Express and Echo names EDDC Vice-Chair Helen Parr as councillor under police investigation at Colyton

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”.

REPRODUCEABLE IMAGES:

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:

http://www.devonlive.com/east-devon-council-vice-chairman-to-speak-to-police-over-plan-changes/story-30310460-detail/story.html

EDDC uses purdah rules to avoid tricky questions on police criminal inquiry into Colyton Village Plan.

The Western Morning News has today covered in detail the situation in Colyton where police investigations are ongoing into aspects of its Village Plan.

When asked questions by the newspaper on this – via its CEO Mark Williams – EDDC hid behind rules covering “purdah” before local and general elections, when council officers must maintain political neutrality and avoid politically contentious subjects and instead went on the offensive against the EDDC Councillor (Cathy Gardner) who brought it into the open, querying where Councillor Cathy Gardner had got her information from, saying it had been known to only three senior officers.

He added that those three officers did not intend to comment until after local county elections on Thursday this week – and (possibly) even not until after the General Election, if anyone involved were to indicate that they wished to stand for Parliament. He said:

“…The council cannot comment on how Councillor Gardner became aware of the police investigation. The Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer were surprised she raised this at a public meeting”.

THIS IS WRONG.

First, because the act of drawing attention to Councillor Gardner breaks his own rule! He is not willing to discuss if any councillor is involved in criminal proceedings in Colyton but IS prepared to discuss Councillor Gardner’s action in drawing attention to it.

Secondly, purdah can be overridden if it is in the public interest as this surely is.

Thirdly, had she not raised this matter at a public meeting – where was she expected to raise it? In private? Far, far too much of THAT going in at EDDC!

Purdah is NOT law, it is advice. Or, as the Local Government Association puts it, Civil Servants ARE (REPEAT ARE) ALLOWED TO:

Use a politician who is involved in an election when the council is required to respond in particular circumstances, such as in an emergency situation or where there is a genuine need for a member-level response to an important event beyond the council’s control. Normally this would be the civic mayor (as opposed to the elected mayor in those areas with elected mayors) or chairman (that is, someone holding a politically neutral role). If the issue is so serious, it is worth considering asking the council’s group leaders to agree to a response which would involve all of them.”

Click to access purdah-short-guide-public-4d3.pdf

Owl contends that this IS such a circumstance.

Will Colyton village plan revelations and local health issues affect DCC election choice?

Three major developments may affect how people choose to vote in Devon County Council elections next week.

First, and most tantalising, is the ongoing serious allegation that there seems to be a police investigation ongoing into Colyton’s EDDC villages plan, see here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/04/27/police-investigation-into-colyton-village-plan-question-raised-at-eddc/

This project is somewhat similar to the Neighbourhool Plan project which also hit controversy right from the start, as reported by Owl:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/03/22/colyton-parish-councils-reputation-takes-yet-another-serious-knock/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/09/23/a-few-tips-for-the-colyton-and-colyford-neighbourhood-plan/

Seven volunteers resigned from the project, their letter stating:

… This is the community’s plan, not the parish council’s or a few of the individuals who seem to control it. The entire community has the final say in what goes into it. We urge all residents of the parish to ensure that the plan is truly representative of everyone’s collective aspirations for the parish in the coming years. Our concern is that a few could perhaps dictate how the communities are shaped, which would be disastrous for the parish as a whole. …
http://www.colyton-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=104098&headline=COLYTON

Colyton voters might be advised to perhaps go for a DCC councillor from outside the parish this time round.

Second is, of course, the closure of Axminster Hospital in-patient beds to the north and scheduled closure of Honiton’s in-patient beds to the west and Seaton’s to the south. DCC candidate Mrs Parr (Conservative) is on record as having been persuaded by CCG plans to close these beds. Jim Knight, who having been passed over for selection is standing as an “Independent” Conservative (whatever that is – how do voters differentiate it from UKIP these days?) is between a rock and a hard place on this one too?

DCC has the major committee for holding health authorities to account and Independent Claire Wright is doing a sterling job of fighting for us, but she desperately needs the help of others prepared to fight with her.

So, who is left?

Well, that’s the third issue.

