Knowle sale and relocation – Equalities Act 2010 – Equality Impact Assessment

Knowle relocation – has EDDC shown that it has complied with its Public Equality Duty – Equalities Act 2010? Has anyone seen an impact assessment? if not, could it be the subject of judicial review (aling with lack of consultation)?

“Members’ attention was drawn to the Equality Impact Assessment and Decision Making report within the agenda papers. This report highlighted the key points of a recently published Devon County Council report, which had been the subject of a judicial review. The report also stressed the importance of the Public Equality Duty, how that duty should be exercised and how decisions might be challenged and the possible impact if they were. The Committee noted that the Council had put a number of measures in place to ensure that decisions were not subject to judicial review under the Equality Act 2010. When making decisions leading to changes to policy or services the Council needed to demonstrate that active consideration had been given to the impact assessment. Most of the judgements against councils were made where it was evident that the decision makers had not genuinely considered equalities’ impacts in their decision-making.”

(Overview and Scrutiny Committee Minutes 27 February 2014)

Officer “naked amidst the rubble” of EDDC’s Local Plan?

Some thoughts sent to EDA from a local correspondent:

‘Information gradually drips from EDDC regarding the Local Plan and the details of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment ( SHMA ). It seems that the SHMA is recommending a more modest housing allocation for East Devon. Many commentators at the time of the Local Plan Panel advocated lower housing numbers, as did EDDC’s consultants. Those commentators appear to have been vindicated by the draft recommendations of the SHMA.

Whilst, everyone told EDDC at the Local Plan Panel that their housing provision was excessive, particular opprobrium was directed at the employment land allocation, which all agreed was absurdly high. And, of course, based in part upon hopelessly miscalculated commuting numbers, and the inexplicable exclusion from the employment numbers of the Inter Modal Freight Facility, since purchased by Sainsburys.

We are now told, bizarrely, that EDDC is arguing for an increase in the SHMA housing allocation to reflect the huge employment land allocations that they have made. Workers will have to be housed. Previously they argued the reverse: that a huge employment allocation was necessary to employ the workforce generated by their housing numbers! An absurdly spiralling argument that will only serve to devastate the countryside of East Devon, and place enormous strain upon our infrastructure and services.

Clearly, the whole edifice of the Plan has collapsed, and Matt Dickins is standing naked amidst the rubble.

The solution is obvious: the employment allocation within the Plan has to be substantially reduced. This can be easily achieved by incorporating the Sainsburys site into the calculations, and by correcting the commuting errors. Such a move would transform the Plan, making sense of the housing numbers, and providing a way forward that would be acceptable to all sides.

In particular, this would ensure the removal of the highly controversial Sidford allocation, which has attracted more opposition than any other component of the Plan.

The need to remove Sidford from the Plan is greater than ever, given the warped logic with which EDDC has responded to the SHMA. If more housing is needed to ‘feed’ the District’s employment sites, then Sidmouth is threatened with a big increase in its housing allocation. After all, we have only 70 unemployed, and Sidford is intended to accommodate 1400 jobs. Where are the workers to be housed? ‘

EDCC finally updates the Planning Inspector on draft Local Plan “progress”

…. a delay in production. This is principally due to the collective belief of the five SHMA authorities that the full objective assessment of need isn’t yet fully evidenced. Officers of the commissioning authorities have agreed what needs to be done and are in the process of quickly confirming this with the consultants.”

So there you are – 3 months after the last letter where Mr Thickett said he anticipated reconvening his examination in October/November 2014 they have “agreed what needs to be done” and will, eventually, talk to (that dreaded word) consultants. But summer 2015 (after the next local elections) is now the contemplated date for adoption IF ALL GOES WELL – hmm.

Let’s just pray that the cinsultant isn’t in bed with (sorry, embedded) at EDDC!

And, meantime, development just about everywhere continues …. no change there.

Click to access lettertomrthickett-220814.pdf

Plans for building close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest head for Supreme Court

The East Devon Pebblebed Heath, owned by Clinton Devon Estates, near Newton Poppleford is an SSSI:

Pro-housing, pro-bungalow Planning Minister celebrates defeat for affordable bungalows in his constituency!

“The minister wrote in his newsletter that the scheme was “set to cause traffic chaos” and singled out “out-of-touch” Labour councillors who “ignored strong local opposition for plans to force yet more housing on our community”.

