EDDC’s reaction to District-wide opposition seems clear. A string of changes are afoot, as revealed at the recent Full Council Meeting at Knowle on 22nd May.
For example, the new push for more ‘delegated powers’ will distance the public from Planning decisions. And some key positions on crucial Committees have been given to Councillors with a particular track record on Planning matters.
These two points are detailed in EDDC Councillor Roger Giles’ report on the 22nd May AGM ( for the Ottery Town Council today, 3rd June 2013 ):
‘The new EDDC Chairman (succeeding Cllr Peter Halse) is Cllr Graham Godbeer (Coly Valley); the Vice Chairman (succeeding Frances Newth) is Christine Drew (Sidmouth Sidford).
Other changes include:Development Management Chair: Helen Parr (was Mark Williamson); Vice Chair David Key (was Helen Parr)
Scrutiny Committee Chair: Tim Wood (was Stuart Hughes); Vice Chair: Graham Troman (was John Humphreys).
At the EDDC AGM on 22 May councillors were asked to endorse a proposal to allow `Departure` planning applications to be determined under delegated powers.
I spoke strongly against this proposal because by their nature `Departure` applications are not in conformity with the Local Plan, and are likely to be controversial. Recent examples include the Knowle planning application, and the Combe Bungalow planning application.
I said that to determine such applications in a planning office, rather than in a public meeting would be a diminution of our democratic processes. The public should be entitled to attend – and speak – at such meetings where Departure planning applications are decided. To make Departure decisions under delegated powers would deny Parish and Town Councils an opportunity to provide their expertise at a meeting (in addition to being able to submit written comments early in the process).
Several other councillors agreed with me, and it was agreed that a report would go to a meeting of the Development Management Committee, rather than being agreed on 22 May.
I thought it was quite bizarre that approval for such a fundamental change was proposed to be `rubber stamped` at the AGM. No argument was made for the change other than the minimalist comment: “to manage the size of the committee agenda.”
Before EDDC councillors reach a view on fundamental changes such as this proposal, they are entitled to have, and must have, a proper paper setting out in full the benefits and disadvantages and practical implications of such a proposal.
I also believe that Parish and Town Councils should be consulted ahead of such a proposal – so that their views can be taken into account. I would be interested to know just who authorized this misguided attempt to push through such a change in such a way hidden away in the middle of a very lengthy agenda.
I wrote to Council Leader Paul Diviani on 25 May asking him to arrange for all parish and Town Councils to be consulted about the change; at the time of writing I have not had a reply.