Councillor Parr is standing for the DCC Seaton and Colyton seat at elections tomorrow.
“The vice-chairman of East Devon District Council is under investigation over an allegation she influenced plans to develop her area while failing to declare an interest.
Councillor Helen Parr will be speaking to police officers on a voluntary basis, the Express & Echo understands.
The investigation into the councillor for Coly Valley regards late changes to the East Devon Villages plan made after she was among those who spoke at the meeting of the East Devon District Council strategic planning committee on February 20.
Cllr Parr is a director of a company which owns land next to the former Ceramtec factory site in Colyton. The factory was due to be slated for housing until Cllr Parr spoke at the planning meeting and it was decided to recommend that it remains for employment.
She told the committee: “The main concern and why people are not at all happy about what is proposed in the document is that the built up area boundary line now has suddenly, after the consultation, gone out round the built section of the Ceramtec site.
“It is a very large site and will accommodate, if it went only to houses, about 80 houses. It would be a large development for Colyton which nobody, until now, had any inkling of, in that the built-up area boundary excluded this site.
“There is concern because the bottom line for Colyton is that we lost 80 jobs when this factory closed and we would like to retained as much as possible for employment land.
“I would ask the committee to agree or to propose that the wording should make it clear that on the preamble to the plan that on page 20 it includes words that show that this is protected as an employment site and it should be retained for employment use.”
The East Devon Alliance – a group of independent district councillors – has raised concerns about Cllr Parr’s conduct with Devon & Cornwall Police.
Members say she should have declared and interest and not spoken on the issue.
Cllr Parr and her husband are directors of J & FJ Baker & Company Limited, which owns land at Turlings Farm, next to the Ceramtec site.
East Devon Alliance Councillor Cathy Gardner, at last week’s East Devon District Council meeting, revealed that there was an ongoing police investigation into the council’s handling of the matter.
A spokesperson for Devon & Cornwall Police said it could not confirm or deny the scope of the police investigation. Cllr Parr was asked for comment, but said that due to purdah – rules brought in before an election – she could not say anything.
Last year J & FJ Baker & Company Limited bought land on the south side of Turlings Farm which connects the Ceramtec site to the farm that the Parrs own. They paid £1 for the strip of property.
Cllr Gardner said at last week’s meeting of East Devon District Council: “It may be proven that undue influence has distorted the content of the plan. If that does turn out to be the case, do you agree that it is the responsibility of this council to rectify the result of this influence – in order to ensure the residents of Colyton are not adversely affected and to do so before the plan goes to the (Planning) Inspector?”
In response, Cllr Paul Diviani, the council’s leader, said: “In terms of the village plan, I can’t see a reason why we should be inclined to second guess what an inspector or other authority or otherwise is going to do and in that respect I will reserve judgement as to when we actually do take action.”
An East Devon Alliance source told the Echo: “She is the vice-chairman of the council and has been the chairman of the planning committee for years, so she knows what she is doing, so we have got to pursue this.”
An East Devon District Council spokesman said: “Only the three statutory officers at the council together with one other officer were aware that there was a police investigation prior to the meeting of council on Wednesday and these officers have kept the matter confidential.
“Given that there is an active police investigation, and the sensitivities around purdah for both the county and General Election, it would be wholly inappropriate for the council to comment on the investigation at this time. The council also cannot comment on how Cllr Gardner became aware of the police investigation, and the chief executive and monitoring officer were surprised that she raised this matter at a public meeting.
“The process that has been followed for the village plan and the representations made/considered by officers and reported to the strategic planning committee, can be found on the East Devon District Council website.”
The East Devon Villages Plan – a blueprint for development in the area – is currently out for consultation”.
UNFORTUNATELY SOME IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE ARE NOT REPRODUCEABLE HERE – SEE LINK TO FULL ARTICLE AT END OF THIS POST WHICH IS REPEATED VERBATIM FROM THE DEVON-LIVE WEBSITE. FOR FULL STORY AND ALL EVIDENTIAL IMAGES SEE: