Real Zorro

Mission - to challenge in East Devon. To hold elected representatives & their officials to account.

Monday, 25 January 2016

An Inspectors Calls! EDDC leaders play "Get Out of Jail" card

The East Devon Local Plan is back in the headlines...again. This time it re-emerges having been considered by Mr Thickett the Planning Inspector. So, now there is a new villain to add to the mix of (the majority group of) East Devon District Council Councillors and Officers!

The Local Plan and the Planning Inspector’s views on it have now been published by EDDC ahead of their consideration by the Council at its meeting on 28 January. The details of the Local Plan & the Planning Inspector’s report were published on 19 January via this link –

For ease the main reports are accessible here –

Final Report on the Examination of the Local Plan (26 page Inspector’s report);

Main Modifications (99 page set of amendments to the Local Plan);

new clean base copy of the plan text (264 page original version of the Local Plan that the Main Modifications relate to).

In the email notification that Zorro received from the kind Planning Policy Manger at EDDC he introduced the main issues associated with the Local Plan, which has in part been amended by the Planning Inspector, by saying –

“The Inspector concludes that the Local Plan is sound subject to ‘main modifications’, details of which can be viewed with copies of the report. Key matters highlighted in the Inspector’s report, that relates to the plan as submitted for examination and includes main modifications, include that:

a)         the plan should cover the 2013  to 2031 period;

b)         it is appropriate for the plan to provide for 17,100 new homes over this time period – this equates to 950 per year;

c)         the strategy for distribution of development, with a focus on the West End, is appropriate;

d)         the Council can show a five year housing land supply;

e)         the plan makes appropriate provision for affordable housing;

f)          the plan makes appropriate provision for jobs growth (noting links between job growth and housing provision);

g)         the plan provides for protection of the natural environment and highlights that  habitat mitigation is critical in respect of accommodating housing growth;

h)         the Sidford employment land allocation should remain in the plan;

i)          residential development at the Council offices site (at the Knowle) is appropriate as is the allocation boundary;

j)          the plan should provide for gypsies and travellers at Cranbrook;

k)         Chardstock and Dunkeswell should not feature in Strategy 27 of the plan; they should not be identified as villages to have a Built-up Area Boundary;

l)          Land should not be safeguarded for a rail head at the Intermodal Interchange site.

Adoption of the Local Plan is due to be considered at a meeting of the Full Council on 28th January 2016”.

Local press coverage has cranked up again on this matter with the Sidmouth Herald giving it a high degree of prominence in last Friday’s (22 January) edition, as did the Express & Echo at the weekend.

 The contributors to the Sidmouth Herald’s local online Streetlife, where people can have their say on local issues, have generated a plethora of comments about the outcome of the Inspector’s deliberations over the Local Plan. It does seem that Inspector Mr Thickett is not popular as a result of his deliberations. EDDC leaders don’t come out of it too well either.

Zorro wonders whether Mr Thickett was given a poor hand to play with. Surely, the starting point for any criticism over the Local plan rests at the door of the Knowle (something that can’t say that for too much longer!). Here the ultimate criticism must rest with the previous EDDC administration (oh! the same people are still in charge!) for submitting a Local Plan that did not have the vision that their electors had or wanted.

Mr Thickett therefore in part was in a very difficult position e.g. Paragraphs 88 – 95 Sidford (Employment); one created by EDDC. These paragraphs related to the proposals for a Business Park in Sidford; something that Sid Valley residents are very concerned and unhappy about, still.

Paragraph 88 of the Inspector’s report makes it clear to Zorro that EDDC knew that its decision to vote to exclude the Sidford Business Park from the Local Plan, so late in the day, was not going to be upheld by the Inspector.

 Paragraph 88 says –

“The Local Plan proposes the allocation of 5 ha of land on the northern edge of

Sidford for employment use. At a meeting on 26 March 2015 the Council

resolved to delete this allocation from the Local Plan. However, the allocation

was part of the plan submitted for examination and following submission for

examination the Council cannot make any further changes to the Local Plan.

Any further changes can only come about through a recommendation made in

this report. As stated above the starting point for the examination is the

assumption that the Council has submitted what it considers to be a sound

plan. The Council considered the allocation to be sound when the plan was

submitted for examination and it defended the allocation at the Hearing in

February 2014. No new evidence has been submitted by the Council to

support its volte face”.

