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Stand Up For Seaton (SU4S)

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.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Liatris: Round One to Stand Up for Seaton!!!!!

Below is the text of a letter sent by Ms K Little, Head of Planning, EDDC to Mr Simon Chadwick who acts on behalf of Liatris. This letter is in the public domain and is printed in its entirety - read the red bits for highlights only.

I have been asked to make it clear that this was posted in my PRIVATE capacity and NOT in any other role. I am happy to do this. Also, it must be made clear that the "victory" is not that Liatris will NOT put forward their planning application to the EDDC Development Control Committee (they may well choose to do so, this is their right) and Kate Little's press release makes this clear. It is that others have now come to the same conclusions as those espoused by SU4S from the beginning - more (natural) water, less infill, community facilities, tourism opportunities, etc.

I do hope that this makes it clear that I am NOT speaking on behalf of any particular entity (not even SU4S) but only for myself in my private capacity.

The reference to "6f4 infill" is a special type of infill that is used for roads, etc and which the supermarket wants as its foundation - this fill has to be imported by road.

What can I say? To the HUNDREDS of people who made it possible for us to get this far - THOUSANDS of thanks. It is only winning a battle, not the war - but we here for the long haul:

24 July 2007

Dear Mr Chadwick

Re-development of land to include housing, retail, petrol filling station, leisure/tourist development with access and open space: Land adjoining Harbour Road, Seaton

I refer to the above outline planning application and in particular our meeting on 12 July 2007 to discuss, amongst other things, the issue of fill and the raising of ground levels following the workshop arranged by this Council.

As you are fully aware, the reduction of fill is a key issue to the success of the scheme, not only to reduce traffic movements but also to produce a development that integrates better with this part of Seaton, particularly around the boundaries of the site. We are all agreed that the current proposals for the amount of fill are unacceptable and are unlikely to get support, especially from the Seaton community. The starting point for this Council is to fully support and encourage the regeneration of this part of Seaton, but it needs to be practical and have the support of the general community.

The aim of the workshop was to explore ways of making significant reductions in the amount of fill material needed whilst recognising that the Environment Agency (EA) requirement is to protect people and property from flooding. It is recognised that some fill will need to be brought onto the site, but that this should be reduced to a minimum subject, of course, to financial constraints. However, part of the concern with the current level of fill proposed is the cost and the implications this would have for providing community benefits and the requirements of policy for such aspects as affordable housing, open space, etc. Whilst I appreciate you understand the need to reduce fill, I got the distinct impression that you consider this would only be by a small amount (up to 10% maximum) and that few changes would be required to the planning application, notably the submitted ‘indicative master plan’ and the ‘land areas plan’. Indeed, you considered the current application could be amended whereas we expressed the view that to withdraw and a re-submission would be preferable.

The purpose of this letter is to re-iterate our view that significant reductions should be made in the amount of fill used, particularly being brought in by road, and that any planning application (whether outline or full) should provide adequate details of how this is going to be achieved. There is not one simple answer to this issue, rather it should be a range of firm proposals from you for identifying the minimum amount of fill, sourcing it from a more local and sustainable location (hopefully from the Seaton Marshes) and providing details of layout and design (including buildings). I think we have to accept that parts of site will flood on occasions, but plan for this in a more creative manner whilst providing adequate protection for people and property as required by the E.A. Otherwise, I fear that in 6 months’ time we would not have moved forward and community support will not have improved.

To adequately address the above concerns, and to do justice to the workshop, I consider that in addition to the other outstanding issues, any new submission must include a ‘Fill reduction strategy’ (FRS) document made up of a report with accompanying plans to form part of the application. This should, of course, make reference to the E.A. requirements. I would suggest it covers the following points, but you may wish to add or modify:-

Amount of fill

You have an existing site survey showing existing levels and you are aware of the E. A. required floor levels. It is accepted that habitable floor levels should be at this level but it was also clear from the workshop that other parts of the site need not be raised to this level such as gardens, open space, supermarket car park etc. The FRS needs to identify (including spatial layout information) detail of the proposed levels for the different land uses. Whilst this cannot at this stage indicate the level of every square meter of the site, it should nevertheless include the range of various levels over the site for the land uses with reference to a more detailed layout.

