New signs in Beer, paid for from my Locality Budget, are now routing heavier traffic away from the centre of the village

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Finally … Beer has been waiting all year for new signs on The Causeway and Mare Lane, routing traffic away from Fore Street. We missed the summer, but the Parish Council and I have finally achieved this step forward towards rational traffic management, which should help spare the village and also the narrow cliff road at the top of Common Lane.

Beer signs.jpg

My plea for a new deal for health in Devon’s towns falls on deaf ears, as Devon’s Conservative Cabinet refuses to generally defend community hospitals

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claireThe indomitable Claire Wright made a new challenge to Devon County Council’s Cabinet yesterday to support keeping our Community Hospital buildings. I made a strong appeal which you can watch here for a new health deal for Devon’s towns, saying that if we really have ‘integration’ of health, wellbeing and adult care, DCC must take its share of responsibility.

As Claire writes (I had to leave before the discussion concluded) the Conservatives largely refused this – it amounts to the fact that we’re not integrated when it comes to the hard choices, which are being left to the CCGs.

Interestingly, the Chief Executive, Dr Phil Norrey, proposed the backstop position that funds from selling buildings should be retained and reinvested in Devon, rather than ‘hoovered up’ by the national NHS Property Company. Let’s be clear – they should be used for Devon’s towns, and especially in any towns which lose their hospitals, and not hoovered up either into funding the acute hospitals.

Outsourcing is a problem, not a solution, say Opposition councillors at Devon County Council

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Councillor Yvonne Atkinson (Exeter, Labour) proposed this motion at Devon’s Cabinet yesterday:

This Council is concerned that outsourcing Devon County Council (DCC) contracts can reduce financial flexibility and the ability to respond to changes in policies and facilitate effective cross department working across interrelated DCC services in complex areas like the health and wellbeing of children. Accordingly, DCC can no longer afford to be locked into long term, difficult if not impossible to vary contractual schemes for services like Children and Mental Health if it wishes to remain responsive to the needs of Children from birth to age 25.

In view of cross party concern to fully and effectively integrate cross department working in children’s health and mental health services and education Devon County Council should bring back key services in-house and manage them in the wider public interest including value for money (defined broadly to include effects on public revenues and community wellbeing at large) and social value tests.

The Conservative Cabinet did not accept this but you can watch to the debate starting with Yvonne’s speech and concluding with mine, which focused on the failure of outsourcing in Highways – especially the botched handover between contractors last year.

I put the Dorset and East Devon National Park idea on Devon County Council’s agenda – the Cabinet will invite the national review to visit the County

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Yesterday Devon’s Cabinet discussed my proposal, in response to the Government’s review of National Parks, that the County Council support a National Park for Dorset and East Devon.

The official briefing paper stated: ‘A National Park brings together in one organisation responsibilities for conserving and enhancing the environment and heritage; promoting enjoyment, recreation and wellbeing; and fostering the economic and social wellbeing of its communities.’ In my speech (which you can watch here) I talked about the threats to the existing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty from development – for example at Woodbury as well as these advantages.

The Cabinet’s response (see minutes, 12c) was positive in so far as it welcomed the review and invited the review panel to visit Devon. I hope this will give those of us in favour the opportunity to present the case.

At the same time, the Cabinet ‘deferred any expression of support for the establishment of a Dorset and East Devon National Park unless or until the overriding benefit of this approach to Devon’s wider interests is clearly demonstrated.’ This caution was quite expected but it does not close the door, and that is encouraging.

Part of the problem over this issue is that East Devon’s ruling Conservatives refuse to engage with the proposal. This is driving Dorset campaigners to focus simply on their county (see logo), which is crazy since East Devon’s areas of outstanding natural beauty adjoin theirs, and we share the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site for which a National Park would be an obvious complement.

I’ve asked Colyton Grammar School and LED to find a way to continue much-valued daytime dance and fitness classes

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LED class at Colyton GrammarI have been approached by many users of Leisure East Devon dance and fitness classes held at Colyton Leisure Centre, who are angry about proposals under discussion by Colyton Grammar School (of which the centre is part) to end LED’s use of it on two mornings each week, which enables these classes to take place.
The users, 170 of whom have signed a petition to the school, are rightly concerned that this change has been under discussion between the school and LED for 9 months without their being consulted, yet it could be implemented as early as Christmas.
Today I met with the Headteacher, Mr Tim Harris, and Chair of the school’s Trustees, Mr Barry Sindall, to present the users’ concerns. They reassured me that they remain committed to community use of the centre, that evening, weekend and holiday activities are not affected, and that there will be no early move to change the dance studio into a fitness centre.
However I remain very concerned that the morning classes, which are highly valued by local people and make a contribution to local wellbeing resources, could be ended precipitately. I have urged the school and LED, whose CEO Mr Peter Gilpin assures me they wish to continue the classes, to find a way in which the daytime classes under threat can be maintained. They are apparently meeting soon and as soon as I hear anything further I will post it.

