So EDDC didn’t spot “extraneous and unlawful planning inducement” in planning app?

Newton Poppleford resident Mark Coppell is one of many who wonders where the blame lies. Below is his letter to the Sidmouth Herald (23 July 2014).

I write in response to EDDC’s recent statement that the judicial review relating to the planning permission granted at King Alfred Way, Newton Poppleford, was conceded despite no fault being apportioned to the Council itself. Having first-hand experience of EDDC’s internal investigative procedures I am not in the least bit surprised they have reached this conclusion.
However, it would be interesting to know precisely whose fault do EDDC consider it to be that an extraneous and unlawful planning inducement was included in the draft Section 106 agreement before the application was heard at committee? Whose fault was it that, during the planning meeting, the council accepted the offer of a unilateral undertaking of the surgery, a form of planning obligation governed by the same regulations that made provision via section 106 unlawful?
The committee and legal team were recorded discussing making approval “subject to demonstration of a mechanism” to secure something, in full knowledge that it could not legally be secured. It was resolved to word the approval vaguely such that “everybody knows what needs to be done (provision of the surgery) but without making that issue (it being unlawful) raise its head”. If that was not the council’s fault, then who is to blame?
Even more curiously, if the council truly believed they had not erred and their position was defensible, who authorised the decision not to contest the judicial review, thereby costing £11k of taxpayers’ money?
Once again, in their statement, EDDC have adopted a defensive attitude towards the electorate, and are trying to absolve themselves of blame for their planning advice and decision-making being legally unsound. This whole episode suggests that the council are not sufficiently familiar with the regulations that govern planning matters and made a genuine but extraordinary mistake. The alternative explanation is that they have a flagrant disregard for such things when they interfere with awarding planning permission to a major landowner in whose thrall they appear to exist. I am not sure which option worries me to a greater extent.
District council planning and legal departments appear to be regulated either within house, or by those who once were in the profession. As a result they are effectively self-regulatory. Little wonder then, that they find it difficult to admit any wrong doing on their part as they are seldom held to account. It would appear the only regulation they are subject to is when legally challenged by members of the public, and this is only feasible for those with access to large funds of money. The loss of £11k to the taxpayer is highly regrettable and was utterly avoidable on EDDCs part. However, the risks taken by the public when challenging unlawful decisions are far greater proportionately and as such are not taken lightly. It was hoped that at the very least EDDC might offer some contrition and resolve to amend their practices in future. Alas not.
All in all this represents yet another shameful episode in EDDC’s recent history.
Matt Coppell

3 thoughts on “So EDDC didn’t spot “extraneous and unlawful planning inducement” in planning app?

  1. Disagree – M Coppell caused the problem and cost the tax payer far more than £11k. The applicant was willing to provide the surgery – Coppell demanded a legally binding agreement because he didn’t believe them. When one was provided he then launched a Judical review against the council for malpractice! The EIA was a weak case which would have been challenged and won. But it was linked to the surgery issue so both were conceded. Application goes back in as before and permission granted but with no legally binding clause and Coppell moans (elsewhere) about now the applicant not being forced legally to provide a surgery…

    Let’s see if they do provide one… If they do Mr Coppell should cough up the money for wasting time and tax payers money on his personally motivated procrastinations.


  2. Well ‘Jane’, I’m afraid your view of the facts of this matter is highly skewed, not to mention illogical. It seems you have been listening rather too much to EDDC’s blustering attempts to pretend they are not at fault. Allow me to correct you on some of your points:

    1. I certainly did not request that the surgery be made a legal requirement, quite the opposite. The original application already included legally-binding provision of the surgery through the draft Section 106 agreement, which was nothing to do with me. The point was that it was not legal for the council to do this as it represents the developer trying to buy planning permission with an unnecessary and disproportionate sweetener (check out R122 of the Community Infrastructure Levy regulations)

    2. I certainly did not cause the problem. The ‘problem’ was that what EDDC wanted to do was AGAINST THE LAW. Don’t blame me, blame the policymakers if you are upset about this – which you really should not be, as the laws are perfectly logical and reasonable, and designed to prevent corruption in the system. You surely don’t condone bribery or extortion in planning, do you?

    3. I certainly did not cost the taxpayer £11k. The flaw in the council’s attempt to bypass the law was pointed out repeatedly to the council, and it was only their refusal to listen that unfortunately forced lawyers to become involved, which is when costs started to be incurred. There were multiple opportunities for them to recognise and correct their error with no costs, but they unwisely chose to engage in a game of brinksmanship.

    4. I am certainly not moaning that the surgery cannot now legally be enforced. That is what the law says must happen, and rightly so. I am, however, highly critical of a council pervaded with such hubris that it is unable to hold its hands up and admit it was at fault, and shows no signs of learning from its mistakes.

    5. No matter whether or not the EIA point (quite separate from the issue of the surgery) would have been successful, the fact is that the judicial review would have been successful on the point of the council seeking a planning obligation that did not conform to the regulations. My barrister was utterly incredulous that the council could even contemplate doing this and think it was OK.

    If you are happy for the local council to cherry-pick which laws they adhere to and those which they conveniently ignore, then so be it, but it is not the way I want my local government to act. Personally, I prefer integrity and regard for the laws that exist to protect the planning system from abuse. I would suggest you check your facts before making accusations of personally motivated procrastinations – you haven’t even got a grasp of the basic facts surrounding the whole sequence of events, never mind your presumptions regarding my motivations.


  3. Pingback: “Why don’t EDDC listen…?” | East Devon Alliance

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