Who’ll Get Your Vote on May 2nd? Meet the Candidates and Raise Your Qs!

District Council Elections: All the Candidates in One Place, Read and Ask Away! 

Who’s genuine, skilled and right for the role? Who’s a real doer and who’s just a talker?

You’ve probably already had some leaflets through your door and maybe even a chat with one or two of the candidates for the coming May 2nd South Hams District Council elections.

In the interest of openness and democracy, we thought it’d be helpful to condense the options available in one place, and to invite questions from voters which candidates then have the opportunity to publicly respond to.

So we share below statements received from those standing in the Totnes ward, and also the 3 adjacent surrounding wards – Dartington and Staverton, Marldon and Littlehempston, and West Dart. Where submitted by the candidate, we’ve included a weblink to more campaign info and a photo.

After reading, if you have a Question, please use the Comments Section below to address specific named candidate(s) so it’s clear who you want an answer from and they have an opportunity to reply, or say “To All candidates”, and please be respectful. Thank You!


TOTNES Ward – 10 candidates contesting 3 District Councillor positions.

Philip Paine (Conservative): I am the only (100% attendance) person on the Totnes Council that was born and bred in Totnes, so I understand the (over 60 years) history of the town.  I am practical, so I can see the problems the town has that need fixing. I do not sit on the fence!!! Totnes needs me on District Council because I care about the Town and I will speak up.  The fact is that the town needs a link road! We need to get rid of congestion and pollution. So lets set land aside for future people to be able to build a link road with out knocking downs houses!!!!  Will push for school classes to be brought down to 20 children in a class!!! Let’s give em a chance to cope with modern day life!


Christopher Maguire (Green): I’ve lived in Totnes for 13 years. I have three children. I have worked in education both secondary and further. I believe in equality, a prosperous, resilient local economy and community participation.

I’d like to:

  • Create more quality jobs and fairer pay levels.
  • Work with partner organisations to attract investment and job creation. Ensure employment opportunities are offered to everyone equally irrespective of colour, gender or age.
  • Support local renewable energy and keep more money within the local economy.
  • I oppose austerity cuts to public services, they are morally wrong and financially short-sighted.
  • I would prioritise development on brownfield sites, particularly for social needs. Work with others to deliver an education and media campaign keeping climate change at the forefront of peoples minds to encourage behavioural change across all
    sections of the community.

Jo Sweett

Jo Sweett (Green): is a Totnes/Bridgetown resident of 20 years; she is a mother of two girls, a successful high street shop keeper and Green Totnes Town Councillor the past 3 years. As youth link councillor she works with homeless and youth safeguarding projects and successfully secured 45K for the Skatepark rebuild (completion expected spring 2020.) As Chamber of Commerce member, she co managed the Totnes Xmas Markets for 8 years and as Bridgetown Alive trustee advises SHDC on The Chicken Run wildlife corridor and had the outdoor exercise equipment installed. A long term green Party member Jo is focused on improving public transport and cycle ways, delivering sustainable and informative recycling services and aiming to ensure “real” affordable housing is available for locals now and next generations.

Joseph Rose (Green): – “

Joseph Rose

JOSEPH ROSE is passionate about taking the steps needed to protect our environment and move toward a fairer, more supportive system, that serves all people and the natural world. He believes that as well as challenges, this time offers great opportunities, to look at our personal and collective choices with fresh eyes and to stand up for what we believe in.

He supports the UK ‘Youthstrike For Climate’ movement and is ready to act as a bridge between local youth and the council, inspiring young people to engage in important decision making. Earlier this year, Joseph spoke to Devon County Council, before they declared a state of climate emergency. He will do all he can to support the council in acting upon this decision.
If elected, Joseph is committed to listening to you, the people of Totnes, and doing all in his power to represent and support you whilst pushing for a sustainable future.

Colin Luker

Colin Luker (Labour): “We are only limited by our own imagination” – I believe that Labour Councillors can definitely change the way the District Council delivers the many services that you require & expect. For many years the decisions have become the reserve of a handful of Councillors supported by the majority Conservative group without any thought or consideration to the wishes of the majority of local residents. I want a much more transparent and open system that genuinely involves local residents in the decision- making process. If you believe that local democracy is worth retaining, then you need to vote for me and my Labour colleagues on 2nd May. See our comprehensive manifesto to view all our plans for a better South Hams. https://www.facebook.com/laboursouthhams/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Laurel Ellis

Laurel Ellis (Labour): I have lived in Totnes for eighteen years, playing an active part in the community. I delivered the Gardening for Health project, and co-founded a social enterprise, using local food surplus, getting fresh produce to vulnerable groups.

I am environmentalist and will support immediate action for climate change.

Previously a health advisor and social worker, I am concerned with homelessness and housing issues- we need more action on social housing NOW. I want to close the loophole on council tax for second homes, which could fund half the shortfall facing SHDC.

86% of government cuts have fallen on the shoulders of women – let’s have a stronger voice for women on SHDC!

Change IS possible! Vote for it on May 2nd. S Hams Manifesto: https://www.facebook.com/download/preview/413213505907211

Louise Webberley (Labour): As a Town Councillor I have campaigned vigorously on the following issues:

  • Work with Caring Town Totnes and others to improve facilities for young people and safeguard their well being.

    Louise Webberley

  • Helped to restore local youth club provision.
  • Supported local families threatened with eviction and won a motion challenging South Ha
    ms to meet social housing targets.
  • Successfully lobbied our local MP to support Divest Parliament.
  • Met with a government minister and our local M.P. to oppose the roll out of Universal Credit in our area.
  • Serve on KEVICC Foundation Governors and Tadpool.
  • Campaigned to install a rainbow crossing in Totnes to support the LGBT community.

