This is the one put by Barry Curwen, of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce, to the Task and Finish Forum: Business, on 12 March 2013. It is reproduced with his permission:
In a representation to the East Devon MP, the Rt Hon Hugo Swire, on 22 June 2012, I provided detailed evidence of serious transgressions in the East Devon Local Plan process. As a result I asked him to undertake an inquiry which should include the relationship and influence of the East Devon Business Forum as there does not appear to be sufficient separation for their influence to be appropriate or legitimate.
As part of the MP’s action he wrote to Mark Williams, Chief Executive of EDDC on the 14 August and received a reply dated 19 September.
I will quote from Mr William’s letter, “I am aware that the relationship of the Council with EDBF has become a source of concern to some. That being said, many might comment that the issue is perhaps being articulated more as a result of local political differences of opinion rather than anything of notable substance.
Also “As regards the suggestion that the EDBF perhaps exercises undue influence in relation to planning matters, I can find no evidence to substantiate this”.
Given the EDBF boast and self congratulation in their minutes that they had significantly influenced the planning policy in the emerging Local Plan and the numerous examples provided in the report compiled by resident Tony Green and sent to Mr Williams, I believe our MP has been seriously misled by the Chief Executive’s comments.
With regard to the statements revealed by the investigation of the Daily Telegraph made by Cllr Graham Brown, who is of course chairman of the EDBF, the response from EDDC was entirely predictable; “We are not aware of Cllr Brown having any improper influence on the planning process”.
Given the Chief Executives questionable legal advice that this council cannot investigate matters relating to planning, not just planning decisions but all matters including planning process, this makes this statement farcical.
An independent Public Inquiry, set up to examine all aspects of the planning process employed by EDDC is necessary and if there is any hint of corruption, the police should also be involved to undertake a criminal investigation.
Public fears and concerns will not be satisfied by any internal EDDC investigation. The honesty and integrity of your planning system is in serious doubt. You are in danger of losing the public trust completely.
In view of the constraints placed on this Forum following the legal advice of the Chief Executive, can this Forum support the call for a Full Independent Public Inquiry to examine all aspects of the planning process employed by EDDC including the role and influence of the EDBF?