to the Planning Inspector’s decision as District Councillor for Sidmouth Rural
Ward within which the Business Park site is located –
incredibly disappointing news for all those who live near to the planned
Business park site and also for all those who live in and nearby to Sidford and
Sidbury who, as a result of the Planning Inspector’s decision, will have to put
up with significant increases in traffic, particularly HGVs.
a big thank you must go to all those local residents who have actively
supported the local campaign to oppose the Business Park which remains the
wrong thing in the wrong place.
County and District Councils had originally effectively scrutinised and
challenged this site being included in the Local Plan then this site would
never, and should never, have been included in it. Ever since the site was
allocated as employment land within the Local Plan everyone who has opposed the
proposed plans to build the Business Park have effectively been fighting with
one hand tied behind their backs.
This is a
sad day for local residents whose voices might have been heard, but they
haven’t been listened to.
Don’t forget the air display down on the sea front this coming Friday evening, 23 August, starting at 6.00 pm. Whilst its a no show from the Red Arrows there will be plenty of other aircraft to enjoy. A real family occasion. Proudly supported by Sidmouth Town Council.
Devon’s Electoral Registration Officer has issued a timely letter to residents
asking that we check who, at our home address is currently registered to vote.
This is so easy to do as enclosed with the letter is a list of all those currently
on the electoral register. All you need to do is check it, amend it if
necessary, sign and date it, pop into the pre-paid return envelope provided and
ensure that all those eligible to vote at your home is on the electoral list
and will be able to vote next time.
time will be very soon as Sidmouth Town Council’s Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan
is about to be put to a referendum and we all will be able to have our say. The
referendum will take place on Thursday 19 September.
Neighbourhood Plan will be very important as it will become a key document that
will govern the approach to planning across the Sid Valley. It is therefore
most necessary for residents to go along on 19 September and cast their vote on
it. I, along with the Town Council, am encouraging all voters here in Sidmouth
and the Sid Valley to vote YES in support of the Plan.
a second reason why it is important to ensure that you and your family are all
registered to vote and that is the now much speculated general election that the
new Prime Minister is anticipated to call, or be forced into calling as a result
of a successful vote of no confidence related to the Brexit terms.
to national politicians and journalists it is becoming more apparent that one
way or another during the next three months we will be going to the polls. So,
if you aren’t registered to vote then you can’t have your say should an
election be called in the near future!
I was proud and pleased to be invited to the opening concert of this, the 65th, Sidmouth Folk Festival. The concert took place on the Ham this morning with a variety of acts who performed for the appreciative audience.
The invitation came to me both as District and a Town Councillor. The Town Council is, quite rightly, a committed supporter of the Festival that does so much for the town and the wider Sid Valley and so I was most pleased to attend.
All of the acts that performed were excellent in their own right. However, I must single out the first two who were truly local groups. First up was the wonderfully entertaining Sidmouth Town Band that I believe has been going since 1862!
Then we were treated to the sounds of the Sid Vale Folk Choir who really looked as if they were enjoying themselves. I must give a name check to Kelvin Dent who played guitar on one song. Kelvin is a fellow Sidmouth Town Councillor.
Finally, a quick look at the audience behind me as the seats started to fill up.
District Councillor within whose Ward the proposed Sidford Business Park sits
and as a member of the Steering Group of the NO Sidford Business Park Campaign
I was concerned at some of the unchallenged evidence that was presented to the
recent Planning Inquiry. This evidence was presented by a witness and the QC who
were acting on behalf of Tim and Mike Ford, in the name of OG Holdings
Retirement Benefits Scheme.
have been two planning applications submitted in the name of OG Holdings
Retirement Benefits Scheme, to build this Business Park. The first of these
applications was submitted in 2016 and rejected by East Devon District Council.
The second was then submitted in 2018 and was again rejected by the District
Friday, 26 July the Sidmouth Herald printed a letter from a member of the Campaign
Steering Group which addressed these very same concerns of mine. A copy of the
letter as it appears in the Herald is attached and I quote from it below –
listening to the evidence at the Inquiry I was taken aback to learn a claim
arising from the evidence given by a key witness for the Fords, Joseph
Marshall, and which was repeated by their QC and which wasn’t challenged by the
Council. In so doing this led to an acceptance by the Council of the claim that
that was made by Mr Marchant was set out at paragraph 6.0.1 in his written
evidence “Subsequent to the refusal of the 2016 application, an approach
was made to Members (Councillors) including Councillor Hughes and the CEO
(Chief Executive) of EDDC, Mark Williams”.
