RIP GESP – Owl’s summary of last night’s debate

Debate on this item started around 40 minutes into the meeting with the recorded vote starting around 1hr 8 mins.

The EDDC coalition of Democratic Alliance (East Devon Alliance, Libdem, Greens, Independents) and Independent Progressive Councillors has only a narrow majority. It does not impose a “whip” on its members. Every vote is therefore a potential cliffhanger. For example, in this vote one Libdem abstained.

Discipline, on the other hand, is the one thing at which the Conservative Party excels. It is their great strength but also their weakness. It makes the party inward looking and slow to pick up on changes in mood not just in the party but in the community. Pursuing the party line blinds to arguments.

As soon as it was revealed, at the start of last night’s meeting, that three Conservatives had sent their apologies (later, another failed to show) the die was cast, the game was over.

And it showed when it got to their lacklustre performance in the debate. For the first time they looked, and sounded, defeated.

Council Leader, Cllr Paul Arnott explained that the Government White Paper proposed to tear up the duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities. But under his administration, if the decision was taken to pull out from GESP, EDDC would continue to cooperate. He laid out a strategy to start immediately to revise the Local Plan and prepare to meet the White Paper proposals whilst making a strong consultation response to counter them. EDDC, he said, was in a strong position with a six year land supply.

In contrast, it appears that the Conservative councillors who spoke have not yet grasped the significance of what their Government is planning to do, nor what the GESP is all about. We heard the astonishing suggestion from both “Build,build, build” Cllr Helen Parr and Cllr Philip Skinner that the GESP was the best way to preserve the beauty of East Devon! Our “Chameleon” Cllr Ben Ingam painted GESP as delivering some Nirvana that Owl obviously failed to spot when reading the documents. 

As Chairman, Cathy Gardner, pointed out, more than four hours of debate had been held in the Strategic Planning Committee when, Cllr Dan Ledger, its Chairman, called every EDDC Councillor who wished to speak before going into the Committee session. There was also a significant contribution from the public.

The Chairman had asked that points be kept short and to concentrate on changes that had happened since the earlier debate. After about 30 minutes, and when it became apparent that Councillors were going over old ground and repeating arguments, she called the vote.

The recorded vote was carried 33 for 22 against one formal abstention (Libdem)

Three Conservative Councillors sent in their apologies in advance: Cllrs Allen, Hartnell and Twiss, and one, Cllr Pepper, failed to show..

Owl will produce a post in due course recording the result of the vote in each ward.