Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Hustings in Sidmouth: District Council Election ........ Wednesday 15th April

This is from the original letter sent out to declared candidates. 
[Although the format of the final evening might change: see updates]

Dear Prospective EDDC Candidate

I would like to invite you to the Vision Group for Sidmouth (VGS) Hustings for the 2015 EDDC elections.

The Hustings will be on Apr 15th at St. Francis Hall, Woolbrook Road, Sidmouth EX10 9XH.

The event will be styled on the BBC Radio 4 programme “Any Questions”.

The Prospective EDDC Candidates will make up the panel to take questions from representative groups and members of the public.

The evening will commence at 7.30pm with refreshments.
Our current plan is for the panel to gather at 7.50pm; the session will consist of pre-prepared questions being fielded through the chair to the Prospective Candidates from the audience - namely from those organisations and individuals who have sent in questions.
The panelists will not be aware of the exact wording of the questions beforehand; they will not be subject to follow-up questions from the audience, although the chair might chose to ask for clarification.
The question-and-answer session will end at 8.50pm approximately with further refreshments.
The evening should finish at about 9.15pm.

The event will be moderated by the Chair. Microphones will be available for both panelists and members of the audience fielding questions. Refreshments will be provided by the VGS.

I will provide a further update nearer the time.
Please find attached our 2015 Hustings Poster showing all events.

Please confirm you will be in attendance

Best regards,

Dave Bramley

Vision Group for Sidmouth

Climate change: 'Inconvenient facts?' on Radio 4

The debate around climate change is about 
> how you 'frame the debate':
Futures Forum: Climate change: appealing to values and identity >>> From 'worthy but dull' to re-framing the debate >>> It's about: pollution >>> inter-generational debt >>> conserving the local landscape
> 'ending denial' in 2015:
Futures Forum: Climate change: 'the end of denial' and the 'tipping point to a zero carbon energy system'
> politics:
Futures Forum: Climate change: "a badge of political identity in a debate riven by ideological and tribal conflicts"
> keeping fossil fuels in the ground - and 'divestment':
Futures Forum: Climate change: keep it in the ground

But above all, it's about the science:
Futures Forum: Climate change: "The forecasts are accurate, unfortunately." And yet: “the history of trying to make economic forecasts is one of complete failure.”
Futures Forum: Climate change: a Horizon Guide tonight on BBC Four: "One of the greatest scientific undertakings in history."
Futures Forum: Climate change: by numbers >>> "a deeper-than-usual insight into some of the methods of climate science"

On Radio 4's 'Costing the Earth' earlier today, Tom Heap looked at the modelling with experts from the Met Office and beyond:

Climate Change: Inconvenient Facts?

Listen in pop-out player
With arctic sea ice shrinking and Antarctic sea ice growing, Tom Heap asks what is happening to the climate.
Despite the consensus of scientists around the world, there are still some anomalies in the computer models of the future climate. Tom Heap is joined by a panel of experts to tackle some of the difficult questions that lead to uncertainties in our understanding of the changing climate.
The perceived wisdom in the scientific community is that the climate is warming but evidence shows that even though Arctic sea ice is melting, there has actually been a growth in Antarctic sea ice. That, along with a documented slow down in the warming of the climate since 1998, has been a 'stone in the shoe' of the climate change story. So what is happening?
Tom is joined by BBC and Met office weather presenter John Hammond to put these 'difficult' climate scenarios to a team of experts: Mark Lynas is an author and environmental campaigner, Mike Hulme is professor of Climate and Culture at Kings College London and Dr Helen Czerski is a broadcaster and 'bubble physicist' at UCL.
With the help of this panel, Costing The Earth discusses how best to communicate anomalies that don't appear in climate models and make the science sometimes hard to comprehend.
Presenter: Tom Heap
Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

BBC Radio 4 - Costing the Earth, Climate Change: Inconvenient Facts?

Devon County are 'now looking into' access to Alexandria Road Industrial Estate

At last week's District Council's planning meeting looking at the draft Local Plan, the proposals for the employment land site at Sidford were rejected:
Futures Forum: Proposals for a business/retail park at Sidford are removed from the draft Local Plan >>> to be replaced by new proposals for 'green wedge' between Sidford and Sidbury?

[Although the Minutes are not very precise:
Development Management Committee minutes for 23 March 2015 special meeting - East Devon District Council]

The (connected) tussle over what to do with the employment land site at Alexandria Rd Industrial Estate has been going on for some time:
Futures Forum: The current state of employment land sites in the Sid Valley
Futures Forum: Supermarket saturation point: Is there really room for more in Sidmouth and in Honiton?
Futures Forum: The future of the Alexandria Road Industrial Estate

At the same meeting, the latest on the 'access' to the Estate was raised, as reported by the Save Our Sidmouth site:

New access being considered for Sidmouth’s existing employment site

March 25, 2015 by sidmouthsid Leave a comment

The long-awaited provision of access to the Alexandria Road Industrial Estate from the Bulverton Road may be getting closer. 

This week’s DMC were told by District and County Cllr Stuart Hughes, that Highways are now looking into it.
SOS has long argued that brownfield sites such as the Alexandria Road Estate should be fully used as a priority, before farmland and other non-renewable greenfield sites are earmarked for development.

New access being considered for Sidmouth’s existing employment site | Save Our Sidmouth

Indeed, over the last couple of years, the SOS site has reported on and asked lots of questions on the issue:
Alexandria Road Estate | Save Our Sidmouth
Questions about Alexandria Road | Save Our Sidmouth
Access to Alexandria Road Industrial Estate | Save Our Sidmouth

Monday, 30 March 2015

Comparing visions for the development of East Devon...

