Sunday, 31 August 2014

Knowle relocation project: connected to the draft Local Plan ... connected to employment ... local business ... retail parks vs the high street ... proposed Sidford employment land ... building on floodplains ... tourism ...

Further to comment on independent Cllr Claire Wright's blog:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: comment following on from .... FOI request goes to tribunal ... and ... Knowle on the market

another was posted earlier today 
- which makes the logical connections between all the current hot topics:

15. At 09:05 am on 31th Aug Graham Sidmouth wrote:

I fail to see how losing Sidmouth’s largest employer, with its high quality jobs, is a good thing for the economy of the town. 

As well as the employers spending power, EDDC provides £3.5m pa worth of contracts to local businesses. 

Very few observers now believe “out-of-town” retail parks are good for the financial viability of the “High Street.” 

Most responders to the ”vanity” relocation project believe Ford’s selfish plans for a supermarket at the ”Alex” and huge industrial retail estate on the flood plains at Sidford will be a disaster for the future of the resort as a quality tourist destination.

Knowle goes on sale as arguments unfold at secrecy hearing - Claire Wright

See also:
Futures Forum: EDDC Office Accommodation – key decision
Futures Forum: "A truly green alternative to EDDC's proposal"
Futures Forum: East Devon, the retail sector and questions about job creation: "How we can help meet the needs of business into the future in a world of enterprise and entrepreneurism..."
Futures Forum: The future of the Alexandria Road Industrial Estate
Futures Forum: East Devon Business Group: disbanded
Futures Forum: Are 'retail parks' a good thing?
Futures Forum: What is the difference between a 'business park'... and a 'retail park'?
Futures Forum: Building on floodplains in the South West
Futures Forum: East Devon and toursim

A solution to our housing problems: the flat pack home

From an article earlier this year:

architecture design blog

Richard Rogers and YMCA unveil £30k flatpack homes for homeless people

Rogers’ ‘move-on’ homes look like Monopoly hotels – and are bigger than many private studio flats. But are they really the ‘answer to Britain’s housing crisis’?

Take a tour of Richard Rogers’ flatpack home for homeless people – video

Oliver Wainwright

theguardian.com, Friday 14 February 2014 10.11 GMT
Jump to comments (463)

Factory-made … Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners' Y:Cube house for the YMCA is produced for just £30,000. Photograph: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

A neat oblong box with a simple pitched roof and jolly red garb, it looks like a giant Monopoly hotel has been airlifted on to a side street in Wimbledon. But this dinky dwelling could be the answer to the housing crisis, according to its makers, providing a first step for those in desperate need of accommodation.

“The aim was to provide a truly affordable move-on scheme for our residents, which didn’t require a grant to build,” says Andy Redfearn of the YMCA, who has worked with architects Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners (RSH+P) for the last three years to develop a factory-made housing unit that can be built for up to 40% less than the cost of traditional construction. “The real issue is what happens when people leave our hostels,” he says. “The only option is often poor quality shared accommodation managed by private landlords, who require large deposits and rent in advance.”

The Y:Cube aims to provide an alternative, in the form of a self-contained one-bed flat, with its own bathroom, living room and kitchen, all housed in a compact 26 sq m unit, built off-site for just £30,000 and craned into place.

“It’s about a different attitude to construction, rather than revolutionary design,” says Ivan Harbour, the partner in charge of RSH+P’s Homeshellproject, which has focused on the development of prefabricated housing for the last seven years. “The beauty is that it’s a high-tech, low-tech approach.”

The units come complete with double bedroom, en suite bathroom and a separate kitchen/living room. Photograph: Miguel Santa Clara/Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Employing a timber-framed system called Insulshell, developed bySheffield Insulations Group and Coxbench (which was also used for the London Olympic velodrome), the units are manufactured in one piece in a factory in Derbyshire. Built from precision-cut glue-laminated timber sections assembled by hand – “fixed with just two kinds of screw,” the designers tell me proudly – they are packed with insulation, forming a structural frame that can be stacked up to eight storeys high.

The precision construction means a degree of air-tightness that brings the units to level six of the code for sustainable homes: a three-week test showed each home can be lit and heated to 20°C all day and all night for £7 per week. The system also allows for units to be joined, windows cut into corners and partition walls freely arranged within, bringing more flexibility than the usual container-home – and built with a lifespan of 60 years.

The YMCA plans to test the system at scale on a site in Mitcham, where it is about to submit an application for a scheme of 36 units, stacked into a three-storey horse-shoe block around a shared garden, where residents can grow vegetables. “It will take eight weeks to build in the factory and just one week to install on site,” says Redfearn, adding that, with each flat rented out for £140 per week (65% of market rent), the project will pay for itself in 15 years. Capital costs are to be provided by “social investors,” he says – to whom he can guarantee a 5% return.

“With this speed of construction and implementation, it could be the perfect solution for brownfield infill plots and even sites where development is stalled, or where construction won’t begin for several years, such as HS2 land,” he says. “The beauty is that the units can be moved off site as quickly as they are installed, as we operate on short-term leases – we expect people to stay for between three to five years, giving them time to skill up and save for a deposit.”

So what do future residents make of it?

Reading this on mobile? Click here to watch

“It certainly catches your eye,” says Kieran Kurup, 22, who recently moved into rented accommodation after 18 months at the YMCA hostel, as we walk up to the eye-searing red facade. “It’s amazing inside, so much bigger than you expect, and it’s fitted out like a show home from some Earls Court convention. Having your own front door, and your own bathroom and kitchen, is going to be a great morale booster for people used to the hostel lifestyle.”

The units come complete with double beds, en suite bathrooms and a separate kitchen/living room, while floor-to-ceiling heights are a generous 2.5m, and will be taller in the top-floor flats with the apex roofs. The Mitcham scheme will see units connected by timber decks, providing outdoor social space, along with a communal room for shared equipment like vacuum cleaners and washing machines. Classed as semi-permanent accommodation – the same as student housing and care homes – the units don’t have to meet London housing design guide space standards (they fall 11 sq m short) although the flats are at least three times the size of an average hostel room. “It’s a credible compromise,” says Redfearn.

It is a compromise that seems justified to produce affordable stepping-stone homes which seem more generous than many “studio apartments” being touted on the private market. But could the Y-Cube have lessons for volume housebuilding beyond the move-on sector?

“We’re already working on it,” says Harbour, announcing that their designs for a 36-unit scheme of private flats for the Leather Gardens estate in Newham received planning permission only this week. The first of the local authority’s four pilot projects planned over the next two years, the homes will be let and managed by the council, with the money raised used to fund larger projects.

