The Blot on the Devon Landscape

The wilfull + unecessary defacing of beautiful countryside

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08May08: letter from Chf Exec Teignbridge Council – CLS

Posted by Micro Update Ltd on May 8, 2008

Reply to Chf Executive from resident Mr Edgecumbe 12May08:~

Dear Ms. Bulbeck,

CLS/Sunlight Laundry:

 

Thank you for your letter of 06May08, and for your time at Meetings with Councillor Hook and CLS Management.

 

Before addressing the points in your letter I have to say that I, and the majority of resident taxpayers, are extremely and bitterly disappointed by the performance of the Councillors on the Executive Committee. We are advised that these people, to a person, refused to support Councillor Hooks’ (and thus our) case in anyway whatsoever. They preferred to hide behind historic legal fences and other subterfuges and thus miss out on a glorious opportunity to repair a wrong that has been admitted by all parties as to being brought about by the incompetence/maladministration of Teignbridge Council. – an opportunity that could have sealed the matter once and for all. So it could be back to the old routine of complaints and more Officers’ time swallowed up investigating and dealing with same.

 

A financial contribution by the Council toward the cost of painting (or otherwise) the laundry, in order to minimise its’ long standing impact on its’ locale, would have gone a long way to compensating the aggrieved residents. There is no argument that without the above Teignbridge Council incompetence we would not be landed with such a hideous visual blot now – and this would have been an excellent way for those responsible to make amends. The failure to make this contribution will now provide CLS Management with an extra lever to not paint the laundry.

 

You quote the Ombudsman. First of all we made the Official Complaint against Teignbridge Council and had it substantiated. Was the Ombudsman a clairvoyant? What would she make of the so called ‘landscape scheme’ today if she could see it – probably the same as we residents – notta lot!! A total waste of OUR money, ill spent by the Council when it should have gone toward what we suggested (painting and substantial trees). Your so called experts are way out of touch with what is required to achieve any result. When, oh when is this Council going to listen to the taxpayers??-as they claim they are in so many Public Relation statements (yours included when you started out here).

 

Having fought the long battle we are fully familiarised, first hand, with the Ombudsmans’ findings and do not need it repeated in every communication. Can you and other communicants please abstain from this, and perhaps look to a forward direction.

 

Not withstanding the above we consider it positive that Council Officers will assist the Laundry management in any way that they can to bring about a satisfactory conclusion to this matter.

 

We look forward to being kept advised of all meetings and potential developments, and hopefully for your own on~going interest and assistance.

 

Your letter of 06May08 has been circulated to local residents as requested.

 

Yours sincerely, 

 

L. Edgecumbe.

 

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Reply to Chf Executive from resident Mr Beck 08May08:~

 

Dear Ms Bulbeck
I have read your disappointing letter on the possible contribution of costs towards the painting of the laundry although I and I am no doubt the rest of the residents did not expect anything different. It is a great shame that the Council can even now not put right what they allowed to go through, the plans were submitted and approved by the Council and they should have been inspected to ensure that the laundry was completed to those specifications and clearly they were not. If your ordinary man had got planning permission for something and then not strictly complied with them we would be jumped on straight away and an enforcement order issued. You must be aware how determined we the residence are to get this sorted out and you can be assured that we will continue our quest until a suitable solution has been found.
Again I see your quote, We reported ourselves to the ombudsman, that is not true and I wish you would stop using it, you were reported to the ombudsman and you complied with his enquiry as you were expected to do.
The only person who has had an impact on this for us is Councillor Gordon Hook and there is only so much he can do in his capacity and we are all truly thankful for his continuous efforts, sorry we cannot say the same for the Council.
Yours sincerely
  H. Beck. 

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Ref: NB/DLH/CLS       6 May 2008

 

Dear Mr. Edgecumbe,

 

CLS/SUNLIGHT LAUNDRY: 

As promised I am now able to report back to you on the Council’s position concerning the potential for Teignbridge to work with Sunlight as the company looks at ways in which the visual impact of the laundry building could be reduced. As you are aware, Cllr Gordon Hook and I had a meeting with representatives of Sunlight to discuss the issue and to endeavour to identify what could be done do to assist in improving the appearance of the building for residents. This meeting took place at the instigation of Cllr Hook who is keen to effect a solution.

However, even with Cllr Hook’s initiative and enthusiasm, the Council’s options are limited and realistically, there are two forms of assistance that the Council can give. These are practical assistance or guidance to Sunlight to effect a change in the appearance of the building and/or a financial contribution, say to assist in meeting the cost of painting the building in a colour that will be more acceptable to local residents.

