Ward Member’s Report February 2019
70 years on, Government reviews National Parks and AONB’s
In May 2018, almost 70 years after National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) were first established, the Government, through Environment Secretary Michael Gove, announced a review of the future of our designated landscapes.
The review team is led by author and journalist Julian Glover, Associate editor at the London Evening Standard, and formerly a leader writer and columnist at the Guardian.
A New National Park for Dorset… (and East Devon?)
The ‘Dorset and East Devon National Park Team’ has been promoting the idea of a National Park for Dorset.
In its submission to the Glover Review, the Group refers to East Devon in little beyond the ‘title’ and ‘map’, simply dismissing East Devon in the assertion;
“Some of the evidence and research quoted relates to Dorset. Similar arguments and benefits would apply to East Devon”
The submission word count drives home this Dorset domination. ‘Dorset’ is referred to 262 times, ‘Devon’ only 29 times. Of that 29, 20 are in the form of the read through “Dorset and East Devon…”
So, who is the Devon and East Devon National Park Team?
The Dorset and East Devon National Park CIC (Community Interest Company) has its roots in the Dorset/Purbeck area. Companies House records incorporation in January 2017. Currently, 5 Officers are listed, ranging in age from 66 and 70. All give a correspondence address in Wareham Dorset.
This is a ‘self-selected’, unelected group, which first presented its idea in 2012/3 to AONB Partnerships in Devon and Dorset.
What is different between Dorset and Devon?
The two counties now have fundamentally different local government structures;
Dorset has incorporated the activities of the former West Dorset District Council within one of two ‘Unitary’ authorities, working directly with Town/Parish Councils, such as Lyme Regis Town Council.
Devon has no plan to change its current structure. Devon County Council works in association with East Devon District Council and Uplyme Parish Council in our area.
Unlike an AONB, a National Park becomes a local authority, the planning authority for its area. The D&EDNP team states that “in consultation with any Unitary Authority, established as a result of local government reorganisation the National Park Authority would develop a planning framework…” again this reflects the Dorset position, ignoring that in (East) Devon. The implication for coastal East Devon Towns and Parishes, including our Trinity Parishes of Uplyme, Combpyne-Rousdon and Axmouth in the current East Devon AONB (but not the remainder of East Devon or our Blackdown Hills AONB), would be a planning authority dominated by Dorset.
What is the East Devon District Council View?
“There have been suggestions in the past of creating a National Park incorporating the East Devon AONB. Concerns included the extensive time taken to establish a National Park, the economic uncertainty caused to local businesses and investors, and fundamental impacts on service provision and future development and use of land.
The Council considers that the existing AONB status in East Devon, combined with an adopted Local Plan and operational planning functions of the Development Management service of the Council, provides the best mechanism to meet and serve the balanced and sustainable development needs of the whole of East Devon.
The Council would also be concerned that the experience seen in the New Forest and the South Downs of rapidly increasing house prices would exacerbate the existing problem of providing affordable housing in our rural areas. In addition, designation of a National Park incorporating the Dorset AONB would see a large part of East Devon administered and controlled from Dorset and, notwithstanding the world heritage Jurassic coast designation, it is generally considered that there is little commonality between the two areas and their administrative counties’.
A Personal View?
The core aim of this group is clear, to establish a National Park for Dorset. Original proposals, and indeed the current submission are dominated by Dorset interests, paying lip service to East Devon, its governance, residents, business and visitors. This was further demonstrated in a recent report by the Lyme Online newspaper on a presentation by the ‘Dorset and East Devon National Park Team’, to Lyme Regis Town Council – reference reported exclusively referred to a ‘Dorset National Park’ without report of any reference to East Devon at all.
I consider the prospect of a large area of East Devon, from Uplyme to Exmouth, including the whole of Budleigh Salterton, controlled by a remote, unelected, Dorset centric body, totally inappropriate and unacceptable.
National Parks and AONB’s have very similar objectives, all consistent with the adopted East Devon Local Plan. The environment and ecological work of both our East Devon District Council Countryside Team, and the East Devon and Backdown Hills AONB teams, amply demonstrates this locally through East Devon District Council managed Seaton Wetlands and Trinity Hill Nature Reserve.
If Dorset residents and businesses wish to incorporate a new National Park into their governance, alongside their unitary councils, I respect their choice. However, I do not support inclusion of the East Devon AONB area in their proposal and would ask any reference to East Devon be removed.
Government commends East Devon Waste & Recycling…
I was proud to receive a letter just before Christmas from Dr Therese Coffey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment at DEFRA congratulating me, as Leader of the Council, on East Devon’s performance in England’s household waste and recycling rates. East Devon District Council achieved 54.2% recycling in 2017/18, a substantial increase of 8.1% over 2016/17.
The Minister highlighted her national priority Resource and Waste Strategy 2018, which covers her ambition set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan. The Minister asked to understand our success and that we share ‘best practice’ with other Local Authorities.
I invited the Minister to visit East Devon and confirmed our support for her Government Resource & Waste Strategy, particularly where we can influence producer responsibility, to help us further improve our own recycling performance.
Our recycling performance has continued to improve, now running at 60% from almost 70,000 East Devon homes, with no residual waste going to landfill.
TRINITYMatters.co.uk closes in on 10th Birthday…
It is now almost ten years since I was first honoured to be elected to represent us on East Devon District Council. Soon after, I wrote my first article for Uplyme Parish Magazine and first published my website, to try and ensure those I represent are the best informed in East Devon.
Since then, I have written almost 100 articles for this magazine and well over 1000 website posts. I hope that you have found them of value? My new website should be live by the time you receive this magazine. Please let me know what you think, and how the website might be improved?
Cllr Ian Thomas
Leader – East Devon District Council
Ward Member – Trinity
Mobile: 07884 494474
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: @CouncillorIanThomas