London - the floodplain development
Extract from the BBC on youtube here
Note the bit near the end about continuing to manage the floodrisk. You just can't build and forget.
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Community Action for Seaton's Regeneration Area, 80% owned by Tesco - a floodplain on a World Heritage site bordered by nature reserves, tidal river, the sea and the unspoilt town. SU4S is a state of mind - no members, no structure, no politics. SU4S has objected to 2 planning applications by Tesco, including one for a massive superstore/dot com distribution centre which led to the recent closure on the site of 400 tourist beds with the loss of 150 jobs,a gym and pool - all used by locals.
Extract from the BBC on youtube here
The Midweek Herald edited the letter regarding Stand Up For Seaton councillors and the issue of predetermination.
There has been much speculation in Seaton in the last few days as to why an agenda item at the Town Council meeting on Tuesday last week was adjourned. Some speculation has been surprisingly wild! I hope this letter will go some way to explaining the situation – at least from the point of view of the Independent Stand Up For Seaton councillors.
This came as something as a surprise for us, as it was a matter that would usually be heard by the Planning Committee of the Council and not full Council. At that point we were not aware what the item was; we subsequently found that it was supplementary information from the developers which had been required by the Environment Agency (EA) – their response to the Sequential and Exception tests for building on a flood plain. Basically, the EA required much more information from the developers (who, of course, include Liatris and East Devon District Council) on WHY they had to build on a flood plain and not anywhere else “in the vicinity”. The information was put in by the agents for Liatris.
We should point out that – in our view - this should NOT have been described as 06/3400/MFUL but as 06/3400/MOUT. This distinction is very important – the former would be a FULL planning application for the site whereas the latter is about OUTLINE planning application for the site - a very important difference. This mistake (if it is a mistake, as we presume) has not yet been corrected by EDDC. It was therefore not clear at the time exactly what we were supposed to be discussing as this was the only information on the agenda.
At this point we assumed that the agenda item would be heard by the whole council. However, on Friday 24 August 2007 an email was forwarded by us from the Town Clerk which stated that East Devon District Council’s Monitoring Officer (the person charged with ensuring that all councillors behave correctly) had informed her that EDDC had decided that, because Stand Up For Seaton had lobbied in the past about the planning application, the Independent Stand Up for Seaton councillors had been judged by EDDC to have “predetermined” the issue to be discussed – that is, they had made up their minds about it and hearing new evidence would not change their minds. The Town Clerk therefore would have had no alternative, by following EDDC’s advice, but to put the new information to only the other four town councillors – all of whom had been on last year’s council that had rejected the Liatris planning application.
There are a number of situations a councillor can be in about a matter which comes before the council. He or she can (a) have a completely open mind (b) have a personal interest in the matter (c) have a prejudicial interest in the matter (d) have predetermined the matter or (e) have a predisposition about a matter (have an idea how they think but prepared to change their minds if new evidence convinces them that this is the right thing to do. Two of these have no effect on whether you speak and vote – (a) and (e); one prevents you from speaking but allows you to vote (b); one prevents you from speaking or voting (c) and (d) effectively bans you from ever speaking or voting about the matter whenever anything about it comes up.
As can be understood, to have this information on the Friday before a Bank Holiday meant that we had no time to seek our own advice on this matter and therefore, when it came up on Tuesday 28 August 2007 (delayed by one day because of the Bank Holiday) we had no alternative but to adjourn the issue until we had taken our own advice.
Our position has constantly been that we are ALWAYS open to new information on this planning application and that, when it comes, we will deal with new information with an open mind – this is, we think, the only sensible and fair position for anyone to have. New information is new information – it must be dealt with on its merits and it might be such that it makes you change your mind about something. We saw ourselves as being in exactly the same position as the other four town councillors. However, EDDC believes that this is not so – we can only be against it, whatever it is, but the other councillors are not against it and will have the open minds that we are presumed not to have. This is not, and never has been, our position.
Over the next few days we did indeed seek our own advice – from the Devon Association of Parish Councils, two lecturers in Social Policy at two different universities and from the Local Government Association Independents’ office. All of them agreed that we could not be presumed to have predetermined this issue – at worst we had a personal interest, the most minor of the situations which would still allow us to participate in this item. They gave us evidence to back this up which we have now passed on to EDDC.
Several of the advisers also pointed out that, as Seaton Town Council is not the deciding authority in this matter, the issue of predetermination is not even a particularly important issue on this matter. Even EDDC cannot make a decision on the item from the agenda – only the Environment Agency can decide, we and EDDC can only note and/or comment.
So, the situation is now that the item will come up again in the near future. When it does, EDDC’s advice is that we must withdraw and not consider the item because EDDC thinks we have already decided what we think. Our own four advisers have said that we may (if we feel that we should) declare a personal interest as supporters of Stand Up For Seaton but we do not have to leave the meeting and we could vote if it were a voting matter (in this case, there will be no vote as it is not something we have can vote on as explained above).
There have been instances since we became councillors where we have been put under pressure to conform to other people’s views on what we should be saying and doing. However, we have dealt with these as they have come up and we have not let it stop us doing what we were elected for – Standing Up For Seaton.
We really do hope that in time people will realize that – if people really care about Seaton, then we are all on the same side. We should all be working for what is best for the town and its people now and in the future.
Stand Up For Seaton is NOT and never will be a political party – it is a state of mind that anyone who cares about Seaton can be in. It is a shame that, for some people at least, this is not possible.
We will continue to do what we were elected to do – Standing Up For Seaton.
Now available is a range of merchandise, the profits of which will go to Seaton Development Trust to aid any campaign to secure either an acceptable regeneration project, or to help fund a youth oriented project for Seaton.
For the video interview with Chris Burns, Reuters reporter in Amsterdam, which took place when we made a fact-finding visit to Amsterdam in August 2007, see this media clip.
Labels: resilient regeneration