A correspondent has made a cheeky comparison:

"Please find two views along SW coast path taken from High Peak.
Compare EDDC vision to the west... 

... with ours to the east."


'Tapping into a new appreciation for the countryside'

Radio 4's Book of the Week is Robert Macfarlane's latest:

Book of the WeekLandmarks Episode 1 of 5

Robert Macfarlane visits some inspiring places, to meet the people and
'collect' the words that evoke the area. 

1. He recalls happy days at Walnut Tree Farm, Suffolk, home to a famous swimmer of moats and ponds, lakes and rivers..

BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week, Landmarks, Episode 1
BBC Radio 4 - Open Book, Robert Macfarlane on his new book Landmarks

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane, review: 'passionate and magical'

Horatio Clare delights in Robert Macfarlane’s latest manifesto which urges us to re-engage with the language of the natural world

Landmarks is a bigger book than it first appears. There is a manifesto quality to it, a more urgent beat than in his previous work. We have lost touch with the earth, Macfarlane argues, both physically and linguistically. By presenting writers who were engaged with it, and language that belongs to an age when children could tell the difference between an oak and an ash, a sparrow and a wren, the book demands our re-engagement with the natural world. The result is a step forward for Macfarlane and for nature writing. 

In response to a threatened, damaged landscape, a distinctive art form is in flower, of which Helen Macdonald’s prize-winning H Is for Hawk is the latest in a long and lively line. As happened in the Romantic period, the last time readers and writers combined to hymn and study the powers of a vulnerable British landscape, our era is producing work of lasting worth. Landmarks both makes the threat to our children’s experience and sensibility explicit, and offers solutions.

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane, review: 'passionate and magical' - Telegraph

An interest in this type of book seems to be a trend:

Hawks, butterflies, coasts and footpaths: how nature writing turned to literary gold

Books about the natural world are now huge sellers, tapping into a new appreciation for the countryside and scepticism about material wealth

Jamie Doward Sunday 22 March

This month sees the publication of Rob Cowen’s Common Ground, described as a “portrait of a piece of pylon-strung edge-land, an unclaimed tangle of meadow, wood and river”. Then comes Patrick Barkham’s Coastlines, the third offering from the Guardian journalist seen as one of the genre’s emerging young stars. Also out now is Simon Armitage’s Walking Way, in which the poet explores the coastal fringes of south-west England.

Their publishers must be hoping that such titles will appeal to readers who lapped up Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, which has sold more than 135,000 copies in the UK alone, won the Costa Book of the Year and the Samuel Johnson prize and has turned the Cambridge academic into a literary sensation.

“It’s astonishing, the impact of Helen Macdonald’s book,” Barkham acknowledged. “I know of nature books that are being released this year on the last Thursday in July, when Helen’s book was released. It’s now seen as the new magical date in publishing.”

Her book is often mentioned in the same breath as that of another Cambridge academic, the poster boy for the new nature writing movement, Robert Macfarlane, whose works – including The Wild Places and The Old Ways – have sold more than 300,000 copies in the UK, according to data supplied by Nielsen, a global firm that monitors what people read and buy.

Many tagged with the new nature writing label acknowledge their debts to those before them, suggesting they are simply reviving a tradition rather than forging a new path. In The Old Ways, universally praised as a masterpiece, Macfarlane acknowledges his debt to Edward Thomas, whose 1913 book, The Icknield Way, explored the poet’s journey between Suffolk and Wiltshire along one of Britain’s oldest thoroughfares. Macfarlane has been credited with rehabilitating forgotten writers such as Scottish poet Nan Shepherd, in the same way that Richard Mabey, perhaps Britain’s foremost nature writer, helped to resurrect the reputation of the “poet of the fields”, John Clare.

The genre’s proponents argue that it would be wrong to see the new nature writing as simply an exaltation of nature. “A lot of this writing is about questioning the values of our current society, and particularly questioning economic growth,” Barkham said. “We have to look at more meaningful ways of living. It’s not just about consumption and adding to our material wealth.”

Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>>>>>>>>> Full Council: Wednesday 25th March >>> and more reports

There has been a lot of coverage of last week's decision by the District Council to sell Knowle:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>> Full Council: Wednesday 25th March >>> further reports
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>> Full Council: Wednesday 25th March >>> reports

Here is the on-line version of the piece from the Herald:
So long, Sidmouth! Seal of approval for EDDC move - News - Sidmouth Herald

This is the full speech from the chair of the Save Our Sidmouth grouping:

A ” huge number of uncertainties and unresolved problems…being glossed over”, yet Council has approved EDDC office relocation.

March 30, 2015 by sidmouthsid Leave a comment

SOS Chair, Richard Thurlow, clearly explained those “uncertainties and unresolved problems” in his speech (copied below) to Full Council last week (Weds 25th March). The points were unanswered at the meeting, and remain so.


The public have not been permitted to have other than a superficial view of the costings which make up the attempt to persuade that Relocation is cost neutral. Councillors and the public have to take the results as presented without understanding or knowing the processes involved, or appreciating the range of sensitivity of the output.

It is likely that the review undertaken by Grant Thornton and Gleeds is technically competent within the parameters given to them.. This is more than I can say for all the work undertaken by your DCEO, which has been characterised by wrong data, erroneous calculations and embarrassing u-turns.

The problem with all such analyses is that the results are highly dependent on the quality and sufficiency of the data used and the validity of any predictions. Slight changes in both can make significant differences in the results.