Lewis said that residents were “horrified” to see councillors “defying the will of local people and voting in support of the plans”.

The MP added that all of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s Conservative councillors “voted to reject this misguided scheme”.”

Re. Knowle officially for sale

Some background from earlier this year:

Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council – report on afternoon session

The report below has kindly been provided by Sandra Semple, an EDA member, who agreed to attend the whole First Tier Tribunal Meeting of Information Commissioner v. EDDC. This is her personal report, does not necessarily represent the views of other EDA members and is given as a layperson with no legal training. Comments are not necessarily in the order taken but provide an overview.

Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council

Afternoon session

Although it had been anticipated that the closed session would last from 2 pm to 3 pm it lasted from 2 pm to 5 pm.

The Chairman said that he would not be able to finalise the case today because 7 matters were outstanding. These related to Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 sections 12.5 (b) and 12.5 (e).

I may have missed some essential information as the Chairman went very quickly here, so this is notes only.

  1. Confidential discussions on sites – the Information Commissioner had a neutral position.
  2. Actual and potential costs what had potential contractors said: one had said they did not want their information revealed, others said that they preferred it not to be revealed. The Council maintained that it risked losing the trust of contractors if information was disclosed, it would prejudice their interests and given them a weaker argument in tenders. The Information Commissioner opposed this stance and further submissions were needed.
  3. Legal advice with 2 concerns (1) it might affect members freedom to act (2) it would disadvantage the council with further objections – further submissions.
  4. Legal advice to the council – some agreed redactions between Information Commissioner and council which were helpful, (one less issued).
  5. Legal advice again – same issue – the Information Commissioner opposed the council’s position.
  6. Confidential information negotiations – accepted in part/opposed in others – further submissions needed.
  7. 12 (4) EIA: council asked about document issue sheets and contents re sign off – appendices in public domain read like DL – council says substance not undermined, clarification.

Council now has 7 days to provide further and final evidence on this matters as the Chairman said he wanted the examination to be complete, exhaustive and thorough.

The Information Commissioner and Mr Woodward would also be free to provide further evidence as they thought fit.

It was agreed that after the 7 days, Information Commissioner counsel and EDDC Council counsel would suggested dates for further examination with a timetable. The Tribunal will meet again at a date to be decided and, following that meeting, will give its decision (hopefully) within 2-3 weeks

Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council – report on morning session

The report below has kindly been provided by Sandra Semple, an EDA member, who agreed to attend the whole First Tier Tribunal Meeting of Information Commissioner v. EDDC. This is her personal report, does not necessarily represent the views of other EDA members and is given as a layperson with no legal training. Comments are not necessarily in the order taken but provide an overview.

First of all, see the report of Claire Wright, who also attended the morning meeting (but not the afternoon meeting) which I will not duplicate.

EDDC had provided a further 129 pages of evidence yesterday.

And see also report on Save Our Sidmouth website:

and here:

The whole argument turned on whether Mr Steve Pratten was (a) an employee of Davis Langdon (DL), or whether he was (b) an independent consultant or whether he was (c) embedded (I did keep mis-hearing “in bed with”!) EDDC as a “virtual officer”. This is relevant because if (a) or (b) then much more information is available for publication under Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 than if he is (c). Therefore EDDC evidence sought to confirm (c). This proved somewhat difficult, as Claire Wright’s report on the proceedings relates.

It also turned on what was not included in what could be put in the public domain. Mr Pratten said that in his section of the MINUTES of working party meetings (already agreed as being allowed to remain private) around 60% of the content of the minutes consisted of “cuts and pastes” from his report, leaving only 40% of his report available for consideration.

On being questioned, Mr Pratten said that Davis Langdon were invisible and silent and although presumably receiving a substantial monthly fee for providing the services of Mr Pratten they had no input whatsoever into his job.   Mr Pratten said that he attended “4 or 5 meetings” at “his” (stet) office in Bristol (i.e. Davis Langdon) with a senior partner or partners but these were “informal” and at no time did any partner express any views whatsoever on Mr Pratten’s job with EDDC – he simply updated them and kept them in the loop but they said nothing. It therefore seemed that, at these meetings, Mr Pratten spoke but no-one answered. He has not been to his Bristol office this year.

