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Sunday, 30 April 2017

Devon County Council elections: the issues > devolution

Where do the candidates for the County elections stand on the various permutations of devolution being offered? 

Much of it's about 'Greater Exeter' - with regular reports on where we might be with this proposal from the EDW blog throughout April:
A warning for “Greater Exeter” as London council backs out of 3- council agreement due to lack of transparency and conflicts of interest | East Devon Watch
“Fears Greater Exeter Plan is being ‘dumped on us’ raised at consultation event” | East Devon Watch
Greater Exeter – BOOM, BOOM, BOOM | East Devon Watch
Public ‘not excited by devolution’ says firm of consultants | East Devon Watch
“Greater Exeter Strategic Plan”: are we already shafted? | East Devon Watch

And then there is the offer of union with neighbouring Somerset by way of the Local Enterprise Partnership:
What SHOULD super-Mayors (and LEPs) be doing? | East Devon Watch
LEP announces 8 new board members – four of which already held LEP positions | East Devon Watch

Ultimately, this issue is not really an issue as far as the public is concerned - as they seem totally turned off by it all:


Public ‘not excited by devolution’


6 Apr 17
The public is becoming increasingly disengaged with devolution despite its political priority for the government, research from consultancy firm GK Strategy has found.

A state-of-the-nation report on devolution in England found that whilst the agenda continues to be a political priority for the government, the prospect of further powers and accountability being shifted to a local level has failed to capture the public’s attention.
Yesterday’s report states “devolution has so far failed to win over the hearts and minds of people” because of a consistent reluctance by Whitehall to relinquish control over public spending.
Researchers explain that where local authorities do have greater control, they are working with smaller budgets and having to do more with less.
The perception that devolution is “merely passing the buck” of spending cuts to local authorities may be another reason why the concept has failed to capture public interest.
In partnership with its sister company onefourzero, GK monitored online conversations finding there has been a 37% decrease in online conversations regarding devolution in the UK from November 2014, when the first city deal was announced.
Devolution was most discussed in November 2015, around the time the city deals for Liverpool and Birmingham were sealed.
The report states: “What is remarkable is that despite the impending mayoral elections this May, conversations have steadily decreased year on year indicating a disengaged public.”
According to the researchers, there are two likely reasons for the level of disengagement with the concept of devolution, both of which are closely associated with the specific roles of elected mayors.
Firstly, the two largest English cities outside of London – Manchester and Birmingham – both voted against having an elected mayor less than five years ago in a referendum in each city.
Secondly, the public lacks a clear understanding over the role of the mayor in relation to the devolution process and the elected councils.
Chief executive of GK Strategy, Emily Wallace, said: “Our research clearly shows that whilst devolution in England has been a project of successive UK governments and been broadly supported by all major parties, it has failed to capture people’s interest in the way other issues have.
“A number of factors lie behind this, but a common view is that devolution in England has been delegation of blame at a time of public spending consolidation, rather than delegation of power and responsibility.”

Public ‘not excited by devolution’ | Public Finance
Public ‘not excited by devolution’ says firm of consultants | East Devon Watch

In fact, no one seems to be happy about the various deals being offered...
Futures Forum: The promises of devolution in the South West
Futures Forum: When and how does devolution become a scam? >>> >>> "The LEP for Devon & Somerset is enjoying a windfall, while public services are cut…"
Futures Forum: The increasing confusion of choices for devolution >>> >>> Heart of the South West LEP..... or: Greater South West..... or: Greater Exeter Growth and Development Board............. or: An Exeter/Plymouth/Torbay supermayor
Futures Forum: The Greater Exeter Visioning Board: and quietly pushing into East Devon
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Plans for Port Royal: anticipating a Regeneration Board >> meeting the stakeholders >> further reports

The consultants for the Scoping Study have been speaking to the leaseholders:
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: anticipating a Regeneration Board >> meeting the stakeholders

The Express & Echo has an extensive report on these latest steps:

Work continues on scoping study to redevelop key Sidmouth seafront site

By DanielClark | Posted: April 27, 2017



Port Royal area

Regenerating and renewing the eastern end of Sidmouth seafront is a step closer. In partnership with Sidmouth Town Council, East Devon District Council has starting a process to renew the Port Royal area of the seafront – an area that has been highlighted as suitable for potential development.