This is very important to understand. In this case, the review has come up with a single result.. namely a stated cost and betterment over 20 years. I am surprised to see that there is no attempt to quantify a range of costs and benefits depending on whether the input such as the costs of energy, are higher, or lower than those assumed. This is a weakness, as it implies that the single result is mathematically and financially correct. This is not so.

In addition, Grant Thornton/Gleeds say, and I quote;-
2.4 The conclusions are based solely on the results of the Model and therefore do not consider any qualitative aspects of the options, and nor have we considered the extent to which the office relocation project will meet the Council’s service or efficiency aspirations/objectives.

This is telling you that the financial equation stacks up, but not whether the relocation project is good, or bad, or meets your objectives.

We firmly believe that the project is bad , that it ignores a number of issues and we don’t think that it meets your objectives. There are a huge number of uncertainties and unresolved problems which are being glossed over.

You should ask yourselves the following questions:-

• Are you really happy that all various options for moving were considered? Various options have been assessed against a highly biased one of using the whole of the Knowle and basically doing nothing to it except some urgent repairs, repairs which have been purposefully neglected over the past few years. The option of using and modestly improving the “new Building” at the Knowle and a refurbished building at EXMOUTH has not been considered This is a serious omission.

• Are you really happy with the disposal of an asset worth £9-10m, (the land alone is worth £7-8m), to provide assets which are acknowledged to be worth £3.25m at Honiton and £0.9m at Exmouth ? a total of £4m. This is just throwing money away.

• Are you really happy about taking out a loan for over £9.25m for several years. When the future is so unclear? And carry over a loan of £2.1 m for 20 years?

• Have you really thought about the costs and difficulties of “Customer orientated mobile working practices, the Worksmart programme and mobile hubs”? What does this mean? The introduction of IT systems and practices are notoriously difficult to plan, cost and implement. Huge cost overruns are usual.

This is probably the most important decision that EDDC will make; it is being rushed through with indecent haste, at the fag end of an administration that may well change significantly.

I would ask to question the various assumptions inherent in the proposal to relocate, and reject it.

A ” huge number of uncertainties and unresolved problems…being glossed over”, yet Council has approved EDDC office relocation. | Save Our Sidmouth
Relocation approval rushed through “in indecent haste, at the fag end of an administration” that may soon disappear” | East Devon Watch

And this is the piece from the Western Morning News:

Tory council insists costly move of East Devon Council HQ is a money saver

By Western Morning News | Posted: March 26, 2015

Knowle, in Sidmouth

A council has approved a controversial plan to move its headquarters and sell the existing woodland site to be turned into a retirement home.

Conservative East Devon District Council rubber stamped the move, which was opposed by many residents – including Tory MP and Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire – at a meeting last night.

The long-standing plan to relocate from the Knowle in Sidmouth to new offices in Honiton and Exmouth, was passed by 37 votes to 12 at the full council.

Council leader Paul Diviani said the “dual-site” solution would save £2.8million over 20 years compared to a loss of £3.9million if the authority remained at Knowle.

Critics say the project should have been postponed until after the election and describe the timing of the meeting – days before the council releases a confidential financial report, as ordered by the courts – as “political chicanery”.

Councillor Diviani said the decision would give the electorate “a clear and transparent picture of our intentions” when they go to the polls on May 7. “We know there is more austerity on the way and that our council – like others up and down the country – has to find more and more creative ways of saving costs and becoming more efficient,” he added.

“How strange would it be for our residents to see us making piecemeal changes here and there to save relatively small amounts of money in each service, whilst pouring scarce funds into an unsuitable building that will have no value? By thinking ahead – and outside the box – we have given ourselves the chance of moving to accommodation that supports modern working practices, will reduce operating costs and will prove an investment for the future.

The plan to leave the current offices has been plagued by controversy and was beset by a series of blunders, including miscounting the number of staff, which forced officials back to the drawing board three times.

A subsequent planning application for redevelopment of the Knowle site was turned down by the council’s own committee.

A newly-built HQ at Exeter’s Skypark had been touted but this year the ruling cabinet, which insists the existing building is inefficient and dilapidated, performed a U-turn and instead backed a revised plan to move to Heathpark in Honiton and make use of existing space at Exmouth Town Hall.

The proposed buyer of the main, five-acre Knowle site is Pegasus Life, a specialist provider of residential developments offering retirement and assisted living facilities.

Councillors agreed with a cabinet recommendation that a further eight acres of parkland, including the lower “grasscrete” car park, would be offered to Sidmouth Town Council to own and manage, with a covenant against any future development.

Independent district councillor and parliamentary candidate at the general election Claire Wright, said the authority should have waited until minutes of the office working group were published, a move forced after the council lost a Freedom of Information battle

“This has all been engineered to be decided before these reports are published,” she added. By hook or by crook they are determined to do what they said they would do and nothing is going to stop them – it is outrageous political chicanery.”

Tory council insists costly move of East Devon Council HQ is a money saver | Western Morning News

"Playing our part" - the National Trust's ten year strategy: 'Revolutions can begin with a ramble as well as a march.'

The National Trust has brought out its long-term view:
Playingour part: What does the nation need from theNational Trust in the 21st century?

