Monthly Archives: March 2014

Costs at Beesands

27 March 2014

FOIA answers are trickling in.

The latest is about SHDC spend at Beesands (posted under that name) and is somewhat enlightening. To summarise:

Total spend since 2006: £125,729 (the vast majority of which since 2012)

 Predicted spend for the remainder of this year £70,000 (now the question asked for spend in financial years so they will have to go some to spend £70,000 before April, but who knows where local authorities are concerned)

It is worth repeating our comments in the post of the FOIA:

This question is about how much has been/is being/will be spent by South Hams District Council (SHDC) at Beesands, which is just up the coast from Hallsands. Most of Beesands is protected by a concrete seawall built by the National Rivers Authority (the predecessor of the Environment Agency) in 1993 and extended about five years ago. The efforts and spending of SHDC have gone into maintaining the rock armour sea (boulders) defences to the north of the sea wall which protect the village green and an access road to five dwellings at Beesands Cellars.

The storm caused the rock armour at Beesands to slide down below the high tide level and so now there is little protection for the village green. Although SHDC is planning to spend a further £70,000 this is not for recovery of the rock armour, it is for some plastic sausages filled with shingle, or some such. Admittedly there was a longer stretch of rock armour at Beesands than at Hallsands, but it only took Tim five days to recover the lot. Meanwhile the machines at Beesands, hired at council-tax payers’ expense, stood idle, and at the time of writing are still idle.

A reminder: recovery and replacement of the rock armour at Hallsands cost £10,000.

We are not going away

26 March 2014

A few of us went to the Parish Council meeting last Friday and asked some questions. Answers came there few.

We started by saying that for the local authorities (South Hams District Council, Devon County Council and the Environment Agency) between them to approve new building knowing that in the near future DCC would abandon its sea defences and access road is nothing less than chicanery. Happy to take the council tax until the houses become worthless by virtue of being inaccessible or falling into the sea no doubt.

We asked the Parish Council to do the following:

1. To note and enter into its minutes the response to a freedom of information request which sets out responsibilities for the sea defences and the road.

 2. To congratulate the highways authority for its prompt action in fencing off the dangerous craters in the road in not much less than six weeks.

3. To congratulate residents of Hallsands for acting when the local authorities failed to live up to their responsibilities.

Yes there is an element of sarcasm in the second request, but why not?

We also asked the local authorities to support us in asking for the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) to be corrected with regard to Hallsands. Given that the local authorities use the designation for Hallsands in the SMP as ‘No Active Intervention’ as their excuse for inaction  this is a somewhat pious hope.

Our final request was that DCC should be asked to set out their policy with regard to the road and sea defences in writing and that the authorities give an undertaking to inform all future applicants for planning consent of this policy. Given that obfuscation and bluster has served the authorities well to date, this is again asking rather a lot.

Whose road is it anyway?

18 March 2014

Well, looks as if Devon CC have admitted that they have some responsibility for the road behind the beach after all. At last, and only six weeks after the appeared, the council has placed barriers around the deep craters made by the storms. A triumph for health and safety, and for common sense too.

The problem is, of course, that bill for this little exercise will be only add to the argument that the council will eventually put forward for casting off its responsibilities. The counter argument is that road or no road they would have to do it because it is also the South West Coastal footpath and it wouldn’t look good if ramblers started falling in.

N2B has been making a careful study of the revised Shoreline Management Plan (SMP2) that covers our area. SMP2 was published in a blaze of obscurity in January 2011 and imposed a rating of No Active Intervention (NAI) on Hallsands. What this means is that, unlike the extraordinary flurry of activity further up the coast, the authorities will take no action to slow erosion at Hallsands.

NAI has become the all-purpose excuse for inaction (safety barriers excepted). Very handy it is too. So handy, in fact, that it is worth considering the following:

Q: Is the decision to rate Hallsands as NAI based on fact? A: No.

Q: Which organisations had a large input into SMP2?  A: The local authorities for whom doing nothing is so handy.

Cock-up or conspiracy? What does it matter? The result is the same.

Facts, just give us the facts

13 March 2014

We seem to be moving into a less hectic, but more frustrating stage of the campaign where information gathering is the main aim. Who owns this? Who was responsible for that and why are they now denying it? Facts are at a premium.