Let’s dismiss tha Labour candidate – who had to be parachuted in from Exeter who no-one (including Labour activists) seems to know anything about!

Let’s also dismiss Peter Burrows (Lib Dem) – who declined to face voters at a recent hustings (but apparently crept into the back of the room towards the end). Who uses family connections to the health service to boost himself, rather than his own actions, which are surprisingly thin on the ground. Also Burrows has recently become notorious as a censor on the 1500-strong Facebook group, ‘It’s Seaton Devon Thank You Very Much’, of which he is administrator. After deleting posts by Shaw and others about the hospital beds, he even removed Shaw – and various other people with no connection to his campaign – from the group, provoking a considerable backlash.

With this controversy around Burrows’ role, Knight could come in ahead of him and see Burrows struggling to come third as in 2013.

This leaves the field wide open for the only other contender – Martin Shaw, Independent East Devon Alliance. Shaw has been vociferous in his support of retaining beds at Seaton Hospital, instrumental in organising a legal opinion to fight closures and has proved to be something of a tiger in his role on the town council’s planning committee.

Will voters feel minded to dismiss the “same olds” of the past and vote for someone untainted by past choices and misdemeanors?

Let us hope so.

Police investigation into Colyton Village Plan: question raised at EDDC

Something rather odd happened at East Devon District Council’s full council meeting earlier this week.

With some Tory eyebrows shooting skywards, gutsy EDA Leader, Councillor Cathy Gardner asked the following question of EDDC’s Paul Diviani:
“I am sure you are aware, as I am,” she began, “that there is an ongoing Police Investigation into aspects of the Colyton section of the emerging Villages Plan. It may, therefore, 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?”

What could she be referring to?! “Undue influence”? Surely not.

The two previous questions to Cllr Diviani had been vigorously taken by CEO Mark Williams. Williams didn’t seem to fancy answering this one, though. He sat impassively, even though Chairman Stuart Hughes leaned in to see if he wanted to contribute.

Cllr Diviani replied in somewhat woolly terms thus:

“Well, in terms of the Villages Plan that’s on its progress as it currently stands. 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.”

Tories shot glances at each other. Action? Against whom? And why? And what did he mean by “other authority”?

The Colyton Village Plan was the subject of a last minute amendment on 27th February 2017 when the Coly Valley’s two district councillors spoke about the disused Ceramtec factory. Of them, Cllr Godbeer was present last night.

Not available to comment was Vice Chairman Helen Parr (also a County candidate) who chose to attend Colyton’s Annual Parish Meeting instead.

Seaton/Colyford green wedge under attack from developers for the fourth time

Amended Planning Application 15/2188/MOUT

hosted by
Seaton & Colyford Green Wedge Community Action Group

Wednesday 12th October 7.00pm
Seaton Town Council Office Meeting Room
Marshlands Centre, Harbour Road, Seaton EX12 2LT

The above Meeting will be Chaired by Howard West, Leader of the Group, and Martin Shaw, a Seaton Town Councillor and Chair of their Planning Committee will also speak and explain the details of the Application. They will both be taking questions.

If you have looked at the paperwork in more detail, you will notice there is only one football pitch, with a Training & Recreation Area, plus parking and a Club House. Seaton FC were asking for two pitches. The Application mentions that there will be no floodlighting to the Recreation Area and Training Ground, but does not mention about the football pitch! Therefore we must assume that there will be floodlighting, as there is on the existing football pitch in Seaton.

This is a Public Meeting and you are all invited to come along and participate in the discussion. The Marshlands Centre is situated at the Harbour Road roundabout and there is limited parking on site. There is plenty of parking in the vicinity including Tescos (max 2 hours)”

Colyton Parish Council’s reputation takes yet another serious knock

“CONTROVERSY surrounding the Colyton Parish Neighbourhood Plan continued last week, as seven Colyford volunteers resigned amid claims of “constant, unnecessary interference” by the parish council.

The mass resignation at last week’s Colyton Parish Council meeting came after chairman Howard West, his wife Anne, and one other member resigned following a fall-out with the parish council in February, and claims they had received threats from a councillor.