Several issues have been highlighted in the press:
National Trust wants Britain's stately homes to have fewer exhibits | Daily Mail Online
National Trust to add land not stately homes to lose middle class tag - Telegraph
National Trust to help run council parks | The Times

National Trust aims to 'nurse British countryside back to health'
Conservation charity, which is one of UK’s biggest landowners, to reverse effects of intensive farming and decimation of wildlife under £1bn plan
The river Teign in Fingle Woods, Dartmoor. The ancient woodland in Devon is one landscape being restored by the National Trust. Photograph: Adam Burton/Alamy
Fiona Harvey environment correspondent Monday 23 March 2015
The British countryside will be “nursed back to health” by the National Trust under a new £1bn, 10-year plan, which takes the charity far beyond its conventional image of country houses and tearooms.
Decades of poor land management, intensive farming and the loss of habitat have sent wildlife numbers tumbling, with 60% of species declining in the UK over the last 50 years.

National Trust aims to 'nurse British countryside back to health' | Environment | The Guardian

Global warming poses ‘biggest challenge’ to National Trust

March 22, 2015 Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent

©Getty Coastal erosion at Birling Gap, East Sussex
Year-long silverfish infestations, battered coastlines and other consequences of a changing climate mean global warming is now the biggest single threat to the National Trust, the charity’s head has warned.
“Climate change for us, and we see it all over our outdoor properties, is almost certainly the biggest challenge,” said Dame Helen Ghosh, as the Trust prepares to announce its 10-year strategy on Monday

Global warming poses ‘biggest challenge’ to National Trust - FT.com
Climate change 'biggest threat' to National Trust land - BBC News

National Trust campaigns to reverse 'alarming' wildlife decline
By Western Morning News | Posted: March 23, 2015

Kynance Cove, Lizard, Cornwall
A leading conservation charity is launching an ambitious 10 year strategy to nurse the region’s natural habitats back to health. The National Trust’s “Playing our Part” initiative will see the organisation invest up to £1 billion in projects designed to reverse the “alarming” decline in local wildlife and preserve its properties. It will also see the trust work alongside other charities, businesses and community groups in the hope of maximising the long-term impact of the scheme.
Alex Raeder, the charity’s natural environment lead for the South West, explained it was all about “scaling-up” the country’s existing approach to tackling environmental issues.
“In the Westcountry, some of our greatest natural habitat is along the coast, where roughly half of National Trust land is found,” he said. “As part of the new strategy, we are aiming to link up some of these sites, and work with partners to create long corridors of natural spaces. In some places this is already being done, such as at Lizard in Cornwall, but now its about finding the political drive to do more.”

National Trust campaigns to reverse 'alarming' wildlife decline | Western Morning News

WATCH: the stunning National Trust film that will make you proud to live in the South West
Saturday 28 March 2015 in News
They are the guardians of large swathes of our coastline, and a new film from the National Trust aims to show exactly why it's so important.
Filmed over three months last year by Lightcoloursound for the National Trust, the film showcases the amazing beauty of the coastline that makes up the South West Coast Path. The trust owns 300 miles of the 630 mile path, and the film swoops and soars above much-loved locations like Golden Cap and Old Harry Rocks, Cornwall's Lantic Bay (Richard and Judy's favourite beach), the rolling hills of Exmoor and the brooding cliffs of the Jurassic Coast.
it was made as part of the Trust's Coastal Festival - a year of celebration marking 50 years of the Neptune Coastline Fundraising campaign, and a thank you to everyone who has donated. The Neptune campaign has so far raised £65million, much of which has been spent on purchasing land around the coast. The Trust says it cost £3000 to maintain every mile of coast it owns, and hopes their film will inspire people to keep giving.

The South West Coast presented by the National Trust
Published on Mar 13, 2015
A film celebrating the stunning landscapes of the South West coast, and showcasing 50 years of coastal conservation. The film was specially commissioned by the National Trust to coincide with the 50th anniversary of its Neptune coastline campaign.
The South West Coast presented by the National Trust - YouTube

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

BOYD TONKIN Friday 27 March 2015

The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health, and could help influence the electio

Earlier this week, Britain’s largest interest group – by a country mile – unveiled an ambitious 10-year manifesto for change. This mighty legion, whose ranks of card-carrying members dwarf in numbers any bloc of active church-goers or political party, has committed a billion pounds to fund its public interventions. They aim to change patterns of land use, steer environmental reforms, mould housing and infrastructure policy, and even take over the running of community assets from local authorities.

Pundits now dissect ad infinitum the footling quarrels of the pygmy-sized sects competing for your vote on 7 May. We have not, however, seen much about this startling bid for social leadership from a movement backed by several millions. That is because the report on its 21st-century strategy, entitled “Playing our Part”, came from the National Trust.

Consider the figures. The National Trust boasts 4.2m members, among them 60,000 volunteers. They devote 4m hours each year to caring for its protected coastlines (775 miles), countryside (635,000 acres) and the 500-odd historic sites. Although not in the NT league, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds can itself trill about a chirpy membership of 1.1m. In comparison, a recent report for the House of Commons library estimated that the Labour Party now has 190,000 members, the Conservatives about 150,000 and the Liberal Democrats 44,000. Much has been made of the Green takeover. Adherents of that family of UK parties now just outnumber the Lib Dems. Even so, and in a reversal of their usual rhetoric, signed-up Greens still represent the 1 per cent when set against the broad democratic masses of the National Trust.

I enjoy a tasty crumpet in the old stables as much as any other visitor to the NT’s portfolio of historic properties (which attracted 20 million attendances last year). However, the new blueprint reveals a keener environmental edge than at any moment in the organisation’s 120-year history. Dame Helen Ghosh, the director-general, insists that the trust’s remit “has never been just about looking after our own places”.

That cool billion will go not only towards the usual conservation and restoration projects but “new economic models of land use”, better sustainable farming and even – in theory – plans to assume responsibility for urban parks and open spaces from austerity-depleted local councils.