Zorro is cynical enough to believe that Clr Diviani & the Conservative majority on EDDC knew what they were doing when they, at the eleventh minute, excluded the Business Park from the Local Plan. They thought that with local elections coming up in May 2015 that in order to look as if they were being responsive to the vocal local concerns about the sitting of the Business Park they agreed to exclude it from the Plan.

In so doing they knew full well what the Inspector has now said – surely the inclusion must have been deemed “sound” enough to be included in the Plan by EDDC and when it defended the Plan in February 2014. And without any “new evidence has been submitted by the Council to support its volte face” how or why could the inspector overturn the original decision.

Bravo Clr Diviani et al! A great piece of political skulduggery! You tried to look like the good guys and now the Inspector is to be seen as the bad guy!! A plot straight of the satirical political tv show “The Thick of IT”.

It seems to Zorro that the Local Plan puts local politics and democracy back on the front page. The question now is how will electors react? Will it be in the same way as reported in the Sidmouth Herald headline this week said ...”the future’s looking considerably brighter”. Or will it be more in the vein of the Letters page in this week’s Sidmouth Herald?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Shout out to @eastdevonhour

A big shout out to my Twitter friend @eastdevonhour. If you like Twitter. If you like East Devon. You'll love @eastdevonhour!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Now Councillor Diviani is miffed with East Devon's electors

Credit to Save Our Sidmouth for valiantly listening yesterday to East Devon District Council (EDDC) Leader Paul “Kim Jong Un” Diviani on BBC Radio Devon yesterday where another of those BBC “leftie” radio interviewers followed up on the story from the evening before of the EDDC vote on the proposition from the East Devon Alliance (EDA) Councillors that the sale of, and relocation from the Knowle should be postponed.

Save Our Sidmouth report on the radio interview with “Kim” Diviani and the EDA’s Councillor Cathy Gardner thus –

Cllr Diviani “a bit miffed” with the electorate?

Radio Devon’s Simon Bates had this impression, in his interview this morning with Councillors Cathy Gardner and Paul Diviani, following last night’s Extraordinary Council Meeting to debate relocation (link given below), at which SOS was present.

Link to this morning’s Radio Devon interview here: – the relevant debate is between 01:06:03 to 01:14:59.

Zorro is right in observing that Councillor “Kim” Diviani really doesn’t like the fact that a large number of East Devon’s electorate are not toeing his Party’s line. Oh dear Councillor Diviani, democracy hurts doesn’t it!

It’s still time for challenge!

Councillor Diviani savages local press bias

Zorro is starting to see some themes emerging from East Devon’s Conservatives. They have berated the electors for their stupidity in not realising that the only true defenders of democracy locally are the Conservative Party and its East Devon District Councillors, they have attacked the democratically elected East Devon Alliance Councillors for their temerity in challenging them, and now we have the local “left wing” press bias.

Zorro yesterday chastised ex- Conservative East Devon District Councillor Tony Howard for his criticism of that bastion of Soviet style reporting the Ottery Herald and Express for not publishing his recent ramblings in full in its newspaper.
Councillor "Kim Jong Un" Diviani. Seeing Reds under every bed!
Now we have EDDC Leader Councillor Paul “Kim Jong Un” Diviani sniping at the local press for its bias around the recent local elections. It seems that the East Devon Conservatives believe that the “left wing bias” that their Party constantly say pervades the corridors of the BBC has now managed to work its way down the A303 into the very heart of East Devon.
Pulman's View. Or is it really Socialist Worker?
In this week’s Pulman’s View newspaper the erstwhile editor Phillip Evans, in his editorial headlined “Ruffling Tory feathers”, takes Councillor “Kim” Diviani to task over his ridiculous and paranoid comments about the local press. Link to Pulman's View editorial -

Pulman's View Editor Phillip Evans. Clearly ruffling Tory feathers
As Phillip Evans says, he is a lifelong Conservative voter, and he is proud of his newspapers’ broad reporting of local political activity and events. Zorro is pleased to have an abundance of local newspapers within East Devon through which electors can be kept up to date with what is happening across the District. Zorro would be even happier if they all reported issues in the way that I would do, but that’s not how it works Councillor Diviani!

Maybe however “Kim” Diviani knows something that we don’t! Perhaps he has discovered that the editor of Pulman’s View is really a sleeper for some rabid anti establishment party such as the Socialist Workers Party!  Zorro will leave this up to readers to judge for themselves.

As Zorro suggested in yesterday’s posting, not only should ex-Conservative Councillor Tony Howard go and have a lie down in a darkened room, but perhaps Councillor “Kim” Diviani might want to join him too.