It leaves only three parish councillors and the Mayor of Colyford, John Mills, sitting on the committee.

Last year, Colyton Parish Council agreed to develop a neighbourhood plan, which will shape how the parish is developed in future years, and asked for volunteers to come forward to work on the project. Separate committees were set up in Colyton and Colyford, consisting of both councillors and volunteers, to deal with the individual issues which faced the two communities, as well as an overarching steering group to bring representatives from the two committees together.

However, the process has got off to a slow start and has been marred by fall-outs between the Colyford volunteers and parish council.

At last week’s heated parish council meeting held in Colyford, [a] letter of resignation was read on behalf of seven Colyford volunteers – Sue Boorman, Mike Elsey, Peter Mason, Diana Nason, Ian Priestley, Liz Thomas and Tim Wheeler. …

[The letter goes into detail and continues]

… This is the community’s plan, not the parish council’s or a few of the individuals who seem to control it. The entire community has the final say in what goes into it. We urge all residents of the parish to ensure that the plan is truly representative of everyone’s collective aspirations for the parish in the coming years. Our concern is that a few could perhaps dictate how the communities are shaped, which would be disastrous for the parish as a whole.

http://www.colyton-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=104098&headline=COLYTON

This is not by far the first time that Colyton Parish Council has faced criticism. Here are just a few recent examples:

http://www.colyton-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=104098&headline=COLYTON

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/02/16/colyton-newspaper-editor-adds-his-views-on-unseemlybehaviour/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/09/22/colyton-where-a-committee-chair-is-elected-before-the-comittee-is-chosen/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/01/13/push-me-pull-you-what-happens-when-a-council-says-one-thing-and-does-another/

Colyton public footpaths: research

Bumped up from a comment so people have the chance to see how a current commentator views it:

“A quick search suggests that you can find a background summary at http://www.devon.gov.uk/cma_report.htm?cmadoc=report_hcw1371.html and further documents relating to the appeal at http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/planning/countryside/rightsofway/onlinerow/onlinerowd

The bad news is that this process seems to be well advanced – the good news is that it doesn’t appear to be completed yet.

It appears that DCC made an order on 20 November 2013 to delete these footpaths, but that this requires review by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and a Public Local Inquiry.

The Notice of review by SecState and Public Local Inquiry was dated 1 September 2014 (more than 17 months ago), with an implication that representations and objections preceded that date, and a deadline of 8 December 2014 for representers and objectors to submit their legal case. The good news is that the Public Local Inquiry has been postponed at least twice first from 11 February 2015 and then from August 2015, with no revised date appearing – and no indication why there is a delay or whether the process has stalled permanently.

I would imagine that the proposals can still be viewed at Colyton Parish Council offices on Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30am-noon, and at Devon County Hall weekdays 9am-4pm.”

Attempt to very quietly close public footpaths in Colyton to aid development

From a correspondent:

“A group of landowners, Stubbings Group, are trying to close Footpath 8 Northleigh, 3 Farway, 6 Colyton and 10 Southleigh.

Colyton Parish Council have supported the closure contrary to an appeal by a former councillor September 2014.

The last proposal to agree the closures was dominated by Andrew Parr, proposed by Bob Collier and seconded by Colin Pady – all members of the Feoffees. The Stubbins Group have 4 members of the Hurford family – one of which was also a Feoffee for many many years.

There was going to be a public appeal in February 2015 in Northleigh but now it is going to be judged on paperwork only and submissions. The Ramblers have put in a large document.

The East Devon Way has had to go on road from the original route because of this and Devon County Council have 2 new bridges sitting in a depot because the land owners will not allow access over their land to erect them until this legal battle is decided.

However, if anyone wants to challenge the closure and make a comment it has to be in by Monday 22nd February 2015, which has not been publicised by Colyton Parish Council.

Chairman Andrew Parr told this correspondent following a meeting on Wednesday that it was too late to submit an appeal but this is not correct.

If you want to lodge your comments they must be there before Monday 22nd to:

Planning Inspectorate, Helen Sparks, Rights of Way section, Room 3/25, Hawk Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN

OR email:helen.sparks@pins.gsi.gov.uk

which if done any now from now over the weekend would get there.”