Fair parking charges, please

PUBLISHED: 01:01 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:53 10 June 2010

East Devon's parking charges are going up massively 33 per cent in some cases. This makes a mockery of the council patting itself on the back for a small" (though well above inflation) increase in our Council Tax. Worse than this, our well-paid, job

East Devon's parking charges are going up massively - 33 per cent in some cases. This makes a mockery of the council patting itself on the back for a "small" (though well above inflation) increase in our Council Tax. Worse than this, our well-paid, job-for-life, highly pensioned local authority workers get free parking at their offices, when the rest of us have to pay to park in public car parks. I suspect that parking charges would be much lower if they were fairly applied to council employees parking at work! Ed Hughes,15 Redwood Close, Exmouth. EDDC IGNORING DEMOCRACYOnce more East Devon District Council's behaviour over its 'regeneration' proposals is rightly exercising many correspondents. While nationally the issue of transparency in all aspects of government is a major issue (donations to political parties, cash for honours etc), it's all the more astounding that, at local level, secret practices are being so flagrantly promoted without any regard to acceptable standards of public administration. Clearly, whatever is going on in East Devon local government, it has nothing to do with democracy.However, there is one other disturbing aspect that, so far as I know, has not previously been raised. One name constantly recurs - Karime Hassan, EDDC corporate director for the environment. He is reported as setting forward the 'Regeneration Programme Board' with 'the right balance between continuity and inclusion' (an amazing piece of doublespeak roughly translatable as: those who have already ignored the wishes of the people should continue to do so in private). He has been reported making similarly statements in the past. One of your readers concluded an otherwise excellent letter with 'we appeal to Karime Hassan and EDDC.....'The people should not be appealing to Karime Hassan. He is, despite his grandiose title, merely an employee, a servant of the council. He seems to have assumed a political role, which is wholly inappropriate to his position. The means whereby decisions are made is not a technical matter on which an officer, however senior, should be lecturing town councillors. Nor should he be engaged in controversial matters, such as consultation in which he is promoting particular interests in opposition to overwhelming public opinion. These are political issues and should be handled solely by politicians. Mr Hassan has a role. He should be reminded of its restrictions.Graham Ellis,12 Warneford Gardens, Exmouth.MAJOR DECISIONS MADE IN SECRETIt was good to hear directly at last from Cllr Skinner (Exmouth Champion for Regeneration) in the Journal last week regarding the regeneration of Exmouth. Sadly, I felt a little patronised at being told that I should be patient and have more understanding of what East Devon District Council is doing on my behalf, because I obviously can't understand the intricacies of the regeneration as well as he does. This paternalistic approach unfortunately seems to have permeated every aspect of the way regeneration is being dealt with by EDDC and, because all the major decisions seem effectively to be being made in secret, without any scrutiny from those the council purports to represent, frustration and cynicism are rife. I'm sure it is also very frustrating for EDDC to read the many negative comments in Journal letters, but whatever EDDC's intentions, it is perceptions that count, especially in the current climate where politicians are held in such low regard. I believe much more can be achieved with a change of style and a more comprehensive process of consultation with the local electorate.A recent government white paper, based, I suspect, on the Egan Review of the skills and training that those involved in creating 'built environments' require to deliver sustainable communities, says:"Communities should be able to influence and protect their own future. The Department of Communities and Local Government has a vision of confident, vibrant, sustainable communities where everyone has a say in shaping their environment."It proposes, amongst other things:l A new duty for councils and other best value authorities to 'inform, consult, involve and devolve'l People will have the right to an answer when they put forward suggestions to their councils or ask for action l More opportunities for communities to take on the management and ownership of local facilities and assets, with a new fund to encourage them.As mentioned in a letter to this paper earlier this month from Mrs Jean Pettit, apparently this is not a philosophy shared by the EDDC because a truly empowered local community would be involved at the start of the decision making process, not until after major elements of the proposals are already in place. It's all very well to be asked what colour we'd like the front door painted, but what if we wanted a different design for the whole house?At one level the issue of ASDA, whether one is for or against, is secondary, as the current top down, secretive process adopted by EDDC undermines the very concept of local democracy. The numbers voting in local elections are already lamentably low. But why would anyone bother to vote, if agreements made after consultation two years ago, when Hugo Swire presented a 10,000 signature petition against the ASDA development to Parliament, are overturned with no further involvement from the electorate until proposals are at an advanced stage? Indeed, I wonder if as many as 10,000 people even voted in Exmouth in May 2007? Merely being re-elected hardly seems like a mandate to suddenly do as you like, so what precipitated this decision? Obviously, David Cameron's cuddly Conservative Party hasn't yet reached Sidmouth!Why does the whole consultation process appear to be driven by ASDA, a very interested party in the outcome of consultation? Are we to assume that ASDA and their developer are overseeing the whole regeneration process of Exmouth - including such matters as the impact of any regeneration on roads, congestion and car parking? What consultation will there be, if any, on the overall regeneration picture? How does the ASDA proposal tie in with proposals to make The Strand a piazza? If people are to feel some ownership of the regeneration, these are issues for which we need answers now, at the beginning of the process.From my short time living in Exmouth, and from reading the many letters in the Exmouth Journal, I know that it is bursting with ideas from people who are as equally committed to the town as Councillor Skinner. Let's please have a proper, sophisticated and modern process that engages the community and harnesses this talent for the benefit of Exmouth. We may well still see ASDA coming to Exmouth, but only with effective consultation can their arrival be fully legitimised.Mike Hinds,The Brambles,Cranford Avenue, Exmouth.TREASURE THE ESTUARY SITEI used to live in Exmouth a few years ago and it's where my roots are and I'm disgusted to hear that Asda are trying to put a new store right on the estuary.I can't believe the town council would choose to ignore all the objections and agree to the development. It's scandalous. The River Exe is a beautiful area and having another supermarket in that place would be truly awful for the town.They have also put a cycle path going up the side of the river and seeing a huge shop there would look terrible and could be damaging for tourism.The town council should treasure an area of beauty, not destroy it. I also believe the town does not need this shop as the university is closing. If there is any place a shop like that should go, it is the university site, as it wouldn't look out of place and might help the other shops in the town, but, as normal, it will probably be used for yet more unaffordable apartments and housing. I had to move away from the area because of the cost of housing. Ian Humphries, Perth, South Wales.TIME TO RETHINK TOWN CENTRE?In answer to Howard Samuel's question 'does anyone know of any seaside town that has a supermarket in an area of prime waterfront?' There is an Asda on Poole Harbour front. It is a short distance from the shopping centre, car parking charged up to two hours is reimbursed if you shop in Asda. I frequently change my mind when listening and reading the for and against having an Asda in Exmouth. Living near to Tesco, I would certainly agree with those living in town who say no to Asda. It is handy having a supermarket nearby, but that can be said of any shop that stays open 24 hours. Perhaps open all hours compensates for noisy behaviour of youngsters in the early hours of the morning, the increased traffic, especially at holiday times, having driveways blocked by cars not wishing to use the Tesco car park. It is a nightmare at times trying to exit the store, especially if one is on foot and having to cross Salterton Road. There was mention in one of the letters to the Journal of the increase in traffic if Asda is built - has a record been kept of the increase in traffic accidents since Tesco arrived? Shopkeepers in Exmouth do a wonderful job in trying to attract customers, even if visitors only come to Exmouth for the many charity shops. Walking around the town, it's disappointing to see so many empty premises, some shopkeepers finding it cheaper to sell their goods online rather than rent property. Perhaps it is time to rethink the town centre - how depressing is the Magnolia Centre! Name and address withheld.

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