Positive discussions around the future of Port Royal have been held between the major leaseholders, including Sidmouth Lifeboat and the Sailing Club, the key landowners Sidmouth Town and East Devon District Councils and Jillings Heynes, the consultant carrying out a study into the viability of the area.



The councils have commissioned a study to assist them in understanding whether the renewal of Port Royal is achievable, and what any potential development might include.

The study is the very first step in exploring renewal options for the area and it will provide expert opinion on the opportunities and constraints of any development. The study will also identify the boundaries, ownership and the needs of existing occupants.

Cllr Jeff Turner, Chairman of Sidmouth Town Council and Chairman of the Port Royal Reference Group said: “Talking with and listening to the current leaseholders and allowing them to have a dialogue with the consultants is a vital part of the scoping study process. It will assist the consultants and the councils in understanding what is achievable on the important Port Royal site."

Meetings have been taking place over the last few weeks and were very constructive with the tenant representatives having the opportunity to set out their aspirations for the future.


It was also explained to the tenants what the next steps of the scoping project would be and how there would be further opportunity for more consultation to involve the wider public in the near future in which people could further express their views, thoughts and ideas directly to the consultants.

An officer from East Devon District Council visited the Lifeboat and spent time with the organisation to watch and learn more about their activities to understand the important work they carry out which included the logistics of manoeuvring boats and trailers. Consultants and officers will also be visiting the Sailing Club on site in the future.

Once all the data has been gathered and considered the consultants will look at producing a set of recommendations which will balance community expectations with what is achievable in the area. These recommendations will then be considered by Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council.


Work continues on scoping study to redevelop key Sidmouth seafront site | Devon Live
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Knowle relocation project and the great town hall property buying spree >>> "Why is the government lending to local authorities to buy real estate on terms that make bank lending to the property sector before the [great financial crisis] look positively conservative”

The District Council is entering the property market:
Futures Forum: District Council local housing company >>> "the ‘huge risk’ in speculating on the property market"

So are many others:

THE GREAT TOWN HALL PROPERTY BUYING SPREE


April 9 2017 | by Oliver Shah @ The Sunday Times

Cash-strapped authorities have become real estate investors to raise funds.

Councils are using a loophole in Treasury borrowing to pile into real estate – and create a tower of debt.

After a career as an investment manager at HBOS, the bank that had to be bailed out by Lloyds during the financial crisis, Donna Jones became leader of Portsmouth city council in 2014. It was a time of belt-tightening, with the prospect of government funding for local authorities drying up altogether by 2020.

“It was clear to me we had to start running councils like businesses,” said the 39-year-old Conservative councillor. “To survive during the austerity programme, the only way to protect high-quality public services was to go out and generate income. We’re not moving to fortnightly bin collections or closing any libraries, swimming pools or museums.”

She has been true to her word. The council is now selling back-office facilities, such as human resources and IT support, to charities and smaller councils. It has leased the naming rights to the Spinnaker Tower, the city’s 560ft-high landmark, to Emirates airline.

Portsmouth’s local authority has also amassed a commercial property portfolio — most of it many miles away from Fratton Park football stadium, HMS Victory and Southsea Castle.

Using £110m of debt, Portsmouth has so far bought properties including a DHL distribution centre near Birmingham, a Waitrose store in Somerset and a Matalan warehouse in Swindon. In December, it sold a long lease on the Wightlink ferry terminal to the insurer Canada Life for £73m. The proceeds will be used to raise the portfolio’s size to more than £180m.

Jones said the deals were already producing £4.9m of annual income after interest. Combined with other measures, that means only £900,000 of the £9m budget cuts that Portsmouth must implement in the coming year will have to be passed on to residents through service reductions, she said.

