverton Conservative Associations.

The reports are factual information only and, if it were seeking to influence voters, would be a serious impugning of the consultants’ reports and the reputation of the consultants themselves.

Here is the letter from Mr Hopkins:

The announcement of further delays to the Local Plan by EDDC’s leader, Paul Diviani, is quite incredible. We are told to believe that these delays are “inevitable”, because were the public to have sight of a housing needs report before the elections in May the process “could be seen” as being politically motivated.

Could be seen by whom Mr Diviani?

The report itself certainly won’t be seen by anyone except those select few in EDDC, who then take it upon themselves to decide what the public should know and what they shouldn’t. When EDDC presented the new Local Plan at the public inquiry a year ago, last February, they considered that it was in a form acceptable to the Inspector, who made it clear from Day 1 that it was anything but. A clearer case of incompetence would be hard to imagine. We were then assured that revised housing figures could be produced within a matter of weeks. A year later, still we wait, now to be told, with much hand wringing, that we must wait even longer because of the remote possibility that some unspecified, unidentified persons may see the process as “politically motivated”.

The only reason for withholding the housing needs report is that it is likely that housing needs will be shown to be higher than the figures presented by EDDC a year ago. The consequence of this is that villages and communities in East Devon will be allocated higher housing figures than previously. This is highly unlikely to go down to well with the vast majority of communities in East Devon, some of which have already seen proposals by developers to hugely increase housing on greenfield sites (think of Feniton, Gittisham, and more recently Clyst St Mary).

If there is political motivation behind delaying the release of these reports that can only come from the Tory majority on EDDC.

Finally, who benefits from this further delay?

An unholy trinity of landowners and developers, who stand to profit massively in the interim period before a new Local Plan is in place, and last, but not least, their chums on EDDC.

Charlie Hopkins

Local environmental and planning consultant Charlie Hopkins lambasts East Devon District Council over secrecy on consultants report on housing numbers | East Devon Watch
Futures Forum: The District Council and the local plan >>>>> "Who benefits from this further delay? An unholy trinity of landowners and developers, who stand to profit massively in the interim period before a new Local Plan is in place, and last, but not least, their chums on EDDC."

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