The trust promises to derive 50 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Last April, it activated a hydro-electric turbine on its estate at Hafod y Llan in Snowdonia – its first renewable-energy venture. Meanwhile, its much-disputed hostility to windfarms may not be as dogmatic as reported; it argues, rather, that inshore wind resources should be “located, designed and on a scale that avoids compromising the special qualities of its locality”.

Back in the inner city, hipsters who imagine that the NT merely looks like the militant wing of Edinburgh Woollen Mills should take a look at its programme for the Tudor mansion of Sutton House in the heart of Hackney. There, in the evocative home built in 1535 by Thomas Cromwell’s protégé and sidekick Ralph Sadler, a “Queer Season” is under way. It includes “126”, a “crowd-sourced audio-visual experience featuring all 126 of Shakespeare’s Fair Youth sonnets as read by members of the LGBTQ community”.

With Parliament dissolved on Monday, we enter a five-week (or longer) frenzy during which party affiliation alone defines the civic realm. Electoral politics, and the media that feeds on it, propagate this myth. Yet old tribal loyalties continue to dissolve. About 1 per cent of adults in the UK now belongs to a party. As recently as 1970, 4.8 per cent held either a Labour or a Tory card. In 1953, the paid-up Conservative family peaked at an astonishing 2.8m – even though many of those were only there for the cakes, the fetes, the job offers and the eligible dates. If Labour never topped more a million or so card-holders, then membership of an affiliated trade union stretched the hand of the movement into almost every street, pub and club across industrial Britain.

For the next month and more, politicians will peddle the delusion that we could once again live in that vanished world. Forget it. Green or purple flashes in the pan aside, the voters have forsaken the tribalism of past eras. It will not return. Between 1950 and 1964, the three parties formerly known as “main” won 99 per cent of the total vote. In May, the proportion of the electorate that opts for someone other than the traditional troika could hit 25 per cent.

One fashionable way of reading this trend invokes the American sociologist Robert Putnam, with his theory of Bowling Alone. In a famous book of that title, Putnam studied the increasingly lonely and alienated lives of Americans. He argued that many had abandoned old allegiances – religious, ethnic or ideological – without finding any robust replacements. So they forfeited their “social capital”, and withdrew from church and club, committee room and union hall, into the fearful, suspicious privacy of the TV or computer screen. Here, analysts of civil society have long fretted about the decline of community spirit and public service in the post-Thatcher age of free-market extremism – a lament given eloquent voice in David Marquand’s book Mammon’s Kingdom.

The obituaries may prove premature. Conservative politicians cynically ditched the Big Society in short order when things got tough. Millions of citizens have not. According to the UK Civil Society Almanac compiled by the NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations), 29 per cent of people engage in voluntary activity at least once a month. About 800,000 people work in the sector, while “general charities” have an annual income in excess of £39bn. Among the biggest hitters in financial terms, the National Trust itself ranks third – behind Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust.

Even religion may not be dwindling quite as rapidly as the lonely bowlers claim. Within Christian denominations, the decline in levels of participation has not ceased. Its pace has nonetheless slowed down. According to the UK Church Statistics report, in 2013 the country’s congregations numbered 5.4m souls. That total exceeds the estimates made a few years before. Although the long-term graph still slopes downwards, migration – above all from Eastern Europe and Africa – has probably made the angle of descent less acute.

Our secular tabernacles sing with gusto too. As the rise of the National Trust indicates, modern management and marketing have in many ways strengthened the arm of the voluntarist Britain that George Orwell praised, with its patchwork of clubs and circles, buffs and hobbyists. If those civil-society units keep their distance from party and sect, they may stay aloof too from the issue-led “campaign”. Many radicals, especially in green causes, would rather eliminate that gap. Read, for instance, the Canadian writer-activist Naomi Klein’s stirring polemic on capitalism and climate change, This Changes Everything, and you plunge into a dualistic world of stark polarisation and irresolvable enmity. Here, brave young activists fight the good fight against the demonic evil of corporate “extractivism”, which threatens via fossil fuels to wipe out life on earth.

It’s wonderfully rousing stuff. But what can Klein – or, indeed, our home-grown Greens – say to the four million-plus National Trust members whose leadership has also identified climate change as the greatest menace to its work? The gulf between the fence-cutting, bulldozer-stopping eco-warrior and the NT fellow traveller who helps out in the tearoom may seem to yawn wider than Wensleydale. Many of the latter will be less bothered about joining what Klein calls “the new structures built in the rubble of neoliberalism” than in repairing a drystone wall. Yet, as the NT’s strategy acknowledges, their cumulative clout may in time sway governments more than any headline-grabbing occupation.

Eco-Leninists in the Klein mould express little sympathy for a gentler army of conservationists who may share the ideals but would run (or maybe stroll) a mile from the Green Bolshevism of blockades and barricades. Still, the reach of a body such as the National Trust shows that an appetite for resistance, and a hunger for reform, may thrive in spots unvisited by the partisan mind. The party spirit, which will drench us at least until 7 May and possibly long after, shrinks society into state. The campaigning mindset draws its fire from a binary, us-against-them righteousness. But the appeal of the National Trust, like its smaller peers, may tell a different story.

Crucially, such a movement must know how to deliver pleasure – from the cream scone and the family Constables to the cliff-top walk – along with principle. The NT has follies and fudges of its own: what, to scrape a sore point, does it really think about fracking on its land? Its ascent, however, tells us that millions of people vote not just with their sensibly shod feet but with hard cash for ideals of collective engagement beyond the scope of a ribbon or rosette.

