EDDC

EDDC backs call to refer hospital beds decision – Seaton switch rises up the agenda

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On Thursday, East Devon District Council’s Scrutiny Committee expressed ‘great concern‘ that under the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s plans ‘there will be no community hospital beds east of Sidmouth, leaving residents in a whole swathe of eastern Devon remote from the nearest hospital facilities.’
The Committee also agreed to write to Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, urging it to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health ‘as a matter of urgency‘ as it was ‘concerned that lack of an early submission will result in NEW Devon CCG going ahead with its proposals‘. This followed a claim from Councillor Mike Allen that staff were already leaving and patients being turned away from Honiton Hospital, a point I also made about Seaton Hospital.
Much of the discussion at the EDDC meeting reacted to the discussion at Devon’s Health Scrutiny Committee last Monday. Devon councillors had followed the recommendation of their Chairman, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, to postpone until July a decision on Councillor Claire Wright’s proposal to refer the CCG’s decisions to the Secretary of State for Health.
How many staff? – ‘What is required’ says CCG!
The Committee’s resolution was the outcome of two hours’ pressure from Committee members, other councillors and the public on the Chair of the CCG’s Eastern Locality, Dr John Kerr. The  resolution was proposed by Chairman, Councillor Roger Giles of Ottery St. Mary, who had interrogated CCG representatives on their proposals. He repeatedly asked ‘how many additional staff will be required’ for the CCG’s new model of care, only to be told ‘what is required’. Other members expressed doubt that enough new staff could be recruited.
Moulding backs Seaton
Cllr Giles’ proposals followed speeches by EDDC ward councillor Andrew Moulding of Axminster and myself for keeping hospital beds in Seaton. Councillor Moulding pointed out that not only Axminster, but also Axmouth, Uplyme and Rousdon, had been omitted from the CCG’s calculations of the population served by Seaton Hospital.
Keeping beds in Seaton has had tremendous backing this week, including not only from Councillor Moulding but also Councillor Hall from Axminster, and Mike McAlpine, Chair of the Committee for the Axe Valley Health Hub. Seaton’s Deputy Mayor, Martin Pigott, made an excellent case at County Hall.
CCG fails to answer 
It was very obvious that CCG representatives, Dr Sonja Manton at the Devon meeting and Dr Kerr at EDDC, refused to answer direct questions about the flawed case for axing Seaton’s beds. I am optimistic that when this comes back to Devon, councillors on the Health Scrutiny Committee will pick up the Seaton issue and we will finally get justice for our communities.
EDDC has put saving the beds back on the agenda and pointed the way for Devon County Council’s Scrutiny Committee to follow. I am very pleased at the strong cross-party case made for East Devon hospitals – especially the mounting support for looking again at the CCG’s completely indefensible abandonment of Seaton.

“Who Cares What You Think?” East Devon Independents’ conference

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Last May, the East Devon Alliance (EDA) supported Independent candidates across the district. Altogether 15 Independents won seats, taking 10 off the Conservatives, and now form the main opposition on EDDC.
IMG_1602EDA has now organised an open conference on 23rd April for the Independent councillors to report back to interested voters on what has been happening in EDDC since last May. It will also to discuss the challenges facing the region, especially the so-called ‘devolution’ deal which will see the Local Enterprise Partnership, with a majority of business people, given a key role in governing Devon and Somerset.
The public has not been consulted about this deal and the conference will hear from Independent councillors in both counties about what we can do about it. There will also be a chance to hear Bob Spencer, an Independent candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner (although I should add that EDA as such has not endorsed him, nor have I personally).
If you are concerned about these and other local issues, and would like to see a continuing challenge to one-party rule, please come to this event. The programme is here EDA Conference_Apr 23 and you can book by emailing conference@eastdevonalliance.org.uk. I look​ ​forward to seeing you there!

Local Plan finally beckons

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susie-cover-pic-1by Independent district councillor for Feniton, Susie Bond:

The agonising and tortuous journey taken by the Local Plan is coming to an end following the publication of the Planning Inspector’s final report.

