Let people speak


- Credit: Archant

I was interested to read your report “Public right to speak wrangle” in the Herald of June 7 about speaking rights at East Devon District Council meetings.

In the article you report EDDC Conservative councillor Ray Bloxham saying: “This issue is yet another example of blatant scaremongering for political gain by a small number of independent opposition members.”

EDDC was found by planning inspectors at Feniton and Ottery St Mary not to have a five-year housing land supply and is therefore vulnerable to planning approvals on inappropriate sites.

A special meeting of the EDDC development management committee on February 5 was arranged to consider the worrying situation.

As the Devon county councillor for Feniton and an EDDC councillor for Ottery, I participated in both planning appeals.

However, I was not allowed to speak on February 5. Representatives of organisations such as Fight For Feniton’s Future, Save Our Sidmouth, and West Hill Residents’ Association also attended the meeting on February 5 wishing to speak, but were also denied the opportunity.

Councillor Ben Ingham (EDDC Independent group leader) argued that they should be allowed to speak – but the chairman refused.

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To rub salt in the wounds, the EDDC leader subsequently congratulated the chairman on the “masterly way” he chaired the meeting!

That is why some of us made efforts to change and improve the rules about public speaking, and to allow EDDC councillors not on the development management committee to speak at that committee on matters of major importance.

It would be very welcome if EDDC does make changes to ensure enhanced speaking rights.

The gain would be for East Devon and all its residents – not for “a small number of independent opposition members”.

Councillor Roger Giles

Ottery Town (Independent)