• Graham Brown may have influenced major Exmouth scheme

    13th March 2013 | News | Claire
  • The story is here and below – http://www.exmouthpeople.co.uk/Ex-EDDC-councillor-Graham-Brown-dealings/story-18402758-detail/story.html

    EXMOUTH PEOPLE has discovered that Graham Brown – the embattled former East Devon District Councillor who may be investigated by police over claims that he could influence local planning decisions – had “arm’s length” dealings in Littleham’s Plumb Park development for 350 homes.

    EDDC has confirmed that Cllr Brown chaired a meeting of the Local Development Framework Panel in 2009, where early stages of the residential plan on the outskirts of Exmouth were discussed with landowners Clinton Estates.

    The meeting took place a year after Cllr Brown was accused of “impropriety involving planning applications within East Devon”, and was asked to stand down as EDDC’s Member Champion for Business by Sara Randall Johnson, the then Leader of East Devon District Council.  See EDBF minutes from 8 May 2008, here – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/080508mins.pdf

    Cllr Brown, the Independent Councillor for Feniton and Buckerell, has recently been in the spotlight following coverage of his professional work as a planning consultant for his firm Greygreen Ltd.

    Filmed by undercover Daily Telegraph reporters, he suggested that he could influence local planning decisions. However Brown has told the media that he does not see his planning consultancy as being in conflict with his role as a councillor.

    This evening EDDC announced that it had received Cllr Brown’s resignation. EDDC said that “Graham Brown has resigned his seat representing East Devon’s Feniton and Buckerell Ward with immediate effect, following claims he made about the local planning system to undercover Daily Telegraph reporters. In his resignation statement, Graham Brown cited his reasons as ‘unbearable media pressure’.”

    Cllr Brown and Exmouth’s planning issues

    Cllr Brown was the chairman of the Local Development Framework Panel in 2009 and 2010, which was formed to look at development proposals in East Devon. These proposals included Exmouth.

    Exmouth People has discovered that Cllr Brown chaired a meeting of the LDF Panel at Exmouth’s Elizabeth Hall on Thursday 28 May 2009.

    The minutes of this meeting reveal that as well as a number of EDDC councillors – including EDDC’s current leader Paul Diviani – there were representatives from landowners Clinton Devon Estates and development company Eagle Investments.

    Earlier that morning, the LDF Panel had “received a tour of potential strategic sites for development in Exmouth”. Cllr Brown reminded members that the Panel existed “in an advisory capacity to provide a steer to the Development Management Committee”.

    Members of the panel received a presentation from Bell Cornwell, on behalf of Clinton Devon Estates, in respect of land for residential development at Littleham and Liverton Business Park, Exmouth.

    Clinton Devon Estates is a member of East Devon Business Forum.

    After discussion, it was resolved that the presentation be “positively received, as potential for delivering an urban extension to Exmouth and employment/commercial land, well related to key facilities, services and public transport”.

    This was the land that later became the Plumb Park development.

    A year before the meeting at Exmouth’s Elizabeth Hall, Sara Randall Johnson, the then Leader of East Devon District Council, had asked Cllr Brown to “vacate” his position as EDDC’s Member Champion for Business.

    On 8 May 2008 at a meeting of the East Devon Business Forum, Cllr Brown told members that he would lose his position as EDDC Member Champion for Business because of “accusations of impropriety involving planning applications within East Devon. This was mainly to do with perception and innuendo, there had been no substantive evidence produced”.

    At the time Cllr Brown confirmed that outside the Council he ran a planning consultancy agency, but felt that this did not conflict with his work as Business Champion.

    Suspension

    Earlier this week, following the Daily Telegraph’s revelations, the East Devon District Council Conservative party suspended Cllr Brown, removing him from his post as Member Champion for business and tourism on the district council.

    Prior to Cllr Brown’s resignation from EDDC, Exmouth People asked the Council if Cllr Brown had had any involvement with recent Exmouth planning issues, such as the Exmouth Masterplan, the sale of the Elizabeth Hall (and subsequent purchase of the site by Premier Inn), the Exmouth Splash, the Pier Head Mamhead View five-storey development and Plumb Park, the housing development at Littleham.

    Regarding the Exmouth Masterplan, EDDC replied, “Other than being one of 59 members of EDDC, a council that has been promoting the regeneration of Exmouth, there has been no involvement.”

    “Arm’s length”

    However EDDC confirmed that Cllr Brown was involved in the “very early stages” of Plumb Park, at what they described as “arm’s length”. Referring to the minutes of the 2009 meeting, a spokesman said, “These minutes clearly show that Cllr Brown was Chairman of the LDF Panel on the day that the group discussed potential strategic sites for development in Exmouth”.

    On all other matters, EDDC said that “to the best of our knowledge”, Cllr Brown had had no involvement.