I made a proposal that the planning application to redevelop EDDC’s offices at Sidmouth after reading a number of paragraphs in last night’s report, which stated that the office relocation project finances were “at significant risk” until the potential bidder had secured planning consent for its plans.

This would be because the council would have already spent a large sum of money on its new accommodation.

This considerable and very worrying risk, was emphasised three times in the report in strong terms.

It seemed to me that an impossible burden was being placed on the planning committee and said so. I said that the pressure to approve such an application was surely intolerable.

The chief executive told me I was doing a “disservice” to the planning committee and reminded everyone that the planning committee had rejected an application to redevelop the Knowle in 2013.

I argued that it was different and more pressured than before as the funding of the project depended on planning consent, as was indicated in the report.

I formally proposed that in the interests of good practice and transparency a neighbouring authority’s planning committee should determine the application instead.

But the chief executive told the committee that there was no legal provision for this, so EDDC must determine its own application.

At this point Cllr Mike Allen, announced that Roger Giles and I should stop “attempting to bring the council into disrepute.”  He told the committee that I had implied the committee was making “constant complaints about planning” and was using “political advantage.”

He claimed that I had implied that the planning committee was “bent.”

Cllr Allen demanded that I apologise to planning committee members.

I was astonished and angry at this totally unprovoked outburst and the shocking twist of what I had said and meant.

In response, I insisted that Cllr Allen that HE should apologise to ME for his unacceptable outburst. I said I had said none of the words he had used and had not implied them either. 

No apology ensued – and Chair, Cllr Tim Wood suggested it was a political spat, which should be left there.

Cllr Allen has had to apologise several times to the council – and to me and Roger Giles for his continued unpleasant outbursts. 

The last time was at full council in December where he described Roger Giles as an “abject failure” as scrutiny chairman, which was as untrue as it was nasty.  I demanded an apology to Roger for that remark – which came immediately on that occasion.

Also commenting on the office relocation project, former EDDC Tory chairman, Cllr Peter Halse said that the council had “fallen flat on its face” and made a series of remarks about the finances and the energy prices being of concern.

Energy price predictions were also a big topic of discussion, with Sidmouth businessman, Richard Eley, addressing the committee at the beginning of the meeting and informing the committee about the Dept for Energy and Climate Change’s energy price predictions, which are considerably lower, than EDDC’s.

Cllr Roger Giles pursued this line with some enthusiasm…. officers said that they had considered a range of figures and not just the DECC’s predictions.