Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The limits of neighbourhood planning: how 'the DCC Scrutiny committee decision may have legal implications for an effective Neighbourhood Plan being implemented, not just for Honiton but for other affected towns in Devon who are also losing their community hospital facility.'

Honiton's hospital is about to close:
Hospital beds in Seaton and Honiton to close before end of August - View News
Bed closures at four Devon hospitals to begin next week | Devon Live
Dates set for Seaton and Honiton hospital bed closures - Honiton, Axminster and Seaton news - Midweek Herald

And a 'direct action' campaign has started up:
Honiton patients' group promises 'direct action' - View News

This follows on from a controversial decision by the County Council's health committee not to intervene:
Futures Forum: The future of Devon's hospitals >>> a decision NOT to refer plans to close hospital beds across Devon to the Health Secretary
Futures Forum: The future of East Devon's hospitals >>> District Council urges County Council "to stop dithering" and refer bed closures to the Secretary of State

The vote is now open to scrutiny:
Conduct of health committee members investigated by Devon council | Devon Live

This all leads to the question of how much or how little local communities can really shape themselves.

This blog has looked at how neighbourhood plan processes have been stymied by developers:
Futures Forum: The limits of neighbourhood planning: how developers can 'outmanoevre'

It now seems that the council decision has thwarted the Honiton neighbourhood plan process:

Will it be back to the drawing board for Honiton’s neighbourhood plan?

HONITON’S Neighbourhood Plan could be facing an uncertain future after the decision to close the inpatient beds and temporarily close the maternity unit at the hospital.
Neighbourhood Plan committee member Stephen Kolek says that after all the work the group had done in collecting facts and figures to help shape the Neighbourhood Plan, the hospital regularly came out on top as a vital service to the town and one it couldn’t do with out.
Mr Kolek said: “I am very concerned how the effective closure of Honiton Hospital will have on the Honiton Neighbourhood Plan steering group’s ability to deliver a suitable Neighbourhood Plan for Honiton. The process is still in the early stages. However, the first round of information gathering via a public questionnaire asking residents ‘What did people want in their town?’ showed a hospital was joint top.
“The Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny committee decision on July 26th effectively closed Honiton Hospital and therefore leaves the next level of consultation for the Honiton Neighbourhood plan a much more difficult task.
“There may even be a case that the DCC Scrutiny committee decision may have legal implications for an effective Neighbourhood Plan being implemented not just for Honiton but for other affected towns in Devon who are also losing their community hospital facility.”
Mr Kolek says that through the process of developing the important plan, the town council has been very supportive but said that he was extremely disappointed that two former Honiton county councillors, Paul Diviani and Sara Randall Johnson, both voted to not refer the matter of closing inpatient beds to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and called it ‘a real stab in the back’ for the town and their ex-constituents.
“Did these Devon county councillors discuss their decision making with residents? Or did they make their decision on the basis of ‘I know best’. The Neighbourhood Plan is being put together by volunteers and we’ve collected the feelings of the people who have now been ignored.
“Cllr Diviani twice voted against the public’s wishes and yet had the gall to stand with residents on Red Line Day on April 1st in protest of the CCG’s decision.”
Cllr Diviani, who attended the scrutiny committee as the representative of Devon district councils, and Cllr Sara Randall Johnson, who was chairing the meeting and representing her ward of Broadclyst, have both clarified their views after residents from across the district expressed their anger towards their decision.
Cllr Diviani said: “My position on that scrutiny committee is by virtue of my being elected by the other leaders of all the Devon districts to represent the countywide views of the district councils (not just East Devon), a function I perform regularly both locally and in London (through the District Councils Network) where I represent the South West
“The major flaw appears to me to be the ever present ‘one size fits all’. Flexibility is key and our response should be the start. Attempting to browbeat the Secretary of State with a demand to overturn his own policies is counter-intuitive. I prefer the softer approach of asking him to rural proof our rural situation, before allowing any further reductions in service.”
Cllr Randall Johnson said: “I know there are many people who are concerned that the ‘new model of care’ and wrap around care – rapid response team might not be in place before the beds are closed. Members were reassured by the provider (RD&E) that no beds would be closed until the new service was in place and fully functioning.
“Over the coming months the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny committee will be holding NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group and the RD&E to account by closely monitoring the implementation and delivery of the ‘new model of care’ to ensure each patient has a care plan that supports their rehabilitation and longer term wellbeing.”
Will it be back to the drawing board for Honiton's neighbourhood plan?

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