What I have done during the 2003-2007 Council
To help you decide whether you want me on the council for another term,
here are some of the things I have done since you re-elected me in 2003.
Served a second term as Chairman of West Devon's Planning Committee. Some people would say it is a "poisoned chalice", because almost every contested planning decision will offend someone. I have tried to make sure that everyone involved has a fair hearing and that decisions are made on a proper basis, even when they are locally unpopular.
I have strictly enforced a "one on each side" rule for unelected speakers at committee. This was to prevent organised but often unrepresentative lobby groups from trying to exert undue influence through sheer numbers or monopolising the time.
West Devon has achieved a good record, reflected in an excellent performance against targets for decision time and decisions upheld at appeal. One practical benefit from this has been that we have won very substantial "Planning Delivery Grants" (PDG) from government; these are awarded for good performance.
The total PDG has been over £1.3 million during the last four years. This has enabled us to improve our service at no direct cost to the Council Tax payer. You can (for example) now see planning documents and even make planning applications online.
The Planning process is also critical in achieving new "affordable" housing projects. True Council Housing is now a thing of the past, but low-cost - usually rented - housing is a priority for West Devon, because we have so little of it, despite our relatively low-wage economy. The way it works is that, by incorporating in our Local Plan Revision (adopted in March 2005) a requirement that developers make at least 35% of their developments available to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs, eg Housing Associations), we increase the social housing stock of the Borough. It is hard to put a figure on the total value of this, but, given the scale of new development, it runs into tens of millions already and is set to run into hundreds of millions as the process continues.
Finally, WDBC achieved for Tavistock and its environs the distinction of becoming a World Heritage Site. Whilst I claim no direct personal credit for this - it was largely the work of our Borough Planning Officer - it would not have been possible had West Devon's record been unsound as to the stewardship of our historic buildings. This has been a function of my committee and planning team and I am proud to have been at the helm during this exciting time.
Served on the Policy & Resources Committee (for the first year as its vice-chairman). The committee was later re-formed as Strategies and Resources Committee, reflecting the way the council has devolved its policy formation to service committees whilst retaining overall financial control at high level.
In April 2004, as substitute for the appointed member, I represented WDBC at a crucial meeting of the South West Regional Assembly when the final decision was made about the A30/A303 "strategic Route to the South West". The question was whether to support this obvious route or a cheaper alternative, involving a link-up of the A358 to the already overloaded M5. In the end, the decision by SWRA was to maintain its consistent support for the A30/A303 project, but, because of "padding" by unelected appointees (the so-called "social and economic partners" foisted on SWRA by government edict), only by one vote. You may care to say that it was my vote, if you like. I also spoke out strongly (as you might expect) on the matter.
In the end, the government over-ruled the SWRA and reneged on its previous promises of support for the A30/A303 scheme, but at least we tried. It remains to be seen whether a different government will honour its promise to reverse this very bad decision.
Continued to serve as one of the two WDBC representatives on the County Council's Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC). The County Council has a permanent majority on this committee, so the Highways Department always gets its way in the event of a disagreement, but at least we have a voice in highways decisions. You can be sure that mine is heard; sometimes, it is even heeded.
Continued to serve as a council-appointed Trustee Director of West Devon Homes (WDH), which delivers the Housing Service for WDBC. WDH is one of the RSLs mentioned above in the paragraphs on social housing provision.
Towards the end of last year, I was appointed vice-chairman of the South Devon and Dartmoor Crime Reduction Partnership in place of the late Councillor Peter Hill.
Most recently, I was appointed by WDBC to be a Trustee of the Morwellham Trust.
25 April 2007