We will fight them on the beaches, and have a radical shake-up of local government.


Councillor Andy Swain’s reply published 18 July.

I read with interest the letter on Saturday 7th July from Linda Piggott-Vijeh Somerset County and South Somerset District Conservative Councilor. The letter makes some interesting points but omits some significant ones.

I wonder why anyone is recommending a massive upheaval of our local government just now. The country is in the grip of a pandemic, some say the worst crisis since the world wars. Would a former prime minister have said “We will fight them on the beaches, and we are going to have a radical shake up of local government.”? Local councils, forced to commercialise by funding cuts, have lost eye watering sums of money many times larger than reserves. It is still unclear how they will survive that and recover. Whatever the pros and cons in the long term, a reorganisation as a unitary is going to be hugely expensive and massively disruptive in the short term. The last thing our beleaguered public services need right now is massive disruption.

I’m concerned by the dismissal of “work that was commissioned concluded that a single council for Somerset is the wrong solution”, adding “how much taxpayers money was spent on the work undertaken”. This is implying that the District council is wasting public money, but it sounds like they are dutifully finding out if the proposals will be a benefit before committing far larger sums of public money to what may be unnecessary and harmful. In fact the findings say it is harmful, so well done district councils for performing that scrutiny, this is why we need opposition. I am not surprised she finds “little hard evidence” of “anything from the districts” when she dismisses issues like “quality of life” and “positive change” as “buzz words”. For some of us those things are important and affect the decisions we make.

If this is such a bad idea, why are County Councils so keen? We must indeed “tease out any hidden agendas”. Ignoring party politics might be comfortable but it is naïve. In her, and my areas, Somerset and Devon County Councils both have Conservative Majorities. South Somerset and Teignbridge District Councils both have Lib Dem majorities. Our first Past the post elections favour the Conservative party in larger elections often delivering majorities of seats far in excess of any majority in vote, and dividing and ignoring opposition votes. Could this be why Conservative County Councilors favour larger unitary councils? An opportunity to hollow out the opposition and further reduce the scrutiny and limited representation that opponents have? A “protectionist element” to use her words.

We have much more immediate problems. The Covid emergency is real, and pressing and ongoing. It has been mishandled by the current national government on a massive scale, we have seen disdain for genuine expertise and showboating at the expense of the public good. A sneering disregard for its own rules by a senior adviser who is apparently above the law. On this point I agree “things must change”. I also agree that “central government funding for local authorities has declined significantly, whilst demand for services has increased” but that is a policy of the current government, to demand more and pay less, cutting taxes to the bone and beyond. To hollow out essential services, cutting costs, resilience and safety nets until even professionals turned to food banks, and when a crisis arrives, the resilience has already gone. To say “not helped by the reluctance of all parties to increase taxes” is ignoring a world of different party policies for a system of taxation that is fair, affordable and makes public services fit for purpose and secure. The Liberal Democrats have for years had a policy of a penny on income tax to secure the NHS.

On top of that, we face the end of the transition period which is now inevitable in January, because the national government deliberately ignored the deadline to request an extension despite the world wide lockdowns. They were elected on slogans like “Oven Ready Brexit” and similar ignorant platitudes. The majority in the country are sick and tired of the whole sorry business and want it over but sadly the reality is that “Project Fear” will become “Project Reality” in January because our government has chosen no deal, or a botch job.

If the current government understands anything about the future they have secured for us, they will be absolutely desperate for distractions and scapegoats. A major reorganisation of local government offers opportunities to distract from the mishandling of Covid and the reality of Brexit, while gerrymandering local politics and strengthening the stranglehold on our democracy. Yes, “things must change” but nationally, not locally.

Andy Swain
Teignbridge District Councillor


Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) Policy and Options.

This documents are now published at Draft Policies and Site Options.

District councils are required to provide housing in line with a national government formula. We all recognise the need for new housing, for example, as children grow up and move on in their lives and households change but the Liberal Democrat councillors in Teignbridge believe the National Government is tilting the planning system in favour of development, instead of the genuine needs of local communities. 

