EDDC “Independent” Leader firmly nails his colours (blue?) to his CEOs mast

 

Owl sees no “misunderstanding”.

Another “TiggerTory” policy?

And what does Mr Marchant, the person accused of being “misunderstood” – and Ford’s QC who perpetuated the “misunderstanding” several times at the public inquiry – think about this?

And where’s Councillor Hughes’s explanation for not sharing information about the meeting with other councillors, particularly those on the Development Management Committee – or did he share it with only a select few of his colleagues?

Remember, the Development Management Committee is a STATUTORY committee with rules and regulations … and it must NOT be subjected to party whipping or interference, nor must they “avoid undue contact with interested parties”.

https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/planning-committee-manage-1cd.pdf

EDDC CEO tries to slither out of responsibility (NOT successfully!) for his planning advice to developer in private meeting

Owl has SO many questions!

First, Mr Williams’ ‘explanation’ defies belief, he basically accuses the developer of lying about the meeting. Then, he issues his denial of the circumstances of the event to the press, rather than to the councillor who asked him for an explanation. THEN, there appears to have been a totally undocumented meeting between him, Stuart Hughes and the developer – something that is extremely worrying – how many other such meetings with developers and hand-picked councillors have occurred? How do they happen?

But judge for yourself from the full text of the DevonLive article.

Owl thinks the very least EDDC majority councillors should do is suspend him until this is satisfactorily sorted.

“Calls have been made for an independent investigation after East Devon District Council’s chief executive allegedly told developers to appeal his own council’s refusal of planning permission for the Sidford Business Park.

East Devon District Council in 2018, on the grounds of harm to highway safety, relating to increased heavy goods vehicle usage of the area’s narrow roads, refused the plans for land, currently used for agriculture, the east of Two Bridges Road in Sidford.

A larger scheme submitted by the applicants was rejected previously by the council in 2016.

Applicants Tim and Mike Ford challenged the 2018 refusal of the council and three days of arguments for and against the development took place in July.

At the planning inquiry though, Richard Kimblin QC, on behalf of the applicants OG Holdings Retirement Benefit Scheme, and Joseph Marchant, their planning agent, said that following the refusal of the 2016 scheme, Mark Williams, the council’s chief executive, advised them they should appeal.

The claims, made both in writing and verbally, were unchallenged by East Devon District Council during the inquiry.

Paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Mr Kimblin QC’s final closing arguments at the Inquiry said: “After the 2016 application was refused, there was a meeting with Councillor Stuart Hughes and the CEO of the Council. The CEO advised that the way to progress was to appeal. That is an extraordinary state of affairs.”

Following a request for comment from the Local Democracy Reporting Service on the remarks allegedly made by Mr Williams, an East Devon District Council spokesman said that the he did not advise the appellant of anything, the applicant chose to interpret the comments he did make as encouraging an appeal, and the comments were made in a ‘situation where a degree of hyperbole and exaggeration is not unusual’.

Cllr John Loudoun, who represents the Sidmouth Rural ward, though has called for an independent inquiry into the meeting and the comments, saying that the while the council says there was a ‘misinterpretation of events’, “misinterpretation is a nice way of calling someone a liar.”

The claim that was made by Mr Marchant was set out in his written evidence to the inquiry, which said: “Subsequent to the refusal of the 2016 application, an approach was made to Members, including Councillor Stuart Hughes and the CEO (Chief Executive) of EDDC, Mark Williams.”

The following paragraph added: “We were advised by Mark Williams….that in his opinion, the applicant (Fords) may make more advance in progress towards delivery through appealing the Council’s decision to refuse the 2016 planning application rather than resubmission.

Paragraphs 13 and 14 of Mr Kimblin’s final closing arguments at the Inquiry added: “After the 2016 application was refused, there was a meeting with Councillor Hughes and the CEO of the Council. The CEO advised that the way to progress was to appeal. That is an extraordinary state of affairs.”

Asked to comment on the claims made at the inquiry, an East Devon District Council spokesman said: “The council officers and legal representative, acting on behalf of the local planning authority, did not consider the comments made by Mr Marchant or the appellant’s QC as material in specifically defending the reason for refusal, which is of course their role in the inquiry.

“The simple point is that the circumstances described have no bearing or relevance to the local planning authority’s decision and nor therefore to the focussing of all of their efforts in seeking to persuade the Inspector that the proposed development was unacceptable.