If you elect me, I will continue to robustly campaign to protect and improve our services. I will listen to you and ensure your voice is heard. https://totnes.laboursites.org/your-local-labour-councillors/

John Birch, Emily Price, Jon Anderson (Liberal Democrat – combined statement): We can all appreciate just how special a place Totnes is; all the historic buildings, the affability of its people, the beauty of the surrounding nature.

Yet if the Conservative-controlled South Hams District Council had its way, the core nature of Totnes would be terribly jeopardized. Development would be helter-skelter, the much needed car parks would become construction sites, and instead of building social housing, retirement villages would dot the landscape.

In other words, everything we cherish about our town would be obliterated.

The overall track record of the Conservatives at the SHDC has been terrible. They’ve wasted thousands of pounds on doomed projects and secret developments. They’ve done nothing at all to shrink the housing waiting list. And they’ve shown no backbone on insisting that developers live up to all their obligations on various local developments.

With all that mind, the Liberal Democrats have put a team of incumbent and first time candidates whose aim it will be to provide honest and able opposition to the Conservatives.

John Birch, Emily Price, John Anderson

The Lib Dems are:

John Birch, an incumbent District Councillor from Totnes. During his time as a councillor, John has been active in helping numerous individuals and groups deal with issues they have with the SHDC. Among his many civil affiliations, he chairs the newly formed conservation group, St. Mary’s Totnes Heritage Trust.

Emily Price is a Totnes town councillor and lives in Totnes with her daughter. She is chair of trustees of SaMM music school and deputy chair of KEVICC Foundation governors.

John Anderson is also a trustee of St. Mary’s Heritage Trust and lives in Totnes. A freelance journalist, he writes for the Totnes Pulse and volunteers for a charity that represents people in court who don’t have lawyers.

The Lib Dem platform for Totnes and the rest of the South Hams includes the following elements:

– Build social housing to shrink the waiting list.

– Close the loophole that allows second home owners avoid council tax.

– Cut car parking charges and keep the public toilets free of charge.

– Encourage public consultation on major development projects.

– Promote Green travel plans to combat climate change and air pollution.



DARTINGTON & STAVERTON ward: 2 candidates contesting 1 District Councillor position

Jenny McGeever (Conservative): I have lived in Devon for 15 years going to school in Tiverton and Wellington before going to university in London returning back to take up employment in Totnes. I have lived in the South Hams for three years and Totnes for almost a year.  I am passionate about preserving these areas so that they can be enjoyed well into the future. There is so much to do to ensure a sustainable future and that our resources care for an ever changing population, that our schools provide the best education and our transport system works for all.

I am young, passionate, dedicated and committed to helping us all make a difference to our community.

Jacqui Hodgson

Jacqi Hodgson (Green): Many people will be familiar with me as the longstanding District Councillor for Dartington and Staverton, I have represented these parishes for the past eight years on South Hams District Council and more recently in the past two years as their County Councillor too.  I work tirelessly and diligently for the local community particularly on planning matters, seeking a better way to deliver the affordable and social housing we actually need rather that the excess of new market housing and its major adverse impacts on the local community, air quality and wildlife.  In standing again for election, I bring my dedication to supporting local democracy, fairness, accountability and better quality local services that meet local needs and address climate change.


Marldon and Littlehempston ward: 5 candidates contesting 1 District Councillor position

Steve Veasey

Steve Veasey (Conservative): Having lived in Marldon for the majority of my life, I was first elected to our Parish Council in 2003 and I am currently Vice Chair.

I have always been interested in politics, both locally and nationally and would welcome the opportunity to influence change and make our ward a good place to live and work. If elected I will reflect on our chosen priorities and make them fit for the future rather than the past.

This forthcoming election isn’t about what’s happening nationally, this election is about what affects YOU locally, what’s happening in YOUR parish. I will wholeheartedly represent your ward at local government and parish council meetings to ensure that YOUR concerns and ideas are brought forward.


Gill Coombs

Gill Coombs (Green): I’m committed to working for open, democratic, non-blaming, inclusive and collaborative politics, localised as far as possible. I’m committed to supporting only planning and development that impacts as little as possible on our beleaguered eco-systems. I’d like to see far more support and encouragement for people to do work they love in service of healthy people and planet, and a more equitable economy in which all are paid fairly for what they contribute. I’m passionate about land and hedgerows being stewarded in a way than enhances rather than depletes biodiversity, and climate change is top priority, as it should be for all politicians. I’m a writer, and I practically and therapeutically support people wanting to work for a better world. https://www.gillcoombs.co.uk

Trevor Pennington (Independent): awaiting response.

Evelyn Burges (Labour): As your district councillor, I will promote policies that support children and families, enabling council and social housing where possible, ensuring that housing and council tax benefits are set at the best levels to help families hit by austerity. My other priorities are to invest in local projects rather than in city portfolios and property outside our region; to promote good public transport, and to encourage sustainable community enterprises. Marldon and Littlehempston needs a fresh approach, to reinvigorate our community. It’s time to change the Tory hegemony of our ward and of our Council. I have lived in nearby Totnes for 30 years, and am very happy to be standing for Labour in this ward. Please see manifesto link: http://totnes.laboursites.org/your-local-labour-councillors/



Keith Smith

Keith Smith (Liberal Democrat): I have lived in Totnes since 2009, having moved here to be near family. I’m a mainly retired environmental scientist, working for many years in climate change research. I have past experience as a councillor, a parliamentary candidate, and a member of the Lib Dems’ national policy committee.