Home-office? … The plan for the Leather Gardens estate in Newham will see 36 2-bed units clad in grey and red panelling. Image: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

“Newham wants to raise the bar for the private sector rental market, so it’s taking it into its own hands,” says Harbour. “The next step is to find a bigger scheme. If we can get the demand right – something like 150-plus units per year – the aim would be to have a factory in the borough itself, employing local people at the heart of the community. That’s proper design and build, as it should be. It’s how they built the cathedrals.”

It is a bold ambition, but one that hasn’t had an easy ride in the past. RSH+P’s first foray into factory-made housing, at Oxley Woods in Milton Keynes in 2008, was abandoned before the plan was completed, with the developer complaining of excessive cost and ditching Rogers’ prefabs for a more traditional scheme in a folksy pastiche style. The 120 units that were completed to RSH+P’s designs went on to win numerous awards, and are dearly loved by their evangelical residents, even if the streets of bright boxy blocks are pejoratively known locally as Legoland. So why didn’t it work out as planned?

“Commercial house-builders work on the basis that the longer you can drag out the process, the more money you can make,” says Harbour. “At Oxley Woods, it became clear that the fast production process we were offering was not what was needed. Instead it was like turning a tap on and off, with three houses trickling out every now and then. But off-site production requires a degree of certainty and volume.”

Legoland … The award-winning Oxley Woods scheme in Milton Keynes is loved by its residents, but Rogers' designs have been ditched for the later phase. Photograph: Katsuhisa Kida/Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

It might also require something of a shift in what people expect their houses to look like. Or perhaps a shift on the part of the architects to make their buildings a little more home-like. Because, for all the clever construction, high-speed fabrication, model environmental performance and indisputable value, it’s hard to escape the fact that everything that has come out of RSH+P’s Homeshell initiative to date looks a bit like something from an out-of-town business park.

Whether it’s the clunky massing that comes with the stacking of prefab boxes, or the cheap-looking laminate cladding that give the air of paper-thin walls (belying the 350mm-deep construction), or the dubious colour schemes punctuated by shallow oblong windows, it’s hard to shake off that image of living in an 80s office block, or a converted data centre. Still, some solace can be taken from the point listed under the “Adaptability” heading in the Homeshell brochure: “Can be clad to suit any vernacular.” I’ll have one that looks like a house then please.

Richard Rogers and YMCA unveil £30k flatpack homes for homeless people | Art and design | theguardian.com

A solution to our housing problems: the tree house

Today the Observer carried several pieces on how being on low pay makes it impossible for young people to afford a place of their own:
One in three young workers on low pay | Society | The Observer
Low-paid Britain: 'People have had enough. It's soul destroying' | Society | The Observer

Of course, one way would be to stop obsessing about the 'housing ladder' - which is not a concern on the Continent:
Are we better off renting? | Money | The Observer
Futures Forum: Renting vs Buying in the South-West

An earlier piece looked at cheap solutions in the United States, where there are fewer housing regulations:
Futures Forum: On zoning, self-build and affordable housing ... relaxed planning laws in the United States

Without trying to be flippant, here's a gem of an alternative solution:

Treehouse by Peter Bahouth | Posted by CJWHO.com

Treehouse by Peter Bahouth | Posted by CJWHO.com

CJWHO ™ (Treehouse, Atlanta, USA by Peter Bahouth | via ...)

Self-build is being tried in Britain:
Futures Forum: Self-build
Futures Forum: Self-build: part two
Futures Forum: Self-build: latest government initiative
Futures Forum: Pitsea-Laindon ... or ... affordable and self-build housing on brownfield sites
Futures Forum: Innovative solutions to the lack of affordable housing....... self-build alternatives...

Although this is not the answer for everyone, self-build is still such an unusual way of providing a home in the UK - unlike in other parts of the world:
Futures Forum: The PassivHaus: cheaper than you think to build.... and only £20 annual heating bills.....

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Housing numbers in East Devon ...... and the Local Plan ...... further reports on planning meeting of 26th August

Following on from a few scant reports in the local media about housing and the draft local plan:
Housing growth: Progress being made but full picture still to emerge (From Mid Devon Star)
Thousands more homes for region? - News - Sidmouth Herald
East Devon District Council - News

And following the meeting of the District Council's planning committee last week:
Futures Forum: Housing numbers in East Devon ...... and the Local Plan ...... reports on planning meeting of 26th August
East Devon District Council - Development Management agendas. minutes and remit

Here is some comment from the East Devon Alliance blog on the process:
EDCC finally updates the Planning Inspector on draft Local Plan “progress” | East Devon Alliance

And here is a particularly sharp comment from 'a local correspondent':


August 30th 2014

Some thoughts sent to EDA from a local correspondent:

‘Information gradually drips from EDDC regarding the Local Plan and the details of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment ( SHMA ). It seems that the SHMA is recommending a more modest housing allocation for East Devon. Many commentators at the time of the Local Plan Panel advocated lower housing numbers, as did EDDC’s consultants. Those commentators appear to have been vindicated by the draft recommendations of the SHMA.

Whilst, everyone told EDDC at the Local Plan Panel that their housing provision was excessive, particular opprobrium was directed at the employment land allocation, which all agreed was absurdly high. And, of course, based in part upon hopelessly miscalculated commuting numbers, and the inexplicable exclusion from the employment numbers of the Inter Modal Freight Facility, since purchased by Sainsburys.

We are now told, bizarrely, that EDDC is arguing for an increase in the SHMA housing allocation to reflect the huge employment land allocations that they have made. Workers will have to be housed. Previously they argued the reverse: that a huge employment allocation was necessary to employ the workforce generated by their housing numbers! An absurdly spiralling argument that will only serve to devastate the countryside of East Devon, and place enormous strain upon our infrastructure and services.

Clearly, the whole edifice of the Plan has collapsed, and Matt Dickins is standing naked amidst the rubble.

The solution is obvious: the employment allocation within the Plan has to be substantially reduced. This can be easily achieved by incorporating the Sainsburys site into the calculations, and by correcting the commuting errors. Such a move would transform the Plan, making sense of the housing numbers, and providing a way forward that would be acceptable to all sides.

In particular, this would ensure the removal of the highly controversial Sidford allocation, which has attracted more opposition than any other component of the Plan.

The need to remove Sidford from the Plan is greater than ever, given the warped logic with which EDDC has responded to the SHMA. If more housing is needed to ‘feed’ the District’s employment sites, then Sidmouth is threatened with a big increase in its housing allocation. After all, we have only 70 unemployed, and Sidford is intended to accommodate 1400 jobs. Where are the workers to be housed? ‘

Officer “naked amidst the rubble” of EDDC’s Local Plan? | East Devon Alliance
Local Plan ‘progress’ | Save Our Sidmouth

See also:
Futures Forum: Housing numbers in East Devon ... "The region, which is earmarked for 11,000 new homes..."
Futures Forum: Housing in East Devon: "the delay (and the developer free-for-all) could influence how residents vote in the next local elections in May 2015."
Futures Forum: Housing in East Devon: "I don’t see it as the floodgates opening, but I do see a stampede coming.”