Mr Pratten said that DL’s only practical input was to check a Quality Assurance document for typing errors, checked by a Mr Knapp in the Plymouth office. Richard Thurlow, on behalf of Jeremy Woodward, said he found this baffling: quality assurance is about more than ticking boxes. What would happen if there was a mistake? Who would be liable – DL or Mr Pratt or EDDC? I do not recall this being answered.

Mr Pratten was asked about public liability: who would be sued by the council if, hypothetically, this was necessary: DL or Mr Pratten. He replied that he did not know.

He was asked about his laptop – who provided it – DL but he also had an EDDC computer. He preferred the DL computer because it was quicker and he gave Mr Cohen his reports on a memory stick. His hard drive was backed up by DL’s computer system and therefore could theoretically be available to them.

He was questioned as to why the front and back pages of his reports were DL templates. He also confirmed that he used DL software and hardware. He said that was his own preference to use DL templates and that, although the front and back were DL templates, the content inside was his. He was asked if councillors would understand this but I do not recall his reply.

He was asked what email address he used and he said sometimes EDDC and sometimes DL, whichever was most convenient at the time. He said he was full-time at EDDC though this sometimes included working from home.

I also recall him, as does Claire Wright, being asked: If EDDC wanted a second opinion, would you mind if these reports were shown to your competitors and he replied that, as long as “our” budget information was redacted (not sure who “our” was), he would be happy for them to see the reports. He was asked what DL would think about this – he said he could not say.

The Information Commissioner’s barrister than spoke of an email from them which had “slipped out” of the documentation.

Mr Pratten was asked what would happen if information was given to the public: Land values of sites for consideration could escalate, costs would go up and values go down and there might be a reduced choice of sites.

EDDC’s barrister said that their entire bargaining position and the position for sale would be weakened if the information requested was released.

Mr Pratten said that “WE provided a tender” for the work.

EDDC’s barrister was asked who was Mr Pratten’s line manager, who was responsible for hiring, firing, training and review, who would terminate his employment if this became necessary – it was reported that Richard Cohen was considered line manager but that termination would be up to DL. He confirmed that he had received no training at EDDC, that he had signed a paper on secrecy and confidentiality and Mr Cohen said that he was bound by the Code for Officers, though Mr Pratten did not say that he had read it. Mr Pratten said that he had access to the full EDDC network on the computer except “the higher level” for the CEO level. He was an officer “in all but name”.

The Chairman attempted to make a distinction a number of times between someone who was employed on a particular project and someone who was a regular officer saying that an officer was someone who was involved with the wider business of the council whereas a consultant was involved with only one aspect of the council’s work and did not get involved in the wider business of the council. Mr Cohen said several times that he was finding it hard to grasp what the Chairman was getting at and he considered Mr Pratten the same as “any other officer”.

There was therefore some discussion about what Mr Pratten was involved in and what he was not It was confirmed that no staff reported to him and he did not have any budgetary responsibility – all budget requirements were signed off by Mr Cohen.

Mr Pratten gave his evidence (after barrister’s opening comments) from around 10.20 to 11.20 then it was the turn of Mr Cohen from around 11.20 to 13.00.

Mr Cohen said that he had taken much advice on relocation and it had convinced him he needed a dedicated professional and a named individual. He mentioned Michelmore’s Solicitors, the Met Office and others to whom he had turned for advice. Relocation was a complex matter and his expertise was reflected in his reports.

Mr Cohen said that it was essential that the meetings remained secret because it was “thinking time” for him and, if they were not secret, the meetings would have to rely on verbal reports only which was not satisfactory. He and his officers and the members of the Relocation Working Party needed “thinking space”.

Mr Cohen said that the council had decided to consider options for relocation in July 2011 and Mr Pratten had been employed in April 2012. Outline planning permission for Knowle had been discussed at a DMC meeting on 1 March 2013 and was refused. No formal discussion had taken place on sites and all were open for discussion at that time.

Mr Cohen talked at length about public consultation but it appeared to this layperson that there was confusion and conflation between the statutory consultation about Knowle planning application and the separate subject of Knowle relocation – the Knowle planning application consultation being confused with relocation. Mr Cohen mentioned with regard to consultation that there had been 42 press releases on the subject, 2 meetings (one outdoors in Sidmouth, one in a community centre) and a “stakeholders meeting” (but later confirmed that the stakeholder meeting had taken place after the Knowle planning application outcome). He mentioned extensive correspondence from members of the publice (“more than 2,000 responses, but unclear whether he was talking about the planning application or the subject of relocation).