I am active in Totnes U3A and a volunteer at Totnes Oxfam bookshop.

I believe a stronger Lib Dem group on South Hams District Council will make it a more effective and dynamic body. My own focus as a councillor would be on environmental issues: increasing recycling and avoiding energy wastage, by insisting on all new buildings being made as energy efficient as possible. http://www.southhamslibdems.org.uk


West Dart: 2 candidates contesting 1 District Councillor Position

John McKay

John Mckay (Liberal Democrat): I have been campaigning for many years for better local democracy, better planning decisions and more robust environmental protection. I believe I have been successful in bringing about some real change in how decisions are made and in protecting the environment.

I have served on Council committees, have been a volunteer for the Samaritans and am now a volunteer for Citizens Advice. I am also helping to save our local pub.

This involvement has made me acutely aware of the many economic, social and environmental challenges the area faces. I am standing as a Liberal Democrat as I believe they have the best policies and highly qualified team of candidates that if elected would put SHDC on a sustainable path. https://mckay.sh


Leigh Munro

Leigh Munro (Conservative): I am standing because I care about the area and the people who live in West Dart and have the time, energy and commitment to give them a voice.

I live in Dittisham with my young family and have a background in politics having worked in the House of Commons and government affairs for several companies. I also sit on the parish council so have experience of how local decisions are made and the impact a empowered local community can have when its councillors engage and listen to what it wants.

If elected my priorities will be to ensure promises made on affordable housing, recycling and healthcare are kept and more engagement takes place with residents on future decisions.

FYI: Besides the South Hams District Council elections on May 2nd, there are also Parish elections on the same day. For full details see the South Hams site here: https://www.southhams.gov.uk/article/5022/Elections-and-Referendums-2019

The discussion so far…

How can we make Totnes car free?

QUESTION: To all candidates.
How can we make Totnes car free?


ANSWER: LOUISE WEBBERLEY:  I think it would be great if there were an increased use of public transport in the town. We need to look at ways of making public transport more affordable.

It would be great if we could introduce a park and ride scheme as is the case in other tourist towns and cities.
Additionally, why not re-introduce fun/ tourism friendly modes of transport such as Tuk -Tuks?
It would be great if Totnes High Street could be car free with the exception of those with mobility/disability issues. I also appreciate businesses will need transport for deliveries to be made, in order to thrive.
I appreciate your suggestions, expertise and opposing viewpoints. It is only by actively listening to you that I can be an authentic voice in shaping your needs and wishes for the town!


ANSWER- COLIN LUKER: Interesting question. Not sure if you mean the whole of Totnes or just certain parts e.g. High Street? The current problems are a) we have built extra housing without expanding the infrastructure which is leading to congestion . Totnes seems to be the through route for a lot more cars these days. In the rural villages public transport is non existent which means cars are the only choice & something which needs urgent attention. b) Air pollution is causing (lots of studies being published) health problems for all, especially if you live close to congested roads. Is there hope on the horizon – 1) well the centre of Town could be pedestrianised, maybe for certain days / times, etc. but we need to be aware of the local business needs + it will need negotiating with DCC. 2) over the next 10 years the majority of transport will have moved to electric so that will help with air pollution. 3) the use / ownership of cars will change due to self driving electric cars but we need to be aware of the impact on current jobs that this will create. 4) how can we create more local jobs to avoid people having to commute – well S.Hams DC can play an important part in this as part of a social policy. Anyhow, could go on for ages but if you would like to talk about your concerns, views, etc let me know.


ANSWER- LAUREL ELLIS: Thank you very much for your question. A simple question, without a simple answer!
I cannot say that my answer is about making Totnes car free, but it is about reducing the effects of traffic and the use of cars as our main means of transport.
Last year South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council were exploring ways to protect and improve air quality with a focus on the Air Quality Management Areas around Totnes, Ivybridge and Dean Prior.
A Clean Air Strategy, bringing together all of the councils proposed actions for managing air quality, went out for consultation a year ago. The ideas in the plan included a Bypass to Totnes. The report said limited routes were available for such a bypass, and that any route would have to go north of the A385.
The level of impact of that on the amount of traffic that would use the new road, as well as the location of the by-pass, was unknown, but as the vast majority (approximately 70%) of journeys on the A385 are through traffic, the potential impact was great.
With the increase in housebuilding, without adequate supporting infrastructure, the problems we experience in Totnes are exacerbated even further.
I am constantly frustrated by the level of traffic in Totnes, the high levels of pollution, and the traffic jams blocking entrances of both the Hospital and Minor Injuries Unit and the Fire Station. This area has been identified as having high NO2 levels in excess of legislative limits. Traffic flow is further held up by many sets of traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, and junctions. SHDC would need to work closely with DCC to change this, and historically this has not been easy.
As you know just the change in the traffic flow up and down the High St resulted in huge controversy in the town. But many towns pedestrianise their town centres, and when High Street and Fore Street were closed for Party in the Town, it was wonderful to walk up and down the main street, it gave a great opportunity for people to relax, and air quality was hugely improved. Ideas for shared space ( which doesnt often help people who are visually impaired) have not been carried forward.
In addition to the suggestions given by my colleagues, Colin and Louise, I would add that free parking in the carparks from 9.30 to 10.30 would encourage early shoppers, spreading out the number of cars through the day. Park and ride at Follaton with electric vehicle transport into town is feasible.
We are committed to improving public transport, and supporting community initiatives such as Bob the Bus, Totnes Caring, and promoting cycling, while supporting access for those with mobility issues.
However for Totnes to be entirely car free, it would require a) support from the community and good community consultation, b) alternative means of transport especially for those travelling with children, elderly, people with mobility issues, c) deliveries to shops and emergency access vehicles would need to be carefully assessed to ensure no loss of services d) BOB the Bus type services operating all over town to make it easy to access the towns facilities e) very good, frequent and affordable public transport.
I would be really interested to hear your ideas, I have two grown up children who cannot drive for different medical reasons so I welcome alternatives to the car!


