E&E Community News | St Thomas – Spring [Deep] Clean

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10 March 2016

E&E Community News | St Thomas – Spring [Deep] Clean

A part of St Thomas is due to have an early spring clean.

In response to local concerns from residents, local councillors have been able to confirm areas that are to get a deep  by the City Council this year.

The areas currently on the list are Old Vicarage Road, Tin Lane , Powderham Road, Shaftesbury Road , Duckworth Road , Barton Road through to the Cowick Street entrance, Church Path Road, Holland Road, Parkhouse Road, Coleridge Road, Churchill Road , and the rear of Cowick Lane that backs on to the terraced areas.

The clean up time will run from Monday the 14th March to Thursday 24th March 2016 and focus primarily on those roads that have been so far identified.

Local councillor Paul Bull said: “This was one of the main issues that we picked up locally after listening to local people in this part of St Thomas, so we wanted to get these areas on the list for action , especially as many of the back alleys are getting very grubby , weeds need pulling , and there is some general dumping and litter, and we are regularly getting complaints.

“We will look to putting out a local street letter to the effected properties ahead of the allotted time to help raise awareness.”

Cllr Hannaford added: “it will be really good to get some spring cleaning done at these locations.

“It’s been a rough old wet winter and the mild weather has meant that many of the weeds have not died back as usual so, with all the high winds and storms, they will have been a magnet for litter blowing around.

“Also many people in these terraced areas actually use their back alleys a lot for access, for example taking the dogs for a walk, so it’s really important they are kept clear nd clean”

If residents would like more information , or suggest other areas in St Thomas that need attention, please email cllr.paul.bull@exeter.gov.uk , rob.hannaford@devon.gov.uk  and cllr.hannah.packham@exeter.gov.uk.

E&E Community News | St Thomas – Local Grants

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10 March 2016

E&E Community News | St Thomas – Local Grants

During the current financial year , St Thomas Cllrs Hannah Packham and Rob Hannaford have agreed the following community grants for local groups and residents.

St Thomas Methodist Church: £300 for raised beds.

St Thomas Bowling Club: £200 for a new hot water urn .

Pinces Garden: £300 for a Garden Party this coming May.

Pinces Gardens Bowling Club: £300 for new crockery and folding tables.

Age UK: £225 towards a Dementia allotment project.

The Bloom’In St Thomas Group: £300 for new wildflower plantings.

St Thomas Allotment Association: £100 towards new notice boards

Cllr Packham said: “ It’s been great to use these local grants in St Thomas for a range of very worthwhile projects.

“It often means that when an issue arises , or a piece of equipment goes wrong , we can be proactive straight away.

“For many small organisations relying on volunteers, grants up to three hundred pounds can make a big difference.

“Where some local projects serve more than one ward , we can on occasions agree cluster funding from several ward budgets. Please keep coming forward to us with your ideas , projects and suggestions”

Fellow St Thomas Cllr Rob Hannaford , who originally set up these grants when he was the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Communities, added: “These delegated ward grants that all City Councillors have each year do a huge amount of good positive work across the whole city , that often add value to the grass roots fund raising efforts by volunteers.

“Over many years we have always made full use of them in and around St Thomas.

“This includes supporting all sorts of charities , church groups , community organisations , and sports clubs.”

Cllr Hannaford added: “Another important element to the grants is providing local ward members with an important tool in fulfilling their leadership role of local community champions.

“This work is very important at the moment , with public sector cuts and reducing central government funding , in that we work with local people to achieve sustainable projects  and generally promote resilience.“

The recent budget setting meeting at the City Council confirmed that each of the new three member wards will have £3,000 each.

If people would like information , guidance , or to make an application. they are encouraged to make contact with their local councillors , or Dawn Rivers, the Community Involvement and Inclusion Officer at the City Council, who can be emailed at  dawn.rivers@exeter.gov.uk .

E&E | Last-ditch attempt to save patrols

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25 February 2016

Last-ditch attempt to save patrols

By Anita Merritt

Lollipop protest outside County Hall

An 11th hour bid to save Devon’s school crossing patrollers has been launched.

