‘Farce’ meeting turn into ‘bun fight’

Newton Poppleford villagers protest at an area of land which is planned for the development of up to

Newton Poppleford villagers protest at an area of land which is planned for the development of up to 42 homes. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shv 9472-16-13AW - Credit: Archant

A PARISH council planning meeting in Newton Poppleford descended into ‘farce’ as talks over a major development were unexpectedly adjourned before the burning issue could even be discussed.

Around 70 people packed the village hall expecting to hear their local representatives give their view on Clinton Devon Estates’ proposals for 42 homes on land south of King Alfred Way - but got a ‘bun fight’ instead.

Residents were left frustrated when talks didn’t make it past the declarations of interest stage after one member, with concerns about the scheme, was told he could not take part in the discussions.

Chairman Mark Sanders told the public ‘I know it doesn’t look good’ as he called an abrupt end to proceedings.

The bone of contention surrounded Councillor Graham Salter who objected to being told he should not participate and asked colleagues: “What have you got to hide?”

The council took legal advice from the district’s democratic services manager and was told Cllr Salter had a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (DPI) as the application was next door to his land and could affect the value of his home. A DPI is an issue it is deemed may cause conflict with a representative’s role as an elected member.

Mr Salter, who had declared an interest and was happy not to vote on the matter, refuted the claim and insisted he should be allowed to give his verdict and express factual concerns.

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He said he had ‘no problem’ with houses being built in the field - but the application was ‘riddled with inconsistencies’.

Cllr Salter claimed that some of his colleagues did not want him to talk as they were ‘worried’ about what was going to be said.

Chairman Mr Sanders said the council was following proper process in its actions and warned that some ‘serious language’ was being used.

He branded the back-and-forth as a ‘bun fight’ and added: “If Cllr Salter had been in favour of this application then there wouldn’t be the furore there has been.

“I know it doesn’t look good, but I’m not prepared to go into this,” he added as he adjourned the meeting.

Ben McGowan, 37, of King Alfred Way, is among many residents present who share concerns that what is proposed is ‘too big’ for the site and will be a drain on existing infrastructure.

He said of last Friday’s meeting: “It was a farce.”

Ben moved to the village to raise his family and also fears that the entrance of the site crossed a footpath used by schoolchildren.

Residents have launched a ‘Save Our Village’ Facebook page.

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