Across England, other councils are doing the same. Empowered by the 2011 Localism Act and funded by cheap loans from an obscure subsidiary of the Treasury, 49 local authorities went on a £1.3bn property buying spree last year — spending far more than the £142m recorded in 2015.

However, there are growing concerns in the private sector and parts of Westminster that government grant cuts, coupled with generous lending by the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), are encouraging councils to take risks they do not properly understand — in an asset class that is more volatile than many realise. Most of the property deals have been 100% funded with debt, leaving both councils and the Treasury exposed to immediate losses if values fall.

William Hill, the former head of property at the fund manager Schroders, warned in January that councils were “behaving like hedge funds exploiting a financial arbitrage”. He questioned why the government was lending to local authorities “to buy real estate on terms that make bank lending to the property sector before the [great financial crisis] look positively conservative”.

Trinova » The great town hall property buying spree

The EDW blog pointed to the example of Tunbridge Wells:
Councils as developers | East Devon Watch

With a letter to the Sunday Times:


Council spending


April 16 2017, 12:01am, The Sunday Times

Town halls have been buying up properties, and creating piles of debt

Further to “The great town hall property buying spree” (last week), Tunbridge Wells borough council has a property portfolio worth more than £100m and is still spending.

The last published accounts show that on this investment it made a net profit of just £500,000 — it had not reckoned with the crippling costs of repairs and refurbishment.

These councillors think they know the property market, but they don’t have a clue. They now plan to build a new town hall. This is an enormous folie de grandeur that will leave taxpayers on the hook.

Tunbridge Wells has a town hall, but it has been allowed to fall into disrepair. Was this part of the plan?

1st March 2017

SERVICING the debt on the proposed new Civic Complex will cost the Borough Council £2.4million a year for half a century, it has been disclosed.

Council Leader David Jukes revealed the figure at a marathon meeting of the full council last week, but argued the costs would be outweighed by the financial benefits of the scheme.

There was clear dissent among some Conservative members who expressed misgivings about the cost of building a Civic Complex.

The council plans on borrowing £72million, with interest and payment of principle amounting to £2.4 million per annum across the lifetime of the loan.

Cllr Jukes attempted to head off a row over the payment of interest, by arguing the rate of just under three per cent was fixed for the duration and therefore the real cost will be eroded over time.

He said: “It is like taking out a mortgage over 50 years. Five decades ago I took out a mortgage at a fixed rate of seven per cent and the repayments were £24 a month. What is £24 a month today?

“In 50 years’ time the £2.4million we will be paying, at the rate of inflation we have had over the last half a century, will probably be peanuts.”


Tory rebels fail in bid to block plans for new Civic Complex | Times of Tunbridge Wells
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Thomas Paine: a revolutionary for our times: Sat 6th May

Two hundred years ago, the Revolutionary thinker Thomas Paine was keen on the ideas of a Land Value Tax:
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems >>> a land value tax
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems >>> deter property and land speculation

And a Universal Basic Income:
Futures Forum: Universal Basic Income and Negative Income Tax versus 'funding for the more deserving poor'

A session is being devoted to him - in verse and song next Saturday in Totnes:
Musical tribute to Paine | News | Totnes Times


In May 2017 don’t miss:



Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson’s celebration of 
the life and writings of Tom Paine
The Liberty Tree
Saturday May 6th 2017
Civic Hall, High Street, Totnes, TQ9 5SF
18.00 Doors open.  Wonderful soup and bread from the Kitchen Table
18.15 – 19.15 Discussion of Tom Paine’s ideas about land. (All you need is an interest in land, peace and social justice).
We have just republished his Agrarian Justice (the proposal for a Universal (Basic) Income funded by Land Value Taxation) and his Proposal that Louisiana be Purchased (his proposal for avoiding war between the USA and France).  Both of these ideas are highly relevant to our situation right now.
19.30 The Liberty Tree. This evening brings together two of Britain’s greatest singer-songwriters, Robb Johnson and Leon Rosselson. Their songs pull no political punches and lift the spirits of anybody with any sort of concern about contemporary life, politics and society.
They are re-united to perform The Liberty Tree, their tribute to Tom Paine so this is an opportunity not to be missed.  They interweave some of their most-loved songs (including The World Turned Upside Down and Red and Green) with readings by and about Tom Paine.  For a review of their performance in March see http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-feb1-Inspirational-performance-of-The-Liberty-Tree#.WPNh1VBtnwd
Please reserve a place in advance to be sure of a place (and soup). There is no fixed charge but donations on the night.  Book now
double CD is available.