Parents, grandparents and anyone who wants to see the continuation of what is regarded as a vital and life-saving service in Devon, is being asked to contact councillor John Hart, the leader of Devon County Council, by phone or email before it is too late.

The Heart to Hart campaign has been launched by school crossing patroller campaigners and is being backed by Cllr Alan Connett, Liberal Democrat group leader on Devon County Council.

He said: “My call would be for every parent, grandma and grandad in Devon to email Cllr Hart and say they want to keep our school crossing patrollers.

“They can also contact their local conservative councillors as they are the ones who voted to cut the service.

“This is our 11th hour chance to save school crossing patrollers. When they’re gone they’re gone.”

Cllr Connett said he was concerned not much money would be saved if the council has to spend out on traffic islands or alternative safety management outside schools. He added he was also worried parents would no longer feel it was safe for their older children to walk to school which would increase traffic on Devon’s roads and impact on children’s health by being driven to school instead of walking.

“The decision is a false economy,” he said. “Labour put forward a different proposal, as did the Independents and Liberal Democrats. We could have found the money for it.”

At last week’s meeting, the majority of councillors voted in favour of Cllr Hart’s recommendation to approve the budget for 2016/17, which excluded funding for school lollipop patrollers. A further debate of the service will take place at the council’s scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, 07 March.

Overwhelming opposition from schools, councillors and the public – along with three petitions with one signed by more than 1,000 people – failed to sway the mind of Devon County Council in its mission to save £250,000 a year from its budget.

Under the new proposals, school patrollers will be employed by a third party that would deliver the service on a full-cost recovery or commercial basis.

If schools decide not to fund the cost of their patrol, the alternatives are for it to be run by volunteers or to lose the service.

To make sure the service continues to be delivered safely, the council says it is prepared to continue a degree of support such as establishing and monitoring quality standards, providing training and doing risk assessments.

Save our school lollipop patrollers campaigner Marie Leverett, a mum from Stoke Hill, Exeter, said: “I sincerely hope the County Council will reconsider it’s position at the scrutiny committee on 07 March, and take some time to think through the ramifications of this ludicrous budget cut in the short, medium and long term.”

At last week’s full council meeting, Cllr Hart said: “It’s not an easy decision to make but I think it’s the right decision for us to take.”

To join the Heart to Hart campaign, send an email to Cllr Hart asking to save Devon’s school lollipop patrollers at john.hart@devon.gov.uk or call him on 01752 403554.

E&E | Exeter aims to bring more rough sleepers in from the cold

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21 November 2015

Exeter aims to bring more rough sleepers in from the cold

New steps are being taken to help bring Exeter’s rough sleepers in from the cold.

Exeter City Council is gearing up to the winter with an action plan to which will see 26 spaces to accommodate rough sleepers from December 1 to February 28 – , including specific provision for women.

The City Council is working in partnership with a number of groups including the police and St Petrock’s to offer a safe place to sleep for those with no other options available.

Since 2010 there has been a yearly increase in the numbers of people rough sleeping in England. In Exeter last year there was an increase of 48per cent.

City Council Leader, Pete Edwards, said: “‘We are committed to reversing this trend by tackling the causes of homelessness and rough sleeping, although it will be an ongoing challenge.

“We recognise that many people who are homeless have complex issues. We are trying to work creatively with partner agencies to offer a safe place to sleep and the right support to get people through the winter.”

Agencies will work together with the homeless, focussing on longer term plans, and in a specific place rather than trying to meet up on the street.

It is hoped that this will help those who may have refused to ‘come inside’ and help manage anti-social behaviour within the city. Clients with no local connection will be offered reconnection services so that the provision is linked to local demand.

The project includes support alongside a place to sleep with the intention of being able to offer as many ongoing accommodation placements as possible by the end of February.

#Theatre4Exeter | An ‘iconic’ building on site of Bus Station

I have been in long-term correspondence over the Exeter City Council’s ‘iconic’ building on the site of the Bus and Coach Station…here’s the latest instalment.

I hope that these discussion help you realise that the decision over the future direction of the Bus & Coach Station development site is much more considered than many people realise.