Knowle relocation project: comment following on from .... FOI request goes to tribunal ... and ... Knowle on the market

There has been considerable comment going backwards and forwards these last couple of days on the blog of independent Cllr Claire Wright.

See also:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project ... District Council puts Knowle on the market
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: FOI request goes to tribunal: detailed report of proceedings

Knowle sale and relocation – Equalities Act 2010 – Equality Impact Assessment | East Devon Alliance

Revealed at secrecy trial: EDDC overview and scrutiny cttee was given edited report on office move

Thursday, 28 August 2014 13 Comments by Claire

EDDC’s overview and scrutiny committee was given an edited report to examine on the state of the Knowle buildings, it emerged at today’s Information Commissioner ICO) appeal tribunal.


1. At 08:23 pm on 28th Aug Mark Hawkins wrote:

Was it made clear who was responsible for the O & S committee receiving an edited report?

2. At 08:25 pm on 28th Aug Claire wrote:

No, but I think we can hazard a guess.

3. At 08:34 pm on 28th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

I was at the court case and I am 100% certain that Mr Cohen said that it was his decision that the committee should receive his shorter report rather than the original longer one. He also said that the Committee was aware that it was receiving a redacted report and that “members of the O and S who were also on the Relocation Working Party should consider their position”. He did not elaborate on what he meant by that.

4. At 09:50 pm on 28th Aug Paul wrote:

Can anyone (Claire?) explain what Richard Cohen’s comment that “members of the O and S who were also on the Relocation Working Party should consider their position” means?

To the uninitiated it sounds like it might be a warning to them to keep their mouths shut? Or perhaps a warning that if they knew that the report was redacted but said nothing, then they should resign?

Your sincerely,

Mr Confused
Ottery St. Mary

5. At 10:26 pm on 28th Aug Damien Mills wrote:

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the second part of the tribunal but the morning part alone provided a fascinating insight into the machinations of East Devon District Council.

First and foremost, I lost count of the number of occasions on which Steve Pratten and Richard Cohen struggled to provide anything like a coherent answer to apparently straight-forward questions.

Much of this questioning revolved around whether Mr Pratten was, to all intents and purposes, a member of EDDC staff or an employee of Davis Langdon; EDDC sought to suggest it was the former and, this being the case, that the reports he had produced should be exempt from disclosure. We were asked to believe that Mr Pratten rarely, if ever, consulted with anyone at Davis Langdon and that their sole contribution to his reports was to check them for typos and grammatical errors.

One of the reports in question is accessible via the following link [Pages 9-15]:


As you’ll observe, the first and last pages are emblazoned with Davis Langdon’s logo, Davis Langdon’s name is on every page, and, moreover, the final page credits the report to Steve Pratten and gives his contact address as the firm’s Bristol office which, incidentally, Mr Pratten told the tribunal he only visited ‘once or twice a year’ when he had IT issues. Curiously, Mr Pratten’s LinkedIn profile also gives his location as Bristol!


If, for a minute, we accept the assertion of Messrs Cohen and Pratten that Davis Langdon’s contribution to this piece of work was negligible to nil then I would suggest that it was wholly inappropriate and misleading to present it to the overview & scrutiny committee in a format which suggested quite the opposite.

Surely to God, there should be no doubt whatsoever about the provenance of a report presented to this committee and if what we told earlier today was correct this should be looked at, as a matter of some urgency, by the council’s monitoring officer [and that’s before she considers Mr Cohen’s admission that he saw fit to edit the report before it was shared with the overview & scrutiny committee].

For what it’s worth, I find it hard to believe that Mr Pratten has not called on the expertise of his colleagues at Davis Langdon rather more often than was suggested and, moreover, that the council would not have routinely expected him to do so.

With this in mind, see, for instance, the following agenda for the cabinet meeting which took place on July, 9, 2013:


Remember, Mr Pratten told the tribunal Davis Langdon had little input in his work and would only check it for typos and grammatical errors. Yet, if you go to page 80, you will see three of the four project viability reports delivered at this stage have been signed of by a Darren Talbot. Lest you think otherwise, Darren Talbot wasn’t an office junior at Davis Langdon but a director and the head of project management for the South West:


Is it really conceivable that a person in Mr Talbot’s position would have signed off reports of this magnitude without, as was suggested today, having had any kind of conversation with Mr Pratten or offering any input?

And finally… here is a link to the press release published by EDDC on the occasion of Davis Langdon / Steve Pratten’s appointment:


As you’ll note, it’s no less a figure than EDDC leader Paul Diviani who says: ‘I am really excited we will have the extensive resources of Davis Langdon behind us as we approach this vital stage in the Council’s future development.’

Yet today a tribunal was asked to believe that the individual charged with delivering this project saw no necessity at all to utilise the extensive resources which, apparently, landed his employer this contract and, what’s more, that the powers that be at Knowle had no issue with this.

So, who do you believe?!

6. At 08:49 am on 29th Aug Chris wrote:

It should take all of 10 minutes to sort that out. How was he paid. If he was paid as a salaried employee, with tax deducted at source by EDDC that says he worked for EDDC. If he provided an invoice and was paid against the invoice he did not.

7. At 09:24 am on 29th Aug Ian McKintosh wrote:

1.Either Pratten is an ‘Independent Consultant’, or he is not ?!
2.If he is, what is cohen doing ‘fiddling’ with it before it goes to committee?
3. Is Cohen’s action “Misconduct in a Public Office”?
4. Cohen admitted that he had “edited”? it before putting it to committee. He should have laid
it before them as written,possibly with his own subsequent comments, if called upon to do so.

8. At 10:56 am on 29th Aug Claire wrote:

Hi Chris, from memory I think he said he was paid a lump sum from which he drew down a monthly income from. Not like the average employee….

9. At 11:15 am on 29th Aug Paul wrote:

1. If a Director of DL signs a document, then I think you can reasonably believe that the document is a DL one rather than one written by an employee who is a embedded pseudo council-officer.

2. In general, I have reservations about councillors being presented with any edited document - after all shouldn’t they be in possession of all the facts when considering something - even if it has edited by the author of the original document who has put his name to it and who can ensure that it still presents the same balanced view (though shortened) as the original document.

That said, I do understand that sometimes there are sections containing confidential material which needs to be redacted, and in this event I would like to see them blacked out rather than removed so that councillors are clear that information has been removed and can see the extent of the missing information even if they cannot see it.