Any more from the East Devon Conservative ranks want to kick out at those who are deliberately undermining their true blue politics?

It’s still time for challenge!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Ex-EDDC Conservative Councillor tries to savage dead sheep (well the EDA)

Zorro seems to recall that until the latest East Devon District Council (EDDC) elections last month there was an ineffectual Conservative Councillor who represented the Ottery St Mary Rural Ward by the name of Tony Howard. So ineffectual was Tony that Zorro really had to wrack his poor old memory bank to recall him.
Ex-EDDC Conservative Councillor Tony Howard
However, Zorro does now recall who Tony Howard is. In the 2011 District Council elections in the Ottery St Mary Rural Ward he came second behind a smart young independent candidate Claire Wright When Zorro says that Tony came second what I really mean is that he came a dismal second behind Claire polling over 60% less votes than her and just squeezing past the other Conservative candidate Sara Randall Johnson.

Tony Howard seems to reside in the West Hill part of East Devon which is also where Claire Wright lives. Tony is a member of the West Hill Conservatives which have a nice notice board that some of the members liked to use to post updates about what Claire Wright was doing that annoyed them.

Who can forget the anonymous posting on the West Hill Conservative notice board last November that read “Clr Claire Wright has today been reported to the authorities for allowing the publishing of offensive and threatening comment (sic) towards the Conservative Party councillors of East Devon District Council”? Come on Tony, own up! It was your posting! it has all the same hallmarks of the ungrammatical language that you have displayed!
This related to the Conservative Chief Whip Phil (getting them in a) Twiss on EDDC referring Claire Wright to the Devon and Cornwall Police for an innocuous, and now infamous, political “cull” comment which the police told “Oliver” Twiss to find something more important to bother them about as they were too busy and overstretched due to Tory cuts looking for real villains. Hat tip to Devon and Cornwall Police – try looking in at EX10 1SG!

Zorro likes to wander around the various parts of East Devon observing what is happening and my curiosity took me back to the West Hill Conservatives’ notice board the other day. Blow me, if there wasn’t another interesting piece of information posted there. This time it was a missive posted by ex-Councillor Tony Howard. Perhaps “rant” is a more accurate description of what he had placed there. But Zorro will let readers be the judge of that – have a look at the posting that is set out below in two parts.

Tony Howard's posting - page 1

Tony Howard's posting - page 2
In a rant aimed at the East Devon Alliance (EDA) Councillors on EDDC dear old Tony starts off by randomly referring to “teamwork”. He then decides to state that the EDA Councillors have mandate that “seems to be to disrupt the business progress (sic) of the majority Conservative Party members”. Zorro offers Tony Howard space in this blog to justify that claim.

Apart from the whole posting being a bit grammatically challenging Tony seems to be a bit miffed at the EDA having the temerity to put up a challenge to East Devon’s natural born rulers the Conservatives.

Tony then claims that the EDA Councillors are “driven to punish” the Conservatives. Come on Tony “disrupt” “punish”. What you really mean is “hold to account”.

Tony then changes tact and argues that the EDA Councillors having been “duly elected” “have a right to express their individual arguments”. How gracious of Tony to recognise the blindingly obvious but it appears Tony doesn’t accept that the EDA Councillors have a right to voice their collective arguments, just their individual ones! Perhaps Tony that’s what you really meant but couldn’t quite articulate it!

Tony really goes for the EDA by bemoaning the loss of so many “experienced” Councillors which to his mind will lead to “chaos”. Zorro apologies as momentarily I mixed Tony Howard up with Hugo Swire when referring to “chaos”. That's an easy mistake to make mind you.

Tony claims that the sad loss of these “experienced” Councillors, which is a subtext for “Conservative” Councillors, will “likely damage the business and financial prospects of EDDC”. Zorro offers Tony Howard space in this blog to justify that claim.

Tony then turns his attention to the shortcomings of the local press and the press apparatchiks at EDDC. Between them they “allowed the misunderstanding of events (at EDDC) to fester and attract wild speculation”.

So there we have it. Conservative EDDC Councillors – good.  Local press and associated journalists, and bloggers and Tweeters – bad. Electors - just plain stupid.

Tony clearly doesn’t have a high regard for his majority Conservative Group colleagues on EDDC as he is “fearful that East Devon residents will suffer a retrograde performance from the newly formed council as a learning curve is played out, together with a “Punishing” objective from EDA members”.