If you have been following the story closely, you will know that the option to develop the site was awarded to Land Securities and Crown Estate back 2010.

Under the deal,  Land Securities would  draw up proposals for the site  and would be granted a long- term lease by the Council, which  would still own the freehold.

The developer would then pay  for the redevelopment of the site  and lease units to retailers.  Land Securities will now draw  up a feasibility plan and the Council will have the final say  on any proposals.

SEE: Land Securities seal Exeter bus station deal (WMN, 17 March 2014)

Of course this was under the previous LD administration when Leader Adrian Fullam had a letter in the E&E City centre theatre idea is unrealistic (15 March 2010).

Most of his comments then are still valid now.

As a consequence of the recent article in the E&E (“New bus station site plans are due within weeks” 13 June 2015), you highlight 4 points

1) The plans are expected to include a multi-screen cinema
As Adrian pointed out back in 2010, Land Securities are “Land Securities is a commercial company”. The same is true of their successors on the project, TIAA Henderson Real Estate.

They are now responsible for regenerating the current Bus & Coach Station site – they are investing £70m in the project – of course, they will be expecting to make a  substantial return.

The terms of their option gives them full control (subject to the usual planning restrictions) to make best use of that land as they see fit.

As to whether a multiplex is finally delivered on the emerging site is simply a matter of economics.

Each and every one of the 3 multi-screen cinemas operates on a commercial basis – if not, they would close down.

I am assuming that TH Real Estate and Crown Estate have had the relevant conversations with a cinema chain and/or independent and reckon they can get a financial return on delivering a new cinema on this site.

2) It is understood that a new swimming pool is needed to replace the Pyramids.
To be clear the leisure complex is going to much more than a swimming pool, it will have gym and other facilities – more details from Exeter Active, and you see outline details of the building design on Gale and Snowden’s Swim4Exeter page.

Initial design drawing [Gale and Snowden]
Initial design drawing [Gale and Snowden]

As it stands, the research and business case shows that the new leisure complex will NOT be an Olympic-sized pool. I’ve tried swimming in Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh and it really is daunting.

I am really exciting that this ‘iconic’ building can be built to PassivHaus standards.

I for one would be seriously worried if the new leisure centre were located at one of the suggested alternatives – Arena Park. Many bus route have been threatened by withdrawal of services and I fear that this situation will only get worse in the future.

I want a facility that is easily accessible to all – not just those that can rely on private car use.

I haven’t got the actual usage details of Riverside to hand, but a report to Scrutiny – Economy in January 2014 reported an INCREASE of 44,000 customers at Riverside Leisure Centre in comparison to year one, and a significant rise at the Pyramids Swimming Centre with an increase of 29,000.

I haven’t seen the documents that outline the projected use of the new complex of 500k to 1m (New Exeter swimming pool will ‘attract a million visitors a year’, council claims E&E 19 March 2015), but let’s remember we are talking about visits to the gym and other facilities as well as swimmers.

And to put that in to some perspective – if Theatre Royal Plymouth were open to provide 9 performance a week, there would be an audience of some 1500 (in the 2 venues) per performance, that’s 13,000 each week and totaling 702,000.

But I would once more reiterate that each visitor to Exeter’s Leisure Complex would bring in an income to the Council.

Currently, TRP is a National Portfolio Organisation [NPO] of Arts Council England [ACE] and receives funding to the tune of £1,185,500 – this is committed for the next 3 years. Note I use the phrase committed, rather than guaranteed, as ACE have have stated this could be reviewed if they themselves receive cuts in Government funding.

For your information, the following Exeter-based Theatre Companies receive annual NPO funding from ACE:
Bikeshed – £75k
Northcott – 125k
Alibi – £241k
Kaleider – £110k
and Exeter Phoenix is an NPO for Combined Arts – £125k

As I’ve mentioned in previous correspondence, I think that a new theatre venture in Exeter would be very unlikely to attract such significant funding from ACE.

In addition to susbisdy from ACE,  TRP currently enjoys revenue grant support of £665,000 from Plymouth City Council. The freehold of the Theatre Royal Plymouth (built in 1982) is owned by PCC and let to the operator at a peppercorn rent.

