Holiday village plan ‘not railroaded’

MADAM - We wish to take issue with your report of January 30 in the Herald, in which you published unsubstantiated allegations concerning the way EDDC handled our planning application for the Stoneleigh Holiday Village at Weston.

MADAM - We wish to take issue with your report of January 30 in the Herald, in which you published unsubstantiated allegations concerning the way EDDC handled our planning application for the Stoneleigh Holiday Village at Weston.

Your report contained a headline which stated: Application was 'railroaded' claim - complaint to MP.

"Railroading" any application would at best be an irregularity in the planning process; at worst, it would be criminal. While you were clearly happy to print this allegation, you failed to identify who had (supposedly) "railroaded" the application past EDDC; you then failed to invite any of the (presumed) "suspects" to defend themselves against your unwarranted attack on them and their integrity.

So, who might the (supposed) "railroaders" be? Here are the main "suspects":


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1.The applicants, M2 Leisure Group. It was we - on your own admission in your own report - who amended our plan NINE times. We did this, both in consultation with planning officers and in response to concerns raised by neighbours; and also after many months consulting with our community of 40 leaseholders on site. The time, trouble and expense to which we have gone in order to accommodate the concerns of interested parties hardly amounts to "railroading" .

2. EDDC planning officers. Would it have been senior planning officer Steve Belli, who twice presented a detailed, 33-page report on the application to councillors? Or would it have been case officer April Waterman who, it emerged at the Planning Development Committee on January 23, gave careful consideration to EVERY letter of support or objection during the many weeks that it took her to help prepare Mr Belli's report?

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3. Could it have been the 16 elected councillors who attended the Development Control Committee on January 13, when our application was first considered? Or maybe it was the nine councillors at the Planning Inspection Committee who subsequently considered (and unanimously approved) the application on January 23?

Our scheme is now being examined by the Secretary of State for the Environment, The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP. I wonder whether he, too, will "railroad" it through.

You have questioned the integrity and the reputation of planning officers and councillors, and of M2 Leisure Group, on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, which are completely lacking in evidence of any irregularity whatsoever.

Nick Spysznyk

Chairman

M2 Leisure Group

Stoneleigh Holiday Village

Weston

Sidmouth

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Herald aims to cover all sides of every story. As a neighbour felt concerned enough about the planning decision to involve his MP, this merited mentioning in the coverage of the application. The 'rail roading' claims were clearly presented as a reader's opinions, and not as fact.

As far as questioning who the reader's 'railroading' claim was referring to, this was clear in the report and your letter itself refers to "allegations concerning the way EDDC handled our planning application".

As was clearly indicated in the report, the Herald contacted EDDC and put the objector's concerns to them. The key parts of EDDC's response, ie the full range of facts, comments and planning policy that it takes into account when applications are determined, was printed in the report.

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