Don’t write them off too fast as chutney-nourished nostalgists. Remember what happened when, in 2011, the now-defunct Coalition proposed a sell-off of national forests to profit-driven forces? Within days, the privatisation fanatics were routed utterly. Revolutions can begin with a ramble as well as a march.

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust - Comment - Voices - The Independent

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Housing in East Devon: "Why has the District Council opted for such high growth level?" >>> in contrast to consultants' reports and government growth projections

Politicians, when promising 'homes', seem also to be promising something 'affordable' - but there has been very little delivery on the ground, as pointed out by the East Devon Watch blog:
Affordable housing figures lowest since 2000 | East Devon Watch

The blog also refers to a policy document from Cornwall, which looks seriously at the issues around the sustainability of housing:
High growth and sustainability | East Devon Watch
Sustainability Appraisal of Housing Growth Options: An Overall Analysis ofTrends - Cornwall Council

The District Council looked at housing last week:
Futures Forum: District Council to consider draft Local Plan >>> Monday 23rd March >>> the issues
Futures Forum: District Council to consider draft Local Plan >>> Monday 23rd March >>> reports on housing
Futures Forum: District Council to consider draft Local Plan >>>>> Thursday 26th March >>> rural housing numbers

The proposals for employment land were also considered - as was the notion of the 'green wedge':
Futures Forum: Proposals for a business/retail park at Sidford are removed from the draft Local Plan >>> to be replaced by new proposals for 'green wedge' between Sidford and Sidbury?

And in that context, here is the view from independent Cllr Claire Wright:

After four years of battling Sidford industrial estate is struck from Local Plan

Thursday, 26 March 2015 4 Comments by Claire

The hugely controversial industrial estate, proposed at Sidford was today struck from the Local Plan, following a proposal by Cllrs Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman. The five hectare site was inserted into the Local Plan at the last minute when I was a member of the panel back in 2011. It has taken local people four years of campaigning for the council to finally agree to delete it. Many votes of a similar nature have been taken in the past and have failed. Today’s got through.

The move took place at today’s extraordinary full council meeting to discuss revisions to the local plan.

I blasted the council for opting YET AGAIN for unevidenced and huge levels of growth that are contrary to consultants recommendations.

How many consultants have to tell EDDC that the right way forward is low growth before they actually listen? The answer is they never will listen. They (who I am not entirely sure) wants big big levels of development in East Devon - and so shall it be.

That is, until the planning inspector takes a look at it and wonders what on earth is going on.

A press release was issued by EDDC earlier this month which contained a grossly untrue statement about the planning inspector recommending the levels of growth that EDDC have opted for.

The planning inspector made no such recommendation. This was a disgraceful attempt to try and fool the public into believing that EDDC is doing the will of the planning inspector, who threw out the draft local plan last year.

See here for my blog earlier this week on what EDDC has done .... http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/eddc_proposes_highest_housing_levels_possible_for_district

Frankly, the council has sold the western end of the district off to the highest bidder. Villages like Clyst Honiton, Rockbeare and Blackhorse are set to be absolutely swamped in urban sprawl.

The council promised Rockbeare that it would be protected by a green wedge. If you saw the area that Cranbrook is set to expand now, massively south of the old A30, you would be shocked. Rockbeare is set to be lost amid bricks and concrete.

Whimple was supposed to have a green wedge to protect it from Cranbrook.

Not any more.

Whimple’s green wedge is proposed to have a great chunk eaten out of it as Cranbrook also sprawls to the east.

Given that councillors have never had the chance to question the consultants I moved an amendment that both sets of consultants are invited to the next overview and scrutiny committee meeting.

This amendment was argued against by the chief executive, who for some reason decided to mention my “parliamentary ambitions.”

It was voted down mainly by the conservative group.

My second amendment proposed an extension of the consultation period by two weeks, making a total of an eight week consultation period. This proposal was carried, despite some senior conservatives arguing against it.

Interestingly, I informed the council that Mid Devon District Council (which has been working with EDDC on this) has opted for a low growth scenario for its district. This is because Mid Devon councillors did not wish to concrete over any more of the countryside than they had to.

So why has EDDC opted for such a high growth level?(it is impossible to even match the levels to any figures in the reports!)

The chief executive said it was because East Devon is a “growth area.”

But I replied, the consultants knew this before they drafted their report didn’t they.

Yet they still recommended a preferred approach of significantly lower development, that is also in line with government growth projections.

Why oh why is EDDC doing this?

The Local Plan, with some minor amendments, was voted through by the majority of councillors.

Consultation for eight weeks will start next month.


1. At 09:43 am on 27th Mar Deirdre Hounsom wrote:

The simple answer is that “they’re doing it because they can” but it still seems extraordinarily wilful on the part of the executive and the majority of Tory councillors. let’s hope that they all get a big shock in May!

2. At 02:22 pm on 27th Mar Graham wrote:

Thank you for the good news - common sense at last! Like the lawn terraces in the Knowle land grab, the Sidford Fields were of course sneaked in the local plan by officers at the last minute with no prior council approval. Once again it is noticeable the former East Devon MP has been very reluctant to comment on the matter. Now why would that be?

3. At 03:14 pm on 27th Mar Sandra Semple wrote:

High growth = high risk. One recession during the plan period will lead to stalled growth, which will lead to fewer planned properties being built, no 5 year land supply which will lead to another development free-for-all when the compulsory 5 year review of the Local Plan coincides with that recession. Aaah - NOW I understand!

4. At 03:17 pm on 27th Mar Paul F wrote:

Yes indeed - WHY?

