This blog is aimed at the Clinton Devon Estate team to let everyone know what the Estate Director is up to... By popular demand! Let me have your feedback...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Independent Forestry Panel

After the launch on 4th July attended the national stakeholder event on 10th. Over 100 there and considerable support for the Panel's recommendations. When we started the journey on the Panel over a year ago I would never have expected such a concensus. Remarkable. Now need to put single issue campaigns aside and work together to encourage Government to pick up the baton laid down. Interestingly, after event, Sir Harry Studholme and I attended All Party Group in Commons (House of Lords represented also) to discuss Panel's report as guests of Lord Taylor, Forestry Minister. We both had an opportunity to present the Panel's findings. My impression was that all parties were very supportive of the general themes from the report and wanted a successful outcome. Although I have no doubt that politics will play a role in due course! I await with interest the Government's response in January - this is a once in a generation opportunity for both forestry and society... Since the formation of the Forestry Commission in 1919 (Lord Clinton's great grand father was one of the original founders) in 90 years, 800 years of deforestation in England has been reversed. With c10% cover compared to c 35% in Europe we have some way to go but at least we now have renewed impetus and some clear recommendations on how we can continue the journey. At Clinton Devon we have 17% woodland cover and later this year we will be planting the first new plantation for many years - a small Jubilee Wood in Newton Poppleford.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Estates Business Group

Two days in London - chairing Rural Committee of Estates Business Group on Tuesday where we heard from Richard MacDonald ex NFU DG who talked about his Task Force addressing farm regulation. All very promising - better regulation is the core theme - out of around 200 recommendations the Government is signing up to at least 160. Let's hope they maintain momentum... As Estates we need to keep pressing the case for better regulation and supporting Richard's recommendations. Interestingly Richard has been appointed on a panel to drive the recommendations through so I am pretty hopeful we shall see some positive action. You will be aware that John Wilding has been a member of the Forestry Regulation Task Force. All round it appears that Defra are sending some pretty good signals about freei g up land managers to do the right thing. Today at the EBG main meeting we had the chair of the Serious Organised Crime Agency give the group a fascinating talk on the challenges faced by Government and society in fighting global organised crime. Frightening stuff but we all felt reassured that the issue was being addressed so professionally. It is all about disrupting criminal activity. What caught everyone's attention was the issue of cyber crime. As a business we need to re think our approach and we will be doing this as part of our wider ICT strategy. As individuals we need to think about his too. Especially those with young children putting their life stories on Facebook...

Rain stops play... And work

Torrential rain and high winds have arrived over past 24 hours only a week after Devon was classified as being in Environmental Drought conditions... No electricity, phones or emails across the Estate. Western Power taking an exceedingly long time to sort the issue. Remarkable how unresilient the power network is. Business impact huge.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Tree Disease and Import Controls

Check out our new 2.5 min You Tube video on the emergency felling in the Lower Otter Valley, East Devon and our views on import controls of horticultural products...


or just Google clintondevonestates youtube !

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Quote of the month...

"You cannot choose your battlefield,
The Gods do that for you;
But you can plant a standard,
Where a standard never flew".

Stephen Crane
US novelist and poet
1871 to 1900

Rather apt I thought...

Friday, 9 March 2012

Another catch up...

On 19th February was in Chicago at the invitation of Professor John Ward, Kellogg School of Management, North Western University.  Gave a talk and led a session (3.5 hours!) on Family Business and especially how non family executives fit in to the MBA Class of 2012 - 35 or so MBAs from larger family businesses from US and across the globe.  Absolutely fascinating and worthwhile session - some really interesting people and lots of challenging debate.  Had a few 45 minute 1:1s also...  Was looked after superbly by my host, John Ward and his colleagues.  Chicago is an amazing place - I love the US but Chicago will now definitely feature on any future return on holiday - a remarkable history, culturally, architecturally and economically.

Back to the UK and helped select the final 12 Nature Improvement Areas to be announced by the Government on 27th February - These are ground breaking initiatives which, if led and executed well, should set the tone for the blurring of the very polarised environment and farmer / landowner debates of the past.  Successful NIAs require collaboration and joint working between, environmental NGOs, Local Authorities, statutory agencies, communities and most importantly farmers and land owners.  It was this latter constituency that I was thinking about most whilst sitting on the Panel.  I will be watching closely to see those NIAs that really pick up the baton and really involve and integrate farmers and landowners into the governance and decision making.

Forestry Panel still going strong and I hope to get back involved helping to pull our final report together over the coming weeks.

Back at the office, lots going on.  Getting into the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to work for list was immensely rewarding.  I didn't go to the party in London with the other 99 but our Estate table seemed to have a lot of fun.  We now need to do the hard bit and evaluate the results, benchmark them and work with everyone across the Estate in understanding how we can further improve our Employee Engagement going forward.  Although we have done well - I know that there are a number of things we can begin to do differently to make the Estate an even better place to work.  This is going to need everyone's input please.  Carla, Graham and myself will be working with teams to take this initiative forward in the coming weeks.

