How very differently EDDC planners seem to have treated an Ottery St Mary resident with a basic and simple planning question, demanding £40 to start a conversation, compared to an out of Devon business person who may be seen as saving their hide over the Exmouth Seafront debacle!
The Sidmouth Herald reports how EDDC planners tried to get £40 out of Ottery local Adrian Forster who just wanted to know if he needed to go through building regulations to renew his roof.
He is apparently not the first to be charged for the privilege of speaking to a planner. (Tip – ask a decent builder not EDDC or, if you can wait for an answer, put in a Freedom of Information request (FOI)!).
Contrast this with how a planning inquiry and subsequent requests for information were dealt with concerning the “Exmouth Eye” business.
In a January 2018 an FOI request was made to EDDC about a planning inquiry submitted by EDDC staff member Alison Hayward (to her planning colleagues) concerning some possible irregularities in the application form for this business.
Investigation showed that the form categorically stated that a named planner had given pre-planning assistance or prior advice (17/2944/FUL). EDDC was asked by FOI for information about that advice. EDDC stated that the pre-application advice was purely verbal advice given to the agent about what needed to be submitted with the application and was not recorded in any format, so presumably the advice was given free of charge and no receipt was issued for any payment.
A business appears to get free advice, a resident has to pay.
By amazing coincidence, WhatdoTheyKnow.com published a response into two further Exmouth Ferris Wheel FOI enquiries (https://bit.ly/2tCGwX4) The answers suggest that EDDC was somewhat economical with the truth about fees being charged – originally stating that fees charged by EDDC for the wheel to take up a great chunk of Exmouth Seafront were exempt from disclosure.
When pressed, however, they did say: “We are charging £151.80 per operational day and no charge on non-operational days”. Earlier, they suggested free non-operational days were not unique to this Ferris Wheel operator and gave a link to their charging regime.
It seems the operator may be in a unique pisition – as their scheme and rates actually appear to make no mention of free days.
The denial of special treatment for their Ferris Wheel friends looks rather hollow now and the ducking, diving and avoiding providing proper answers to FOI’s might be of interest to the Information Commissioner yet again?