Opinion: West Hill independence debate continues

PUBLISHED: 19:00 25 January 2016

Archant

Writers say ' long live democracy' and 'we're better together'

‘Long live democracy’

I read the report entitled ‘Parish is better together’ in connection with the West Hill bid for an independent parish council and came to the conclusion that the majority in favour are living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’.

They talk about being in charge of their own destiny and giving the village a bit of self-determination. What if the council tax contribution goes up, a small price to pay, but a small price to pay for what?

In truth, all that a town council or a parish council can do is to make recommendations - it has no power to make decisions. That power lies with East Devon District Council.

For the 40-odd years that I have resided in West Hill, I have always found that Ottery Town Council has served the village well and has always taken note of the comments made by the residents’ association and has worked actively in matters relating to planning, the school, the village hall and the like.

West Hill Residents’ Association is currently advertising for new members for its committee, the village hall committee is doing likewise. Where then are these ‘bright eyed, bushy tailed’ volunteers coming from to form a parish council? For some time past it has been necessary to co-opt villagers onto the town council in order for the village to be represented, where oh where is the self-determination in that?

It is not for the campaigners to say that this bid of theirs represents the will of the people, or that it speaks for the majority...in my opinion it is just the vociferous few.

It is now up to EDDC to take all into account and to act in accordance with the will of the majority served by Ottery Town Council...long live democracy.

Ralph E Gray

Hawkins Lane, West Hill

‘We’re better together’

Last week, the Opinion column carried a letter about West Hill going its own way and breaking away from the rest of the communities in this part of the Otter Valley. The Ottery Herald also carried a report headed ‘Parish is better together’.

With a cool head, let’s try and consider the issues that are raised. First, finance - as that seems to be close to the core of the debate.

From what supporters of UDI say, everyone else will have to pay around 50 per cent more if West Hill withdraws. I estimate that this will save West Hill households around 50pence-a-week - but they will continue to enjoy the benefits paid for by others, such as the highly-subsidised ground rent for the bowls club, the soon to be rejuvenated library and other similar developments.

For my part, I don’t believe that people in West Hill could be so penny pinching. Second, planning - this seems to be the other major plank in the UDI argument, yet it is the financial clout of the united council that means we have been able to engage at considerable cost some highly professional advisers to develop a Neighbourhood Plan that will secure all that West Hill seeks, and more.

By itself, no ward, West Hill or otherwise, could have afforded it – and nor has any other parish in East Devon. Let’s also be realistic about housing expansion - the combined parish has taken some 500-600 new dwellings almost exclusively in the town. West Hill UDI-ers say they are a big settlement - so what future share of new dwellings – 600 or otherwise - might West Hill be expected to take in its new status as a large stand-alone parish? Or is it perhaps better to be a part of a parish that can absorb expansion elsewhere and still maintain the unique woodland nature of West Hill? These are issues for cool heads to reflect upon.

And these are decisions for the long term. For my part, I am convinced that, together, we can protect our precious river valley, together we can resist major development such as more housing and quarries that could blight us all, together we can be in the catchment of a much oversubscribed King’s School, together we can enjoy the recreational opportunities that we jointly fund and, together, the sum of the parts creates something much better, to the benefit of everyone. We truly are better together.

Martin Thurgood

Ottery St Mary

Let us know what you think. Write in to our Opinion page. Email sidmouth.letters@archant.co.uk.

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