The briefing, by invitation only, will be held tomorrow, Friday 8th November, at East Devon Business Centre, Honiton. This follows a confidential briefing for councillors last week, from which the public were of course excluded, contrary to East Devon District Council’s claimed policy of “openness and transparency”. A demonstration outside the Council Chamber surprised Councillors as they arrived, and received wide coverage in the local press. EDDC responded by saying that “Such meetings are routine practice”. This explanation is not acceptable to many, for the reasons given in this letter by an SOS supporter, which is copied here, with his permission:
The Sidmouth Herald
“Such meetings are routine practice” so says an East Devon District Council spokesman commenting on yet another in a sequence of secret meetings, closed to both press and public, with no published Minutes and with councillors muzzled (Page 6, last week’s Herald). Indeed it is just the latest in a practice that has now gone on for some years ever since a small core of councillors, mainly representing wards in and around Honiton, announced the council’s “ambition” to relocate there from the Knowle.
There has followed a saga of consultants’ reports, ”Office Accommodation Working Parties”, “Relocation Working Parties”, confidential meetings for councillors and Part B Cabinet and Council meetings from all of which press and public are barred. Then a full council in July made the decision that relocation would happen, though to where, when and how funded remains unresolved!
The only opportunity for the public’s participation in this sorry tale was when the council in August 2012 submitted an Outline Planning Application to itself to demolish the existing Knowle buildings and build houses and a care home on the site and over a large area of the parkland as the means of financing the “ambition”. Following massive opposition from the public and some shambolic administration of the planning process the application was rejected in March 2013.
The European Union has a habit of forcing re-runs of referenda which don’t produce their required result. EDDC does the same – the juggernaut rolls on whilst its spokesman claims that “EDDC remains committed to sharing as much information as possible with the public at each stage of the process” – probably adding under his breath “as long as they don’t expect us to ask them their opinion about the project or give them any chance to debate the details”, ie “Don’t confuse us with facts – our minds are made up”.