ANSWER- CLLR JOHN BIRCH:  Thanks Sam for the question and you have been given a variety of answers. What has not been made clear in the answers is that matters relating to highways and transport are the responsibility of Conservative controlled Devon County Council who, putting it bluntly, don’t give a damn about Totnes after it gave DCC a bloody nose following the High Street fiasco. I am having a battle with them over the implementation of travel plan arising out of the Baltic Wharf development and its failure to get the developer to comply with a S106 agreement. There approach amounts to maladministration. Trying to get them to sort the High Street out as far as traffic is concerned will be a daunting task.

What we need to do is to carry out a comprehensive survey of the residents so that we can establish what the town will support. With a united voice we should then go to DCC and demand action and not let that demand rest until we have action. I am ready to help organise such an approach.

The election on 2 May is for South Hams District Council which has relatively few powers when it comes to highways and transport. It is no good candidates making false promises as to what they will do. It needs a united campaign involving all the community to put its demands on Devon County Council and expect action.

LAUREL ELLIS: I completely agree with you [John Birch], and would work collaboratively with councillors to pursue to right solutions for all our residents. Cooperation between SHDC and DCC are essential, and we need to collectively work together to get the results we need and our community deserves.

ANSWER: JO SWEETT: Hi Sam,  I’m not aware of any plans or schemes to make Totnes car free. District council can assist and influence as Roads and highways are governed by DEvon County Council and I will work closely with DCCr Jacqui Hodgson on this subject. I’m aware there are public consultations due re on street parking in certain areas which are problematic for cyclists, pedestrians. To reduce traffic and congestion in and around Totnes on District council in my opinion we need to do literally a bit of everything. Increase parking spaces in and around town. (I worked with our current Green DCr John Green to ensure the Nursery car increased parking capacity when it was resurfaced last Autumn. I pushed for 7 extra marked bays, I achieved 4 so I wasn’t too unhappy with that.)
We need Park and ride schemes, though adding a designated new car park on the peripheral of town I’d anticipate difficulties, eg tarmacing a field won’t be popular. I supported a park and ride in my town council campaign 3 years ago, at that time there was a tiny hint of one in Bridgetown, actually Berry Pomeroy parish ward. This suggestion wasn’t received positively as it involved more building. Currently I think we could use Follaton and possibly KEVICC or Elmhirst carparks on Saturdays and for more event days; ( follaton currently used for Xmas markets and Kevicc I’ve seen used for events in town. ) shoppers driving around in circles looking for parking is polluting , frustrating and bad for tourism and locals alike.
I’m massively in favour of shared spare through Fore st and High st. We were really close to progressing this initiative 6 years ago when the ETO was in place. It’s gutting it fell off the agenda and so much precious public money was wasted on legal fees. We lots a fair few long term businesses through that I’ll thought out time and now have more charity shops. I’d love to have a depo of sorts on the industrial estate as a drop off for some of the high street deliveries, possible all one day, if financially and practically viable. We could have small electric vehicles doing the drop offs, not large engines that when idling in traffic both pollute and shake the historic high st buildings. You may be heartened to know that when I had an air quality monitor set up outside my shop last December ( an averagely busy time with low pressure) the readings came in well within safe levels. Though this is far from the case along station road etc.
I agree cycleways through the central area are appalling. In Bridgetown I’m working to have curbs dropped and ramps installed next to steps to make walkways and roads generally more wheel friendly.
Have you seen the Green Party south west manifesto? I will find the link to post or you are really welcome to pick one up from Firefly.
( relative) TRANSPORT. GP councillors will ENSURE transport considerations are intergral to all new housing, business and industrial developments. PROMOTE and support Car Clubs and Car Care schemes. GENERATE income by putting solar panels over Council Car Parks. PRESS for more park and. ride schemes. IMPROVE pedestrian and cycleways.
I could go on but I really hope this has helped and do pop into Firefly if you want to chat further as I’d appreciate any suggestions if I’m elected.

ANSWER- JOSEPH ROSE:  Hi Sam, I like the question, I believe that this time is calling for us to ask ourselves what we are able to let go of in order to make room for the new. Seeing Totnes full of cars, mostly with only one passenger should definitely make us question what can be changed. I have enjoyed reading the answers from my fellow candidates, some excellent suggestions there: park and ride schemes, tuk tuks and cheaper public transport. Personally, I think that encouraging the use of public transport and cycling is of great importance. I believe that offering incentives for these things, especially amongst young people can have a big impact. Environmental awareness is increasing exponentially and as a green councilor it would be my priority to find ways of encouraging this and grounding it in actions such as riding to school/work on a bicycle.


