Mark Williams refuses to answer questions – because (he says) they were not questions

As if you needed evidence of stonewalling and lack of transparency, here is an extract from minutes of Full Council meeting last week.

Although the Chairman (Stuart Hughes) could see that the speakers were questioning officers and councillors – indeed he asked the CEO to respond to questions, CEO Mark Williams neatly sidestepped the request by calling what people had said as “statements.


And would developers who give statements at Development Management Committee meetings be told they would not get answers as they had not asked a specific question in their submission?

“*46 Public speaking
The Chairman welcomed those present and invited members of the public to speak to the Council.

Sally Galsworthy spoke on the Queen’s Drive development making reference to the one remaining developer involved in the project and commenting on the risks should that developer pull out. She spoke of the anger of the residents in Exmouth towards the project expressed at meetings, the town poll and on a recent march, which had been attended by some 400 people.

Laura Freeman made reference to the outcome of the recent town poll seeking additional independent consultation on the redevelopment of Queen’s Drive. She considered that despite the restricted opening times of the poll, there had been a good turnout and that the outcome should be honoured and not ignored. She requested that the whole project be reviewed with a new outline application reflecting what the people of Exmouth wished to see for the area.

Jane Ashton spoke on the costs relating to both the Queen’s Drive development and relocation and also made reference to the collection of Section 106 and CIL contributions. She considered that the failure to foresee the additional costs involved in both projects was the result of the incompetence of those involved and that they should be removed from their positions. In respect of Queen’s Drive she commented that it would cost the Council less if it was to start the whole project from scratch.

Alec Huett advised that he had attended many meetings in the past regarding the regeneration of Exmouth and that Queen’s Drive had never been seen as a priority. He queried why the masterplan had changed so much from what had first been envisaged and commented that the plans would split the town into two leisure and retail zones. He advised that he was against any large development on the sea front when it should be the town centre that was the priority for regeneration works.

Richard Thurlow spoke on the increased costs relating to the refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall – which would now cost more that refurbishing the Knowle. He advised that there was no detail or adequate rationale to explain the reasons for the increased costs and therefore did not consider that Members could make their decision based on fact.

Tony Green spoke on the Development Management Committee meeting held on 6 December and congratulated the Committee on their decision regarding the Knowle site. He stated that the Committee had to make their decision on material planning considerations only and therefore any comments relating to the relocation project or the adequacy of the existing building for its purpose should have been disregarded to avoid the appearance of bias. He asked for confirmation that this was the case and if so, asked that members of the committee be reminded of this.

The Chairman invited the Chief Executive to respond to QUESTIONS [Owl’s capitals] raised by the speakers. In response to the first five speakers, the Chief Executive advised that no questions had been asked and therefore they would be noted as statements, however he advised that some of the issues raised were covered in the Cabinet minutes.

In response to the last speaker, the Chief Executive advised that information was often submitted by the applicant giving reasons for a proposal – the key issue was that when the Committee came to vote they only did so on relevant material planning considerations and not immaterial planning considerations.”