“As for the meeting itself, as was made clear at the inquiry the CEO was asked by the applicant/appellant to facilitate a meeting between them and Cllr Hughes to ascertain what options there might be available to them in the light of the refusal of planning permission.

“At the meeting, as reflected in Mr Marchant’s proof of evidence, Cllr Hughes expressed his opinion that he could not foresee any circumstances under which planning permission would be acceptable, notwithstanding the Local Plan allocation.

“The CEO did not advise the appellant of anything, but expressed the view that there were therefore three potential options open to the applicants: resubmit with changes to the proposed scheme; appeal the decision; or walk away from the site.

“The applicant appears to have chosen to interpret this as encouraging an appeal and we would note that the comments from their QC were in the context of also making an application for costs against the council – a situation where a degree of hyperbole and exaggeration is not unusual.”

However Cllr Loudoun said that having read the council’s response, he was even more convinced of the need for what he originally asked for, a genuinely independent inquiry in these issues, and he was appalled that the response to his concerns was sent to the press and not him.

He added: “Evidence provided at the Inquiry was fully tested by both the Council and the applicants’ representatives because this is the way in which facts are established or challenged. The statements made verbally and in writing by Mr Marchant for the appellants are, according to the District Council statement, misinterpretations of the events and comments at the meeting involving the Chief Executive.

“This is an extraordinary state of affairs as we now have a challenge to Mr Marchant’s evidence at a point where he cannot defend himself and after the point when the Council allowed the statements to be accepted as fact. It would appear that the Council is now saying that Mr Marchant spoke untruths and that these were untruths were in turn repeated by the applicants’ QC.

“They are essentially accusing them of lying. When it was raised in the inquiry, no-one complained about it and or questioned it. To me, saying it was a misinterpretation is a nice way of calling them a liar.”

He added: “The Council’s statement is disingenuous in that it tries to down play the quotes of what the Chief Executive said as put forward by the applicants’ QC as “hyperbole and exaggeration” whilst pursuing a costs order. This ignores the fact that Mr Marchant made the claims whilst giving evidence and that the appellants’ QC repeated them not only in his arguments for costs but also, and more importantly, in his broader closing submissions in support of the applicants’ case.

“It was not a throwaway comment as it was in the both written and verbal statements and made by two people.

“I am even more concerned having read the Council’s public response to these matters and I am now even more convinced of the need for what I originally asked for, a genuinely independent inquiry in these issues.

“If he did say that they should appeal then he has it then he was undermined the officers, the council and his role on a very serious issues, and if not, then why wasn’t it challenged at the inquiry?

“I am bemused at the response from the council to this matter which seems to be now turning into as much a focal point as the planning application and subsequent Inquiry.”

A decision on whether to allow the appeal to allow the plans for 8,445sqm of employment space built on the outskirts of the village is set to be made by the Autumn. If the appeal was allowed, then a further planning application would need to be submitted for the details of the scheme.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/independent-inquiry-calls-after-claims-3158474

EDDC Ceremonial roles … and naughty councillors

Leader Ben Ingham is on record as saying of his choice of Tory Stuart Hughes as Chairman of the council:

“The Tories are not in our Cabinet whatsoever. They hold the Chair because we felt we needed an experienced Chair to make sure Full Council is run properly. This is a civic appointment only.”

Apparently, there wasn’t a suitable independent (of either faction), including those who have already served for 4+ years in previous councils, that he felt would be able to take on the role of representing the council and chairing some of its meetings. So, it seems like a Catch 22 – you can’t get get the role if you don’t have experience – and you can’t get experience because it needs someone who already has experience, not even watching someone in the role for years and learning from it, so it seems the role might remain Tory forever!

But it ISN’T a purely ceremonial role – the Chairman of the Council also chairs the Standards Committee – the one that taps the wrists of naughty councillors.

Surely that isn’t a “ceremonial role”?

Or maybe now it is!

EDDC Tory chairman appointed by Independent Leader adores Boris …

Really, this council gets more and more strange! After the massive Independent surge in May when people voted to put old-guard Tories out power, we get a Tory chairman who promotes himself and his party in the local press going dotty about Boris! So, everywhere he goes as the Chairman on behalf of the Leader he will be extolling the virtues of a different party!

… Cllr Hughes said: “I am certainly backing him and told him so. I think he’s the only candidate who will pull and unite the Conservative Party.

“I’d just finished chairing my first meeting of PATROL Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London. On the way out of the rear entrance of Church House near Westminster Abbey met Boris and his team just getting into his Range Rover. [Rear entrance … Boris having been criticised for avoiding the public and journalists]

“I was delighted he agreed to photo, and yes, feel privileged to have been one of the few to have had opportunity to speak to him prior to the BBC candidates’ hustings tonight.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/sidmouth-councillor-backs-boris-johnson-for-pm-1-6112478?

East Devon District Council: will the Tory bodies ever be exhumed?

One of the reasons so many Independent councillors were elected was because they were not Tories! People had become sick of the way the district had been run for the last 45 years and demanded change. Part of that change was to see exactly what Tories had been up to in those 45 years when transparency was in short supply.

So, on 3 May, we were presented with:

31 Independents (20 mostly eastern-based/central-based Independents, 11 mostly western-based Independent East Devon Alliance)
19 Tories
8 Lib Dems
2 Greens

An alliance of Independents, Lib Dems and Greens would have produced 41 non-Tories – easily outnumbering 19 Tories.

What we now know happened is that eastern-based Independents (Leader Ben Ingham, Exmouth) refused to work with East Devon Alliance. We assume that Lib Dems (who agreed to work with an Independent majority, but not form a coalition with them), were similarly excluded by Mr Ingham from working with his group.

Instead, Mr Ingham chose to work with the 19 Tories, an ex-Tory (former Tory Leader Ian Thomas) and several so-called Independent councillors whose late-onset Independent roots had never been obvious or put to the test. He gave the job of Chairman of the Council to Stuart Hughes, a Cabinet post to Ian Thomas, one of the jobs representing EDDC at Greater Exeter Strategic Plan meetings to Tory Philip Skinner and several other posts to other Tory councillors. Owl has no idea what the two Green (Exmouth-based) councillors think of this arrangement.

Despite this, CEO Mark Williams presumably decided that there were NOT 31 Independents, but two kinds of totally different Independents (Independent Group, EDA) and declared Tories as the “official opposition” – in spite of them holding Cabinet and other posts. Is this constitutionally correct? How does one decide? One asks the CEO – dead end there, then!

This has led to a Tory (“official opposition”) Alan Dent, being the head of the Scrutiny Committee – the only committee that now has wide investigative powers. The Chair of this committee can say Yes or No to requests for scrutiny of any subject – his word is the only word on what goes on an agenda (as long as the CEO agrees, of course).

So, is there any chance of the Scrutiny Committee holding the previous Tory administration to account? No, zero, zilch, nada in Owl’s view.

So those Tory bodies – lying quietly tucked away for the last 45 years are almost certain to continue enjoying their slumbers.

And all because some Independents can’t or won’t work with other Independents and local Lib Dems are keeping themselves well apart where, in other areas, coalitions of Independents, Greens and Lib Dems is promising real change in formerly true-blue districts.

What is so ironic about this whole story is that, in his political career, Ben Ingham has been a Tory councillor, an Independent Councillor and Leader of the East Devon Alliance!!!

Pitiful and shameful.

TiggerTory EDDC Chairman responds to EDA Councillor Martin Shaw

Owl says: Not really sure this makes things any better! Proof positive of TiggerTory chats …

Still not sure this is what voters anticipated … and since when was the post of Chairman of EDDC “non political”? Anyone ever remember Tories electing a non-Tory Chairman in the last 45 years?

I take exception to Martin Shaws assertions that the Independents who formed a minority administration allowed the Conservatives to take the key position of Chair/Chairman of the Council……Wrong Cllr Shaw…. I actually was approached by the leader of East Devon Ben Ingham and he asked if I would consider taking the (non-political) position of Chairman having done a good job from 2015 to 2017….. I accepted the position and he contacted Andrew Moulding to give him the news and Andrew called to congratulate me and asked if I’d get a seconder lined up for the AGM.

I also believe that Mike Howe was approached to see if he would take on the Chairmanship of DMC and so once again Cllr Shaw is barking up the wrong tree.

The East Devon Alliance Party had the opportunity to put names forward for the Chairmanship of the Council … however they chose not to and I do believe some of their members voted for me.

Many outside bodies went to the EDA including Recycling and Waste with Conservatives voting for Denise Bickley…..the Conservatives also voted for other positions to be taken by EDA.

I am delighted to have EDA member Cllr Val Ranger as my Vice Chairman who was voting and she was not only voting for EDA nominations but for also Conservatives, Lib Dem’s and true Independents.

It is comments like yours that are unhelpful and perhaps before writing again you should take time and get your facts right.

Stuart Hughes CC