But in this case, if I understand it correctly, we have an original document written by Mr Pratten on DL letterhead, subsequently changed by Mr Cohen and then submitted by him to the O&S Committee without any explicit statement or indication that it had been changed by EDDC and retaining the DL letterhead together with an explicit statement that it had been submitted by Mr Pratten. If this is the case, then at best it is quite wrong, but it also could be against the Code of Conduct for Council Officers or possibly even illegal or fraudulent.

We need to understand the provenance of the report submitted to the O&S Committee meeting of 26 July 2012 and whether it had been edited by Mr Cohen or Mr Pringle - and whether Mr Pringle had approved the edited version prior to it being submitted to the committee.

3. The minutes of the O&S meeting of 26 July 2012 (as opposed to the agenda linked to above) can be found athttp://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/osc_mins_260712.pdf , and there is absolutely no mention in the minutes of the report submitted with the agenda. I cannot believe that this document was not discussed by the committee, and I would have expected some mention to have been made in the minutes. But most importantly it should have been explicitly noted for the record that this was an edited version of the document, otherwise how would anyone know either at the time or after the event that this was the case.

IF Richard Cohen did indeed edit the document, particularly if Mr Pratten had not reapproved it, and then submit it as shown with a statement that it had been submitted by Mr Pratten, then I would want to see this referred for an official investigation.

10. At 11:19 am on 29th Aug Chris wrote:

So it was not taxed at source by EDDC and therefore the conclusion is simple.

11. At 11:26 am on 29th Aug Damien Mills wrote:

My take was slightly different to Claire’s; I thought Steve Pratten said that Davis Langdon were paid a lump sum and that a proportion of this was passed on to him.

Indeed a look at EDDC’s spending over recent months would appear to confirm this is the case:


If you look on the first page of each of these documents, you will see EDDC is paying AECOM Ltd - for the uninitiated, Davis Langdon is a subsidiary of AECOM - £9,184.04 every month.

So, in answer to Chris’s question, it seems fairly safe to assume that Mr Pratten was not paid by EDDC but by Davis Langdon.

If we assume, Davis Langdon took a cut of the £9.184.04 and that Mr Pratten only received a proportion of this sum then one might reasonably ask, in light of the testimony heard yesterday, what, exactly, it was Davis Langdon were doing to earn their cut and why the deputy chief executive didn’t demand more of an input from them.

12. At 12:25 pm on 29th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

Yes, my notes say a a set fee with monthly sum “drawn down” - unfortunately no-one asked how the set fee was split between Mr Pratten and Davis Langdon.

One other thing (among many) which worries me is that Mr Pratten said, in the regular meeting, in his section of the minutes, the minute taker cut and pasted up to 60% of his report (already provided to people attending) into the minutes - so, as it has already been agreed that minutes can be secret very little is left to disclose.

My question: why would experienced minute takers at EDDC do this? That is not minute taking, which is about how decisions are reached with the information available. It beggars belief.

13. At 10:57 pm on 29th Aug Tim Todd wrote:

Documents showing that EDDC pays AECOM/DAVIS LANGDON , for the services of Pratten, have been seen under the rights of the public to see their accounts at certain times. They show numerous payments of around £10500 each month.
The contract spec, the FFF , so frequently referred to, contains much detail about all elements of the contract, the project, the qualifications of the person supplied as project manager etc. Nowhere does it suggest any special employment relationship will exist between Pratten and EDDC. Why is such detail missing if that was to be the unique case claimed by Cohen?

Revealed at secrecy trial: EDDC overview and scrutiny cttee was given edited report on office move - Claire Wright

Knowle goes on sale as arguments unfold at secrecy hearing

Thursday, 28 August 2014 14 Comments by Claire

With interesting timing EDDC puts the Knowle up for sale, as it defends the indefensible at its office relocation secrecy tribunal at Exeter Magistrates Court, today.

See Express & Echo article here 

- http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Sidmouth-s-Knowle-site-sale/story-22843151-detail/story.html The prime Knowle site in Sidmouth, home of East Devon District Council, has come on the market.

1. At 12:40 pm on 29th Aug Paul wrote:

“Not having made a decision” was a key reason for not providing information to Jeremy Woodward’s FoI request. So, does putting the Knowle on sale now indicate that “a decision has been made to relocate”?

2. At 01:41 pm on 29th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

Panic sale?

3. At 02:17 pm on 29th Aug John Richards wrote:

Thank goodness for that at last something positive for good old Sidmouth, New buildings = more residents = more jobs and most of all, more retail opportunities for local business in the town and tradesmen, suppliers and all that goes with an increased population. Good to see that the park is retained although when I have gone past not many seem to use it.

4. At 05:36 pm on 29th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

Number of new residents? Maybe a hundred, many of them older people using stretched out services (and I’m old so not biased). Jobs lost 400 plus - many young professionals. Is it really a good deal?

5. At 05:45 pm on 29th Aug Michael Temple wrote:

More jobs, John? How many will be lost from EDDC’s move?
More retail - well, yes, but probably at the Sidford Industrial-retail park and at the Alexandria Road superstore - pity the poor town traders, though
And the park will lose its finest feature - its lawned terraces and prospect and the rest of the south park will be looked down on by buildings, and EDDC are even intent on denying public access to the park from its most used entrance.
Enjoy it while you can, John…

6. At 09:13 pm on 29th Aug Conrad Black wrote:

Actually the process is very simple. Sign all the sale documents for the Knowle and Manstone before anyone can take legal action to stay the Council. Make sure the sale is irrevocable so nobody can afford to undo it, and make sure the people that sign the documents cannot be held personally liable for anything anytime anywhere. And delay the adoption of a local plan as long as possible so that permissions that could never otherwise be obtained will be granted all round the District, and especially the Knowle, Manstone, .......

Have I missed anything?

7. At 11:28 am on 30th Aug John Richards wrote:

Where are these 400 job losses the majority will go with the council wherever it moves to, so no East Devon job losses, a number of these personell never see the Knowle or Sidmouth they work all over the distict, which includes some of my relatives. As for the industrial estate whats wrong with producing more jobs in the area, some retail owners in the town would like to diversify thier businesses in the area. As for buildings looking down on the park area, some local housing allready enjoy this why not more after all there was a time when Knowle Drive never existed. By the way where do you buy your aspic from you are going to need a substantial amount to cover the area so no change happens in the future and then the area dies. Just look at some coastal towns in North Devon where this has allready happened, I do not believe we have a Damien Hurst to step in and try to regenerate.

