• EDDC’s interference in the scrutiny of the former East Devon Business Forum

    16th November 2014 | News | Claire
  • The business forum was funded and administered by EDDC. It was chaired by planning consultant and developer, Graham Brown for several years during his tenure as councillor. It dissolved after EDDC withdrew financial and officer support, following the Daily Telegraph sting.

    It became hugely controversial because of the significant influence that its developer-landowner members had on EDDC planning policy, which several of them benefited from considerably, being allowed to build huge extensions to industrial estates, that were contrary to the adopted local plan. 

    The planning applications from members were very often enthusiastically supported by EDDC’s economic development officer, Nigel Harrison, who was also the business forum’s honorary secretary and someone former Cllr Brown named in the Daily Telegraph article as helpful to him.

    The uproar became so loud from residents across East Devon that a special scrutiny committee was set up in September 2012 to look at the influence of the business forum.  But it was fraught with delays, interference and baffling problems with agendas.  I was a member.

    EDDC’s chief executive has now written to all councillors suggesting that I should no longer be a member of this committee, implying that I have a “closed mind.” – see email here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/police_drop_investigation_into_former_cllr_brown_and_eddc_chief_executive_e

    Rewinding back to October 2012’s East Devon Business Forum’s minutes, Cllr Brown and his vice chair, Roy Stuart, wrote to the chief executive about the membership of the committee “if it was found to contain members with preconceived ideas about the forum.”

    I followed this up and was informed that Messrs Brown and Stuart via economic development manager and honorary secretary, Nigel Harrison, had offered to “elaborate” on the minute, if wished.

    I was later informed that the matter of me being a member of the committee was subsequently raised with business scrutiny committee chair, Cllr Graham Troman at a scoping meeting in November 2012.

    This wasn’t the only interference in the committee.

    I was absolutely amazed at the determination by the chief executive that the committee should not address planning issues. A minute for scoping on looking into the business forum, was agreed at overview and scrutiny in September 2012. But by the time the minutes were published they stated that the scope would simply be about engaging with business!

    I kicked up a fuss and at the next overview and scrutiny meeting in October the minute was changed to reflect the correct decision.

    But at the first business scrutiny meeting in December, the scope was all about engaging with business again. Completely wrong!  So I rewrote the scope ahead of the meeting to reflect the original decision. It was agreed, despite a battle with the chief executive.

    But at the February 2013 meeting the agenda was so wildly off course, bland and meaningless that a demonstration was scheduled by furious residents. Fortunately for EDDC snow stopped play and the meeting was cancelled.

    There have since been many wrangles and fury over the chief executive’s refusal to allow the committee to discuss planning. And until now the subject has been on ice.

    But the sleeping fury is reawakening ……

    See previous blog posts about the very turbulent time at EDDC here –