Gigs – My CMS
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Climate change >>> take control of the energy we use

What can we 'do' about climate change?
The Science Festival looked at this earlier in the year:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Climate Week: >>> What can we do about climate change?

And with some very practical points too:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Climate Week: Saturday 25th March >>> How low can energy costs get? How can communities get control of their energy? And how can we get to low-carbon energy? 

The New Economics Forum looks at where we are now - and asks: 

HOW DO WE ACTUALLY CHANGE STUFF?


Fewer than 18 months since world leaders pledged to try to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, it looks like it may be game over. New research suggests we only have four years at current emissions rates before we blow the 1.5° carbon budget.
Securing the ambition – if not the commitment – to 1.5° in Paris was a major win for the world’s most vulnerable nations. A major study in 2012 linked 400,000 early deaths a year to the impacts of an already changing climate.  It’s literally a matter of life and death.
With so much at stake, and so much stacked against us, it’s easy to lose hope. But even if aiming for 1.5° looks tough, it’s still the right thing to do.
Climate change is a continuum, not a binary choice. Every fraction of a degree throws more chaos and risk into the system. A 1.6° rise is better than a 1.7° rise. And so on. Let’s just do as much as we can, as quickly as we can. Let’s say we tried.
But: how?
I don’t mean ‘what do we need to technically do’. We know that. Very many policy reports have been written, such as last week’s contribution from the IEA and the International Renewable Energy Association.
But they’re just words. Emissions are still going up. Actions aren’t keeping pace with implied lines on graphs.
Take fossil fuel subsidies. Obviously we need to end them, and in the next few years. But there’s a gulf between imperative and honest action – much like the Paris pledge to 1.5° itself.

So: how? How do we actually change stuff?
Power. We need to talk about power. There’s a reason many of the world’s richer economies have done so little for so long on climate change. It’s hard, and it makes you powerful enemies.  Particularly so when your entire industrial and to an extent financial system has been built around fossil fuels; when oil companies have so much clout with and influence over governments; and when the faint threat of angry queues at petrol stations is enough to give any mandarin palpitations.
We’re talking about a mass disruption: a rapid change from one state to another, far faster than would happen as a result of things like ‘peak oil’That’s scary to a lot of people with a lot of power.
There are probably, very crudely, three ways that power might be unseated.
  1. Game-changing technological innovation. This is afoot all right, but is it enough? Tesla is now valued more highly than Ford. But even unflappable entrepreneurs need governments to set the right conditions. There’s still nowhere near a level playing field on the economics of energy: renewable energy support remains under assault despite trillion dollar fossil fuel subsidies, while the price of carbon fails to capture the damage it causes. Outrage is needed, and must be cultivated, about taxpayer handouts to extremely profitable dinosaur industries.
  1. The cultural toxification of fossil fuels, with behaviour change to match. We’ll know we have ‘won’ the fight against climate change not when lines on graphs are coming down in a nice orderly fashion, but when the very idea of an economy based around fuels that kill people is considered abhorrent and unfathomable. This is the real power of the divestment movement, and why those who carp at its superficially marginal impact on the share price of oil majors totally miss the point. It tells a story of agency – ‘I can do something’ – and of the inevitability of the end of the fossil fuel age. And it needn’t all be negative either: new models of ownership can help usher in the everyday, unthinking normalisation of decentralised, clean energy, where we can all permanently take control of the energy we use.
  2. And yes, political will. This is often talked about in the abstract: politicians need to just ‘do something’. But simply to yell impotently about the need for ‘political will’ is to howl into the void. Political will doesn’t just appear – not in a system this tentacularly wrapped around fossil fuels. Delivering it needs untenable pressure to change. In the absence of replacing parliamentary democracy with a dictatorship – something into which you would, shall we say, not want to rush – that pressure has to come from somewhere. And it has to be pressure not just to make promises like those in Paris, important as signals to the market though those are, but to actually drive them through. We need, more than ever, campaigns and movements, uprisings and protests. What else, after all, is there to do? And not necessarily about ‘climate change,’ that often ephemeral concept – but about energy access, and clean air, and corporate greed, and the future of our economy.
People aren’t lines on graphs. They’re messy and unpredictable bags of water – seven billion of them.  Changing complex systems is one heck of a messy and unpredictable business.  The above forces – and other ones too, no doubt – will interact with each other. Who knows quite how it’ll all pan out.
But we do know that we need to understand power just as much as we understand emissions pathways, or all those reports may end up being little more than glossy ‘I told you so’s.