8. At 11:39 am on 30th Aug Claire wrote:

@Paul. My understanding that a decision to relocate has been made (however, not irreversible) and that a decision to negotiate a price for the land at Skypark was made by the conservative majority at full council in Feb. Here are the recommendations that were agreed at that combustible meeting -

RECOMMENDED (1) that the further analysis provided in the report and its
attachments be noted:
(2) that the opportunities, risks and risk management
approach inherent in the project plan and its conditions
and gateways be noted:

(3) New Office
(a) that the order of site preference advised in the
report (site scoring outcomes were included at
Appendix 2 to the report) and the Office
Accommodation Executive Group’s
recommendation to decide between Clyst
House, Winslade Park or Skypark be noted;

(b) that a preferred site and acquisition costs of
Skypark- £986,000 (site) be recommended to
Council and for detailed negotiation to begin.
(Costs include Stamp Duty Land Tax but
exclude VAT);

(c) that, subject to Council agreement, officers be
instructed to take forward the agreed option
under the continued guidance of the Executive
Group, with key future decisions being subject to
Cabinet and Council approval;

(d) that formal approval to proceed with the
purchase be referred to Cabinet and Council –
reports to this effect are anticipated for
considered around July 2014;

(e) that, as an immediate action, a marketing
exercise be conducted to engage developer
interest (for a amount which was disclosed at
the meeting) and ascertain the values and
variety of proposals for development on the
Knowle and Manstone Depot sites;

(f) that further project management costs through
to completion of the Project in the sum of up to
£88,000 for professional service costs including
project management, architects, engineers and
other designers), Fees, etc (excluding VAT) be

@John, you may like to read the economic report that was published with the planning application. The consequences of EDDC relocating would be a serious adverse economic impact on Sidmouth.

9. At 11:59 am on 30th Aug Michael Temple wrote:

- Skypark is much nearer to Exeter than to almost all of East Devon: aren’t jobs at EDDC likely to go to people outside the district (and presumably jobs will also be lost if/when adjoining councils share services)?
- Btw the loss of 200 free weekend parking places at Knowle will surely affect town trade and tourism?
- The fact that parts of the original Knowle estate were sold for housing is no justification for destroying what remains, much of which is a public open space.

10. At 12:26 pm on 30th Aug Damien Mills wrote:

Can someone, please, explain something to me?!

At the FoI tribunal on Thursday, we were told, ad infinitum, that EDDC couldn’t share it’s relocation reports because they were ‘commercially sensitive’ and, were they to enter the public domain, might push up the price of a new HQ.

Given EDDC has made it very clear SkyPark is its preferred option, I’m struggling to comprehend what could be in any of the reports that might serve to inflate the purchase cost.

As I see it, publication of these reports would have no effect whatsoever on EDDC’s bargaining position which, leads me to conclude, there must be another reason why the council, is apparently, so desperate to suppress them.

11. At 12:35 pm on 30th Aug John Richards wrote:

Thanks for your reply but I find myself slighty puzzled because remembering past newspaper articles etc,you and others do not agree with the facts and fugures coming from EDDC or thier consultants and now you are asking me to look at them, anyway if my memory is correct it is about 8-10% decrease in high st spend and about 70 job losses, but would that not be balanced out by services to whatever is built at Knowle and if it happens the New Sidford Industrial estate, if not then I have heard that there is expansion planned at Alexandria, but as usual local objections have already gone to EDDC ( Why buy a house next to an industrial estate then complain about noise) common sence would say that all these different events happening would give a balance to the area.

12. At 12:39 pm on 30th Aug Claire wrote:

I have never disputed the economic report of the impact on Sidmouth of redeveloping the Knowle. I have disputed the reports on how dilapidated the Knowle buildings are. Slightly different.

I don’t have the report to hand but I do remember that it showed that the effect would be significant.

13. At 03:42 pm on 30th Aug Tim Todd wrote:

I agree. I cannot see any reason for Skypark price to go up, though it may go down if EDDC put other previously appropriate venues back on the options list- they rather put their foot in it betting all on Skypark. It isn’t as though there is great competition for land at Skypark after Sainsbury have pulled out- and there is always Rolle College going begging

14. At 04:27 pm on 30th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

When (not if) EDDC moves its HQ to Skypark, a massive new retail park is being built opposite the Honiton Road Park and Ride - an area covered by Exeter City Council. People working at the HQ (and luving in Cranbrook) will be spending their money in the Exeter City Council area and business rates will accrue to the same council - which will already be bolstered by its massive Ikea store. More income to Exeter, less income to East Devon.

Knowle goes on sale as arguments unfold at secrecy hearing - Claire Wright.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Transition Town movement

You might have noticed a stall in the Market Square in Sidmouth today - where signatures were being gathered for a petition:
38 Degrees | Campaign to fix or scrap TTIP

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership(TTIP) also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Area(TAFTA) is a proposed free trade agreement between theEuropean Union and the United States. Proponents say the agreement would result in multilateral economic growth,[1] while critics say it would increase corporate power and make it more difficult for governments to regulate markets for public benefit.[2] The U.S. government considers the TTIP a companion agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[3] After a proposed draft was leaked, in March 2014 the European Commission launched a public consultation on a limited set of clauses.
The TTIP free trade agreement could be finalised by the end of 2014.[4][5]
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

What is the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership? - YouTube

And today there were demonstrations across the country:
Anti-TTIP protests take place across the UK - News - News - Voice of Russia UK,
Stone campaign against Transatlantic Trade and Industry Partnership which could affect NHS services | Staff Newsletter

There are a lot of  misgivings over the proposed agreement when it comes to  areas such as GM food and investment in energy and health services...

In the latest news stories:
TTIP will sacrifice food safety for faster trade, warn NGOs | EurActiv
TTIP: UK Government Not Trusted to Protect NHS from American Investors
Secret trade deal could be battering ram for big business to smash open and deregulate markets - Jason Beattie - Mirror Online
Now It's Jamie Oliver Arguing Against The EU/US Trade Deal

And with several organisations very much against the agreement:
Home - TTIP
Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA)
noTTIP | No corporate takeover of democracy

A lecture from Noam Chomsky at Durham University earlier this year made the arguments against very clear:

Major current huge trade agreements that are now being negotiated: Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic, are secret, but not completely. They are not secret to hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are rating the detailed regulations. You can guess what they are and why they are secret.

