SIDBURY EAST DEVON DC COUNCILLOR

This page has been included to enable the Sidmouth Rural EDDC Councillor to be in touch with those who they represent and to ensure that Sidbury residents are aware of happenings that may affect Sidbury, and what may be of interest that is happening in the Valley.

The Councillor for Sidmouth Rural on the East Devon District Council is:
Cllr. John Loudoun

Councillor Loudoun

Tel: 01395 597166
Email: johnloudoun4sidmouthrural@yahoo.com
Blog: http://johnloudoun4sidmouthruralhome.wordpress.com

Neighbourhood Plan needed more than ever!
August 31st 2019

I know that so very many local residents are utterly disappointed at the recent decision by the Planning Inspector to allow the outline planning application for a Business Park at Sidford submitted by Mike and Tim Ford, in the name of OG Holdings Retirement Fund.

I fully share that disappointment which is primarily for those who live in Sidford and Sidbury, and particularly those who live on Two Bridges Road, School Street and Sid Vale Close as they all literally will be living on the doorstep of this development.

That said, we must remember what a great job the 1,400 local residents who signed the Say NO Campaign’s petition against the application did, as well as the time and energy taken by the 255 residents who took the time to write to the District Council objecting, how in the run up to the Planning Inquiry so many residents again took the time to write expressing their concerns about the application’s proposals and the many hundreds of residents who attended the Campaign’s various public meetings.

So many residents put their heart and soul into expressing their genuine concerns that the planning proposal was the wrong thing in the wrong place. And let us not forget that, despite attempts by the applicants to paint those against the Business Park as against having local jobs, that this was never the case. It was solely that the site, as the County Council Highways professionals said would make the A375 through Sidford and Sidbury more congested and potentially dangerous.

Sadly, in spite of the objections by the residents, their Town Council and their District Council, the Inspector supported the application. In my opinion this was because once the site had been included in the District Council’s Local Plan, those opposing the application were fighting from a position of significant weakness.

It is important therefore that the new District Council administration scrutinises how the site became included in the Local Plan. Those who allowed it to go into the Plan did residents a huge disservice and deserve to have their actions put under the microscope. I hope that the District Council’s Scrutiny Committee will now do this and call to account those who failed local residents by letting this site ever get into the Local Plan.

If the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan, which is being voted on through a local referendum on 19 September, had been in place at the time the site was being shoehorned into the Local Plan, then I believe it would not have been included in it.

I therefore believe that it is important that residents vote to accept the Neighbourhood Plan. A vote in its favour will give residents a greater ability to resist similar future unwanted planning applications and would undermine any applicants’ ability to successfully appeal legitimate planning objections.

I fully appreciate the cynicism that I have read on social media and heard from residents about not seeing the point in bothering to vote in favour of the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan. However, that cynicism is misplaced. Without the neighbourhood Plan we will be even more powerless than we are today in resisting unwanted speculative developments such as the Sidford Business Park.

So, a plea goes out to everyone across Sidmouth and the Sid Valley; in order to stop future similar speculative developments, get out and vote in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan.

Apathy on 19 September will only benefit developers, not residents. We have an opportunity to shape our futures, let’s grasp it!

John Loudoun


Sidford Business Park Gets Approved
August 20th 2019

My response to the Planning Inspector’s decision as District Councillor for Sidmouth Rural Ward within which the Business Park site is located –

This is 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.

However, 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.

If the 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.

John Loudoun


Register to vote - action needed now!
August 3rd 2019

East 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 post it!

This will ensure that all those eligible to vote at your home is on the electoral list and will be able to vote next time.

The next 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.

Read the Neighbourhood Plan here – https://sidvalleyneighbourhoodplan.com/

The 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.

There is 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.

Listening 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!

If you, or anyone else in East Devon needs to register to vote it can be done on line – http://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

John Loudoun


24 July District Council Meeting Report
July 29th 2019

Read my report of last weeek's District Council meeting held on 24 July on my blog -
http://johnloudoun4sidmouthruralhome.wordpress.com

John Loudoun


Business Park Planning Inquiry - questions for EDDC Chief Ex
July 29th 2019

As the 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.