continued in paragraph 6.0.2 of Mr Marchant’s written evidence “We were
advised by Mark Williams….that in his opinion, the applicant (the Fords) may
make more advance in progress towards delivery through appealing (the Council’s
decision to refuse the 2016 planning application) rather than resubmission”.
claim was also clearly set out in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Fords’ QC’s final
closing arguments at the Inquiry “After the 2016 application was refused,
there was a meeting with Councillor Hughes and the CEO of the Council”. “The
CEO advised that the way to progress was to appeal. That is an extraordinary
state of affairs”.
I am sure
that I am not the only resident who is astounded that the Chief Executive of
the District Council directly advised a developer to appeal a decision of the
Council. As the QC for the Fords at the Inquiry put it “That is an
extraordinary state of affairs”.”
I was so
concerned at this evidence, and given the number of local residents who have
contacted me about the issues raised in the letter since the Herald was
published on Friday, yesterday I took the extraordinary step of writing
directly to the Leader of the Council. In this I asked that an independent investigation
be held into the claims made at the Inquiry about the advice that the Chief
Executive of the District Council gave to the Ford’s agent and which appears to
totally undermine the role of his own officers and elected Members.
I now await to hear what the response to my request will be.
The second Full Council meeting of the new
administration took place on Wednesday 24 July at the Council’s modern offices in
Honiton. The temperature all day had been high and so the Council Chamber,
despite having air conditioning, was very warm. So warm that the Chair invited “gentlemen
can remove their jackets”!
To be honest, I was rather bemused at this invitation
both in terms of its language and because surely an event such as a Council
meeting shouldn’t be so formal as to either expect the wearing of jackets or
having a situation whereby attendees have to wait to be told that they can
remove their jackets! Anyway, as I was wearing neither a jacket nor a tie, I
was unable to respond positively to the Chair’s entreaty.
Prior to the start of the meeting the Council had
held a Civic reception for Honiton Rugby Club to celebrate their successful last
season which was topped off in May when they won the RFU Senior Vase at the
home of English rugby, Twickenham. The club and players were then invited to
come into the Council Chamber to receive the Chair’s congratulations and to
receive a warm round of applause for their success.
Honiton Rugby Club getting ready to receive plaudits
from the Council Chair –
We then moved onto addresses to Council from
members of the public. Two people addressed us both urging the Council to be
bolder when it determines how to respond the climate emergency that the Cabinet
had called. This set the scene for the rest of the evenings events as virtually
all of the discussions and decisions taken related to climate change, which is
fitting given that the Chief Executive has indicated to Councillors that the top
priority for the Council should be responding to the difficulties of climate
It was then down to business! Here’s the Council in
Councillors are able to put questions to the Leader
of the Council and Portfolio Holders in writing which in turn receives a
written response. All of this is provided prior to the meeting and issued as
part of the set of papers for the meeting. All of this can be read at –
There were 12
questions put through this process and each questioner is able to ask a
supplementary verbal question in response to the written answer. This
additional question then has to be responded to. Each of the 12 questions were
followed up with supplementary questions at the meeting.
the issues that the questions explored included the distribution of Section 106
monies as held by the Council on behalf of Town and parish Councils, wanting
the Council to bid for East Devon to become a Tourism Zone, how the Council will
deal with its anticipated budget deficit, what the new Administration’s top priorities will
be, seeking an independent inquiry into the sale of the Council’s previous main
offices at the Knowle, how much revenue the Council’s car parks bring in and 4
politically motivated questions from the Leader of the Conservative Group.
We then moved into receiving the minutes of the
various committees. Here we ventured once more into debates around climate
change as amendments were proposed to the minutes of the recent Cabinet meeting
which had declared a climate emergency. This all resulted in the majority of
councillors, including me, agreeing to the Council setting a target of East
Devon becoming carbon neutral by 2014, which is a full decade earlier than the
target date that many neighbouring Councils, including the County Council, have
set. I believe it is right to set a challenging date such as 2040 so that we
all can move heaven and earth to respond quickly and positively to this most
important of issues.
As part of further amendments to the Cabinet’s
minutes we, including me, agreed to widen the range of organisations that the
Council should work with in responding to climate change and to also maximise
the amount of publicity that the Council will give to this matter.
