Not far from Seaton, on the road into Lyme Regis, a planning application for 120 homes in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has rightly been refused by EDDC. It was immediately called in by the Government (Department of Communities and Local Government – see below), but they quickly allowed the decision.
A well deserved victory for the determined campaigners to Stop the Shire Lane Development!
It appears that, whatever the decision, the Minister at the Department of Communities and Local Government had already decided to call it in.
Whilst this might be an unpopular development, it is no more or no less unpopular than many other current applications, so what has made it so special? It might, however, be the first of several applications that eventually could link Axminster to Lyme Regis.
The Devon MP is Neil Parish, the Dorset MP is Oliver Letwin, good friend of David Cameron. The site is closer to Dorset’s Lyme Regis than Devon’s Seaton and Axminster.
Following the 2015 election, Letwin remained Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as Cameron reappointed him as an official ministerial member of the new Conservative government’s Cabinet. He has been given responsibility for overall charge and oversight of the Cabinet Office.
Wonder what they think of this really strange situation?
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Whatever relief we feel at the news that the number of general medical beds in Seaton Hospital will increase must surely be tempered by the fact that the clumsily named NEW (Northern, Eastern and Western) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, doesn’t even get the idea of community hospitals.
A NEW Devon spokesman, writing in this week’s View From, says that they have to take account of the ‘whole population’ of the area, not just specific ‘communities’. Community opinion in Axminster (and Ottery St. Mary, which will also lose its beds) has simply been set aside.
EDDC’s Scrutiny Committee, chaired for the first time in years by a non-Conservative (Independent, Roger Giles), has asked both MPs to request the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to overrule the decision to remove the beds from the two hospitals. Our MP, Neil Parish has already said he will do this for Axminster. I wish him well with this but I’m not holding my breath.
Parish says that ‘Our Government’s NHS legislation puts much store on local people being consulted and listened to’. However the Lansley reorganisation was universally criticised for creating a fiendishly complex structure which would make it more difficult for people to influence. And so it has proved.
Seaton Hospital – beds safe for now. But for how long?
No, not for the problems in the Beer Brook (which flows into Seaton Hole) which we exposed on BBC Spotlight in April (screen grab), but for another case near Bideford, where a farmer has been fined £30,000.
If the problems in the brook return, we’ll be pressing the Environment Agency for similar action. Report pollution to the EA straightaway on 0800 80 70 60, and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month’s Natural Seaton festival was a great success. My wife and I took the boat trip and the Undercliff walk during the weekend, and I’m more than ever convinced that this is the right way for Seaton’s tourism effort to go. The world-heritage Jurassic Coast with its dramatic red cliffs, the striking estuary, the Wetlands skirted by the Tramway, Holyford Woods – all framing a classic seaside town – it should be a winning package. I know a lot of people are sceptical about the Jurassic centre, but it really is a great chance to pull this all together and attract more visitors to the town.
However it’s still coming together, and a lot still needs to be done. The amazing Wetlands are under the radar, deliberately it appears, because the car park through the cemetery is too small (in contrast, there are fears that Seaton Jurassic may be over-provided with car parking). However I think the softly softly approach has been taken too far – no sign to the Wetlands off the A3052, no special page in the classy new Town Guide (indeed the main entrance isn’t even on its map), and not even a proper website. Google ‘Seaton Wetlands’ and you have to go through EDDC to reach the nice leaflet that they’ve produced: seaton-wetlands-leaflet-updated-apr
I was also struck that the Undercliff tours are not regularly available: the landowners apparently limit Natural England’s vehicle access to the start point. Moreover the tour focuses entirely on the physical aspects of how the Landslip happened and the flora that has established itself on Goat Island – the dramatic human story of 1839 isn’t part of it at all. I hope this is something the Seaton Jurassic displays will address, since coastal change (also erosion, for example) is one of the most vivid parts of the human story of Seaton – at least as interesting to most people as the geomorphology.
For selling Natural Seaton to reach its full potential, we still need a more joined-up approach.