The Government gave all local councils a deadline for production of a Local Plan of March 2012 (with a period of grace up to March 2013) and moved the goalposts endlessly while councillors and officers attempted to produce a plan which everyone could agree. For East Devon, it was an almost impossible task with members of the public, landowners and developers all having different views on almost every aspect (see Claire Wright’s comment).

Following publication of Anthony Thickett’s final report on Monday, and to the relief of all those who believe in democracy and Localism, the Local Plan will be put before an extraordinary meeting of East Devon District Council with a resolution to adopt.
Adoption of the plan will mean that planning decisions will be made according to the Adopted Local Plan for 2013–2131, as will any decisions on planning appeals currently in progress.

The main points are:
• Anthony Thickett has agreed with the council that 17,100 more houses between 2013 and 2031 is a realistic and achievable target. Others are considerably less convinced as it relies on unprecedented levels of economic growth throughout the plan period.
• The district will have a 5-year housing land supply upon adoption of the plan. This is a requirement for making the plan sound and indeed has been the cause of so much misery across East Devon.
• There is a need for 37 gypsy and traveller pitches and these are to be placed at Cranbrook as the settlement grows over the plan period, although EDDC is actively looking for sites elsewhere in the district.

Martin Shaw adds: the confirmation of the housing land supply could be good news for objectors to several planning applications pending in Seaton, above all in the Green Wedge.

Was DMC’s Pendeen decision illegal?

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Readers will recall the much-criticised decision of East Devon’s Development Management Committee (DMC) on 8 September, to approve the replacement of Pendeen, a bungalow on Castle Hill, with a block of flats. This reversed a majority decision in April to refuse a very similar proposal for the same site. Addressing the DMC as an objector, I urged it to ‘be consistent’ with its earlier decision.

The committee ignored this plea. Officers, whose advice to approve the application had been overruled in April, advised approval again, and some Councillors who had supported the application in April supported it again. This was not primarily because of the minor changes to the application;  both appeared to disregard the actual decision. Indeed Councillor Alan Dent even responded directly to my ‘consistency’ appeal, saying that he was being consistent – but with his own earlier opinion, not the previous decision of the Council.

The apparent disregard of both officials and councillors of the previous decision of the Council raises serious concerns in the light of minute 30 of EDDC’s Audit and Governance Committee (19 November 2015), ‘Risk management review: half-year review’, which states:

“In the full risk register there was one risk currently scored as high:

“Failure of correct procedures and practices causing challenges to decisions – Impact: Serious, Likelihood: Very likely, Good scope for improvement.

“An aggrieved party had recently been given leave by the High Court to pursue a judicial review against a decision of the Council to grant permission for a dwelling on land adjoining their property. The case revolved around whether Members of Development Management Committee in making the decision were consistent in their approach with prior decisions on the same site for a similar form of development. Members of DMC had been briefed on this case and these issues would be picked up through future Members training sessions.”

The 6-week period in which Pendeen objectors could have applied for judicial review has unfortunately expired. However 3 questions remain:

  • Were officers acting correctly in effectively recommending the reversal of the April decision?
  • What was the date of the High Court hearing referred to in the minute? If it occurred before 8 September, officers should have brought it to the attention of the DMC when it made its new decision.
  • Whether or not this was the case, surely on grounds of natural justice the Council itself should now re-examine the Pendeen approval in the light of this minute and the case referred to in it?

Consistency with prior decisions is also a big issue in the current application (15/2395/FUL) to build 3 houses in the garden of Pembroke House on Beer Road, as the objection lodged by Charlie Hopkins on behalf of myself and 9 other neighbours (on the planning portal) explains in detail. This will be a good test of whether the DMC can achieve the ‘improvement’ which the Audit and Governance Committee sees as necessary in planning decisions.

(Thanks to East Devon Watch for drawing attention to the minutes.)

 

Victory for AONB campaigners on the Devon-Dorset border

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11402285_100434180300174_2569508618080426262_o 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!

East Devon Watch

http://www.trinitymatters.co.uk/index.php/planning-applications-east-devon/planning-applications-uplyme/item/1123-updated-4th-aug-application-15-0851-mout-land-west-of-shire-lane-uplyme

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?

It also…

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Joining up ‘Natural Seaton’

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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.

Seaton WetlandsHowever 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.