Source and type of fill

Further investigation is needed on the quality/amount of fill that can be obtained from the Seaton Marsh (and possibly on site) together with resolving legal issues and transport to the site. The quality/amount should be included in the FRS and what areas/uses this would be put to.

The amount of 6F4 needed for the site identified together with the source and transport to the site. 6F4 should only be used where absolutely necessary and full justification is provided.

Full assessment of other means to transport fill to the site. Issues should include cost, sustainability, environmental, health/amenity of Seaton/Axmouth residents.

Develop more compactly

This applies more to the residential element but the aim should be to develop more densely/intensively to allow more open spaces at lower ground levels. You submitted with the ‘Design and Access Statement’ a ‘Density Plan’ but this is extremely crude. This is a starting point but must be refined to identify:

1. Specific ranges of density e.g. 30 – 35 dph, 35 – 40 dph etc.

2. reference of the ranges to a spatial layout. This will require more detail than the basic land use block shown in your ‘Land Areas Plan’.

3. Through the use of ‘density ranges’, identify the lower and upper level of residential units.

Develop less of the site and use more landscaping and open space

This is related to the above. The aim is to provide more undeveloped space at a lower level for landscaping/POS and/or as water features/flood relief areas. This should not be as ‘engineered’ as your proposed flood relief channel but appear more natural. These areas should be shown in a layout/masterplan.

Focus fill material on strategic routes across the site

The aim is to raise ground levels along strategic routes so that they do not flood. This suggests some secondary routes could flood and will need agreement with the E.A. and Highway Authority. If agreement is reached, the strategic routes will need to be identified on a layout/master plan.

Voids under buildings

Identify which type of buildings they would be appropriate for; provide details/estimates of the volume of these voids for typical buildings to calculate volume of fill saved.

Design flood resilient buildings

Flood resilient buildings can be used provided the E. A. is confident that life is protected and the building can quickly be returned to use after the flood. Possible buildings suitable for flood resilience should be identified with their agreed floor levels with details to form part of a design code.

I trust the above comments will provide some guidance on the type of measures we feel are necessary to substantially reduce the fill and also allow everyone in the planning process to understand and control this issue at the outline stage.

You will be aware that the changes to the requirements for outline planning applications which came into force on 10 August 2006 have recently been the subject of a Secretary of State decision in a planning appeal by Bovis Homes Limited and BAE Systems at a site at Filton Airfield near Bristol. This has given clear guidance on what Design and Access Statements (DAS), Design Codes and Masterplans must now include.

It is no longer appropriate to have a generalised DAS. They need to provide more detail and provide plentiful and accurate information for a clear understanding of the 3-dimensional form. I appreciate you have provided a limited number of cross sections, but these now need to be more comprehensive especially now the Council requires significantly more information on levels as part of the fill reduction exercise. Cross sections must be clear and accurate (scaled) and should extend across the whole site both north-south and east-west.

It is also clear that the masterplan needs to provide more detail and precision, again partly as a result of the information required as part of the fill reduction exercise.

It is not the purpose of this letter to be overly prescriptive as to the additional information the Council would require, but we would expect you to follow the new requirements and incorporate the information contained in Circular 01/2006 together with the recent Secretary of State decision in Bristol.

The result of all this is that we consider you should withdraw the current application and resubmit once you have more comprehensive detail and have addressed the Council’s requirement to make significant reductions in fill and have investigated fully the alternative sourcing. The Council is not prepared to consider ‘tinkering’ with the current application and feel we are fully justified in requesting a more radical approach to this fill issue and requiring more comprehensive information and detail.

We also addressed the question of appropriate land uses on the site and we urged you to consider providing holiday/leisure uses. We hope that you will be able to come back with something positive on this. You will be aware how important this is to the Town Council and others.

