Calls for change of leadership on Ottery regeneration project after five members resign from group

Josefina Gori at the Ottery library drop-in session. Ref sho 09-17TI 7956. Picture: Terry Ife

Josefina Gori at the Ottery library drop-in session. Ref sho 09-17TI 7956. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Five members of a committee working on a vision to regenerate Ottery have resigned and called for a change of leadership.

Jo Talbot, Martin Thurgood, Mick Koch, Nigel Sadler and Ruud Jansen Venneboer this week penned an open letter to the town council, saying they had ‘no option’ but to leave the Ottery Regeneration Working Group.

They want the group’s chairman, Councillor Josefina Gori, replaced and claim such a move would be for the ‘long-term success’ of the project.

However, mayor Glyn Dobson has responded by defending Cllr Gori and pointing out four new members have joined the committee since the resignations.

The regeneration group was set up to improve the town and is made up of members from different sections of the community. It was chaired by Cllr Geoff Pratt, before he stood down for health reasons early this year.

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Cllr Gori was elected as chairman in February. Following this, the regeneration group unsuccessfully appealed her appointment in March.

In their letter, the five former members have bemoaned ‘the effective loss of nearly every community member’ the town council appointed to the group in January 2017. They also wrote: “You will be aware that most of the community members of the group were not satisfied that your replacement candidate, Cllr Gori, had the necessary attributes for the role. We drew it to your attention: you insisted that your decision stood.

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“We are most concerned that the group is losing the momentum it built up in 2017 and that it will struggle to regain the support and respect of the stakeholders that regeneration relies upon. However, there is now the opportunity for councillors to remedy the problems that have arisen.”

The quintet say that, should Cllr Pratt feel able to return, the council should reconsider re-electing him as chairman, adding: “For the long-term success in securing the benefits to the town and the surrounding communities that the Neighbourhood Plan seeks to achieve, we respectfully ask that you take the opportunity to appoint a new chair who has the essential qualities to unify interested parties and develop the essential partnership relationships that are now so crucially needed: and that you put down a marker that you will be prepared to reconsider the position should Cllr Pratt feel able once more to take up the role.”

Cllr Dobson told the Herald: “The council elected a chairman, they [the regeneration group] opposed it and it came back before council and we confirmed the appointment.”

Cllr Gori was approached for comment, but declined as the letter was addressed to the town council.

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