ANSWER- CHRISTOPHER MAGUIRE: There are many great suggestions in the replies to your question. Park and ride, cycle paths, making sure housing building is linked with car use etc.
A couple of points to add.
A link road diverting through traffic away from Totnes would be great and has been looked at in the past.
Some traffic is needed to loading and deliveries – so traffic free may be a big ask.
Finally – what traffic are we talking about. If the vehicles entering Totnes were not polluting that would be a step in the right direction. So any initiative that’s reduces petrol and promotes electric would also help. Cheaper parking for electric cars or charging points for electric cars and bikes for instance.


ANSWER- JOHN McKay:  Totnes has a uniquely vibrant town centre and any changes need to take into account the needs of the businesses that make it what it is. What is clear is that the current ‘confidential’ discussions about building on car-parks in Totnes is a madness. It would damage the economy of the town. Access to the town centre will always need to be easy and convenient for it to thrive, but there are lots of things that could be done to reduce traffic and improve the environment. Some have already been mentioned, slowing traffic in the centre to 20mph, out-of-town parking with regular electric tram shuttle services, hire an electric buggy service, more cycle-paths, etc, etc.

The problem of speeding traffic is not confined to Totnes. In Harbertonford, where I live, and in many of the surrounding villages residents complain of speeding traffic through areas where there are children, pets and those less able to jump out of the way. There is a need for better signage and in some cases traffic-calming. Often people have complained repeatedly and nothing has been done. I would certainly work to get these issues addressed as a priority. It is often the little things that can make a big difference.

Devon Highways undoubtedly does a lot of good work and is populated by dedicated professionals. But over the years I have been appalled by some of its inconsistent and sometime quite arbitrary and high-handed decision making. Your District Council can bring pressure to bear on Devon County Council through the South Hams Highways and Traffic Orders Committee and again I would certainly work with Cllr John Birch and others to ensure residents are properly listened to and action taken.

Pip Paines views on the lgbt community

FULL QUESTION 1: Question to cllr Paine ,
Can I ask cllr Paine his views on the lgbt community, my daughter is trans gender, and as you are running to be elected to
South hams district council, would like to have your comments
Thank you


FULL QUESTION 2: Pip Paine, I understand that one of the reasons you did not vote in favour of the installation of a rainbow crossing in Totnes was that it might reduce tourism. Could you please let us know if you still hold this belief, and what steps you would take, if elected, to support the LGBT community here?


ANSWER: LOUISE WEBBERLEY: Adrian, I am a Labour Town Councillor and a District Council Candidate. I have a good working relationship with Pip. I was involved in a working group with the Proud2Be group and cllr Hodgson to get a rainbow crossing ( installation) on the market place as a visible symbol of support for the LGBT community. The majority of Town Councilllors supported our proposals. 4 councillors abstained including Pip Paine

ANSWER- PIP PAINE:  I have been asked to clarify my views on the LGBT community. My view is that members of the LGBT community are no different to any other members of our society and therefore should not be treated differently. I do not understand why we need to spend time and money highlighting them. They are not in need of physical assistance and as far as I can see integrate well in our town. If they wish to have their own festival, I see no harm in this, but I do object to using public money to promote their cause.


ANSWER- JOHN McKAY:  The LGBT community is mentioned in the comments and an opinion expressed that they should not get public funding. This a vulnerable group of people and there is clear evidence that they are more likely to experience mental health problems due many factors, discrimination being just one. It is important that your Council works to help all vulnerable groups and promotes their interests, which will include access to public funds where appropriate. A small contribution to a festival sounds appropriate to me.

Walking & Cycling in the town

FULL QUESTION: Content below taken from another letter but would be interested to hear your response as walking and cycling in the town isn’t the easiest due to narrow footpaths, poor visibility due to parked cars and frustrated motorists.

Anybody who has cycled on the road before will know how intimidating and off-putting it can be when vehicles pass at high speeds, especially for young people and those beginning to build up their confidence on the road.
Being able to play out and go on bike rides with friends are really important parts of growing up and becoming more independent, but the speed of traffic on many of our roads understandably makes parents much more reluctant to afford their children these freedoms.
Healthy children are more likely to grow up to be healthy adults, and reducing speed limits to 20mph could have a seismic impact on issues like obesity and physical inactivity which blight the NHS and cost us billions each year.
Reducing speed limits, particularly in residential areas, would help to make it far more welcoming for people riding bikes; providing a real alternative for those who would otherwise continue to opt for the car or bus instead because they perceive it to be the only safe option for getting around.
There’s an amazing opportunity to transform our communities into healthier, greener and more liveable places. If you support 20mph speed limits in built-up areas then this is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way of allowing all to benefit from lower speed-limits.

ANSWER- LAUREL ELLIS: Thank you John. That is really useful. Reducing the speed limit also cuts down on pollution I believe, another important aspect for healthy children, and I fully support what you have said.


Was looking at a documentary the other day about Holland and the way they deal with provision of cycle routes, etc. Obviously, they have a lot more cyclists but some of the ideas could be worth investigating. Having looked around since that programme we suffer from lack of space but I’m sure all things are possible if people are willing to be creative. Separation of cars and cycles / pedestrians would be good – having watched cyclist take their life in their hands when they go through the narrow part of the Plymouth road at Follaton is more than a little frightening. For some time I have been trying to get the speed camera reinstated / moved (the one by the cemetery) as the traffic speed on average seems to be well over the 30mph.
Having lower speed limits is good but enforcement is another matter (maybe education is better than financial penalties). The other problem is who are the correct authority to implement any changes – it always seems very confusing (pass the buck) when it comes to identifying which local authority is responsible. Hope this helps
Housing Development in Totnes

FULL QUESTION: Over the last ten years a substantial number of housing developments have taken place in Totnes, Dartington and Berry Pomeroy Parishes with an impact on demand for transport, education, health and other services. Developers should contribute to the additional costs imposed on the community by their developments in the form of Section 106 contributions. However, their track record in honouring agreements over recent years has been less than impressive. What steps would candidates take as an SHDC Councillor to address this issue?