Churchill is reputed to have said ‘A lie gets halfway round the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on’. I prefer Mark Twain’s earlier version where he spoke of shoes rather than pants, but no matter, the meaning is the same.

Not that we are necessarily talking about lies, mind you. It is more half-truths, vague unprovable assumptions or just someone making a definitive statement of what he or she would prefer the facts to be rather than what they are.

Throughout this campaign nailing down facts was like nailing blancmange to the ceiling, and if anything it has got worse as we have made progress. I thought that this carelessness with the reality was just a general sort of South Hams-type laidbackness. Cock up rather than conspiracy if you like, but now I am not so sure.

Not everything that comes out of the US is trite, ephemeral nonsense and I particularly like the American’s duck test: if it looks like duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, its a duck. And if we apply the duck test to the evasions of the authorities? If it looks like they have something to hide, they act as if they have something to hide and if they hide things. What, then, is a reasonable conclusion?

Oh well, if it means cranking up the Freedom of Information Act then that’s the way it will have to be.

Let’s get it straight

10 March 2014

We welcome comments, even if they don’t seem as supportive as they might, but lets get things straight.

North Hallsands is built around the houses that were built to provide homes for the villagers who were displaced from the old village – some of their descendants still live here.

Yes there are new houses here, but houses don’t get built without planning consent and planning consent implies an acceptance (definitely morally and probably legally) by the local authorities to maintain access and sea defences. Ii would be madness if it were otherwise.

The road is a highway and is the responsibility of the County Council just like any other highway in Devon or anywhere else. The sea defences were put in place and have been restored at least once by Devon County Council. There is no argument about this – the argument is about whether DCC have the right to walk away from their responsibilities.

And those are the points that we have been making in various media interviews today. The politicians and the council officers want it all to go away, but it won’t. Quite the contrary, interest is growing.  There really is a lot of support out there. What motivates people, I believe, is the British intolerance of injustice.

Stay tuned, folks, because we believe that we are beginning to unearth some dirty dealings by the authorities somewhere.

 

The end of a hectic week

Friday 7 March 2014

Blogging has been rather neglected because of the pressure of other activities, so lets give it another go.

So far this week we have made it onto the BBC web pages, BBC Spotlight, Plymouth Herald and the Kingsbridge Gazette and received a lot of support via Twitter. We must be doing something right, but I’m not sure what it is.

The urgent work of restoring the sea defences is well under way, but it’s  funded by residents of the houses most directly threatened (yes, you did read that correctly and yes Mr Cameron did make all sorts of promises about money being no object, but then remember he’s a politician).

The line taken by local politicians is also worth examining.  About seven years ago planning consent was granted for five new houses to be built just back from the beach. Their access is via a public highway and their continued existence depends on the maintenance of the sea defences. Planning was granted by South Hams district council and, as is required by law, Devon County Council and the Environment Agency were consulted during the process.

Between them they covered roads, sea defences, flooding, coastal erosion and a lot more so you’d think that if there had been no intention of maintaining  the sea defences or the road someone might have said something, wouldn’t you? You might even think that given the resulting short life expectancy of the properties planning consent might have been refused. You would of course be wrong.

The sea defences have been breached and the road has been destroyed. And how have those authorities behaved? The local County Councillor, an old etonian by the name of Julian Brazil, has been going from place to place saying that the County Council will do nothing and that the purchasers alone are to blame for their plight for they should have known that the properties had a limited life span.

You couldn’t make it up.

Monday 3 March 2014

Its the end of a hectic day setting up the website and our Twitter account.

Dale and Tim have appeared on BBC Spotlight news followed by the good doctor Wollaston MP. Dale and Tim were great and put our case rather well. Not sure whose case our MP was putting. Does she represent her constituents in parliament or parliament to her constituents?

What we can’t understand is why there is such a problem in granting our small village a few thousand pounds for sea defences when tens if not hundreds of thousands are being spent a mile or so up the coast.

To put it at its most basic government and local politicians have betrayed Hallsands again.

Come on Mr Cameron where is the money that was no object?