Debate denied?


- Credit: Archant

SIR - In the Sidmouth Herald of February 15 you report an email from East Devon District Council leader Paul Diviani in which he praised Cllr Mark Williamson for the “masterly” way he chaired an EDDC meeting at The Knowle about the planning crisis facing EDDC.

Because of the Government’s push for planning approvals, and East Devon District Council’s failure to provide a five-year housing supply as the Government says it must, we face the prospect of inappropriate planning approvals on greenfield sites all across East Devon.

On February 5, EDDC “debated” the problem at a Knowle packed with 150 people. Actually, the “debate” took place between Cllr Ben Ingham (Independent), and the chairman, Cllr Mark Williamson (Conservative). Most other members of the planning committee said nothing.

Before the “debate,” several members of the public and representatives of groups such as Fight For Feniton’s Future, Save Our Sidmouth, and West Hill Residents’ Association had tried to speak. The chairman refused to allow them to do so. Members of EDDC who were not members of the planning committee such as Cllr Claire Wright and I, were also denied the right to speak by the chairman.

The EDDC planning committee chairman denies councillors the right to try to influence EDDC’s planning policies – and the EDDC leader calls the decision “masterly”!

The day before the debate, Cllr Claire Wright and I went to see East Devon MP Hugo Swire to express our concerns about the prospect of losing swathes of our beautiful countryside.

On February 4, Hugo Swire received us with courtesy, and listened to what we had to say, and promised to do what he could to help.

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On February 5, EDDC – of which we are elected members – denied us the right to speak on a critically important issue on behalf of the people we represent.

That was a quite deplorable and profoundly undemocratic decision. For the council leader Paul Diviani subsequently to praise the chairman for refusing to allow us to speak, shows that there is something very deeply wrong with the Conservative political leadership of EDDC.

Roger Giles

East Devon District Councillor for Ottery St Mary – Independent