This article first appeared in Business Green and is reproduced here with permission. 




Three reasons that we are not lines on graphs - Business Green
Three reasons that we are not lines on graphs | New Economics Foundation
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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Stretching the boundaries of zero-carbon building

It looks good and it ticked all the boxes for 'sustainable design':



Dartington Primary School | Have Your Say

However, it had to be demolished only seven years after it was built:
'Visionary' £7m eco-school to be demolished because of leaky roof - Telegraph
Demolition of leaky primary school at middle of £7m law suit is set to begin | Plymouth Herald

The Architect's Journal has looked into it a little more:

Exclusive: Demolished eco-school’s design ‘fell below expected level of competence’


12 APRIL, 2017 BY ELLA BRAIDWOOD


A zero-carbon school by White Design, demolished last year, was damaged by water ingress ‘largely due to defects in the design’, a damning report has found

The 2012 report by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), obtained by the AJ under the Freedom of Information Act, sheds light into the demolition of Dartington Primary School in Devon just seven years after its completion. The school, built for £6.5 million, had previously been lauded for its groundbreaking use of sustainable architecture.


Exclusive: Demolished eco-school’s design ‘fell below expected level of competence’ | News | Architects Journal

However, whilst there are plenty of other fiascoes
Masdar's zero-carbon dream could become world’s first green ghost town | Environment | The Guardian

... there are many successful exciting projects out there:
London's cleanest, greenest homes - The great Grosvenor experiment


Including in the West Country:
The Emerald wins special mention at South West Tourism Awards | The Emerald Cornwall

And more local authorities are recognising the benefits of encouraging such architecture and design principles:
New design and conservation awards – Shropshire Council
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Devon County Council elections: the issues > infrastructure

The County has a very large budget - and much of it is for infrastructure:
Infrastructure | Economy and Enterprise

Devon County Council is responsible for 85 per cent of all local public services in Devon.

With an annual budget of more than £1.1 billion, it touches the lives of thousands of people by providing vital local services to support children and families, the elderly and vulnerable and communities.

It is also responsible for important infrastructure such as Devon’s massive road network and is the only democratically-elected voice for the whole county on issues such as the economy and sustainability.

Helping the local community to recover from the recession, investing in a sustainable future for our communities, protecting the environment, caring for our growing number of old people, ensuring a good future for our children are all key issues the county continues to face in the coming years.

Continued pressure on public spending, a national crisis in health and social care, devolution of powers from Westminster and Brexit all give this particular election added significance.

Crediton Rural candidates in the County Council elections on May 4 | News | Crediton Country Courier

Politicians do like to promise lots of infrastructure:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Trump and infrastructure projects

Loads of cash are being thrown at bridges, roads and the like - just a couple of weeks before the County election:

Sid Valley to benefit from Devon’s £50m roads programme

13 April 2017 Stephen Sumner

Alma Bridge. Ref shs 8755-10-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Pothole repairs on the main road through Sidford and detailed designs to replace Alma Bridge feature in a £51.4million capital programme for 2017/18.