In terms of the Section 106 Agreement requirements, whilst we did not discuss this in detail, clearly the standard requirements of affordable housing, open space and education infrastructure will be important as well as the requirements of the PCT. Beyond this the requirements will be discussed with District Council Members to agree the priorities.

I look forward to receiving your comments on the issues raised in this letter.

Yours sincerely

Kate Little

Head of Planning & Countryside Services


Special one off commemoration toon.....;0)

"You can't lay a patch by computer design.Its just a lot of stupid, stupid signs" -

REM, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What the papers say - about flooding (1)

Sunday Times 29 July 2007:

"... We have separated ourselves from the good, absorbent earth with an impermeable skin of concrete and tarmac that keeps water out of the aquifers, where we could use it, and hurries into drains that cnnot cope. We have re-engineered too many of our rivers. A natural river is slow and meandering between soft banks, not fast and straight between concrete ....."

... "To cap it all we have redefined flood plains as suburbs and sold a generation of housebuyers into hazard - hazard not only to themselves but to the rest of us who suffer the consequences of disrupted river systems and water with nowhere to go.

... "Planners under John Prescott seemed to have regarded the country as some kind of gigantic, inexhaustible sponge ... "

... "All this has happened despite the furrowed brows of the insuance industry ..."

... (from a lady in Oxford): "... She wanted to show how housing developments on flood plains had caused homes such as hers, in older streets, to end up inundated. ... she gestured to a new development of executive homes - none of them flooded. ... They didn't flood flood, so the housing minister might look at them and think "Great ... so you can build on flood plains!" but that's because they raised the level of the ground under the new houses - which meant our road flooded instead."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cranbrook - highest possible eco-standards

From an EDDC press release:

"THE new community to be built at Cranbrook in East Devon will serve as a prototype for the new Eco-towns that Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants to see built in future.

And in pressing for the highest possible standards of sustainability and renewable energy usage on the green-field development near Rockbeare, with its own railway station, East Devon District Council is “blazing the trail, with challenging targets for energy efficiency and rail links into Exeter”.

So said Richard McCarthy, Director General of Programmes, Policy and Innovation at the Department for Communities and Local Government, at a Growth Summit following this week’s launch of the Government Green Paper on Housing."

And SEATON - what about SEATON. Crap housing, crap supermarket on a crap artificial island.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Building on flood plains - a cautionary tale

A cautionary tale from the BBC "Have your say" website, from Phil in Conwy (Wales)

"I live in a low-lying village surrounded by flood-risk areas. Planning permission has been granted to fill a field with houses. The landowner played the system:

1. Apply for 1 house to be built - approved
2. Apply for 20 houses, with affordable units included - approved
3. Apply to have the "affordable" conditions removed - approved

So, thanks to our wonderful planning system, we'll have more surface water, more flooding, and yet more expensive second homes ...
Phil, Conwy"

Exhaust fumes linked to rise in heart disease

We've said this before and we'll say it again:
Guardian, 26 July 2007 page 17

"Pollution from motor vehicles may be driving up rates of heart disease by triggering inflammation and hardening blood vessels, scientists warn today. Researchers found that fine particles released in exhaust fumes combine with natural fats in arteries to spark a cascade of genetic chances which are capable of inducing [heart disease]....

... Tests on diesel particles have revealed their surfaces to be rich in a range of potentially toxic compounds, ranging from organic hydrocarbons to sulphates and nitrates. ...

... In February [2007], a study of 65,000 women living in 36 cities across the US found that those living in high pollution areas were at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and death. The study, published in one of the world's leading medical journals, pointed to fine particles from traffic fumes, coal-fired power stations and wood fires as the culprits.!

100 lorries a day, 6 days a week, 10 hours a day for up to 4 years .... well, at least the doctors will probably be kept busy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tewkesbury - a town centre plateau surrounded by water: remind you of anywhere?

