‘West Hill independence is long overdue step’

Proposed new West Hill parish council boundary

Proposed new West Hill parish council boundary - Credit: Archant

Campaigners welcome split but express disappointment over boundary

Campaigners have welcomed West Hill’s ‘long overdue’ independence, but expressed disappointment at being forced to compromise on a contentious boundary issue.

A long and acrimonious battle to secure a new parish council for the woodland village – separate from the governance of Ottery – ended last week when East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet gave it the green light.

The decision rested on a compromised boundary option designed to best meet views of residents from both sides who responded to a public consultation.

The resulting boundary effectively halves the size of the current ward - something the West Hill Parish Council Campaign group (WHPCC) has strongly opposed.

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Chair of the WHPCC Margaret Hall said: “We are very pleased to have achieved our main objective of creating a parish council for West Hill. This is a long overdue step for West Hill, by some margin the largest village in East Devon without its own parish council.

“We are, however, very disappointed with the final decision on the boundary. We were confident that we had made a sound argument for the original ward boundary, which has been West Hill’s boundary for over 100 years. However, it proved to be impossible to take this argument further without compromising the overall goal of achieving a parish council for West Hill.”

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The group believed the alternative to compromise would have been to delay any decision until 2019 – something it would find ‘completely unacceptable’.

Dr Hall said the WHPCC would have liked to pursue the argument for the village’s original boundary, but decided to accept the ‘very much reduced’ size in order to achieve its primary objective.

She added a hope that those involved would work positively with all neighbouring councils.

EDDC needs to issue a final go-ahead on July 27, before the proposal will come into legal effect on April 1, 2017. The first elections could be held in May 2017.

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