There 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 Council.

Last 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 –

“In 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 Marchant, 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 was made.

The claim 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”.

This is 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”.

This 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.
Sidmouth Herald Extract

John Loudoun


Sidford Business Park Planning Inquiry - a report
July 22nd 2019

Last week I attended the Business Park Panning Inquiry as a representative of the NO Sidford Business Park Campaign. I attended the Inquiry for its full three days. I was pleased to be able to give evidence to the Inquiry.

I have produced a report that gives a flavour of what happened at the Inquiry and which can be read on my District Councillor blog at - http://johnloudoun4sidmouthruralhome.wordpress.com

We now have a 6 to 8 week wait until the Inspector gives us the decision.

John Loudoun


24 July East Devon District Council - Full Council meeting
July 21st 2019

The next meeting of Full Council of East Devon District Council is being held on Wednesday 24 July commencing at 6.00 pm at the District Council offices –Blackdown House, Border Road, Heathpark Industrial Estate, Honiton EX14 1EJ.

Members of the public are welcome to attend.

This is the agenda for the meeting and in addition there is a very lengthy reports pack –
https://democracy.eastdevon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=150&MId=237&Ver=4


John Loudoun


Sidford Business Park Planning Inquiry Day 3
July 18th 2019

Today saw the Inquiry come to a conclusion with much of the time spent by the Council and the appellants representatives giving their closing submissions to the inspector, along with arguments for and against why the appellants should be able to be awarded their full costs for the appeal from the Council.

Before that Councillor Marianne Rixson and I were involved with the other two parties in commenting upon the conditions that would be legally applied should the Inspector decide to support the appellants appeal. This is standard practice and doesn't mean that the Inspector has decided either way as yet. Marianne and I were able to argue for a number of restrictions should the Business Park be given the green light.

We have now made our arguments and we now await the Inspector's final decision which is promised by no later than at some point in September.

Thanks to everyone who came along at any point at the inquiry to show their support. It made a difference to us.

John Loudoun


Sidford Business Park Planning Inquiry Day 2
July 17th 2019

Started with a round table discussion in which as representatives of the NO Sidford Business Park Campaign we participated alongside the appellants representatives and the Council’s.

We discussed flooding, air quality, noise and vibration, heritage assets and EU sites. We participated as equal with the other two parties.

Then a number of us deemed to be “interested parties” gave our evidence and were cross examined by the appellants representative.

Those of us who spoke were myself, Councillor Marianne Rixson (EDDC), Councillor Jeff Turner (Sidmouth Town Councillor), Councillor Stuart Hughes (Devon County Councillor), Keith Hudson and Jackie Powell (both Sidford residents). Everyone did really well and our points were put across.

Then a range of “expert” witnesses gave their evidence and cross examined. Again we were able to get our questions of their evidence asked.

Tomorrow is the summing up and conclusion. Then the Inspector will again take a look at various local places that we all want him to see again.

We have done our best and hope it’s sufficient.

In the photo are the appellants representatives seen whilst 5 videos of traffic jams in Sidford and Sidbury were shown at our request.Traffic jams video

John Loudoun


Sidford Business Park Planning Inquiry is about to start
July 15th 2019

As a 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.

The Inquiry is scheduled to last up to three days and will hear evidence from the applicants, as well as the District and County Councils. On behalf of the Campaign I will be asking the Inspector to allow me to give evidence in opposition to the application.

The Sidmouth Herald will be blogging live from the Inquiry. Here’s their latest update ahead of the Inquiry opening – https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/all-you-need-to-know-about-sidford-business-park-application-1-6160900

John Loudoun


District Council Annual Meeting - new administration
May 28th 2019

My first Full Council meeting was its annual meeting on 22 May. It was held in the less than sumptuous splendour of the District Council’s new offices on Heathpark industrial estate on the edge of Honiton. It’s a new building which I don’t expect, as a public office to be paved in gold, but it does feel a bit old fashioned already.