ANSWER- CLLR JOHN BIRCH:  I am tackling Devon County Council over its failure to enforce the S106 obligations on the Baltic Wharf development. I have successfully tackled Linden Homes on its failure to comply with its planning obligations on the Camomile Lawn and Follaton Oak developments. It now appears that councillors need to be vigilant in picking up these planning failures . I believe I have the know how to continue to pursue these failing developers.


ANSWER - LAUREL ELLIS: Thank you Simon. I too have witnessed with dismay the rapid expansion of housing without proper infrastructure, and the lack of truly affordable homes and long term rental social housing for our area. The average wage for SHDC employees is £18000 – where can you live in our area for that, either buying or renting? The average wage full stop is £23000, and few people earn that. Yet new estates like Baltic Wharf, and Great Court Farm have starting prices over £265000. The Help to Buy ISA designed to help first time buyers only applies to properties under £250000 outside of London, so our local prices even exceed that!
The housing developers are a very powerful lobby in the government, and Section 106 monies are attached to getting planning permission, but really have not visibly contributed to the infrastructure needed in terms of transport links, education, conservation and increasing amenities. I am committed to addressing our housing issues, which mean that we have a very skewed demographic with few young people. It is perfectly possible for SHDC to use what is at their disposal to create decent homes for all of us in this area, and for families and single people of all ages to feel secure. Section 106 monies have had to be chased up and taking them to court costs more money even though it is a legal agreement. Any outstanding 106 money must be identified and I would work collaboratively with other councillors to ensure that this happens. The cabinet style executive on SHDC must be challenged, and a more transparent governance established to get the best for all our residents, and not let developers get away with promises that are not kept.


ANSWER- COLIN LUKER: Hi Simon, There is no doubt that developers need to be held to task over all manners of matters relating to planning, including 106 money. However, my feeling is that at the root of all this is a) cutting back / merging of staff roles at SHDC means that matters are not monitored as effectively as they could be due simply through lack of time and pressure of work & b) we do not look at planning in an holistic way. In other words, we do not take enough consideration for the overall impact of a development on the local community. Maybe Councillors need to be more brave in saying no to a development because it just is not suitable for the location or community as a whole

ANSWER- JOHN McKAY:  With regard to SHDC’s Planning Service, it is clearly under-resourced. While out campaigning I have heard complaints about huge delays in getting decisions as well as the lack of enforcement of conditions including s106 agreements. Planning is one of the major functions of the Council and there needs to be a head-to-toe review of its processes and procedures to make sure it works effectively for the community. One other big responsibility, that partly falls to Planning, is the protection of the environment. There is a huge challenge here, and I will be working with anybody of whatever political colour to make South Hams a net Zero Carbon economy. To do this our Council needs to work much more closely than it does with the other agencies like the Environment Agency, Natural England, UNESCO Biosphere, AONB, etc … and Devon Highways.

ANSWER- JO SWEETT; Hi Simon, most of the housing estate areas and the Fore and High streets are 20mph zones. Although this is DCC not SHDC I would support the traffic forums recommendations to increase the areas of the 20mph limit although I agree without enforcement its hard to implement. What has worked well for example in Bridgetown parkers Way a group of residents got together with Bridgetown Alive and found funding for “Slow, Children Playing” signs with a simple picture. This has raised awareness for those passing through. I’m always amazed at cars literally speeding through 20mph zones, sometimes service vehicles, taxis, friends ..

ANSWER - JO SWEETT: Simon, you are so right, S106 needs constant overview, scrutiny and basic old chasing up!!I’ve some experience and knowledge of how s106;is allocated and it would be in my top list as DCllr to learn exactly what is outstanding, unspent and for what use, eg transport, outdoor spaces, education etc… overview would also ensure monies are not wasted on unwieldy surveys and reports, ie money can be accessed as directly as possible by the community.
Individuality of the Totnes High Street

FULL QUESTION: Are there ways to protect the unique individuality of the Totnes High Street?

ANSWER- COLIN LUKER: Hi Peter,  The High Street is worth protecting as it is unique in that it is mainly independent shops. I’m sure, for the owners, the cost of business rates, rent, etc. is causing some concern and competition from the multiples that are gradually moving in will no doubt impact on rental prices. We need to make shopping a good experience so maybe reducing parking charges (especially out of season) could help. I’m a fan of pedestrianisation which has proved in other places to increase business but the needs of deliveries, disabled, etc needs to be considered. I’m also interested in Greening Up Totnes as it could do with more trees, plants, etc. (maybe a community project if we could get funding for the capital expenditure?). There are also improvements to the street maintenance that could be implemented. At the end of the day it is really up to locals to support the shops otherwise they will disappear. Hope this answers your question.

ANSWER- CLLR JOHN BIRCH: For a start through the planning process, although when operated by a Tory administration Totnes does not always get the protection it needs. For example the planning application by Coffee1 for change of use of the Barclays Bank premises to a large coffee shop with 116 covers was opposed by me and other Lib Dem councillors on the grounds that we had already got 52 outlets for coffee in Totnes and most run by local concerns. When it came to the vote all the Tories voted for approval. Time for a change at Follaton.

