Information on public speaking is available online
Gill Adamson spoke on Minute 239 - Homelessness Strategy. She was concerned for the welfare of a particular homeless man in Exmouth. He was a vulnerable man with mental health issues being made worse due to the fact he was homeless. She asked what help the Housing department was doing for him.
In responses to the question the Housing Manager confirmed he was aware of the case and that the Housing department were dealing with the man individually however he could not comment any further due to confidential nature of the case. The Chair thanked Gill Adamson for highlighting this situation.
Jeremy Woodward had questions concerning transparency and democracy at the council. He said it was very useful to be able to refer to the council's own press releases over the years but this had its limitations, with the news archive only provided items from this year, half from 2019 and then stops at 2018. Providing access to archives did not take up much space on the web server. This was fundamentally about transparency and if there was limited access to information, especially official information, then the democratic process was compromised.
He asked how remote meetings by Zoom were working – whether they were
enabling greater participation for both the public and members in meetings and whether the hybrid meeting approach was being looked into; where there would be a choice to physically attend meetings or appear via video link.
He concluded by asking what kind of measures were the new administration looking to introduce to bring about greater transparency and democracy at the council.
In response to Mr Woodward the Portfolio Holder Democracy and Transparency confirmed virtual Zoom meetings were working well especially as the public could watch live online as well as participate in the meetings through public speaking. He wished to thank the Democratic Services team for their hard efforts in successfully facilitating these meetings. He said that hybrid meetings needed to be scoped for their effectiveness before any decision would be made to whether the council would go along with this type of meeting.
Sarah Butcher asked that her statement be read out on her behalf.
Having seen the recent publicity about the Government's white paper she wanted to highlight the plight of wildlife in East Devon before the council considered any new planning reforms. She was chair of Devon Bat Group, a volunteer with Devon Wildlife Trust and had qualifications in Biological Recording. She felt really strongly about how rapidly wildlife was already disappearing and how little was being done about it; the relaxation of the existing planning regulations can only make things worse.
As everyone knows we were in the midst of a climate emergency, with wildlife under more threat now than it had ever been. There seemed however to be a missing link in people's understanding about where nature was, thinking it starts elsewhere and not at our own doorstep and back gardens and was our shared responsibility. All too often wildlife was being pushed into increasingly small spaces, not just with the expansion of local housing but also with the drive for low-maintenance tidy gardens, hedges kept neat and tidy and grass in public areas kept short. A habitat could only support a finite number of creatures before food resources ran out, yet still we put our need for housing first and force them into ever smaller areas and possibly sub-optimal habitat.
We were blessed in Devon to have so much wonderful green space, gorgeous hills, fantastic pasture and beautiful woodland. Many of us had moved here because of this, while much of the economy depended on people wanting to visit. Without a local council ecologist in East Devon we were already at a huge disadvantage. She knew East Devon already had a plan for its Nature Recovery Networks that shows great potential but we need to be able to put these into practice and look after what we had left while still having something to protect. Looking after green public spaces was great but if we had less control over new developments, we had an even more massive mountain to climb.