Surviving the 21st Century - YouTube

But there are clear benefits as stated by its proponents:

The stated aim of TTIP is to expand trade and investment across the Atlantic, increase employment and competitiveness, as well as enable a common approach to rules for global trade, which third countries could also adopt. Another goal is to strengthen overall EU-US relations. The EU-US trade and investment relation­ship is considered the largest and most important in the world. The two economies accounted for nearly half of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 30% of world trade in 2012; with US-EU trade flows in goodstotalling €497 billion, and in services €315 billion. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is even greater, with total FDI stocks of €3.2 trillion in each other’s’ economies. The transatlantic economy sustains about 15 million jobs.
Nevertheless, TTIP’s proponents claim there is untapped potential in the relationship. The EC argues that significant gains would arise from further liberalising transatlantic trade. An EC-commissioned study (a new analysis is foreseen for end-2014) asserts a comprehensive and ambitious TTIP would bring overall annual GDP gains of 0.5% for the EU (€119 billion) and 0.4% (€95 billion) for the US, once fully implemented (2027). That is, an extra €545/EU household/year. Reducing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and further liberalising services and public procurement would constitute around 80% of the benefits. TTIP would positively affect global GDP (€100 billion) and labour markets. Other studies also point to major benefits for income and jobs in the EU and US, but also to those countries which stand to lose from TTIP. TTIP would also create opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (e.g. through trade facilitation).
Towards an EU-US trade and investment deal | European Parliamentary Research Service

With organisations on both sides of the Pond behind it:
TTIP Action
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Here is an analysis from Deutche Welle:
TTIP - Debate: European Goals and Fears | All media content | DW.DE | 19.08.2014
'Türkiye TTIP anlaşmasının içinde olmalı'

When it comes to the Transition Town movement, however, it is clear where the sympathies lie:
international trade | Transition Network
TTIP: the biggest threat to democracy in a generation? | Transition Kentish Town
Day of Action against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) | A Positive Response to Resource Depletion, Economic Collapse and Climate Change.
The EU again. | Transition Tynedale
Transition Town Ingolstadt - Home
Aktuelles & Termine transitiontown erfurt - Transitiontown Initiative Erfurt
TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment "Partnership": Aushöhlung der Demokratie durch Konzerne, noch mehr Globalisierung statt mehr Regionalisierung) - Transition Initiativen in D/A/CH
etc, etc...

Friday, 29 August 2014

Knowle relocation project .............................................. District Council puts Knowle on the market

Further to the latest news on Knowle from yesterday
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: FOI request goes to tribunal: latest reports... AND District Council puts Knowle on the market

... others have noticed the coincidence between the timing of the Tribunal considering documentation on the relocation project - and the District Council's decision to put the Knowle site on the market:

Knowle goes on sale as arguments unfold at secrecy hearing

Thursday, 28 August 2014 4 Comments by Claire

With interesting timing EDDC puts the Knowle up for sale, as it defends the indefensible at its office relocation secrecy tribunal at Exeter Magistrates Court, today.

See Express & Echo article here - 
Home of East Devon District Council in Sidmouth put up for sale | Exeter Express and Echo


1. At 12:40 pm on 29th Aug Paul wrote:

“Not having made a decision” was a key reason for not providing information to Jeremy Woodward’s FoI request. So, does putting the Knowle on sale now indicate that “a decision has been made to relocate”?

2. At 01:41 pm on 29th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

Panic sale?

3. At 02:17 pm on 29th Aug John Richards wrote:

Thank goodness for that at last something positive for good old Sidmouth, New buildings = more residents = more jobs and most of all, more retail opportunities for local business in the town and tradesmen, suppliers and all that goes with an increased population. Good to see that the park is retained although when I have gone past not many seem to use it.

4. At 05:36 pm on 29th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

Number of new residents? Maybe a hundred, many of them older people using stretched out services (and I’m old so not biased). Jobs lost 400 plus - many young professionals. Is it really a good deal?

Knowle goes on sale as arguments unfold at secrecy hearing - Claire Wright

For background information see:
Re. Knowle officially for sale | East Devon Alliance
Knowle relocation costs: We have not been properly informed, says EDDC Committee | Save Our Sidmouth
No light cast on Knowle at last night’s Cabinet meeting | Save Our Sidmouth

See also today's Herald:
Knowle is up for sale as EDDC eyes move - News - Sidmouth Herald

This is the press release from the District Council:

Council’s Knowle HQ is marketed for potential development

Friday 29 August

Agents have started to actively market East Devon District Council’s Knowle headquarters at Sidmouth as a potential development site. This is a key part of the project to move staff to modern offices in a new location. Savills, a real estate services company with offices worldwide, formally began marketing Knowle – along with the Manstone Depot site – this weekend (28 August). The closing date for informal tenders on both sites is 22 October.

Below is the press release issued yesterday (Thursday) by Savills www.savills.co.uk

Prime redevelopment opportunity in the popular coastal town of Sidmouth comes to the market

A well-known, exceptional redevelopment site in the popular coastal town of Sidmouth is coming to the market as a result of East Devon District Council’s decision to relocate to new offices. The site, known as Knowle, has been home to the Council’s headquarters since the 1970s, but the increasing cost of maintaining and running an ageing building stock, coupled with the occupational inefficiencies, have prompted the Council’s decision to move.

The Knowle site represents an extremely rare opportunity to acquire an exceptional redevelopment location within a stunning parkland setting in the desirable and affluent town of Sidmouth.

Sidmouth is adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and forms part of the protected Jurassic Coastline. Knowle is prominently located to the north west of the town centre and the topography of the site means that much of it benefits from southerly sea views. The property, in the development area, is not listed and is not within a Conservation Area.

Knowle is within the built up boundary of Sidmouth and the site has a draft allocation for 50 dwellings in the emerging East Devon Local Plan, which is expected to be adopted during 2015. The site extends to approximately 4.76 acres. The Council expects to be in a position to grant vacant possession by May 2017.

The Council will be advocating a high quality form of development commensurate with the natural beauty of the site. It would like to reach an agreement with the Town Council of Sidmouth whereby they take over ownership and management of the remaining parkland and this is the subject of discussion. Otherwise, EDDC will retain and manage the parkland in the absence of another agreement.

Nick Jones, Director of Savills in Exeter, adds: “The Knowle is a very special site in a stunning location and we expect to receive strong interest from a wide variety of parties. The site could suit a range of uses and it will be interesting to see what proposals come forward as a result of the marketing campaign”.

Richard Cohen, Deputy Chief Executive, states that: “The Knowle site represents a rare and high quality development opportunity. The existing building stock at the Knowle is now not fit for the Council’s purpose and our decision to relocate has been driven by a desire to deliver a modern council from modern offices. We are open minded about future uses for the site and the Council believes that the redevelopment opportunity within a retained parkland will be an attractive development and a strong legacy adding to the vibrancy of the town”.

The Council is also disposing of its nearby Manstone Depot, which extends to 1.33 acres and is situated within a residential area accessed off Tully Gardens, 1.2 miles north of the town centre. The property is currently used by the District Council as its depot facility. The site has the benefit of a draft allocation for 20 dwellings within the emerging East Devon Local Plan. The Council expects to provide vacant possession by the end of 2015.

