‘West-xit’ debate rages on

Proposed boundaries for the new West Hill Parish Council. The black outline is the boundary campaign

Proposed boundaries for the new West Hill Parish Council. The black outline is the boundary campaigners in favour of independence have put forward. The hatched parts are areas that EDDC is suggesting should remain part of Ottery Town Council, subject to further consultation. - Credit: Archant

Ottery St Mary Town Council remains split as consultation deadline looms

Accusations of ‘mishandling’ and unfair distribution of information were made this week as the dispute over West Hill boundary proposals raged on.

A bid that would see the woodland village form its own council – separate from Ottery – is through to a second phase of consultation in which residents have been asked to submit views on specific details.

The boundary proposed by East Devon District Council (EDDC) is the source of ongoing controversy as campaigners on both sides fight to keep a section of land.

With the deadline of Thursday, June 16, looming, the town council eventually voted at a meeting on Monday to respond in favour of the proposed plans – but it was far from a consensual agreement.

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A series of drop-in sessions was recently held to source views across the parish, but members heard that questionnaires were not made available to people in West Hill.

Councillor Christopher Hall said: “If no attempt was made to capture public opinion, then the meetings completely failed in their purpose and were a waste of time.

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“How are we supposed to vote without prejudice without knowing what the public’s view is?”

Councillor Ian Holmes argued that many residents had taken questionnaires away with them so to base a vote on those collected would be unfair anyway.

Councillor Robin Mitchell said he was not a member of any ‘West-xit’ group and appealed for members to find a compromise rather than taking such a ‘ridiculously polarised approach’.

The authority is split on the matter, with three West Hill councillors actively campaigning for the proposed boundary to be changed and seven members – including the mayor – fighting to keep it.

While all declared an interest, only West Hill Parish Council Campaign group members – along with district councillors – abstained from voting.

Residents can respond to the consultation by writing to: EDDC/Community Governance Review, Room 70, Knowle, Sidmouth EX10 8HL or email: westhill@eastdevon.gov.uk before June 16.

Speaking at the meeting, WHPCC chair Margaret Hall said she did not see how the council could produce a valid response to the consultation and Cllr Hall added that it meant the matter was ‘badly mishandled’.

Mayor Glyn Dobson argued that it was unreasonable to think you can transfer the ward of West Hill into a parish.

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