We appear in the local media quite a lot at the moment - mainly because there is so much going on.  A lot of it linked to our 2021 Strategy and our four key programmes of STRUCTURE, CAPITAL, INVESTING IN OUR FUTURE and STEWARDSHIP AND SOCIETY.  Potential developments at Exmouth for residential and our multi million pound investment in Liverton Business Park are keeping the team busy along with our work on the exciting affordable housing development at Greenway Lane Budleigh Salterton.  We hope to hear from the Planning Inspectorate in the next few weeks on the outcome of our application to erect some fencing on the Pebblebed Heaths to increase the grazing regime and improve the natural habitat - this could become a really positive turning point in our management of the heaths and I shall be watching the outcome very closely.  John Wilding has been on regional radio and TV and in the press over the increased felling activity of Japanese Larch to prevent the disease P. Ramorum getting hold.  John is lobbying for better import controls and trying to get this issue on the agenda of Government.  George is now also getting publicity over Clinton Farms' plans to increase the herd at Otter Dairy and construct a new livestock building!

Work on our 2012 Countryside Matters (The Estate Review) has just started with a publication date later in the Autumn.

Will give a further update in a few days...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Round up....

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind of activity.

Consultation document in for Plumb Park - which was at the same time as our request for a formal screening opinion from the Council on 350 homes if we were to put a planning application in.  There have been times when we felt that this was the only option - but we are now hoping that the LDF process will support our well considered plans to deliver the only re generation opportunity for Littleham in the next 20 years, plus significant numbers of affordable homes for Exmouth...  we shall see.

Our Solar PV site was delivered on time and is now live.  This will give us much experience in the technology and inform our thoughts about any future further roll out.

Expansion of Liverton Business Park in Exmouth continues, although slower than we had hoped due to very poor weather.  Still exciting times, a bit scary - investing c £3M without any tenants and committing a further £12M to build out all units...  all borrowed money but a real commitment to the Town and we are hopeful it will help wider regeneration plans and provide many new jobs.  The third phase of expansion is outlined in the Local Plan proposals and we hope it will result in high quality office and workspace for the Town.  But lets get Phase 2 finished first!

In Budleigh Salterton we have been working up our plans to deliver much needed affordable homes on the scheme in Greenway Lane which has outline planning permission.  We are already getting ready to prepare the enlarged allotment site and plans include a proper water main, paths and brand new sheds for each allotment holder.  The Estate will not simply sell this site off - we are committing to enter into a Joint Venture to ensure what we promised is delivered.  Interesting times.

Spending a lot of time looking into bio mass options for district heating systems in North Devon and at Plumb Park Exmouth (duel fuel with gas).  Again - cutting edge stuff and could deliver significant benefits to communities in terms of lower fuel prices, more consistent supplies and decentralised energy from local woodlands.

We have been involved in helping the County Council and Local Enterprise Partnership put a bid into Government for up to £1.5M of funding to help rural businesses across the county - should know result later this month - we are through to second stage which is exciting.  Our focus has been on supporting Family Business learning and thinking based on our close relationship with the Family Business Faculty at IMD in Lausanne.

Lots going on in the woods - much clear felling due to keeping ahead of the disease P. Ramorum which is devastating Larch.  Also, much new planting.  Including, later this year, a brand new Jubilee Wood on land next to Harpford Wood (Newton Poppleford / Harpford) - more details later.  It will be a true community accessible wood - even hope to encourage local children to help plant it...

On the Pebblebed Heaths our application to set up an enhanced grazing regime - to better manage the natural habitats and deliver the recovery in habitat conditions and species required by Natural England - was submitted before Christmas.  We await with eager anticipation the feedback...

For me personally - have completed my work on the judging panel for the Government's flagship Nature Improvement Areas Competition - a global first and a real privilege to be asked to sit on the Panel.  Our recommendations are now with the Secretary of State to make a final decision on the winning top 12.  My work on the Independent Forestry Panel set up by Government and chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool continues - we hope to publish our final report and recommendations later in Spring.  Our interim report is already out so do have a look.  My time on the Environment Agency Board is more and more focussed on water - this is going to be a very big issue for the next generation and we need to get mindsets (and policies) changed about water as a resource for both people and nature in the coming months and years.

So that is the catch up.  However, by far the most impressionable event for me in the past few months has been my visit to Littleham Primary School to talk about the pros and cons of developing the Plumb Park site next to the school.  I met around 60 pupils in two groups - Year 1/2 and Year 3/4.  I came away with three big takeaways:

1.  I am in awe of school teachers and their job - the ones I met were amazing, professional and passionate

2.  That children, even young children, are worth listening to.  They have no angle or baggage.  I took away new ideas and a real focus about what we should be doing to make our proposed development relevant to them

3.  The Estate, in terms of its stewardship for the next generation needs to find ways of engaging with young people across ALL our activities.  It is a real investment for the future.