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‘Admin error’ costs town as contribution halved

PUBLISHED: 17:00 27 May 2014

Archant

Ottery St Mary will lose out on £115,000 in funding after a district council ‘administrative error’ meant a reduced offer of community cash from a developer was accepted prematurely.

Redrow, who are building 130 homes at Butts Road, applied to halve their £230,000 ‘open space contribution’ last year on the grounds that the full amount was unjustified.

The money was due to go towards improvements at the nearby football club, and in April, Councillor Roger Giles urged district council planning chiefs to allow the town to have a say before a final decision was made.

But it emerged this week that East Devon District Council (EDDC) had already made the decision to accept a reduced amount – in March.

The revelation was blasted as ‘appalling’ by Cllr Giles when he updated town council colleagues at a meeting on Monday.

He said: “Somebody at [EDDC] had decided this and actioned it without the town council being able to give a view or influence it. I think it is absolutely disgusting.”

Cllr Jessica Bailey added: “People very high up in EDDC knew that it had been completed and we sat around wasting our time discussing something that had already been completed, and that makes me really uncomfortable.”

The new agreement specifies that the £115,000 can be spent on improving recreational facilities in the parish as well as providing additional allotments.

And at Monday’s meeting, members expressed concerns that revised wording in the new agreement will pave the way for Redrow to use the money to buy new allotment land.

“Are they thinking of using that money to pay for the new field?” asked Cllr Ian Holmes. “We could end up using the money to pay for the field that they were going to give us anyway.”

An EDDC spokesman said this week that an administrative error was to blame.

“It is clearly not right that matters are being dealt with in what is to all intents and purposes a retrospective sequence,” the spokesman added.

“As a result of the error, EDDC’s processes have been reviewed and changed to avoid any repetition of this situation.

“It should, however, be remembered that the Planning Inspector who allowed the developer’s appeal also ruled that no open space contribution was justified.

“If the contribution stands in its current form, the town will still receive a very significant contribution towards sports provision rather than nothing at all.”

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