Save Our Sidmouth

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“This Council continues to fester under a pernicious Leader”, sums up EDDC Councillor, yet Paul Diviani gets blockvote of Tory faithfuls

Knowle Council Chamber yet again rang with cries of “Shame” from the public gallery, as entrenched Party allegiance took precedence over East Devon’s wellbeing, and the Motion of No Confidence in the EDDC Leader was lost by 31 votes to 18.

Of the 32 Tory members present (there were some notable absences, including some who had distanced themselves from Diviani) , one abstained and 31 voted against. The Motion, called by the Independent Group, was supported by strong and clear arguments condemning Diviani for his conduct at the Devon County Health Scrutiny Committee*.  As Cllr Roger Giles (Ottery St Mary) spoke of it as “a day of shame and infamy” , adding,  ” In 26 years on this Council, I cannot think of a single occasion where a Leader has gone against his Council” .

Condemnation came from Council representatives far and wide across the District, to frequent applause from the crammed-full public gallery.  Cllr Ben Ingham (Lympstone), who had called the Motion, pointed out why Diviani’s conduct had failed “all of the 7  Nolan principles in one go”, indicating how “This council continues to fester under a pernicious Leader”. Cllr Val Ranger (Newton Poppleford and Harpford) reminded Members that “We relied on Paul Diviani”, and arguing that “He does not understand the role of his own Scrutiny Committee.”

Cllr Cathy Gardner (Sidmouth) sympathised with Tory Councillors now finding themselves “between a rock and a hard place”  (as they’d voted unanimously for the decision that their Leader had then ignored), and asked them,  “Are your principles with your Party or with the people of East Devon?”  Cllr Geoff Jung (Woodbury) put his support for the No Confidence Motion succinctly, “Cllr Diviani agreed to take our vote to the DCC meeting, but he voted the other way”. Cllr Cllr Marianne Rixson (Sidmouth-Sidford )  said , “He’s betrayed everyone. How can we trust a Leader who ignores us? When will he do it again?” . Cllr Susie Bond (Feniton & Buckerell) reported her own town council’s “unanimous and extreme dismay”.  Cllr Steve Gazzard (Exmouth) , reasoned that “The Leader has got it totally wrong” . Cllr Peter Burrows (Seaton) said, “Councillors should support Community first, Party second.” Cllr Peter Faithfull (Ottery St Mary) drew attention to the central issue that “The personal views of one councillor (Diviani) is not what this is about. It’s whether we can have confidence in him”.

In contrast, contributions from the Conservative Councillors supporting their Leader, seemed to be largely out of focus. Cllrs Mark Williamson , Geoff Pook, Ian Hall and others, spoke mainly about NHS difficulties, some citing personal stories at some length. There were frequent calls of “irrelevant” from the public.  The Chair made no attempt to remind them of the wording of the Motion they were there to debate, but cautioned the public on several occasions, that hecklers would be removed.

So many members of the public had registered to speak, but the time allocation of 15 minutes in total, meant that several questions could not be put. The Chair, Andrew Moulding (Axminster) did however ensure that one question to the Leader, from East Devon resident, Jane Ashton, was answered straightaway. Here it is, with the response.

Jane Ashton : “When members of the public stand up for democracy, honesty and representation, to accuse them of being politically motivated is disrespectful. Would you acknowledge that?”

Paul Diviani replied that he “doesn’t recall himself ever saying these words. I would not like to be seen to be disrespectful in any way.”


The Leader’s reply might perplex the public who were there last night for the second Extra Ordinary Meeting concerning the fate of the Exmouth Fun Park .

Full report on both Extra Ordinary Meetings on the Devonlive news:












Appeal to councillors ”secretly sat on a few acres of land”, by senior EDDC officer

Ed Freeman, EDDC’s  Lead Planning Officer appears to have re-ignited potential conflict of interest in his e-mail to East Devon District Councillors, on 23 Feb 2017. In it, he says,”…if you are secretly sat on a few acres of land and would like to put it forward for development now is the time to tell us!”

The context of this appeal by Mr Freeman, is the preparation for a “Greater Exeter Strategic Plan” (GESP), with Exeter in partnership with Teignbridge, Mid-Devon, Devon County Council, and EDDC, for the period up to 2040.  He explains that it will “address large scale housing sites (around 500 homes or more) and employment sites”, along with associated road and rail networks, and that GESP “will ultimately supersede some of the strategy policies in the Local Plan”

This morning, Mr Freeman has issued a subsequent e-mail, assuring the public that “Engagement with stakeholders and communities will be critical to the success of the Plan”. He is unlikely to create confidence, given EDDC’s sorry record in this respect: the ongoing Knowle relocation mess is just one prime example.

Stuck with the taint of the Graham Brown affair, EDDC’s “call for sites” should be correctly handled. Complete transparency does not fit with hints that some councillors might be  “secretly sat on a few acres of land” .

Note from SOS: Some dangers of planning secrecy are clear from this example:

How did business-park on-a-Sidford -floodplain come to be in the Local Plan?



EDDC claims Sidford employment site will still be developed….Are their claims watertight?

In today’s Sidmouth Herald, Cllr Phil Twiss (Con), states that reasons for refusal for the business park planning application are based on “detailed concerns” that “can all be overcome”.

Looking closely at the Highways report from Devon County Council, comments from EDDC local Ward members, the Sid Vale Association, Natural England, and the flood of others who wrote objections in the public consultation, Cllr Twiss’s opinion seems overly lightweight. The consultees’ and individuals’ comments, most solidly based on planning grounds, are registered on the EDDC website, under Planning Application ref 16/0669/MOUT.

Councillor Twiss was responding to a press release from the East Devon Alliance, copied below for your information:

‘The EDDC statement to the Sidmouth Herald (30th September 2016) claims the Sidford site will still be developed, because it is in the Local Plan. This is not necessarily the case, says Chair of East Devon Alliance (EDA), Marianne Rixson, who is also an EDDC Ward Member for Sidford-Sidmouth. She says “EDDC’s press office statement is inappropriate. It’s not EDDC’s land, and any application has to be measured against policy. Most importantly, the outcome of future planning applications should not be predetermined. Decisions on planning applications are made by the Development Management Committee (DMC), who must judge individual planning applications on Planning Matters (i.e. whether an application fits EDDC strategy and policy, e.g. on in-commuting). The Local Plan is only one aspect.”

The EDDC officer’s report on why Tim Ford’s planning application has just been refused, seems to corroborate Cllr Rixson’s point. It makes a clear distinction between a local plan allocation and a planning permission. EDDC’s statement apparently confuses the two things.

A Local Plan is not set in stone. It can adapt to ‘material changes’, such as the dramatic re-assessment of Highways problems, in Devon County Council’s late but welcome final report on this planning application (ref 16/0669/MOUT, Two Bridges Road, Sidford on the EDDC website). For those familiar with the narrow roads, rat runs, and frequent traffic chaos in the area, it makes interesting reading.’

Note from SOS: A video of traffic chaos on the access road at Sidbury can be seen on the Facebook page (right-hand column), Say No to Sidford Business Park, which was set up by Sid Valley Residents.The page details serious problems with the narrow access road from Sidford Cross (School Street), and the rat runs in Frys Lane and the significantly named Brook Road.