ANSWER - LOUISE WEBBERLEY: Hello Peter, We absolutely need to protect the unique identity of our high street! Totnes is a tourist town and rightly so! A huge draw is the Friday and Saturday market outside the civic centre. I am fully opposed to any development on the market square. I am a Town Councillor and am completely opposed to any development on the central car parks which support tourism and also enable locals and employees to park. I support pedestrianisation of the high street. I think this would make for a more pleasurable, (meandering and browsing) shopping experience. However, I would support the use of public transport such as Bob the bus, particularly for those with mobility issues or carers etc. I also acknowledge that businesses need deliveries in order to thrive. It would be could if these could be restricted to two to three times a day. I would like to see a fun mode of transport such as Tuk Tuks. I would also like the Hudgens site to be transformed into something like an indoor pannier market, selling affordable fruit and veg, NOT in plastic! Morrisons needs a competitor. I was involved in the market square plans. I think it is going to look so much better, including more greenery, more sociable seating. People come to Totnes because it is unique and different to other market towns. We need to fight to preserve its unique identity.

Support for young people working in Totnes

FULL QUESTION: What would candidates do to support young people staying and working in Totnes instead of migrating to neighbouring towns/cities which offer more jobs and affordable housing compared to Totnes?

ANSWER - COLIN LUKER:   Hi Zack, Maybe the following extract from our local manifesto helps:

Ø Ensure that all outsourced contracts include the payment of the real living wage and exclude zero hours contracts
Ø Encourage the creation of sustainable directly employed jobs
Ø Support small business groups and incubate new business models such as credit unions, community enterprises and co-operative initiatives
Ø Support the reduction in business rates for local start-ups
Ø Review Local and Town Plans and identify opportunities to support local businesses
Ø Prioritise the use of local residents and businesses rather than organisations from outside the area
Ø Bring back contracts in-house so that surplus can be reinvested in council services
Ø Encourage local community initiatives for services that are disappearing in our towns and villages

Hope this helps but if not please ask again. Have a look at the Preston model to see how it can work. Housing costs are a major issue locally and that is why we would use the £75m that S.Hams has borrowed to invest in affordable council housing.

ANSWER- JO SWEETT: Hi Zack, Sorry for the delay in replying.
You are so right about young people leaving, I have an 18 year old daughter who loves Totnes, her home since birth and who may well struggle to find local work and “ affordable “ housing for locals on local wages doesn’t exist. I,personally can’t afford a house here, so I usually find the term laughable, it should probably by “ non unaffordable“…
We desperately need more social hosing stock, and homes that people/ families really want to settle and thrive in, not shoe box afterthought tacked onto overpriced developments .. we need local peoples covenants on all council, housing association and why not? all new properties built in the area. Any council or housing association sold to tenants the money should be instantly reinvested to buy or build similar properties… rental caps should apply nationally ..it’s insane that “ homes “ have become more easy money for those that can afford a few or more properties.
Regarding employment at district council there isn’t a magic solution.. the key to keeping our local economy strong is shopping locally, using local services and crafts people. I’d investigate and support local training schemes for young within school and youth services. Rushbrook have a really strong network of training for youth and links into apprentice opportunities. I’d encourage apprentice opportunities within shdc based at Follaton, there’s been such a cut back of officers that young apprentices can only be massively beneficial all round.
I totally support the funding of refurnish in Totnes and throughout Devon, they offer not only highly affordable furniture but also training and employment opportunities.
You may know I’m a high street shop keeper, I employ 3 locals and pay above minimum wage. I was a Totnes market trader for many years then rented my first from from shdc. I think the district council can invest in more start up shops and workshop spaces. In any new development housing or otherwise the local council should retain some space to rent to local entrepreneurs.
The south DEvon Green Party manifesto includes initiatives like
Supporting local markets… and diversity throughout high streets, Working in partnerships to attract investment and job creation… supporting local renewable energy generation to keep money local.. Working with local schools and colleges to ensure young people are equipped with the skills they need.. support local farming , linking growers, farms and buyers, Raise the profile of the care services and support community groups to crate more local work..
I really hope this help, it’s so utterly important and so close to my heart !!

ANSWER - LOUISE WEBBERLEY: Hello Zak, There really does seem to be an absence of young people in the 18-30 demographic in Totnes.
I think one of the key issues we need to consider is the lack of genuinely affordable/social housing in the area. If elected, I would be robustly challenging SHDC on their appalling social housing record. I am a Town councillor and won a motion on the town council to challenge SHDC to commit to their stated social housing targets. However, if elected,I would be able to have these dialogues face to face which would be more effective.
I think we need to challenge zero hours and work positively with business groups,local industries and organizations such as chamber of commerce to encourage them to employ and provide apprenticeships /internships to the young people in the area. I would be advocating for young people to sit in on and actively participating inspecific groups relating to housing, employment or leisure to ensure that their (your)voice is heard.

Influence on Class Sizes (Q to Pip Paine)

FULL QUESTION: Would like to ask Philip Paine how, as a District Councillor, he believes he will have any influence on class sizes in our town when class size is totally an issue of school funding, which comes directly from central government – the same Tory government who have slashed the education budget for state schools so that they are at absolute breaking point . Recommend he consult with our headeachers and school governors so can be better informed of the issues facing our local schools.