If anyone wants to know what a plateau on a flood plain looks like when it is surrounded by water, take a look at any current picture of Tewkesbury town centre.
Click here for examples
Standing proudly in the middle is the Abbey (in our case, of course, it would be the supermarket) surrounded by water.

Aren't the people in the middle lucky - no flooding in their homes. Well, actually - no. They have no gas, electricity or water and no way in or out of their homes except by helicopter. They also say that government agencies and the local authority already knew that they were in a vulnerable position being where they are and that they did not have in place appropriate emergency procedures.

Thinks: must remind Liatris to have a Helicopter Pad on their development along with the garage for the two sea tractors or the two shallow draft boats to "aid in evacuation" (as per their own ideas). But would then they call it "Public Open Space" (which, as you will recall, they are calling the monsoon drain AND grass verges on the site).

And let's all remind ourselves that some of this problem is from upstream of the town because they live at the confluence of two rivers (Severn and Avon). Here we don't have a confluence of two rivers, just a confluence of river and sea. Scary isn't it?

Still, the Environment Minister and the boss of the Environment Agency have said all is well. We just rely on our local authority (in our case EDDC) to have "robust" plans for flooding and drainage in their areas. Now I can sleep easily in my bed at night.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Stonehenge may lose its World Heritage status

From "The Sunday Times", 22 July 2007:

The government is planning to scrap a tunnel under the road at Stonehenge.

"Rejection means that the planned £67m Visitor Centre, from which mini-buses would have taken visitors to the site, will be shelved, as its location was dependent on the tunnel."

"It could also jeopardise the status of Stonehenge as a World Heritage site, awarded by UNESCO in 1986. At the time, the United Nations cultural body told the government that it must improve access and take nearby roads away from the site. UNESCO will consider de-listing Stonehenge at its next meeting in February".

So, on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast you (a) build a tatty visitor centre sandwiched between a Tramway Terminus and an enormous supermarket, nowhere in site of the sea or the river and you get your tourists to share the supermarket car park, (b) you still allow oil supertankers to meet up with smaller tankers in Lyme Bay to transfer oil, none of it to or from British ships and none of it for British use, simply because the oil companies pay the government lots of money to do it in the relative shelter of the Bay and (c) you allow a broken ship to beach along the World Heritage Coast because the French won't take it, Plymouth won't take it and Falmouth won't take it.

So, what is Lyme Bay? Part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast or a dumping ground for tat and oil?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What do the floods of the last couple of weeks teach us?

(1) Building on a flood plain is plain stupid.
(2) When you live on a plateau above a flood plain and there is water all around you (a) it isn't clean because (b) it has lots of nasty things in it and (c) it can stay around for an awful long time.
(3) Drains are only as good as the people who plan, build and maintain them.
(4) When something goes wrong everyone tries to weasel out of responsibility leaving the householder to pick up the bill wherever possible.

Recall that in the Liatris planning application the developers themselves say: "It is recognised that at times of extreme weather the site will become a self-contained island surrounded by upwards of 1 metre of water. In this case we recommend that the island has 2 refuges (1 at the Visitor Centre and one at the supermarket) with first aid facilities and where 2 shallow draft boats or 2 sea tractors can be stored to aid in evacuation".

I wonder if anyone has told the supermarket interested in the Seaton site that they must have a refuge and sea tractors - have they allowed for this in their plans! Or will it be the Visitor Centre which has to store them? No-brainer there then.

And as for drains: the bigger and better the drains the more money it takes to build them and maintain them. This is something that developers and water companies have neglected for years and years. There are more and more of us, using more and more water and giving out more and more sewerage so, when it rains, it doesn't take much for backflow to happen. The water company then shrugs its shoulders and says, well, of course we can't do anything about this, nothing to do with us. And the developer is long gone.

One of the ways that developers cut costs is to do minimum work where you can't see it - in this case underground. So, the drainage system is put in for 350 homes. What happens if you then build 400 or 450 or the homes are over-occupied? What happens if you underestimate how much water the supermarket puts into the system, or the thousands of people who go to the visitor centre? We already know that South West Water has said that if anything else is built on this site it will need more and better drains.