The Department for Transport cash will also allow Devon County Council (DCC) to keep highways and footways safe and to improve their drainage.

The A3052 in Sidford features in a £9.8million maintenance programme that focuses on roads with a large number of potholes and structural defects.

Some £100,000 has been allocated for the work in Church Street and High Street.

Funding has also been set aside for detailed design and, subject to approval, start of construction of a replacement for Alma Bridge, which was damaged in 2012.

Some £45,000 has been allocated for assessment and there is a further £250,000 for construction.

But a report to DCC’s cabinet says the Government award ‘provides insufficient capital funding to meet all network maintenance needs’.

C roads and unclassified roads make up 87 per cent of Devon’s 8,000-mile highways network, and the report also says almost a quarter of them need immediate maintenance.


Sid Valley to benefit from Devon’s £50m roads programme - Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT:

Whilst this might all be very welcome, the town is still awaiting the 'traffic management report' promised ten years ago:
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Transport - January 2008
Futures Forum: Traffic Management Plan for Sidmouth: looking for 'low cost, quick win' solutions

BROADBAND:

And there is that other bit of infrastructure these rural parts are still missing. The issue of availability of rural broadband is pressing and continues to be a problem: “another £53million was needed for Devon-wide rural broadband.” 
£12m infrastructure plan for Sidmouth - News - Sidmouth Herald 
Patchy' services blight communities (January 2017)

It's one of many priorities for the leading party
Devon Tories want four more years as Sajid Javid launches 'From Austerity to Opportunity' manifesto | Devon Live

And whilst the EDA might not be very happy
Rural Broadband « East Devon Alliance

... the leading party is:
Cllr Ian Thomas - Trinitymatters - 1,000Mb Broadband coming to Trinity – no, it’s not April 1st!
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Extreme sports and the environment

The top story on-line at the Herald is the damage off-road vehicles can do to vulnerable habitats:

Sidmouth police crack down on 4x4 drivers ‘risking beaver welfare’ on River Otter

28 April 2017 Stephen Sumner

Police provided this photo of a 4X4 on Clinton Devon Estates' land in Dotton as an example of the issue.

‘Selfish’ 4x4 drivers ‘trashing’ the beautiful countryside surrounding Sidmouth could be threatening England’s first wild beavers in more than 300 years.

Police Sergeant Andy Squires said offenders are taking their four-wheel-drives over historic Devon banks and farm crops - and even up the River Otter. If caught, those responsible could be summonsed to court or served a Police Reform Act notice, which could see their vehicles seized and crushed if they are used in an antisocial manner a second time.

Sgt Squires said: “They have trashed the Devon banks and verges around White Cross car park [on Fire Beacon Hill] and East Hill, and more recently have been driving up the River Otter. This last weekend, damage was caused to the river bank, the farmer’s crops adjacent, not to mention the environmental damage to the river. They do not have the landowner’s permission. It is an offence to drive a vehicle elsewhere than on a road and we will be looking to prosecute anyone caught doing so.

“Green laning is an entirely different matter, usually undertaken by responsible enthusiasts on lanes and tracks where vehicles are permitted.”

Green lanes – shown as white lines on an Ordnance Survey map – are permitted for vehicle use as they are technically highways, but that also means normal laws, standards of driving and vehicle documentation apply.

Sgt Squires added: “Driving up a Devon bank, through a hedge or down a river is unacceptable and will be taken seriously. It is selfish and unfair on those that enjoy our beautiful countryside.”

He said witnesses to 4x4s being driven off-road should call 101 unless someone’s life is in danger, when they should call 999.

Stephen Hussey, of the Devon Wildlife Trust, said: “Using a vehicle in this fashion is reckless and shows a lack of care for local people and the countryside. Beyond the damage to farmers’ land and livestock, this kind of irresponsible behaviour will also harm nature.

“The River Otter is home to some special wildlife. It has good numbers of otters, kingfishers and, of course, is the place where we now have a breeding population of beavers – the first time that these animals have been seen in the English countryside for 300 - 400 years. It would be a shame if the welfare of this special wildlife is put at risk by a few thoughtless people.”