At this point, Mr Woodward said that there had been “scant information” given to the public and there was a spontaneous outburst of approbation from many members of the public present.

Mr Cohen mentioned a problem about footpath access and said that he did not wish to give information to the “other side”.

Mr Cohen was asked about the relationship between Mr Pratten, himself and DL – could DL control or restrict information from or to Mr Pratten. Would there be things that DL said No to. If the employment was not working out who would replace Mr Pratten – EDDC or DL. DL but only an applicant agreed by EDDC (Mr Cohen) but this had not been needed. Summarised as: DL was available if needed but had not been needed.

Mr Cohen was asked if he had had any meetings with DL – only at the start of the process but not since. Did Mr Pratten have decision making ability – answer: the same as other officers. Did he get involved in wider council business – no. Did he abide by the Officers Code of Conduct. This was on a “Read and Agree” basis but this was not then explained in depth.

Did Mr Pratten’s emails get send from his EDDC or his DL address – both. Who is the yes/no decision maker regarding the Code of Conduct and Mr Pratten? Mr Cohen would seek guidance from the Legal Officer and/or the Monitoring Officer.

A discussion then ensued on what damage might be anticipated from disclosure: significant issues of commercial confidentiality, site sale value, outline planning application affected, options before decisions would all be affected if the reports were made public so they needed to be limited.

The Information Commissioner’s barrister said: if Reports 1-6 walk like a duck and quack like a duck (i.e. look like consultants reports with the DL front and back sheets) would members think they were from a consultant or documents from the council. EDDC’s barrister said that this question could not be asked: it was not for Mr Cohen to guess what members might think.

EDDC’s barrister said that Mr Cohen signed off all documents before they went to meetings and he was the final arbiter of what they contained and DL had no input. The key relationship was between him and Mr Pratten not him and DL.

Mr Cohen was asked again what public consultation had been undertaken and it was noted that, for the outline planning application, it had to be resubmitted three times because of erroneous content. Mr Cohen said that this was in only one document of the 29 reports submitted. He noted the 42 press releases and the stakeholders meeting after February 2013.

The function of the Kensington Taylor consultancy was questioned. They had been appointed before the project manager to work on the design of new accommodation. They were design and architecture consultants prior to the award of the work to DL (Mr Pratten). Did they meet with other officers? Only with Mr Cohen and possibly the Financial Director and maybe the Estates team.

Was this the first example of “embedding” a consultant in the council? Yes, Mr Cohen believed it was.

The female layperson asked about Report 2: there were 2 versions of it – which version did the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of July 2013 see when they asked for an updated report on the project? Mr Cohen confirmed that it was the shorter (second) report and they had been told that confidential information had been redacted from this report and those members on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee who had seen the full report were told to “consider their position” (this was not expanded on).

The layperson then asked if EDDC had an IT policy on import and export of documents from a secondary source – Mr Cohen confirmed that it was allowed.

The Information Commissioner’s barrister asked if there had been any contact between EDDC and DL on customer satisfaction about the contract – Mr Cohen said no. He was asked if he envisaged any such contact – he said maybe at some point and there might be a need to restructure arrangements.

Mr Cohen confirmed that, to date, there had been no site purchase and no construction.

He was asked if the relocation had been discussed at any public EDDC meetings. He said yes – at four of them to his recollection (not listed) but then went on to say that he had given more information in the private part (part B) of these meetings to members only but that he thought that some appendices to reports had been made public (but did not elaborate on what they were) but confirmed no extracts from the reports had ever been made public.

The morning ended with a technical question on what a phrase “partnerships with contractors” meant in one document. Mr Cohen said that it meant examples of DL working in partnership with others.

The session ended at 13.00 hours. The Chairman said that the meeting would go into closed session at 2 pm. Mr Thurlow would not be allowed at that meeting but could submit written questions to it. In fact, the closed session lasted until 5 pm.



First report on Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council

More reports to follow.  24 members of the public attended the meeting in the morning, 4 members of the public in late afternoon:

Today’s Tribunal : EDDC vs Information Commissioner & Jeremy Woodward

The decision of the Hearing at Exeter Magistrates’ court,  which took the whole day, is anticipated in two or three weeks’ time.