The reality is that a new theatre would cost residents for each and every seat sold.

As a city cllr, I am committed to retaining as much of the current green open space as possible, and any building on the site of Belmont Park would reduce the capacity available for events such as Exeter Respect.

The amphitheatre is an open space within the new development that I would imagine would be used for ad hoc events and informal gatherings (even a new location for the Farmers’ Market?) – rather in the way that Coventry’s Millenium Square is used – rather than for formal money-making initiatives.

3) No reference is made to building a much-needed theatre
I think that in my previous thoughts I have taken issue with this view – the theatre is desired but there is no NEED.

I will admit that’s my view – but with over 5 years of active doorstep work within Cowick, I can honestly say the issue of city centre theatre has been raised with me ONCE. I can take you to the resident, it was so memorable.

I see constant letters from the same people regularly appearing in the E&E expressing their desire, I understand the economic benefits if a city centre theatre, I want “the arts and culture an economic driver of the growth of the city”.

It’s just my view of theatre differs from yours. That’s why I do back the desire of the Theatre For Exeter Development Group to carry out a full feasibility study for the project.  What I’m not prepared to so is fully fund that study – and I believe the T4E Development Group aren’t expecting the City Council to do so.

I would be willing to place a bet – that the feasibility study would find that the financial case for a 1200 seat theatre capable to presenting Number One tours (those seen at TRP) will not stack up.

And I’m willing to place a second one – that a 800-900 seater theatre would be financially viable.

What do I do then?

Ignore the study and plump for the unsustainable venue you want, or the one that we can afford and support?

At the meeting of Exeter Civic Society where the T4E Development Group came into being, there were many who mourned the loss of the resident Artistic Director and repertory nature of the programme at the Northcott.

I have high hopes that the appointment of Paul Jepson up on the hill will start to address these issues – and I feel that his plans will be much more than “developing local production in co-operation with Exeter University”.

You also make mention of parking at the University – there is NO shortage of car parking spaces, albeit a couple of minutes walk away from the theatre. There is also a useful bus service that runs the city centre (and to my home in Heavitree). It is certainly much more accessible to the city centre than Warwick Arts Centre is to Coventy.

The future of the current Pyramids site is still to be decided – I personally would like this to be a major music venue like the Academy chain seen around the country – but I fear I, too, will be disappointed!

You bring back the 1962 closure of the old Theatre Royal – there has been a replacement for this – the Northcott. That was the legacy I inherited when I joined the council in 2011 – I wish different decisions had been taken back then, but they weren’t. We have to progress from where we are now,

Funding cannot be redirected from the ‘unnecessary” cinema no funding from ECC is  being directed there – as I explained earlier, that’s a commercial decision for TH Real Estates and Crown Estates.

The “unnecessary” amphitheatre is something I desire, and have fought hard to retain in the plans – once again there is NO ECC funding for this

Can I refer you to the Bus and Coach Station Development Principles from June 2012 which outlines desires for this sort of  space to be delivered.

4) The City Council must be aware that the small shops are steadily closing in the city
Yet I see thriving independent shops along Paris Street – The Real Food Store (declaration of interest, I’m a minor shareholder), Jelly, The Sandwich Shop, the gift shop (UPDATE: Hyde & Seek!) – and I for one want to see this independent network retained and grown once the new development comes to fruition.

As I say, I’ve given it a lot of thought, as have many of my colleagues.

I’m sure we’ll correspond more once the planning application for TH Real Estates and Crown Estates is lodged with ECC.

South West Ahlulbayt Centre

As someone who proudly marched through the city centre last year under the Exeter Together banner, I am deeply saddened by the vile and racist outbursts that accompanied the planning application for a change of use to the old John Holts property.

Defaced notification of planning application
Defaced notification of planning application

It seems to me that ill-informed intolerance, and offensive and abusive comments have lead to the withdrawal of the application to use the building as a Muslim Community Centre

There were some problems associated with parking, as outlined in the officer’s report, but I don’t think that was the root cause of many of the comments I saw.