There can be penalties if councils do not meet the housing needs determined through the national formula. Local decisions may be made by unelected officials through the planning appeals system. In South Oxfordshire recently, the council wanted to abandon the Local Plan and bring in a new one with lower numbers. The Secretary of state used government powers to force the council to progress the old plan.

The GESP Policy and options document includes, in the second half, a list of option sites. The listed sites are around 1.5 times more than required for the housing provision targets so not all sites will be developed. Inclusion in this list means that the land owner has expressed an interest in development, and GESP considers it strategically in line with their overall aims. Nothing more at this stage. There is plenty of consultation to come.

If a development does go ahead, There would be a CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) payment from the developer to the local authority, For rural villages in Teignbridge this would be about £200/m2 of added dwelling. A cautious estimate of average houses in the UK is 80m2. 15% of the CIL goes to the parish council, or 25% if they have a completed neighbourhood plan.

If the development goes ahead the Parish Council will get the CIL money. It will make no difference if the Parish Council and residents supported or opposed the development in the meantime. CIL payments are not conditional or optional. They are to fund infrastructure for the growing communities.

As your local councillors we want to hear your views and emphasise how important it is that you respond to the GESP consultation. Leaving it until the actual stage of Planning Applications for particular sites will be too late, so please share your views with us.

Active travel at Alphington Roundabout

There is government money at the moment to encourage active travel (Walking and Cycling). Alan Connett has raised concern at DCC that it is being hoovered up by large urban centres, Exeter and Newton Abbot and not enough is being done to link up with rural communities on the outskirts and grow the network.

Andy Swain has raised the suggestion of making the Alphington Junction safer for pedestrians and cyclists between C50 and Old Ide Lane, Alphington, Marsh barton and the River, by closing one lane permanently as it has been recently with the road works.

The lane closure makes this very difficult crossing much easier and safer, and has virtually no effect on traffic, because only one lane of traffic at a time  flows into that slip road.

In response Yvonne Atkinson ECC Councillor says it is a Highways England matter, which is true it is, however Highways England say they would be guided by the County Council/Devon Highways, and Devon Highways have responded very positively to the idea. So overall it’s a promising response.

Cutting Speed at The Firs

A petition to cut traffic speed at Firs Park, organised by councillors Alan Connett and Andy Swain, with 56 signatures from residents and regular visitors to the park, was delivered to Devon County Council at the cabinet meeting on wednesday.

“We are residents and visitors to Firs Park, a residential park at Bakers Hill, Pocombe Bridge, just outside Exeter. We take our lives in our hands to cross the road or leave the entrance to our site. We call on Devon County Council to cut the speed limit so that it is no more than 30mph at the entrance to Firs Park. We genuinely fear for our safety and want action to make this road safe.”

We only want a better society for us all

Published in Western Morning News, Thursday 21st May 2020.

I have recently seen a number of letters suggesting that critics of government incompetence are often members of political groups. An example is Mike Green’s letter of 13/5/20 “Government critics have an axe to grind”.

The author seems to assume that anyone in any party is only motivated by gain for that party. That may be true of many in the party he defends while claiming to have no allegiance, but most people I know in the Lib Dems, Greens, and Labour are in it because they want a better society, and are working to bring it about. Party allegiance is not relevant to the quality of their argument, and certainly not a reason to dismiss it.
It would be ridiculous to claim “they only say government is inept because they are in a party”. It is much more likely that “they are in a party because government is inept”. It would cast doubt on their views if they had a track record for lying, for example if they declined joint PPE Purchasing with the EU, saying it was because we voted for Brexit, then claimed it was only because an email got lost. I might wonder how long before we hear that “the dog ate it”. 
Mike Green might suggest this is “the same old vitriol” but it isn’t. The government keeps making new mistakes, they are now ignoring the deadline next month to extend the EU transition period, which will take us to a no deal Brexit and Project Fear/Project Reality at the end of this year. This is totally avoidable and absolutely not what was promised.
So let’s be clear. If people criticize government, it might be because government is incompetent. If you are only motivated by seeing your own party win, regardless of consequences, then it would make more sense to vote Tory. If someone supports Lib Dems, Green or Labour, it is almost certainly not because they just like to win, but because they want something better. Those who genuinely have no allegiance should listen carefully and think.
Andy Swain

Local Plan Review

The local plan review is at  https://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/planning/local-plans-and-policy/local-plan-review-2020-2040/live-consultation/  

The local plan review is hugely important for shaping development and an opportunity to make a real difference to the future. Charles Nuttall is on the committee that has gone through the plan line by line debating changes and priorities, it has been a huge task.

