Planning tensions in Teignbridge 

Teignbridge Council spat leads to apology

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

A spat at a Teignbridge council meeting which involved one member trying to drag another away has led to an apology two months after the event.

In September, a full meeting of Teignbridge District Council descended into chaos in an incident involving Councillors Gary Taylor (Lib Dem, Dawlish South West) and Liam Mullone (Newton Says No, College) during a question on planning procedures.

During an impassioned speech, Cllr Mullone claimed false “ghost objectors” to a planning application last year had been deliberately chosen by the council to fill the two permitted speaking spots which otherwise would have been taken by “concerned locals or their advocates”.

The councillor then left his seat and began shouting – which he later said was due to his microphone being switched off – and made his way towards the front of the room, before standing with arms folded.

Executive member for planning Cllr Taylor then got out of his seat and approached Mr Mullone, appearing to try and drag him away before the council live-stream stopped showing the incident.

A recording later showed Councillor Sarah Parker-Khan breaking the pair up.

Chairman Colin Parker hurriedly adjourned the meeting and when the live stream recommenced he pleaded for “a sense of decorum” while the authority’s solicitor invited Cllr Mullone to meet with him to discuss his allegations.

Speaking to BBC Radio Devon, Cllr Mullone said Cllr Taylor “grabbed me by the lapels and I heard my jacket tear. He was trying to pull me out of the room”.

“I kept saying, ‘Gary, this is assault’. Eventually I broke away from him and I continued until I got to the end of my bit of paper.”

He added that councillors should be setting a good example: “These people are making multi-million-pound decisions about things that effect thousands of people. These arguments are real and they’re important,” he said.

At a full council meeting on Tuesday [30 November], the first since the incident, Cllr Taylor apologised, but not directly to Cllr Mullone.

Addressing the meeting, he said: “You have my word that I will not act in this manner again in the future.”

“Whilst my actions were intended to prevent an escalation of an ongoing situation, I recognise that in the field of politics, there is no place for physical confrontation; however well-intentioned or otherwise.”

In a statement, a council spokesperson said: “As a local authority we expect all councillors and officers to demonstrate the highest standards of behaviour.

“Councillor Taylor apologised at yesterday’s full council for his actions at the previous meeting. Therefore, no further action is considered appropriate or necessary.”