Sunday, April 8, 2012
Sir - I was surprised to learn from last week’s Opinion that Sidmouth had seven East Devon District Council councillors who are responsible for our town (‘Time for Courage’). Who are they, and why do we not constantly read of their efforts in protecting our precious environment from others who wish to destroy it?
Perhaps your excellent paper could publish a regular feature, entitled ‘Council Corner’. It would be helpful if this could include photographs of our elected representatives, so that we would know who they are, and could politely challenge them personally when we meet them.
It would be very re-assuring to read of their potential successes in stopping or mitigating against some of the very real threats to Sidmouth and its environment (eg the horrendous proposal to ruin the Knowle and further unnecessary, state-subsidised housing and uncalled-for industrial units). Equally, it would be useful to know when, despite their very best efforts, they had been defeated by the rest of EDDC or our current left-wing government. This would also be most illuminating in deciding which party to vote for next time.
At the moment, I regret that I can see very little attempt to perform their elected function in a way that benefits our town. There is a high degree of invisibility, which does nothing for democracy. Indeed, many people from Sidmouth must be wondering what we get in return for paying their expenses.
EDDC have already voluntarily agreed to an industrial estate, or ‘Growth Point’, of over 100 acres on valuable agricultural land near the airport; knowing that only 30 per cent of the jobs it is forecast to generate would be met locally - the rest will be filled by inward migration. This in turn would require more housing, NHS, schools, social benefits and so on; and it is why Cranbrook and two more substantial villages are being built in Devon. The recent ploy to build an unnecessary 12-acre industrial estate outside Sidford is just that, a ploy. It will be mostly unused and then turned over to housing; making yet more profit for developers.
‘Council Corner’ could also report on any significant development that had been proposed or approved in the area. It could include who the developer was, and which council members and planning officers had been in favour of it going ahead. In this way, planning procedure would be more transparent.
It’s heartbreaking watching the systematic destruction of England; because the rest of the Union (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), will not put up with what has happened here. Poor educational standards; the worst NHS treatment; most unregulated immigration and high crime levels are in England. Now new planning laws (only in England) are poised to ruin what of value is left.
Our Westminster politicians are unworthy and have done an abysmal job over the past 30 years. We now need a new breed of local councillors, who are prepared to loudly and effectively stand up for everything that is dear to us, and that is now being threatened.
Councillors continually use the excuse that if they do not comply with central Government legislation, then it will be imposed on them. So we need to ask ourselves, what can the Government really do if a council gives a point blank NO? Send in the troops? It only takes one council to say enough is enough; the rest of the country will follow.
Unfortunately, when councillors belong to a political party they vote as they are ‘told’, and not as they should; ‘towing the party line’, even if their principles tells them otherwise. And we, our democracy, and our country are poorer for it.
I have much respect for the Sid Vale Association and would urge them to field multiple candidates at the next EDDC elections, who would genuinely put Sidmouth and its future at the top of their agenda.(Otter Valley Association may well consider doing likewise, in Honiton, Budleigh and Ottery)
It’s our only hope.