Will you pledge to support the declaration of a climate emergency in the South Hams

FULL QUESTION: Will you pledge to support the declaration of a climate emergency in the South Hams by signing my petition? http://chng.it/sNfLRNdqm5


ANSWER-COLIN LUKER: Hi Ella, Consider petition signed . Will keep on pushing for this if elected but an uphill struggle with existing councillors from a particular party. – Just to give you a bit more info. – I have asked for this to go on the agenda for the first new Town council meeting as am concerned that we need an action plan for Totnes. It has been suggested that a working party (hopefully community based as well as Councillors) be set up to see what is possible. A lot of info. already exists / has been written, so am hopeful that we can move quickly to agreeing a way forward. We don’t have that much time as I see.

ANSWER- JO SWEETT: Hiya, yes signed.. thank you for raising this. My understanding is that Jacqui has it as an agenda item for May full council. Totnes Town Council has already supported this, I proposed Jacqui’s motion , being one of the first councils in the country to do so, and indeed DEvon county council when the youth strikes protested outside and Joseph Rose spoke in county hall.

ANSWER-JOHN McKAY: I have signed the petition. There was a motion to recognise the existence of a Climate Emergency at a recent meeting of the full council of SHDC. Astonishingly it was defeated! There is simply no excuse for this and I do hope these people are shown the door on 2nd May. We need a commitment from our Council to work to make South Hams Zero-Carbon. Other Councils have done it.

ANSWER- GILL COOMBES: Thank you for your question about the single most important issue facing local and national politicians today! I’ve already signed the position, and am coming late to this Q&A as I’ve been in London with Extinction Rebellion.

I believe this year will see a fundamental shift in policy at all levels, but it is essential that we keep up the pressure. As a councillor this would be my top priority: addressing not only direct emissions from transport and industry, but also indirect societal causes such as the ways we shop, eat, and work in the South Hams. There is of course already much good work locally on reducing emissions, but councils need to get fully behind it all, and enable even more. This is no longer an ‘alternative’ issue.

My Green Party colleague Jacqi Hodgson has been instrumental in seeking a declaration of Climate Emergency at both district and parish levels, and I hope to join her in seeking increasingly creative methods , should the dominant make-up of the Council finally shift to representing and addressing this important issue.

ANSWER- KEITH SMITH:  I have signed the petition. As a climate change scientist I am only too well aware of the perilous situation with regard to global warming, and recognise that we as a society, nationally and internationally, are doing too little too late to make the changes that are needed. if elected I will support moves to get the council to recognise the urgency, and take action where they can.

ANSWER- JOHN BIRCH: Ella - I have signed your petition and promoted it on social media.

ANSWER- LOUISE WEBBERLEY: Hi Ella, I have signed the petition and shared it. As a Town Councillor, I also wholeheartedly supported Cllr Hodgson’s Climate Emergency motion which she presented to the Town Council. I then went to see it being heard at SHDC. I was disgusted to see it voted down by the Tory led administration. The Conservative councillors voted the same way, like sheep. I understand they have a pre-meeting before full council and are told how to vote! This is outrageous practice which we need to break into and change!
I work very well with cllr Hodgson on the Town Council and would be very happy to work collaboratively with her and other green councillors and councillors from other parties who have a genuine commitment to tackling climate change. I am a member of Frack Free Totnes. I was very pleased to attend a meeting with our local M.P. Sarah Wollaston, Peter Scott, Frack Free Totnes, Labour colleague and friend, Colin Luker and others where we were successful in persuading Sarah Wollaston to sign up to the Divest Parliament initiative.
I think there are some fantastic groups in Totnes promoting environmentally friendly and challenging ‘throw away’ culture lifestyles including plastic Free Totnes and The Share Shed. There is also obviously the really inspiring Extinction Rebellion group which is really capturing people’s imagination that we can’t have a ‘business as usual’ approach to our interaction with the environment. There is so much positive energy and great work taking place in Totnes. It feels as though these groups would benefit from being a bit more joined up so that work isn’t overlapped. If elected, I would work very hard and collabortivelywith like minded councillors to ensure all of these groups are supported and their voice is being loudly heard!

Please can you tell me, are you pro or anti Brexit?

FULL QUESTION:  Please can you tell me, are you pro or anti Brexit? I understand the local council elections are about facilities and services in our communities and have nothing to do with Brexit. But I would like to vote for somebody with similar views to me on the subject


ANSWER - JO SWEET: Shirley, I voted remain and continue to support our EU membership. Although I am a business person for me the environment comes first. Leading up to the referendum I researched opinions of environmentalists like David Attenbourgh, RSPB and concluded eu membership protects endangered species, keeps beaches etc clean in a way the current government will never do alone.. the economy, immigration etc are so important but without our wonderful diverse ecosystem we are nothing.
The Green Party support a people’s vote on any deal to leave the EU

ANSWER - LOUISE WEBBERLEY: Hello Nadine, I voted remain. I believe that it is best for country in economic terms. Socially and Politically, I believe that it is the most robust way to protect worker’s rights, environmental protections and to maintain peace between nations, globally and preserving the hard won Good Friday agreement for example. I could go on…
Locally, the majority of party members voted remain. As a party we sent a motion to central Labour party executive asking for remain as an option to remain on the table.
We will continue to make our views on this matter, loudly heard!
Locally, I want to campaign for and robustly challenge on issues including where I will have a meaningful impact, campaigning for genuinely affordable/social housing, working with groups to support the homeless, the ‘not fit for purpose’ universal credit and robustly opposing planning attempts of SHDC, including building on car parks and market square which would destroy the unique identity of the town.

If you have a Question for any of the South Hams District Council candidates, please use the Comment Section below and address a specific named candidate(s) so it’s clear who you want an answer from and they have an opportunity to reply, or say “To All candidates”, and please be respectful. Thank You!

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