Please join us in giving feedback on the local plan review. This is a real chance to make a difference to how our region develops. The policies we adopt here will be used to adjudicate planning applications for years to come.

Andy Swain comments: Thankyou very much for the considerable work that has gone into this review. As a Teignbridge District Councillor, but not on the review board, I am very proud of what our council is achieving here. The priorities being reinforced in the plan are excellent.I am especially pleased to see carbon neutral buildings enshrined in policy. This is long overdue and should never have been cancelled by the conservative government in 2015. Please resist any lobbying attempts to dilute this policy it is necessary and appropriate.

Please consider adding a “Cut and Fill Policy”, along the lines of…
Minimising export and import of inert material by designing for cut and fill, demonstrated with a suitable survey/assessment by the applicant. Import is acceptable where there is a demonstrable need to dispose of inert material in the local area. If export cannot be avoided, it should be suitably mitigated and include an export management plan showing how the material will be transported and where it will be disposed.

I am sure decision makers will be aware of the very contentious planning application for landfill of inert material on an industrial scale at Lower hare Farm in Whitestone. It seems that a simple change to planning could greatly reduce the need for such damaging developments in an area of great landscape value.

p.54 Policy DW3 j)
“include junctions which enable easy onward movement for pedestrians and cyclists” I welcome this recognition of the importance of easy onward movement in cycle lanes. This is often a fatal design flaw in cycle infrastructure.

p.68 DW9
I welcome the recognition of wildlife corridors as well as habitat areas.

p.115 paragraph 6.15
” pushing for designs which are not truly ‘tenure
blind’ to be challenged” I welcome this.

p.153 Policy EN8
I welcome this policy, Teignbridge benefits from exceptionally dark skies even in Ide, very close to Exeter. This needs protection, and a great deal is possible even when adding external lighting to minimise the light polluting effect.

Recovering from Lockdown

Teignbridge meetings are starting up again online, which is helpful. The waste collection services including kerbside recycling have continued uninterrupted and many residents have been showing their appreciation. The only exception is textiles which are on hold. Emptying the bins is pretty important during a health crisis. The recycling centres are reopening and TDC are still taking new subscriptions for the green bin service.

In the first round of government support for local councils TDC were awarded around £60,000 which sounds a lot, but barely covers the lost revenue from car parks for a week. In round 2 TDC was allotted around 1.3 million which is much better. Current estimates of the lost revenue in TDC are around 11 million, so there are still some serious problems to solve. These figures are all in the public domain.

The local plan consultation is active. A great deal of work has been done on this by my fellow Councillors and there are some very welcome changes including much stronger climate change measures. Zero carbon buildings makes a welcome return. This plan should never have been scrapped nationally in 2015 and I welcome its return in Teignbridge. Comments on the plan are welcome.


The new Teignbridge Local Plan is about to go out for public consultation. This will be for an eight week period (up from the normal 6) from Monday 23 March til Monday 18 May.
The local plan plays a critical role in deciding planning applications and this review is an opportunity to guide future development, and also a chance to get climate change action into policy. All documents will be on the council’s website and will be freely downloadable and printable
Full documentation will also be available for purchase at a price which reflects cost of production.
This is a major opportunity for all to take part and respond to the proposals. This new Local Plan is prepared in conjunction with the emerging Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) which is also an important strategic document addressing the wider issues facing the District – look out for public consultations on that too.
The Local Plan concentrates on more detailed aspects of planning and localised issues such as design, development in town centres, local employment opportunities, rural development, affordable housing schemes.

Community Fund support for Weir Meadow

I will be using some of my community fund to support the legal costs of obtaining a license for Ide to purchase Weir Meadow, A field adjacent to the village that has long been hoped for as a community space including football and cricket facilities. This project is really taking off in Ide, There is a great deal to be done, but the first step is to secure this license.