Delivering policies that are ‘safe, seen and green’

Paul Diviani, the Leader of East Devon District Council, sets out the challenges faced locally.

The Leader of East Devon District Council says he wants the local authority to deliver policies that are “safe, seen and green”.

In an exclusive interview with the Midweek Herald, Councillor Paul Diviani set out the challenges facing councillors and officials at The Knowle.

He points out new legislation being proposed by central government will have cost implications at local level and that some new policies could come through when the council is working with “balanced budgets”.

“I have got it from a minister that, in the case of Neighbourhood Plans, previous parish plans can be used for evidence-based purposes, but we will have to go for a referendum at the end of it,” he said.

“If that overturns all the work that has been done, it’s not worth it. There are costs involved.

“Additional costs are coming down. The Government is transferring the risk to us.

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“We used to handle benefits and send the Government the bill, for example.”

Referring to the proposed introduction of a localised council tax benefit system, he said: “Now, we may not get back what we’ve paid out. And, in a time of recession, we are going to get more and more people requiring benefit - through the loss of jobs, ill health and falling on hard times.”

But Councillor Diviani says East Devon is up to the challenge.

He told The Herald: “None of us have come into this without having a strong commitment to work through the hard times as well as the good. There is a lot of satisfaction when you get results.”

The Local Plan process is currently the council’s “major activity”, Councillor Diviani revealed.

“If we get it through Government inspectors, we will be in control. If not, it will be open season for developers.

“It is a very complicated process and it is important to get it right, because we are the ones who have to work with the plan.

“To expect no development is not an issue. The world keeps moving forward.”

Councillor Diviani was keen to stress: “We live in a beautiful area that we need to preserve and enhance at all costs.

“Only one per cent of East Devon is built upon - that’s housing and businesses.”

Setting out the council’s priority to deliver affordable homes, he said: “We have got to look after our young people - that means affordable housing.

“We need 250 affordable homes every year over the next 15 years. It will only be paid for through development and will account for 25 per cent of market housing.

“If we don’t look after our young people, what is going to happen to our district?”

Reflecting on the authority he leads, Councillor Diviani said: “The council is very much like a stately Spanish galleon. It glides along serenely.

“A lot of people don’t notice what we do - they notice what we don’t do.

“I want East Devon to be safe, seen and green.

“For example, we have got 50 per cent recycling but we have to do more. The next target will be over 60 per cent.

“In terms of safety, we are planning out criminality at the development stage of building projects.

“I want the authority’s work to be seen and I’m 24/7 in my role.”