Here is where interviews, and some of today’s reports on the case, can be found:

BBC Radio Devon. Good Morning Devon interview with Jeremy Woodward 04:15-08:05 ; Jenny Kumah interviews Jeremy Woodward and Richard Thurlow  34:40-38:13; and later, discussion of how Local Authorities usually deal with Freedom of Information requests 01:35-01:40.24



East Devon Alliance response to EDDC Deputy Director Richard Cohen’s press release and some background information

The EDDC Press Release is linked in the post below.

EDA Response:

“The East Devon Alliance notes with disappointment that the recent Briefing for Editors by EDDC does nothing at all to address the issues that really matter. EDDC is still unable to give a date for delivery of the Local Plan and the SHMA, relying instead on patronising assurances that all will be well. The crucial Local Plan, promised for two years ago, now seems unlikely to be agreed before next summer. How much more vulnerable East Devon countryside will be lost while the Council dithers?”

And if anyone wishes to reassure themselves that these are not new problems, please read pages 10 to 21 of the document below:  a damning report by the Planning Advisory Service in 2009, commissioned by EDDC when they realised that their first Local Plan project was not going to plan:

PAS report 2009

Also refer to a post on the Sidmouth Independent News of 31 January 2013 which identified many of the issues brought up by Mr Thickett, the Planning Inspector, when he threw out the latest Local Plan in March 2014:

Interesting that the potential problems with the 5 year land supply were all highlighted HERE [Note this reference has since been removed from the EDDC website] in July 2009 in the report of a Task and Finish Forum on 5 year land supply and that everything negative that was predicted in this document has come to pass.  Here are a few extracts:

1. Our assessment of our District wide figures shows that we have only just over five years availability. An Inspector at a planning application appeal could take the view that this is close enough to the five year threshold to side with an applicant/dismiss our arguments.
2. The District wide five year figure is based on our assessment and assumptions we have made. A developer might challenge these and come to a different conclusion (i.e. that land supply falls under five years) and persuade an Inspector that his/her evaluation is the more accurate.
3. Circumstances change and assessment/s done at the present time (and initially in 2008) can and will be out of date in the future.

4.  In the past we had intentionally split the District in to two, 1. the West End and 2. the Rest of East Devon. ….. It is now considered, however, that it is more appropriate to have a single 5 year housing figure for ACROSS THE WHOLE DISTRICT. This will give the Council the ability to deliver housing outside the West End which will encompass not only the Towns but villages too.




Back in the EDDC ….

The latest outbreak of foot in mouth disease to hit the EDDC – turmoil surrounding the absence of a Local Plan and Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) – has seemingly roused from his slumbers Deputy Chief Executive Richard Cohen. In a Press Release – er, sorry,

SHMA briefing for editors and members 27 Aug final

he provides a guide to recent events that might just as well have been subtitled ‘Everything is Under Control – Honest!”.

Readers will be fascinated to learn that, while the draft Local Plan envisaged 15,000 more homes for East Devon and recent independent research estimates a figure closer to 11,358 …. this is not enough for the economic powerhouse that is East Devon. In keeping with Cllr Paul Diviani’s interview on Radio Devon the other day – a contribution composed chiefly of stumbling ineptitude, the only incontrovertible fact being that he refused twice to answer the question when the Local Plan might be ready – the implication would appear to be that EDDC is hellbent on allowing as many houses on the East Devon countryside as it can get away with. Hence the ‘Briefing for Editors’ writing evangelically about the “explosion of activity .. at the Growth Point” where “new businesses can be expected to move into sites like SkyPark and Exeter Science Park”. That’d be the same Growth Point where Sainsburys was going to build a distribution centre creating hundreds of jobs, only to pull out earlier this month, right?

Consultants should have been putting together data to enable the SHMA to have been all but finished by this stage. But doubting Thomases will be reassured by Mr Cohen’s assurance that “our consultants will now continue with the work required to fully evidence housing need into the future.” Um, “now continue”? So what have they been doing previously? Knitting? And just when will the SHMA finally see the light of day?

The document ‘Briefing for Editors’ belongs more to the days of Pravda than the Knowle. Next up, expect a statement from Mr Cohen that EDDC can look forward to record tractor production and grain harvest in 2015.

“Right to Contest” use of Government property

It’s a bit odd, but below is a toolkit which lists various types of public property where, if you think that is is redundant or could be put to better use and the government agrees, it will go up for sale.