Zorro now has a vision of hordes of EDA Councillors and their rent-a-mob middle Englander compardres from across East Devon running a mock both during EDDC meetings and through their brain washing vindictive that an ever compliant local press will publish with glee!

Tony adds a post script to his posting by saying that his “fears may become a reality” because some Councillors had the gall to call a special Council meeting to seek to overturn the proposed move from, and sale of, the Knowle. Err...Tony; some Councillors were elected with that objective in their manifestos. Err....Tony; that’s called democracy!

Zorro asks one of Tony’s friends or neighbours to make sure that he now goes and has a lie down in a darkened room as I fear that he will not be able to cope with the next four years. Unless that is the EDA Councillors see sense and, in Tony’s inestimable words begin “acting in a constructive team spirit and not as individuals out for revenge and damage to EDDC with the inherent adverse cost levels”.

In other words Tony wants the EDA to stop doing what they were elected to do and to just do what the Conservative Group wants. As the advert says “simples”. This frankly, is how dear Tony Howard comes across.

Finally, Zorro repeats his genuine offer to Tony to give a reasoned and detailed summation of all of invective and alarmist comments that his posting has made. If Tony does that, then Zorro will do what the EDA lackies on the Ottery Herald and Express failed to do – reproduce his words in their full unedited glory!

Over to you Tony!

It’s still time for challenge!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

New Statesman article shines spotlight on independent East Devon

Since the outcome of the general and local elections Zorro has mused about how local issues influence national political outcomes. East Devon is very much a case in point here and this has been espoused on a few occasions in recent months and the general election result locally seems to support the argument that the two are very much intertwined.

Claire Wright’s high profile political campaigning whilst an East Devon District Councillor stood her in good stead when, as the local independent candidate, she challenged Hugo Swire for the Westminster seat. Polling in excess of 13,000 votes by any candidate in any seat is a credible result, but for a first time rooky candidate without any party machine or money behind her was a truly remarkable achievement.

However, this result told us more than Claire’s ability to win over a substantial number of electors. It demonstrated that local dissatisfaction with the politically arrogant Conservative majority of the District Council was able to be translated into votes for someone who had shown a commitment to championing local issues on behalf of local residents.

Claire’s District Council activities, alongside a number of other prominent non-Conservative District Councillors had created the environment from which East Devon Alliance formally created a framework within which independently minded residents could be offered an alternative vision of local politics from the politically arrogant Conservative dominated world that has inhabited the District Council for far too long.

So, what we saw at the general and local elections this time around in East Devon was a symbiotic relationship that provided a platform from which independent politics could challenge the established order. In both elections this produced good results. It also produced the spring board from which independent activity can grow and become stronger. Bloodless revolutions don’t often happen overnight and independents in East Devon need to be patient and dig in for the long haul.

The latest edition of the New Statesman magazine carries an interesting article about independent politics. In the article it majors on Claire Wright’s general election campaign and her local political activity. It also draws comparisons with other significant independent political activities including citing where independents have managed to take control of their local councils, most notably in a neighbourhood not too far away.

Zorro has previously highlighted the fact that in Frome the independent candidates won all the local council seats in the recent elections and now have total political control in Frome. Zorro has also commented that lessons could be leant from the way in which independents in Frome have built a successful local alternative political narrative.

For East Devon the starting point has to be two-fold.

Firstly, making sure that the East Devon Alliance District (EDA) Councillors do now actually respond to the wishes of the local residents and that the EDA builds a meaningful political base within the wider East Devon electorate. This will solidify support and votes in the next bout of local elections and allow a wider set of targeted District Council seats to be won because the East Devon Conservatives are unlikely to find political humility during the next four years!

Secondly, there is a real opportunity in light of both the East Devon general and local election results to start to build a broad alliance across those parties and independents who have a common goal of turning East Devon’s politics at the Knowle and in Westminster from the deep blue hue that has been the local colour for so long to something that is more in keeping with what electors prefer.

Local and national issues are so often intertwined. Local issues can influence how local residents vote. Building a local political based is very much the key to changing the political direction in a locality. The short New Statesman article reminds us of that and is worth reading, if for no other reason than to take inspiration from the actions of Claire Wright, the EDA and successful independents elsewhere.

One day maybe instead of the Guardian newspaper reporting the 7 May Frome independents’ local council victory as “Welcome to the People’s Republic of Frome” it will be able to say “Welcome to the People’s Republic of East Devon”!

It’s still time for challenge!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Normal service to resume

Normal service will return to this blog once Zorro has managed to find time to give away from elderly parental duties.