So, would you live on

(a) a floodplain or
(b) a plateau on a flood plain or
(c) anywhere except Seaton

Answers here please!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On BBC Spotlight this evening about oil on beach

Sandra has recorded an interview for BBC Spotlight this evening talking about Seaton's "hidden" problem - oil on the beach from the recent Napoli problems.

Seaton is being ignored because you can's "see" our problem - but you try walking on the beach for more than a minute and you will certainly feel it. Oil all over your shoes, up your legs, on your bag, etc. Hardly anyone on beach - disaster.

What connection with this blog? Well, this is a good test of the regeneration plans. We have almost no tourists at the start of the holiday season. When Seaton has 3 or 4 years of construction traffic and no car parks this will be the sort of thing we will experience - no tourists to speak of.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wye Valley - latest news

Many of you will be familiar with the case of the protesters at Wye Valley in a situation somewhat similar to ours (in their case an agricultural college was to be turned into a vast housing and industrial state by freeholders Imperial College without them being consulted or involved). They found that there were secret agreements between Imperial and its district council (which both had denied) they publicised them and the whole development fell apart.

The latest news is that the "Wye Valley Community Farm" steering group is planning to bid for the tenancy of the abandoned agricultural college and its land to turn into into "Wye College Farm" - a sustainable provider of food, education and jobs for the local community.

The Wye Community Land Trust (see earlier posts re Community Land Trusts) chair Phil Ward said, "Wye College Farm led the world in the research and development of agriculatural practice for over a century. We want Wye to continue in the vanguard of farming's future and environmentalism, with fair prices paid for local, high quality food produced by a business under community control and ownership".

I can see it now - we turn the whole of the regeneration area into an organic farm - lovely!!!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who should decide what is best for a community?

Guardian supplement 11 July 2007, pages 4-5

“A local-level playing field: will devolving power, renewing local democracy and engaging communities bring benefits – as well as combat voter apathy. We ask the experts”

Dave Coates, Manager, Lonsdale Community Centre, Hull:

A colleague of mine once made a radical comment at a community enterprise conference in Hull. He said: “Why don’t we just directly give communities the money they need to respond to the local needs themselves?” There followed numerous objections, such as the need for accountability, the need to measure outputs and outcomes and “proper” monitoring and evaluation techniques. These things are important, but my point is that underlying this was the unstated assumption that local communities are like children, unprofessional and incapable of dealing with responsibility and accountability.

In short, there’s a lack of trust in our local communities and too much emphasis on top-down “outputs and outcomes”. The result is a layer of professionals to handle these, and no real devolution of control. Consequently, money is soaked up by the bureaucracy created to manage control, with less money and less power to determine how the money is spent at a local level.

I believe in the potential of our communities to help themselves, given the means and the freedom to do so. So, if the government is serious in wishing to empower our citizens and communities, they, yes, let’s be radical and devolutionary. Let’s trust our communities and not have any more top-down enforced initiatives bloated with bureaucracy”.

Well said, Dave!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The South West Sustainability Checklist

The Sustainability Checklist helps achieve best practice in built environment sustainable development in the South West. This is what it says about community involvement in development:

"Well-designed developments see community interaction as a high priority in the master planning stages. Creating social spaces and recreational facilities, such as swimming pools and cafes, breaks down barriers so that people to come together and form communities. Having a respect and pride for ones living or working space improves the desire to look after it, which is where sustainable behaviour begins.

But community respect for a development also comes from being involved in decision making, which is why the local people should be involved in every stage of the creation of a development. Developers and local planning authorities will benefit greatly in involving the community who can help them understand the needs, wants and constraints of the work. A development that pleases most will prevent objections arising in the future."

Came too late for Seaton didn't it?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Seaton Town Council meeting with EDDC

Be patient! News of the meeting between Seaton Town Council, Seaton Development Trust and EDDC will be posted here as soon as possible! Keep checking .....