The scale and type of property in our area is astonishing from, for example, a single-office room in Honiton to its (redundant surely) Magistrates Court, to a house in Exmouth and everything inbetween!

“The ‘Right to Contest’ guidance says that anyone – including businesses, local authorities or members of the public – can issue a challenge.
This is as long as they believe that all the following apply:

Where the land is owned by a central government department or one of their arms’ length bodies, the site: is potentially surplus or redundant; could be put to better economic use, “eg for housing or to help businesses develop or expand”.

The right can be used to challenge central government sites which are in use, as long as the challenger thinks that operations could be moved to a different location.

Where land is owned by a local authority or certain other public bodies: the site is empty or under-used; there are no plans to bring it back into use.”

Hmmmm …..!


An interesting First Tier Tribunal (Information) case with “public interest” requirements

Not quite the same as EDDC but with some interesting similarities:

and the decision:

The full official decision notice is here:

and includes the following pertinent paragraphs:

“In relation to the disposal of the council’s land, land which would previously have been a public resource which provided council housing for significant numbers of residents, there is a public interest in knowing that the decision to sell this resource to a private company was based on a sound evaluation of relevant factors and represented good value and an effective use of a public resource. Disclosure of the requested information would provide the public with the same level of detail available to the council in its decision making which, in turn, would facilitate public engagement with the scheme and provide reassurance that the council gave due consideration to the relevant factors.

The Commissioner accepts that it is in the public interest for authorities to secure best value when disposing of assets and that, in the current economic climate, this presents particular difficulties. It is arguable, therefore, that the council should be allowed to progress the regeneration without this process being jeopardised. However, the Commissioner is also mindful that, given the fact that the asset in question is a public resource and that Lend Lease is a private company which stands to profit from the regeneration, there is a compelling, countervailing argument in favour of making this process as transparent as possible. Whilst it may be that the regeneration will free council resources which were previously tied up with maintaining the Heygate Estate, the Commissioner considers that size of the redevelopment and the number of residents affected should provide a trigger for transparency and engagement with council tax payers.

The Commissioner further considers that, as the planning authority responsible for adjudicating on Lend Lease’s planning application (which the viability assessment was created to accompany) and the authority responsible for the significant land disposal associated with the scheme, there is a further argument for a high level of scrutiny to be directed to the council’s actions. Whilst the Commissioner is not suggesting that there is a conflict of interests in play, the public perception that a public authority might be subject to such a conflict and the potential damage to an authority’s reputation which might ensue provides an argument in favour of transparency and disclosure. The Commissioner considers that disclosure in this case would address the general mismatch between the resources of the developer and those of residents directly affected by the scheme and council tax payers within the borough.

The Commissioner notes that an independent report published by Spinwatch alleges that the council’s consultation with the local community was deficient and raises concerns about the relationship between the council and Lend Lease26. Whilst the Commissioner does not endorse the veracity of these conclusions, he considers that the reputation of public institutions and their legitimacy and effectiveness in carrying out their role can be damaged by public perceptions. As it is not in the public interest for public authorities’ actions to be perceived or potentially constrained by such perceptions, disclosure would provide reassurance about the council’s conduct and would serve the interest in transparency and accountability.

The Commissioner considers that the significant expenditure of public funds, the need for public reassurance, confidence and engagement with the council’s decision making in relation to the scheme, the disquiet about the levels of affordable housing which will be delivered and concerns about the value for money provided by the disposal of public land combine to produce a heavy public interest weighting in favour of disclosing the information.

Gushing praise from EDDC leader for developer

From a commentator below:

Surely no-one would dare to suggest Cllr Diviani would put the interests of property developers before the interests of his constituents?! Oh, hang on…

In all seriousness, it is, I suppose, legitimate for a local dignitary to open a new housing development. However, in the current circumstances, is it really appropriate for the leader of EDDC to be quite so gushing in his praise for developers?

“It was a pleasure to be part of the ribbon cutting ceremony and see first-hand the quality of workmanship undertaken to restore Withycombe House. Family owned independent developer C G Fry has shown us once again how they use their extensive experience in listed buildings by taking a landmark building and restoring it to its former glory to create high quality and bespoke homes with the surrounding area. We have worked with C G Fry in the past, most recently they developed the Devon and Cornwall scheme at Holmdale, Sidmouth, a site that was owned by the council.”