The Council chamber is several storeys high for a reason best known to the architect and its layout doesn’t make for an easy opportunity to see what’s going on. Unless that is you are sitting near the back of the chamber. And that’s where I am. In the back row of the elected Members. The good thing about this is that I can see what is going on around me. Except that is in the cramped rows behind me that the public can sit in.

I photographed how the meeting looked from my view point –
Council Meeting

I also photographed some of the members of the public as they took their seats behind me –
Council Meeting

As I’m sure everyone will by now know the new Leader and Deputy Leader are members of the largest group on the Council, the Independents. They now comprise of 20 Councillors. This is up from 15 on the night of the results of the election. They have increased their numbers by now including 3 Independents, known for a brief while as Cranbrook Voice, due to all three having been elected in that Ward.

The additional two in the Independent group are Ian Thomas, the previous Conservative Leader of the Council who gave up being a Conservative part-way through the election and Geoff Pook who was a Cabinet member in the previous Conservative administration.

Whilst highlighting the political group numbers, I should point out that I sit within the Independent East Devon Alliance group which has 11 Councillors, whilst the Liberal Democrats have 8 Councillors and the Green Party has 2. We all total 60 Councillors, meaning that to have a clear majority you need to be able to call upon 31 Councillors to win a vote, assuming we all are present.

It was interesting to see that the new Leader nominated a senior Conservative Councillor, Stuart Hughes, to be the Council Chairman and he also nominated Val Ranger, an Independent East Devon Alliance Councillor to be its Vice Chairman. Both were elected unopposed.

I find the terminology of Chairman etc to be very old-fashioned and not reflective of modern phraseology. I question how a woman can be, and should be referred to as a Chairman or Vice Chairman. I’m used to the use of the gender-neutral descriptor of Chair. This is the language of a modern inclusive society. I think that I shall be raising the issue of language within the Council at some point.

I have had a number of Councillors over recent years, and these have often been women, although not exclusively, tell me about how under previous Conservative administrations they have been belittled and verbally harassed by usually male Conservative Councillors.

I was pleased that the new Leader of the Council made it clear in his address to the Council that his administration would not tolerate that sort of behaviour going forward. In other words, we are all expected to treat each other, and the Council staff and Officers with respect, even when we fundamentally disagree with each other.

I’m glad the Leader said this, but am even sadder that he felt the need to say it. Another move towards making the Council a modern inclusive organisation.

The main Council Committee that I have been appointed to is its Overview Committee. I await its first meeting!

According to the Council’s Constitution the Overview Committee’s role is –

….to develop new and review existing policy (other than those falling within the remit of the Strategic Planning Committee) and evaluate its implementation. The committee shall also review service delivery options following consultation exercises and consider formative policy proposals.

Full details of the Committee and its terms of reference are set out in detail in Article 7 of this Constitution.

The Committee shall have the following powers:
(a) To assist Council and the Cabinet in the development of the budget and overall policy framework and to make proposals to the Cabinet for new or amended policies
(b) To receive reports (including any report from the Scrutiny Committee) on the effectiveness of policy implementation and to make further recommendations to Council and / or Cabinet as appropriate
(c) to make reports or recommendations to Council and/or any other Council committee or sub-committee or any joint committee or sub-committee on which the local authority is represented with respect to the discharge of any functions of the authority or on matters which affect the authority’s area or the inhabitants of that area
(d) To comment upon and make recommendations to the Cabinet on external reports and consultation papers
(e) Delegated budgetary powers in order to procure specialist information services designed to supplement resources ordinarily available to the Committees.

At present I continue to attend various training sessions to assist me to become an effective Councillor. In the mean time I am already having to deal with various planning applications that residents, and local businesses are pursuing.

I still also am continuing to work hard within the NO Sidford Business Park Campaign as it prepares for the Planning Inquiry in the middle of July. I’m sure that I will say more as time progresses.

John Loudoun