In response to consideration of the minutes of the
Overview Committee we, including me, agreed that the issue of poverty in the
District which the committee had considered should be referred back to it for
further detailed consideration. In other words, we felt that the actions taken
so far by the Overview Committee on responding to local poverty, had not been
sufficient. I fully concur with that and as a member of that Committee I look
forward to us taking this important matter forward and building upon the Committee’s
previous members considerations.
Finally, we considered a motion “Electrical Charging points for Vehicles and light transport in East
Devon District Council Car Parks across the District”. I had added my name to
the list of Councillor’s who supported this motion, which read –
“That in supporting the Devon Declaration
on Climate Change Emergency this Council should;
1. Prepare a costed roll out 5-year
programme that would ensure at least 10 electrical charging points for cars and
light vans in all its principal car parks.
2. Assess the viability of charging
points for all types of cycles.
3. Have as a priority in both the Greater
Exeter Structure Plan and the review of the Local Plan the provision of EV
charging points for all properties where parking spaces are provided”.
We again had good debate and many Councillors made
excellent points on a broad range of issues associated with climate change and
the need to support non fossil fuelled vehicles in East Devon. Unfortunately, a
Councillor proposed and had it seconded that “the question be put”. In
other words, enough debate has taken place and so we should now vote on the
Sadly, at this point a degree of chaos ensued as it
became very apparent that many Councillors didn’t understand this procedural
motion and so when they were asked whether the supported the motion that “the
question be put”, they thought that they were being asked to vote on the
main motion. The confused majority agreed that “the question be put” and
so the Chair swiftly invited Councillors to vote on the main motion. Here it
really became most obvious that many Councillors didn’t understand what was
going on and many didn’t vote. Despite this the main motion was agreed.
At this point the meeting concluded with still so
many Councillors both confused and annoyed at the situation they found
themselves in. This must be seen as a lesson that needs to be learnt from. I
will be asking that the Council provides all Councillors with training on
meeting procedures and asking that the Chair in future, when he’s handling
motions, makes it crystal clear what Councillors are being asked to vote upon
and what the implications of doing so would be.
It’s a shame that such an engaging and positive
meeting ended so confusingly for so many Councillors and members of the public.
sure you all are aware last week there was the Planning Inquiry into the appeal
lodged by Tim and Mike Ford, trading as OG Holdings Retirement Benefits Scheme,
into the planning application to build a Business Park in Sidford that was
refused by East Devon District Council at the end of last year. The Inquiry was
held in public in front of a Planning Inspector.
District Council was represented by a very competent barrister and had one of
its planning officers and a highways officer from Devon County Council as their
witnesses. On the other side, the Fords, known throughout the Inquiry as the
appellants, were represented by a QC and had a plethora of witnesses.
representatives from the NO Sidford Business Park Campaign were present continuously
at the Inquiry from the very moment when it commenced and over three days until
the moment that it concluded. Indeed, three of the Campaign’s representatives
gave evidence to the Inquiry, were cross examined by the appellants’ QC and
were able to direct questions to be put to witnesses, as well as participating
in several “round table” discussions on specific issues related to the matters
Campaign representatives who gave evidence were District Councillor Marianne
Rixson, Keith Hudson and me. There were also three other witnesses, all
speaking against the proposed Business Park. These were – Town Councillor Jeff
Turner, County Councillor Stuart Hughes and Sidford resident Jackie Powell. In
reality, and for all other appearances, the Campaign’s representatives were
treated as, and able to participate as, full participants alongside the Council
and the appellants.
stages of the Inquiry it was pleasing to have a number of members of the public
in attendance for what on a number of occasions must have been a rather dry
affair, particularly when legal arguments were being exchanged and technical
data argued over.
of all of the evidence and legal arguments centred primarily, as one would
expect, around the issue of the suitability and safety of the highway (the A375
through Sidford and Sidbury) as this had been the grounds upon which the
District Council had refused the latest planning application. Its worth
recalling that for the appellants the planning application which was the
subject of this Inquiry was the latest on for that site, with the first one
being back in 2012, whilst the Fords submitted their first in 2016, which as we
know was refused in the same year.
final day of the Inquiry the Campaign’s representatives were able to make
strong interventions on what could become an important set of issues. As in any
such Inquiry the Inspector, whilst they have all the parties together, go
through what planning conditions would apply should the Inspector uphold the
appeal. None of this is meant to signify that the Inspector has made a decision
one way or another, but rather makes good use of everyone’s time.
