• Eric Pickles asked to intervene over Feniton planning decisions

    20th March 2013 | News | Claire
  • Dear Mr Pickles (open letter, which will be sent to the media)

    I am sure that you will be aware of last Monday’s (11 March) Daily Telegraph story – ‘Councillors For Hire’, that involved undercover journalists exposing several councillors who are apparently using their positions to gain planning approvals for clients.

    One of the councillors was the ward member for Feniton and Buckerell, Graham Brown, who has since resigned and East Devon District Council (EDDC) has referred the matter to the police under the Bribery Act 2010.

    Mr Brown runs a planning consultancy and a building company. 

    EDDC planning officers have acknowledged that Feniton is the most developer targeted village in the district.  It has been allocated 35 houses under EDDC’s Local Plan until 2026, but it is currently facing the possibility of growing by around 40 per cent.

    Two major planning applications (for 59 houses and 35 houses) are scheduled for a decision by EDDC’s development management committee, on Tuesday 2 April.  The agenda is due out later this week. 

    An alternative application for 120 houses has also been submitted by the same developer who submitted the application for 59 houses.

    A further application for 83 houses by Wainhomes, is set to go live for public consultation next week, following their successful appeal to build 50 houses in the village last year.

    There are many people in the village who believe that there may have been discussions between Mr Brown and the developers, who are likely to gain approval for their schemes on 2 April, due to policies in the National Planning Policy Framework.

    Feniton Parish Council, Cllr Claire Wright, Cllr Roger Giles and local campaign group, Fight for Feniton’s Future, have all written separately to EDDC’s chief executive, Mark Williams, asking him to remove the applications from the agenda, pending a likely police investigation into Mr Brown’s activities.  But Mr Williams simply says that he will keep the situation under review.

    We have been informed by EDDC that these planning applications are likely to be approved because of policies within the National Planning Policy Framework, relating the five year land supply issue.

    We are very worried that Feniton faces the possibility of growing by 40 percent (or more), which could have been triggered by Mr Brown’s possible conversations with developers.

    We believe that it is quite wrong for these applications to be determined (and probably approved) when there is likely to be an imminent police investigation.

    We are desperately short of time now, with the agenda due to be published as early as tomorrow (Thursday) but we are urgently appealing to you to take steps to intervene in this process. 

    We hope that you will ask EDDC to defer a decision on these applications until the police have had the opportunity to investigate the issues surrounding Cllr Brown and any possible discussions that he may have had with developers.

    Yours sincerely

    Martyn Smith – Feniton Parish Council

    Claire Wright – East Devon District Councillor – Ottery St Mary Rural

    Roger Giles – Devon County Councillor – Ottery St Mary Rural

    John Withrington – Fight for Feniton’s Future campaign group

    Photograph:  Camp Field, subject to an application for up to 120 houses