If you are interested please see my full answer at http://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/03/27/local-plans-with-the-same-figures-mid-devon-opts-for-low-growth-in-housing-numbers-east-devon-opts-for-high-growth/ .

After four years of battling Sidford industrial estate is struck from Local Plan - Claire WrightEDDC proposes very high housing growth for district - Claire Wright

And here is that comment in full:

One thought on “Local Plans: with the same figures, Mid-Devon opts for low growth in housing numbers East Devon opts for high growth”

Paul F says:
27 Mar 2015 at 9:54am

Yes indeed. Why?

Whilst Claire is a councillor and bound by the Code of Conduct, and thus unable to bring the council into disrepute by suggesting possible reasons, we members of the public are not so bound.

Since there is no logic, nor any democratic mandate from the last elections for the Tories to pursue a high-growth policy, and since I think it unlikely that most people in East Devon would like to see East Devon (and Teignbridge) become suburbs of Greater Exeter (perhaps eventually as far as Honiton – why stop at Whimple when you can extend further along the A30 before reaching the AONBs at Honiton), there seems to me only two possibilities for this fervour:

1. Some sort of political dogma that believes that high-growth is the right thing to do regardless of the consequences on the local electorate who they are supposed to represent; or

2. Undeclared personal gain by key individuals at EDDC.

I must declare that I have no evidence to support either of the above potential reasons, but these are the only two reasons that make sense and EDDC are certainly not explaining the reasons for their high-growth position to allay these sorts of supposition.

With the elections looming, as individuals we all need to think about whether we want high-growth and for western part of East Devon to become part of Greater Exeter (in which case vote Tory) or want a more considered restricted and considered approach to planning – in which case VOTE INDEPENDENT.

Local Plans: with the same figures, Mid-Devon opts for low growth in housing numbers East Devon opts for high growth | East Devon Watch

Proposals for a business/retail park at Sidford are removed from the draft Local Plan >>> to be replaced by new proposals for 'green wedge' between Sidford and Sidbury?

The District Council met twice last week to consider its draft Local Plan:
Futures Forum: District Council to consider draft Local Plan >>> Monday 23rd March >>> the issues

And one of the main issues was the proposal for an industrial estate for Sidmouth:
Futures Forum: District Council to consider draft Local Plan >>> Monday 23rd March >>> Sidford Employment Land

One of the arguments against this proposal had been the notion of preserving a 'green wedge' between Sidford and Sidbury:
Natural England objects to Sidford business park - News - Sidmouth Herald

In fact, the notion of needing a 'green wedge' between towns seems to be literally gaining ground...

A 'wedge' between Seaton and Colyford was pushed for successfully over a year ago:
Rallying call for ‘Green Wedge’ protesters - News - Midweek Herald
Green Wedge gives East Devon District Council the edge in planning battle | Exeter Express and Echo

There have been campaigns elsewhere - to the south of Exeter:
Outcry over threat to Topsham’s ‘green wedge’ | Exeter Express and Echo
Topsham green wedge campaign springs into action - News - Exmouth Journal

And there has been a push for building on the 'green wedge' to the east of Exeter:
Plans submitted for 900 homes on outskirts of Exeter to add to 1,230 with approval | Exeter Express and Echo
Outrage at plans for 1,200 houses on green wedge on outskirts of Exeter at Old Park Farm, Pinn Hill, between Pinhoe and the village of Westclyst | Exeter Express and Echo
Futures Forum: Of Cranbrook and Greater Exeter
Futures Forum: The NPPF under pressure: building houses on green space

The Secretary of State has recognised the  validity of 'green wedges':
Editor's pick: Urban extension refused to preserve green wedge | Planning Resource

Proposals to make the land between Sidford and Sidbury an official 'green wedge' were put forward last week:

Bid to move 12-acre employment site

23 March 2015

Harvey Gavin harvey.gavin@archant.co.uk

A pair of Sid Valley representatives have made a last-ditch effort to see controversial proposals for 12-acres of employment land between Sidford and Sidbury scrapped.

Councillors Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman hope to convince district planning chiefs that an alternative vision of a business park on land by Sidmouth Garden Centre, north of the A3052, is a ‘no brainer’.

The pair, who have expressed their idea in a motion to the council, will also make the case for the area between Sidford and Sidbury to be formally designated as a ‘green wedge’ - which would afford it special protection from development. Cllr Hughes told the Herald that business units on land east of the garden centre would be easier to screen from view and far more suitable than the mooted Sidford site.

He said: “We have always said between Sidford and Sidbury isn’t the place that you would look to put a business park. It is an area that is renowned for traffic, there are concerns over flooding and it would completely destroy the beautiful view.”

Revisions to the long-awaited East Devon Local Plan – a blueprint for development in the region until 2031 – will be considered at a meeting today (Monday).

The draft plan says Sidmouth needs 12-acres of employment land, which is currently earmarked for farmland on the edge of Sidford in the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The proposed alternative site adjacent to the garden centre also falls in the AONB, but Mr Hughes said the proposal included the caveat that it would only be developed if there is sufficient demand and there was no more space available at the Alexandria Road Industrial Estate.

He said: “The garden centre site is served by buses, and there are 12 acres available if that’s what is needed – it seems to tick all the boxes.”

Cllr Troman added: “We’re not saying we don’t want any employment land, we’re just proposing another site for it. A lot of the town’s people, the chamber of commerce, and the town council are more supportive of this site than the Sidford one. What we don’t want to see is any urban sprawl closing Sidford and Sidbury up. A big concern for me is the Sidford site could become a retail park in the long term, and that would be a real drain on the businesses in the town.”

