• Councillors demand inquiry over planning decision

    11th April 2013 | News | Claire
  • The story is here and below, in today’s Express & Echo – http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/Crisis-talks-farm-land-plan/story-18673078-detail/story.html#axzz2Q9c4AvqH …………………….

    LEADING East Devon district councillors called an emergency meeting with the chief executive and leader of East Devon District Council urging them to re-visit how a planning decision was reached two years ago.

    Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Eileen Wragg and her deputy, Councillor Geoff Chamberlain, called the meeting this month in light of the recent revelations surrounding former councillor Graham Brown.

    Mr Brown, the former Feniton and Buckerell ward member, last month resigned from his seat after he was caught on camera boasting that he could secure planning permission as part of his professional work as a planning consultant.

    Cllr Wragg and Cllr Chamberlain requested that the process of a decision made by the development management committee two years ago is reexamined.

    In the autumn of 2010 the committee approved plans for the change of use of land from farming to light industrial at Waldrons Farm, in Farringdon, near Exeter.

    In March 2011, Cllr Chamberlain and fellow Lib-Dem councillors Steve Wragg and Derek Button, temporarily resigned from the committee following the decision because they were concerned about how the decision to approve the plans had been made.

    Cllr Chamberlain ordered an investigation by the council’s Standards Board, which commissioned an Ombudsman’s report into the decision-making process, but no evidence of malpractice was found.

    The original application for Waldrons Farm was presented to the committee in June 2010 when it was recommended for refusal following a site inspection.

    At the time of his resignation he said: “I felt that some of the councillors may have been influenced and there had been some background information that was totally unethical and I felt something was amiss.”
    Cllr Chamberlain said in 30 years on the committee this is the application which has caused him most concern.

    Following the emergency meeting he said: “The issue of Waldrons Farm has stuck in my craw for a long time because of a number of comments made by committee members that caused me grave concern.”

    As previously reported by the Echo, the district council referred Mr Brown’s comments to the police, under the Bribery Act 2010 and the council’s own policy on Fraud, Theft and Anti-Corruption.
    The police have confirmed the matter is still in the hands of Action Fraud, the country’s national fraud reporting centre.

    A spokesperson for the council said it was unable to comment on the matter, adding: “The council is not making any public comment about issues related to the Graham Brown case until such time as the police investigation has been completed.”