Estate surveyor Clare James confirmed that there had been several incidents involving 4x4s being driven onto Clinton Devon Estates land near Dotton and information had been passed to police and the Environment Agency.


Sidmouth police crack down on 4x4 drivers ‘risking beaver welfare’ on River Otter - Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

There were attempts to allow vehicles up onto Mutters More - but the application was refused:
Futures Forum: Mutter's Moor: Trail Rider's Fellowship application to change classification of rights of way: consultation ends Friday 27th Sept
Futures Forum: Devon County officers recommend Mutter's Moor and Fire Beacon Hill bridleways remain closed to traffic ... Committee meets 25th February

But bikers are not necessarily about trashing habitats, as with this piece from Totnes last year:

‘Lost lane’ reopens thanks to bikers

Friday, 15 January 2016 By in Local People




Job almost done – trail riders whose efforts have saved a green lane from closure

Bikers have put their muscle and money behind a mini bridge building operation to reopen the ‘lost lane’ of Harbertonford. The 1km long Ashwell Lane, near Rolster Bridge, is part of the area’s network of green lanes. It was closed as a through route one year ago after a bridge became too dangerous to use. But now it is back in use after members of the Devon Trail Riders Fellowship teamed up with the county council to repair it.

This week the county council admitted that if the bikers’s group had not helped, the lane would have had to remain closed. Ten tonnes of sand and cement were used to rebuild the bridge with some of the materials funded by the Train Riders Fellowship – which also provided some of the skilled labour in the shape of three stonemasons who are members of the motorcycle fellowship.


‘Lost lane’ reopens thanks to bikers | News | Totnes Times

As with the hunting fraternity, there is an interesting relationship between 'extreme sports' and 'the environment'.

For example:


Extreme Sports as a Precursor to Environmental Sustainability


Eric Brymer , Greg Downey & Tonia Gray 01 Dec 2010

Extreme sports have unfortunately gained a reputation for being risk focused and adrenaline fuelled. This perspective has obscured the place of the natural world, making extreme athletes appear to seek to conquer, compete against or defeat natural forces. In contrast, this paper explores findings from a larger ... study that suggests extreme sports can initiate a positive change in participants’ relationships with the natural world. 


Reports indicate that extreme sport participants develop feelings of connection to the natural world and describe themselves as being at one with the natural world or connected through a life enhancing energy. The paper draws on theoretical perspectives in ecopsychology which suggest that feeling connected to nature leads to a desire to care for the natural world and contributes to more environmentally sustainable practices.

Extreme Sports as a Precursor to Environmental Sustainability: Journal of Sport & Tourism: Vol 14, No 2-3

Although there are differences between using a vehicle and not - as pointed out by the same author as above, this time on a north Devon website:

Adrenaline zen: what we can learn from extreme sports



Eric Brymer, Leeds Beckett University

BASE jumping, wingsuit flying, big wave surfing, extreme skiing and solo rope-free climbing, when we think of someone who takes part in these extreme activities, we think of a risk-taker. The type of person you might describe as a “deviant hedonist” or a “sensation-seeker”, who is looking for an “adrenaline rush”. And they are most likely to be young and male.

The problem with this stereotype of extreme sport participants, is that not only does it not always ring true, but it also means that extreme sports then become viewed in a way that makes them inaccessible to “normal people”.

This view can be extremely damaging, especially given evidence – which emerged when I was researching a book on the subject – shows that extreme sports might actually be more accessible and have more of a positive impact than traditional, competitive sports.

Interviews I conducted with people between the ages of 30 and 70 who participate in extreme sports suggested they can help to create profound and positive life changes – both in the short term and longer term. So instead of just the fast-paced experiences often portrayed in short videos of extreme sports, in reality, participants describe a feeling of peace and tranquillity during the experience that reflects something similar to mindfulness.