My fear is that this property will now lay vacant for many years to come.

These words from the organisers of last year’s Exeter Together were published in the Express & Echo and sum up my feelings on the matter

We are writing as some of the organisers of Exeter Together, which just over a year ago held a huge march and festival in Exeter in opposition to the march by the racist English Defence League. Then over 1000 people joined with us to celebrate the diversity that we have in Exeter.

We read with sadness that the planning application for a community centre in St Thomas by the Shia Muslim community has been withdrawn following the cowardly attacks on it.

With regard to the planning application we recognise that there were valid concerns about parking from some people. However judging by some of the comments on the Express and Echo Facebook page much of the opposition seems to have been motivated by misunderstandings, or in some cases by prejudice against Muslims.

The application made clear that the centre would have been a resource for ALL the community in St Thomas, not just for Shia Muslims to use.

Other comments and the stickers that were put up on the old John Holt shop seem to suggest that the South West Ahlulbayt Centre applying for the centre would have links to jihadis and the Islamic State (ISIS).

Perhaps these people are unaware (or choosing to ignore) that Shia Muslims have been killed in their thousands by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

We congratulate the Express and Echo on its principled stand against prejudice in our community. We hope that the Shia community will realise that the vast majority of people in Exeter love their city, and welcome the presence of all people, faiths and cultures in this great city of ours.

Ian Martin
Lizi Allnatt
Mike Gurney
Richard Bradbury
Kate Hannan
Tom Milburn
Carlus Hudson
Sandhya Dave
Sue Ryan
Megan Thomas
Kim Chenoweth
Mic Morgan
Rae Ebdon
Dave Chappell
Robert Crick
Vivien Crick
Ghee Bowman
Andrew Duncan
Jack Davies
Catherine Craig

Leaflet issued by St Thomas Residents' Awareness Alliance
Leaflet issued by St Thomas Residents’ Awareness Alliance

#Theatre4Exeter – My thoughts on the Rose Theatre in Kingston

Following the publication by the Express & Echo of my letter on how I saw the financial viability of a 1200-seater city centre theatre, I have been amazed by how many compliments I’ve received. But others have questioned my views and suggested alternatives.

One such was asking why that city centre theatre couldn’t emulate the Rose Theatre in Kingston – a conversation of an Odeon Cinema – and one of the options mentioned by the Theatre for Exeter Development Group.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

The overwhelming majority of voices I’m hearing is for a competitor to Plymouth’s Theatre Royal – with an auditorium seating in excess of 1200 and presenting the touring productions of musicals and theatre that constitute the programme in their Lyric Theatre. There are other models – costing considerably less, but I believe not meeting the *demands* of those currently calling for this large city centre theatre.

The Rose in Kingston is an interesting model – 900’capcity circular auditorium inspired by the shape of an Elizabethan theatre, but by no means looking backwards.

The thrust stage juts out into the auditorium, giving a new perspective to the relationship between performer and audience member. This alone would rule out the major shows the majority of correspondents in the E&E are calling for.

But it does reflect the kind of theatre I would like to see.

So to the construction costs – yes only £11m!

However, we don’t own the Odeon, so someone would have to find the money to buy it in the first instance. And that’s if the Odeon would consider selling someone the building.

It’s worth noting that the 2012/2013 annual accounts of the Kingston Theatre Trust (which manages the Rose) show the venue made a loss of more than £200k – this despite continued funding of £500k from Kingston Council and a further £380k from Kingston University.

However, I will acknowledge that there may be other models of financing and funding that might work – that’s why I need to see a viable business case.

If I were to play devil’s advocate (and second guess the final report), it is probable that the conclusion of Theatre For Exeter Development Group will be that a 1200-seat theatre is economically unviable, and it will recommend a venue with a capacity 750 – 1000. Will this placate those calling for a rival to the Plymouth Theatre Royal – NO.

Could I back this with an accompanying 10 year action plan as proposed by the T4E development Group – a qualified YES I was (and have been all through this debate) careful not to say NEVER to a city centre theatre. With an ailing and failing Pyramids, we need a swimming pool (actually, it’s really a leisure complex!) NOW.