Leader of the Council Paul Diviani adds: “The Knowle has been home to the Council for over 40 years but now we need to move. We believe the sale of both of these sites will provide value for Council Tax payers and the proposed relocation to new premises will enable the District Council to move with the times and provide outstanding services from a much better, more efficient building”.

The Knowle and Manstone Depot are available for sale independently or in combination.

The sites are being offered for sale by informal tender and the deadline for submission of offers is Wednesday 22nd October 2014.

All viewings are through sole selling agent, Savills. For further information, please contact Nick Jones on 01392 455712 / njones@savills.com or Mark Chugg on 01392 455 715 / mchugg@savills.com

East Devon District Council - News

Knowle relocation project: FOI request goes to tribunal: detailed report of proceedings

Following on from media and blog reports from the Tribunal in Exeter yesterday
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: FOI request goes to tribunal: further reports

... here is a more detailed account of both halves of proceedings:


August 28th 2014

The report below has kindly been provided by Sandra Semple, an EDA member, who agreed to attend the whole First Tier Tribunal Meeting of Information Commissioner v. EDDC. This is her personal report, does not necessarily represent the views of other EDA members and is given as a layperson with no legal training. Comments are not necessarily in the order taken but provide an overview.

First of all, see the report of Claire Wright, who also attended the morning meeting (but not the afternoon meeting) which I will not duplicate.

EDDC had provided a further 129 pages of evidence yesterday.


And see also report on Save Our Sidmouth website:


and here:


The whole argument turned on whether Mr Steve Pratten was (a) an employee of Davis Langdon (DL), or whether he was (b) an independent consultant or whether he was (c) embedded (I did keep mis-hearing “in bed with”!) EDDC as a “virtual officer”. This is relevant because if (a) or (b) then much more information is available for publication under Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 than if he is (c). Therefore EDDC evidence sought to confirm (c). This proved somewhat difficult, as Claire Wright’s report on the proceedings relates.

It also turned on what was not included in what could be put in the public domain. Mr Pratten said that in his section of the MINUTES of working party meetings (already agreed as being allowed to remain private) around 60% of the content of the minutes consisted of “cuts and pastes” from his report, leaving only 40% of his report available for consideration.

On being questioned, Mr Pratten said that Davis Langdon were invisible and silent and although presumably receiving a substantial monthly fee for providing the services of Mr Pratten they had no input whatsoever into his job. Mr Pratten said that he attended “4 or 5 meetings” at “his” (stet) office in Bristol (i.e. Davis Langdon) with a senior partner or partners but these were “informal” and at no time did any partner express any views whatsoever on Mr Pratten’s job with EDDC – he simply updated them and kept them in the loop but they said nothing. It therefore seemed that, at these meetings, Mr Pratten spoke but no-one answered. He has not been to his Bristol office this year.

Mr Pratten said that DL’s only practical input was to check a Quality Assurance document for typing errors, checked by a Mr Knapp in the Plymouth office. Richard Thurlow, on behalf of Jeremy Woodward, said he found this baffling: quality assurance is about more than ticking boxes. What would happen if there was a mistake? Who would be liable – DL or Mr Pratt or EDDC? I do not recall this being answered.

Mr Pratten was asked about public liability: who would be sued by the council if, hypothetically, this was necessary: DL or Mr Pratten. He replied that he did not know.

He was asked about his laptop – who provided it – DL but he also had an EDDC computer. He preferred the DL computer because it was quicker and he gave Mr Cohen his reports on a memory stick. His hard drive was backed up by DL’s computer system and therefore could theoretically be available to them.

He was questioned as to why the front and back pages of his reports were DL templates. He also confirmed that he used DL software and hardware. He said that was his own preference to use DL templates and that, although the front and back were DL templates, the content inside was his. He was asked if councillors would understand this but I do not recall his reply.

He was asked what email address he used and he said sometimes EDDC and sometimes DL, whichever was most convenient at the time. He said he was full-time at EDDC though this sometimes included working from home.

I also recall him, as does Claire Wright, being asked: If EDDC wanted a second opinion, would you mind if these reports were shown to your competitors and he replied that, as long as “our” budget information was redacted (not sure who “our” was), he would be happy for them to see the reports. He was asked what DL would think about this – he said he could not say.

The Information Commissioner’s barrister than spoke of an email from them which had “slipped out” of the documentation.

Mr Pratten was asked what would happen if information was given to the public: Land values of sites for consideration could escalate, costs would go up and values go down and there might be a reduced choice of sites.

EDDC’s barrister said that their entire bargaining position and the position for sale would be weakened if the information requested was released.

Mr Pratten said that “WE provided a tender” for the work.

EDDC’s barrister was asked who was Mr Pratten’s line manager, who was responsible for hiring, firing, training and review, who would terminate his employment if this became necessary – it was reported that Richard Cohen was considered line manager but that termination would be up to DL. He confirmed that he had received no training at EDDC, that he had signed a paper on secrecy and confidentiality and Mr Cohen said that he was bound by the Code for Officers, though Mr Pratten did not say that he had read it. Mr Pratten said that he had access to the full EDDC network on the computer except “the higher level” for the CEO level. He was an officer “in all but name”.

The Chairman attempted to make a distinction a number of times between someone who was employed on a particular project and someone who was a regular officer saying that an officer was someone who was involved with the wider business of the council whereas a consultant was involved with only one aspect of the council’s work and did not get involved in the wider business of the council. Mr Cohen said several times that he was finding it hard to grasp what the Chairman was getting at and he considered Mr Pratten the same as “any other officer”.

There was therefore some discussion about what Mr Pratten was involved in and what he was not It was confirmed that no staff reported to him and he did not have any budgetary responsibility – all budget requirements were signed off by Mr Cohen.

Mr Pratten gave his evidence (after barrister’s opening comments) from around 10.20 to 11.20 then it was the turn of Mr Cohen from around 11.20 to 13.00.

Mr Cohen said that he had taken much advice on relocation and it had convinced him he needed a dedicated professional and a named individual. He mentioned Michelmore’s Solicitors, the Met Office and others to whom he had turned for advice. Relocation was a complex matter and his expertise was reflected in his reports.

Mr Cohen said that it was essential that the meetings remained secret because it was “thinking time” for him and, if they were not secret, the meetings would have to rely on verbal reports only which was not satisfactory. He and his officers and the members of the Relocation Working Party needed “thinking space”.