Over the long term, these experiences support sustained well-being benefits including the realisation that emotions, such as fear, that are traditionally considered negative, do not have to constrain one’s potential.


Adrenaline zen: what we can learn from extreme sports |

You could of course just get on your (non-motorized) bike:
Dartmoor's spring makeover | Environment | The Guardian
Tamar trails: get on your bike this summer | West Country - ITV News
In Devon heaven: cycling the Exe Estuary trail | Travel | The Guardian
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Friday, 28 April 2017

Plans for Port Royal: anticipating a Regeneration Board >> meeting the stakeholders

Things are moving with the Scoping Study for Port Royal:
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: anticipating a Regeneration Board >> updated input from the Vision Group
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: anticipating a Regeneration Board >> consultants meet Scoping Study Reference Group and start gathering evidence

The Herald has the latest:

Sidmouth Lifeboat share insight for Port Royal study

PUBLISHED: 16:43 26 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:43 26 April 2017



An EDDC visited the Sidmouth Lifeboat station to learn more and see the crew in training


Sidmouth Lifeboat, the sailing club and other major leaseholders are joining discussions on the future of Port Royal and whether its renewal is achievable.

Landowners Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council (EDDC) have commissioned Jillings Heynes to conduct a study into the viability of the area.
As part of this, an EDDC officer has visited the Esplanade lifeboat station to learn more about how the crews work and the logistics of manoeuvring the boats and trailers. Sidmouth Sailing Club will soon have a similar visit.
In the near future, residents will have the chance to express their views, thoughts and ideas for Port Royal directly to the consultants.
Once all the data has been gathered and considered, Jillings Heynes will look at producing a set of recommendations – that balance community expectations with what is achievable in the area – for consideration by the two councils.
Councillor Jeff Turner, who chairs Sidmouth Town Council and the Port Royal reference group, said: “Talking with and listening to the current leaseholders and allowing them to have a dialogue with the consultants is a vital part of the scoping study process.
“It will assist the consultants and the councils in understanding what is achievable on the important Port Royal site.”
The scoping study is the very first step in exploring renewal options for the area and it will provide expert opinion on the opportunities and constraints of any development.
It will also identify the boundaries, ownership and the needs of existing occupants.

Sidmouth Lifeboat share insight for Port Royal study - Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

And here is the full press release from the District Council:



NewsPositive discussions continue around Port Royal

When this content has been created

26 April 2017

Work continues on scoping study for key Sidmouth site

Positive discussions around the future of Port Royal have been held between the major leaseholders including Sidmouth Lifeboat and the Sailing Club, the key landowners Sidmouth Town and East Devon District Councils and Jillings Heynes, the consultant carrying out a study into the viability of the area.

The meetings have been taking place over the last few weeks and were very constructive with the tenant representatives having the opportunity to set out their aspirations for the future. It was also explained to the tenants what the next steps of the scoping project would be and how there would be further opportunity for more consultation to involve the wider public in the near future in which people could further express their views, thoughts and ideas directly to the consultants.

The councils have commissioned a study to assist them in understanding whether the renewal of Port Royal is achievable, and what any potential development might include.
The study is the very first step in exploring renewal options for the area and it will provide expert opinion on the opportunities and constraints of any development. The study will also identify the boundaries, ownership and the needs of existing occupants. An officer from East Devon District Council visited the Lifeboat and spent time with the organisation to watch and learn more about their activities to understand the important work they carry out which included the logistics of manoeuvring boats and trailers. Consultants and officers will also be visiting the Sailing Club on site in the future.

Once all the data has been gathered and considered the consultants will look at producing a set of recommendations which will balance community expectations with what is achievable in the area.  These recommendations will then be considered by Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council.

Jeff Turner, Chairman of Sidmouth Town Council  and Chairman of the Port Royal Reference Group said:
Talking with and listening to the current leaseholders and allowing them to have a dialogue with the consultants is a vital part of the scoping study process. It will assist the consultants and the councils in understanding what is achievable on the important Port Royal site.

26 April 2017 - Positive discussions continue around Port Royal - East Devon
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