EDDC response to new Government planning targets could threaten Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford

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A new EDDC strategy document, Principles For Accommodating The Future Growth Needs Of East Devon, does not propose the Seaton area as an area of large-scale growth, but still raises the spectre of developing the Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford and bringing the reserve site near the Wetlands (removed from the Local Plan) back into play for housing:

EDDC logo8.11 Seaton – The town is constrained by topography particularly to the east and west but there is some limited scope for growth to the north of the town. The capacity to the north of the town would depend on the extent to which developing in the existing green wedge separating the town from Colyford would be accepted. The local plan had included a reserve site which still has potential while the allocated site for employment and community purposes has not come forward and may need looking at again. Clearly there are sensitivities to the north of the town in terms of the landscape given that it is rising land but also with the green wedge designation between Seaton and Colyford.

Background   The Government is setting targets for each district which in East Devon will mean around 844 extra homes per year. The document also says that to ‘also achieve Members aspiration to deliver one job per home we will also need to deliver enough employment space to accommodate at least 844 jobs per year.’

EDDC welcomes this growth as a way of offsetting the effects of austerity; ‘The continued growth of the district and the future incentives form a vital element in the mitigation of the future financial pressures anticipated from 2020/21 as detailed in the financial plan.’ It even claims that ‘Continued growth is required to finance the councils Habitat Mitigation Strategy as well as other local infrastructure investment.’ (Growth is required to mitigate the effects of growth!)

Problems   Neither this paper nor the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan consultation document included in the same papers (which EDDC was unhappy with and is now being revisited) faces up to the fact that – except close to Exeter where they believe new estates should be concentrated – demand for housing is mainly from incoming retirees. This is why the projected need for employment land could be exaggerated.

In recent years, East Devon has had the highest rate of net domestic migration, well over 1 per cent p.a., of any district in England. Demand also includes a sizeable proportion of second homes: this may help explain why the report says, ‘East Devon is one of the few places in the south west where housing delivery has exceeded population growth by more than 0.5%’.

Certainly little of the housing is for local young people, not surprising as ‘the ratio between average earnings and average house prices is in the region of 11.42’.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty  The report says: ‘As custodians of these areas it is considered inappropriate to put significant growth in these areas although some authorities are doing this due to a lack of alternatives. That is not to say that there should be a moratorium on growth in the AONB’s. Any growth in AONB’sunder our own policies and government policies must conserve or enhance the landscape character of the area and major development should only be accommodated where it cannot be accommodated elsewhere.’ However we know from the recent Woodbury decision that this still means significant intrusion.

Poor infrastructure  One of the reasons our area isn’t proposed for growth is probably that, as the report recognises, ‘Smaller towns and villages are losing services and facilities due to austerity measures and economic change and residents are becoming increasingly dependent on travelling to larger service centres and are often doing this by car due to poor access to public transport, convenience etc.’

ENT returns to Seaton Hospital, but not Dermatology, as RD&E’s meeting with Seaton Area Health Matters to discuss local services is postponed for a month

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Readers may recall that since April I have been querying the apparent withdrawal of ENT and Dermatology clinics from Seaton hospital. I have finally had an explanation. The ENT service at Seaton is provided is by Dr Rob Daniels, GP at Townsend House, who is directly commissioned by the CCG to provide GP with a Special Interest ENT and nurse-led ear suction.  Apparently Dr Daniels was on 6 months’ sabbatical, but has now returned and had a full clinic booked for the 15th August.

Dermatology, on the other hand, was provided using a GP special interest service (GPwSI) provided by Dr Joe Pitt, who has left the area, and it is not currently being replaced.  The RD&E says, ‘At the moment the majority of the dermatology activity for the east is taking place at Axminster where the dermatologists can provide minor ops. If the dermatologists feel a procedure needs a more complex intervention then patients are asked to have this undertaken at Heavitree.’ (Although in my knowledge, as I have told them, patients are sometimes referred directly to Heavitree.)

This is a shame since there was a substantial uptake for Dermatology in Seaton. We will have a chance to discuss its possible return when Seaton Area Health Matters, chaired by Jack Rowland, meets RD&E leaders to discuss the opportunities for local provision of services in general. This meeting, originally envisaged for this month, now looks like being in late October or early November.

Since the CCG will not announce decisions about the future of hospitals until after the conclusion of these discussions (which are also taking place in other towns), these will presumably be put back into 2019 – maybe even beyond the local elections in May?