Council row over West Hill planning application

An argument broke out between town councillors last week over a ‘grave injustice’ surrounding the minutes of a planning meeting

Ottery councillors had agreed unanimously not to support the proposed development at the Cooper Trust Land in West Hill last month but several councillors were angry over the wording of the minutes from the meeting at the Narthex.

Councillor Claire Wright made a proposal not to support the plans for various reasons at the planning meeting which was unanimously agreed on but she and fellow West Hill representative Roger Giles feel a phrase has been added which alters its meaning.

The resolution contained the phrase ‘A more balanced use of this land would be appropriate’, which the two councillors and also residents feel may be used in a future proposal as indicative of council approval for development of the land.

Planning Committee chair Paul Carter revealed at the council meeting last Monday several emails had been submitted to the council after a copy of the draft decision was put on the East Devon planning services website, and Margaret Hall, who lives next door to the Cooper Trust land, spoke out against the minutes, calling the comment ‘inappropriate’.

Councillor Giles said: “I move the minutes be amended to remove that point as that statement wasn’t made during the resolution. I think the minutes are wrong.”

He added he would not have voted in favour of the resolution had he thought the remark was part of it.

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But other councillors said the minutes were correct as a more balanced use of the land had been suggested by a member of the public and discussed at the meeting. Cllr Carter replied: “I post these minutes as a true record of the meeting.”

But Cllr Wright was unhappy at this explanation. She said: “I’m not being pedantic but they are wrong, it [the more balanced use remark] is completely contradictory to the previous sentence. Where do we draw the line, do we put forward all comments that were part of the debate into the resolution?”

Mayor Glyn Dobson replied: “The decision was on the proposal and not the comments.”

He then decided to ask councillors to vote on whether they wanted the minutes to stay as they are. Only the councillors who attended the original planning meeting were allowed to vote and of those, five voted in favour; Councillors Holmes, Hansford, Carter, Pang and Lewis, and three voted against; Councillors Wright, Giles and Talbot.

The minutes were kept as they were, but immediately after the vote Councillor Giles said: “I think a grave injustice has just been done.”

The final decision on the 36 dwelling and village centre proposal by Nigel Hardy will be made by EDDC.