'Deceit and lies' - Councillors speak out Newton Poppleford GP campaign looks to be over
PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:54 07 August 2019
"This has gone into the most spectacular orbit of deceit and betrayal in the planning system."
Those are the words of one councillor as the district authority agreed at a meeting on Tuesday (August 6) not to fight a developer's appeal over a Newton Poppleford site.
Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) lodged an appeal after East Devon District Council (EDDC) delayed a decision on an application to build two homes on land originally earmarked for a GP surgery.
A wider plan for a 40-home development at King Alfred Way, including a doctors' surgery, was approved in 2013. CDE was unable to find a tenant, so instead applied to build two more homes.
At that stage the parish council expressed an interest in running the surgery.
EDDC twice delayed a decision - the second to allow the parish council to meet with the developer to find a solution.
The developer lodged an appeal with the planning inspector, who will now also decide whether the council should pay costs.
Planning officers recommended the authority should not fight the appeal arguing the surgery was not 'legally justifiable'. Councillors voted by seven votes to five not to fight it.
Councillor Mike Howe, chairman of the development management committee, told the meeting CDE had acted 'atrociously' and could not be considered an 'ethical or nice developer'.
Cllr Olly Davey said, unless 'legally enforceable', 'any promise that a developer makes is not worth the paper it is written on'.
Councillor Paul Arnott put forward a motion to reject the application, on the grounds the developer had failed in its 'commitment' to deliver the surgery - but it was thrown out by seven votes to four.
Councillor Paul Arnott said the application was the most 'spectacular orbit of deceit and betrayal' and the council should mount a challenge despite the costs. He said: "It's so mired in lies and deceit going back years, betrayal, treachery, accusations of wording.
"We cannot afford, as a rule, to be spending council taxpayers' money on appeals we may not win, but on this occasion we have to. It is a notorious case and we have to draw a line."
Cllr Eileen Wragg said the committee needed a 'damn good reason' not to agree with the officers' report.
Council officer Henry Gordon-Lennox, strategic lead, said nothing in planning law could stop the developer applying for a different use of the land, despite the original plan for a surgery.
He said: "I do absolutely understand the frustration and the annoyance and the disappointment, but from our point of view as officers there is nothing to defend precluding them from doing this, unpalatable as that may be."
CDE was represented at the meeting Amy Roberts, who said there has never been a planning justification for the surgery, within the original plan. She said CDE did not want to appeal, but that the developer's 'hands were somewhat forced' by the non-determination, despite planners' recommendations.