The Council has considered the practical contributions it can give. A major difficulty is that the majority of guidance it could offer would be from officers who would advise councillors upon any planning application put forward by Sunlight. For instance, environmental health officers, who would assess the impact of any revised lighting scheme, could not appropriately comment or provide any consultancy to Sunlight. Depending on any future plans that Sunlight may have as to regards the appearance of the building, pre-application discussions could be held with the Head of Development Control, John Collier-Marsh. For instance, any changes to the current lighting arrangement would need to be approved by the Council. While any changes to the car park landscaping would not need formal Committee approval, the Council’s landscaping officer would be required to comment on any scheme. If Sunlight decided to change the external finish to the laundry building there are no conditions attached to the permission which restrict the cladding or colour being changed. Again, discussions on this aspect could take place with John Collier-Marsh.

 

Councillors have also considered whether or not the Council could properly make a financial contribution and, if so, in what sum. A figure in the region of £50,000 has been mentioned by Sunlight as a ‘ball park’ cost to change the colour of the building. I am not conversant with the details of this scheme. Unfortunately, a financial contribution to costs on this scale, even at 50% of the total cost, is almost impossible for the Council to make. Prior to the 2000 Local Government Act there would have been no opportunity for the Council to make a financial contribution towards the running costs of a private sector organisation. The Local Government Act 2000 changed this by introducing a general power to promote the economic, social and environmental well being of all or part of the Council area. While this is a wide ranging power, in exercising such power, the Council has to have regard to its strategy. The Council’s current strategy does not include making a financial contribution to change the colour of a building or indeed to contribute to its maintenance, as it is held by a commercial private sector organisation. Therefore, in addition to the political difficulties in identifying resources, when the Council’s resources are already severely strained, there is also a clear legal difficulty to

be surmounted should the Council wish to make a financial contribution.

,

On a more positive note, the Council has also identified some possible avenues for Sunlight to consider which could help them achieve some lower cost solutions regarding re-painting, and reducing pluming from the chimneys.

Cllr Hook remains keen to achieve some worthwhile change for local residents. He has sought consent to use his Local Councillors Community Fund monies to contribute. This is a sum of money that each Teignbridge District Councillor has to spend annually on items which are of community benefit. Unfortunately, a financial contribution to Sunlight is precluded under this scheme due to the fact that it is a for profit business.

From a recent conversation with Cllr Hook I understand that he also has a County Councillor‘s Community Fund which gives him approximately £5,000 p.a. to spend. He is making enquiries of the County Council to see if he can use any of those monies to try and improve the appearance of the laundry for residents.

The Council will also be making some practical improvement suggestions to Sunlight, for the benefit of the residents. These suggestions include approaching the Probation Service to provide offender labour to undertake painting works which could make the costings more acceptable to Sunlight and provide a community benefit. Ordinarily, the Probation Service would not get involved in the provision of labour to work on the property of a commercial organisation. However, the Service might be persuaded if you and residents made a case of wider community benefit. Of course, it would be for Sunlight to assess their technical needs regarding painting before the Probation Service option could be explored. The other suggestion relates to investigating heat recovery systems to help reduce the steam pluming from the chimneys. While of a visual benefit it could also help reduce the energy costs of the laundry – especially as energy prices continue to rise.

I understand that local residents will wish that Teignbridge could do more. However, the Council has given serious thought to the situation and what is set out in this letter reflects the realities, practical, political and legal, of the situation. In concluding this letter, I hope it will be helpful to set out a synopsis of Teignbridge’s remedial action to date.

 

In the past, the Council recognised the problem in the way aspects of the original planning application had been handled. This recognition led to the Council itself approaching the Local Government Ombudsman for an independent view on what the Council should do to put things right. Interestingly, when reporting his findings, the Ombudsman said that in his opinion, had the proper condition been imposed, the materials now in use would have been permitted.   He did however find injustice in the way the Council had handled the application but concluded that the landscaping scheme the Council had put in place remedied that injustice. The Council spent a great deal of officer time identifying an environmentally acceptable scheme to do this, including landscaping, while safeguarding the great crested newts, at a cost of £13,497. A further £500 was paid to the Residents Action Group for its time, trouble and costs.

I am certain that Cllr Hook and his ward colleagues will continue to look for ways to improve the visual impact of the laundry building to reduce the concern of residents.

I am copying this letter to Martin Roberts, Director of The Sunlight Service Group and am prepared to meet with him and Councillor Hook to clarify any points in this letter.

Finally, could I please ask that you share this letter with local residents?

 

Nicola Bulbeck

Chief Executive

 

Chief Executive’s Office

Nicola Bulbeck, Chief Executive

Forde House Brunei Road Newton Abbot South Devon TQ124XX

 

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