Mr Cohen said that the council had decided to consider options for relocation in July 2011 and Mr Pratten had been employed in April 2012. Outline planning permission for Knowle had been discussed at a DMC meeting on 1 March 2013 and was refused. No formal discussion had taken place on sites and all were open for discussion at that time.

Mr Cohen talked at length about public consultation but it appeared to this layperson that there was confusion and conflation between the statutory consultation about Knowle planning application and the separate subject of Knowle relocation – the Knowle planning application consultation being confused with relocation. Mr Cohen mentioned with regard to consultation that there had been 42 press releases on the subject, 2 meetings (one outdoors in Sidmouth, one in a community centre) and a “stakeholders meeting” (but later confirmed that the stakeholder meeting had taken place after the Knowle planning application outcome). He mentioned extensive correspondence from members of the publice (“more than 2,000 responses, but unclear whether he was talking about the planning application or the subject of relocation).

At this point, Mr Woodward said that there had been “scant information” given to the public and there was a spontaneous outburst of approbation from many members of the public present.

Mr Cohen mentioned a problem about footpath access and said that he did not wish to give information to the “other side”.

Mr Cohen was asked about the relationship between Mr Pratten, himself and DL – could DL control or restrict information from or to Mr Pratten. Would there be things that DL said No to. If the employment was not working out who would replace Mr Pratten – EDDC or DL. DL but only an applicant agreed by EDDC (Mr Cohen) but this had not been needed. Summarised as: DL was available if needed but had not been needed.

Mr Cohen was asked if he had had any meetings with DL – only at the start of the process but not since. Did Mr Pratten have decision making ability – answer: the same as other officers. Did he get involved in wider council business – no. Did he abide by the Officers Code of Conduct. This was on a “Read and Agree” basis but this was not then explained in depth.

Did Mr Pratten’s emails get send from his EDDC or his DL address – both. Who is the yes/no decision maker regarding the Code of Conduct and Mr Pratten? Mr Cohen would seek guidance from the Legal Officer and/or the Monitoring Officer.

A discussion then ensued on what damage might be anticipated from disclosure: significant issues of commercial confidentiality, site sale value, outline planning application affected, options before decisions would all be affected if the reports were made public so they needed to be limited.

The Information Commissioner’s barrister said: if Reports 1-6 walk like a duck and quack like a duck (i.e. look like consultants reports with the DL front and back sheets) would members think they were from a consultant or documents from the council. EDDC’s barrister said that this question could not be asked: it was not for Mr Cohen to guess what members might think.

EDDC’s barrister said that Mr Cohen signed off all documents before they went to meetings and he was the final arbiter of what they contained and DL had no input. The key relationship was between him and Mr Pratten not him and DL.

Mr Cohen was asked again what public consultation had been undertaken and it was noted that, for the outline planning application, it had to be resubmitted three times because of erroneous content. Mr Cohen said that this was in only one document of the 29 reports submitted. He noted the 42 press releases and the stakeholders meeting after February 2013.

The function of the Kensington Taylor consultancy was questioned. They had been appointed before the project manager to work on the design of new accommodation. They were design and architecture consultants prior to the award of the work to DL (Mr Pratten). Did they meet with other officers? Only with Mr Cohen and possibly the Financial Director and maybe the Estates team.

Was this the first example of “embedding” a consultant in the council? Yes, Mr Cohen believed it was.

The female layperson asked about Report 2: there were 2 versions of it – which version did the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of July 2013 see when they asked for an updated report on the project? Mr Cohen confirmed that it was the shorter (second) report and they had been told that confidential information had been redacted from this report and those members on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee who had seen the full report were told to “consider their position” (this was not expanded on).

The layperson then asked if EDDC had an IT policy on import and export of documents from a secondary source – Mr Cohen confirmed that it was allowed.

The Information Commissioner’s barrister asked if there had been any contact between EDDC and DL on customer satisfaction about the contract – Mr Cohen said no. He was asked if he envisaged any such contact – he said maybe at some point and there might be a need to restructure arrangements.

Mr Cohen confirmed that, to date, there had been no site purchase and no construction.

He was asked if the relocation had been discussed at any public EDDC meetings. He said yes – at four of them to his recollection (not listed) but then went on to say that he had given more information in the private part (part B) of these meetings to members only but that he thought that some appendices to reports had been made public (but did not elaborate on what they were) but confirmed no extracts from the reports had ever been made public.

The morning ended with a technical question on what a phrase “partnerships with contractors” meant in one document. Mr Cohen said that it meant examples of DL working in partnership with others.

The session ended at 13.00 hours. The Chairman said that the meeting would go into closed session at 2 pm. Mr Thurlow would not be allowed at that meeting but could submit written questions to it. In fact, the closed session lasted until 5 pm.

Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council – report on morning session | East Devon Alliance


August 28th 2014

The report below has kindly been provided by Sandra Semple, an EDA member, who agreed to attend the whole First Tier Tribunal Meeting of Information Commissioner v. EDDC. This is her personal report, does not necessarily represent the views of other EDA members and is given as a layperson with no legal training. Comments are not necessarily in the order taken but provide an overview.

Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council

Afternoon session

Although it had been anticipated that the closed session would last from 2 pm to 3 pm it lasted from 2 pm to 5 pm.

The Chairman said that he would not be able to finalise the case today because 7 matters were outstanding. These related to Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 sections 12.5 (b) and 12.5 (e).

I may have missed some essential information as the Chairman went very quickly here, so this is notes only.
Confidential discussions on sites – the Information Commissioner had a neutral position.
Actual and potential costs what had potential contractors said: one had said they did not want their information revealed, others said that they preferred it not to be revealed. The Council maintained that it risked losing the trust of contractors if information was disclosed, it would prejudice their interests and given them a weaker argument in tenders. The Information Commissioner opposed this stance and further submissions were needed.
Legal advice with 2 concerns (1) it might affect members freedom to act (2) it would disadvantage the council with further objections – further submissions.
Legal advice to the council – some agreed redactions between Information Commissioner and council which were helpful, (one less issued).
Legal advice again – same issue – the Information Commissioner opposed the council’s position.
Confidential information negotiations – accepted in part/opposed in others – further submissions needed.
12 (4) EIA: council asked about document issue sheets and contents re sign off – appendices in public domain read like DL – council says substance not undermined, clarification.

Council now has 7 days to provide further and final evidence on this matters as the Chairman said he wanted the examination to be complete, exhaustive and thorough.

The Information Commissioner and Mr Woodward would also be free to provide further evidence as they thought fit.

It was agreed that after the 7 days, Information Commissioner counsel and EDDC Council counsel would suggested dates for further examination with a timetable. The Tribunal will meet again at a date to be decided and, following that meeting, will give its decision (hopefully) within 2-3 weeks

Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council – report on afternoon session | East Devon Alliance