Ian Barlow, who owns some of the land surrounding the garden centre, said: “I don’t believe that this town needs 12 acres of industrial land. If they are saying we have to earmark that much, this is the place to do it.”

Bid to move 12-acre employment site - News - Sidmouth Herald

The proposals were passed by the District Council's extraordinary planning committee meeting:

Proposed Sidford Business Park removed from Local Plan

March 26, 2015 by sidmouthsid 2 Comments

By a narrow margin of, we are told, 18 votes to 13, District Councillors at today’s Extra Ordinary meeting at Knowle, have decided to drop the controversial proposal for a 12 acre employment site at Sidford Fields.

Congratulations and thanks to Sidmouth Councillors Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman for proposing the amendment. As a recent commentator on this blog noted recently, Cllr Troman had already argued strongly at the Development Management Committee, that the Sidford site was not justified by the council’s own formulae.

And much credit must also be given to SOS member Marianne Rixson, whose extensive research on flooding and traffic issues was presented to the Inspector at the Examination-in-Public of the previous Local Plan. Her work has solidly informed the debate.

Proposed Sidford Business Park removed from Local Plan | Save Our Sidmouth

The Herald website also carried the story:

Sidford business park removed from development blueprint

27 March 2015 Stephen Sumner

Sidford Valley. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 2244-39-12TI

Divisive plans for a 12-acre business park between Sidford and Sidbury look set to be scrapped after an eleventh-hour bid from Sid Valley representatives.

East Devon District Council yesterday voted 18 to 15 in favour of removing the employment land allocation from the draft Local Plan, its development document until 2031.

But the move could falter - Mark Williams, the authority’s chief executive, warned that members could face the wrath of a Government inspector for pulling it at such a late stage.

See the full story in next Friday’s Herald.

Sidford business park removed from development blueprint - News - Sidmouth Herald

However, as the CEO pointed out, there could be trouble ahead, as the Inspector has rejected such moves in other parts of the country:
Green wedge and tranquil countryside site developed for housing | Planning Resource

There are several questions about the whole process:


27th March 2015

Whose idea was it to put it in the Local Plan?


What, where and with whom is the correspondence that led to the decision?

Still questions about the now-defunct Sidford Business Park | East Devon Watch

Cllrs Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman would like to take matters further:

Saturday: March 28th 2015

Having been successful in moving an amendment for the land at Sidford earmarked for a business/retail park to be removed from the draft Local Plan at East Devon last Thursday 26th March 15 Graham Troman and I are now continuing to push for the second part of our original amendment put to the Special Development Management Committee on Monday 23rd March for the designation of a Green Wedge between Sidford and Sidbury to be included in the final Adopted Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan. 

As I said at the Committee 'I believe that there can be no better candidate than that of the land between the settlements of Sidbury and Sidford firstly to protect the historic village of Sidbury from being absorbed into Sidford and Sidmouth and secondly to maintain the landscape setting in the AONB between the two settlements so that they can be enjoyed by both present and future generations'

It is now imperative that everyone works together in securing this designation for the Sid Valley.


PCC community meeting in Honiton: Tuesday 31st March

Devon & Cornwall Police are to 'share services' with Dorset Police:
Dorset and Devon & Cornwall Police to merge services - BBC News
Agreement signed for Strategic Alliance between Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police (From This is The West Country)
Devon and Cornwall and Dorset police areas to merge services | East Devon Watch

This Tuesday will offer members of the public the opportunity to pose questions to the Police Commissioner Tony Hogg:

PCC community meeting- Honiton

The Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Hogg is holding a PCC commuity meeting at the Beehive Centre in Honiton to discuss policing and community safety issues.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Hogg will be joined by the Deputy Chief Constable, Bill Skelly to discuss policing and community safety issues affecting the East Devon and surrounding area.
The question time event will allow audience members to join the policing debate and have the opportunity to ask questions to the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Deputy Chief Constable.
Please find further  details regarding the event below;
Where: Beehive Centre, Dowell Street, Honiton, EX14 1LZ
When: Tuesday 31 March 2015
What time: 6.30pm until 8.00pm
You can find directions to the venue via the below link;
If you are unable to join us on the night but would like to submit a questions in advance or during the event you can tweet using #tonyhogg followed by your questions or by emailing us in advance.
This is not a ticketed event but in order to manage numbers we would appreciate it if you could notify us of attendance indicating whether you require any reasonable adjustments to be made to enable your attendance byemail or on 01392 225555.
PCC community meeting - Honiton · Devon & Cornwall Police & Crime Commisioner
Police and Crime Commissioner | Devon and Cornwall · Devon & Cornwall Police & Crime Commisioner

The Police Commissioner became embroiled in 'Browngate' late last year.

The chair of the Scrutiny Cttee at East Devon had promised to bring up the issue with Mr Hogg, the Police Commissioner
‘Deep frustration’ over ex-councillor probe - News - Sidmouth Herald

By the time Mr Hogg came to the District Council to address it on his functions and duties, the police had decided to 'drop' the case - but at that meeting of the Scrutiny Cttee, questions were still raised:
Repercussions of the Brown affair at last night’s Council meeting | East Devon Watch
Councillor vows to challenge Police Commissioner | East Devon Watch
My role on business scrutiny committee hangs in the balance - Claire Wright

See also:
Graham Brown | East Devon Watch | Page 2
Futures Forum: "Scrutiny committee set up to look at the East Devon Business Forum, which Mr Brown chaired, should now reconsider its scope."