able to put arguments on behalf of local residents for some of the main planning
conditions. These conditions include important matters such as the days and
hours when noisy machinery could be operated, the days and times when
deliveries or collections could be made to businesses using the Business Park,
having an agreed site lighting scheme which would include the use of
illuminated advertising, the days and times of when the construction can take
place and when construction vehicles can access the site.
parties agreed that if the site becomes operational there will be provision
made at it for a cycle/footpath through it. This would link to the existing
cycle/footpath that goes from Two Bridges Road down to the Byes and is meant to
be an additional link to join through to the centre of Sidbury. The only
problem here is that the County Council appears to have made no progress in
developing the route into Sidbury.
Campaign argued that the appellants, if successful at the appeal, should agree
to fund the full cost of the cycle/footpath from Sidford to Sidbury and that
such a condition should remain for the next 10 years. The appellants, not unsurprisingly,
did not accept that this should be a condition that either legally or
voluntarily should be applied!
very pleased to hear from the Inspector that the day before the Inquiry started,
he had visited the site, as well as key areas within Sidford and Sidbury. At
the end of the Inquiry the Inspector invited both parties and this Campaign to
identify sites that we wanted him to revisit. We are pleased that our proposed
locations were accepted by the appellants representatives.
the Inquiry we were able to persuade the Inspector to pay five videos that we
had submitted as part of our evidence. These videos, we argued illustratively show
the effects on the A375 in both Sidford and Sidbury of traffic problems given
the current level of traffic, and we argued that with the additional traffic
that would be generated by the Business Park this would only get worse. Links
to each of these videos are set out at the end of this Update.
three new pieces of information came from evidence provided on behalf of the
is that the appellants argued that the planning application as it currently
stands is the least that would make the site financially viable for them. In
other words, if the appeal is lost then there is no point in the appellants
submitting another application as it wouldn’t make them enough money.
it transpires that after their 2016 application was refused by the District
Council the appellants representatives met with the Council’s Chief Executive
where he encouraged them to appeal the decision.
was that even if the appeal is successful and the appellants are able to build
the Business Park, they would not be intending to build a phase two development
in the neighbouring field as was expected.
The documents that both parties, this Campaign and
members of the public have submitted to the Inquiry, and which the Inspector
assured us he has diligently all read are available via this link –
We now have to wait for about six to eight weeks for
the Inspector to issue his decision. It will be a long wait, but we believe
that we could not have presented our case any better and whatever the outcome
we can all be proud of the way in which we have battled this unwanted
Taken by Sarah Voss in September 2016 at around 3.00
pm in Sidbury.
Length: 5 minutes, 58 seconds
Taken in May 2017 at around 1.30 pm in Sidbury.
Length: 6 minutes, 38 seconds
Tractor towing low loader
Taken in May 2018 in Sidbury.
Length: 34 seconds.
Three lorries stuck passing each other.
Taken on 26 March 2016 in Sidford.
Length: 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
Two vehicles stuck in School Street.
Taken on 26 March 2016 in Sidford.
Length: 1 minute, 38 seconds.
As a result of two vehicles becoming stuck in School
Street police diverted traffic
member of the NO Sidford Business Park Steering Group I will be attending the
Planning Inquiry that opens tomorrow under the direction of a Planning
Inspector. As the planning application to build the Business Park has been
rejected by the planning authority, East Devon District Council, it will now be
up the Inspector to make the final decision.
pleased to have been appointed to become the lead District Councillor on the
important matter of inclusion.
I see the
matter of inclusion to be something that should be at the heart of all of the
services that the District Council delivers, as well as being something that should
shape the way and how we deliver services.
not just District Council services that I will be wanting to look at to ensure
that they are fully inclusive, but I believe that the District Council has an
important role in recognising and praising those other businesses and
organisations across East Devon who are positively embracing inclusion.
the District Council has to identify those businesses and organisations who
retain barriers or fail to remove barriers that don’t allow them to be
inclusive to their customers, residents and service users.
My starting point for approaching inclusion within and across East Devon will be to look at what the 2010 Equality Act expects. But that has to be the bottom line. I would want to build upon its requirements.
early stage I don’t intend to publicly identify objectives, aims or strategies
over and above what I have said here. I have to start by taking Officer advice
and I expect that the district Council will have to undertake audits both
internally and externally and determine some quick wins in order move things
matter of watch this space as we look to making a positive difference for the
people of East Devon.