• Graham Brown interview:  No correspondence with developers

    21st March 2013 | News | Claire
  • The link is here and story below: – http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/Q-Graham-Brown-pressure-great-felt-right-thing/story-18471645-detail/story.html#axzz2O9xelRGv

    Q How do you defend the comments you made to the undercover reporters?
    A The way they went about this wasn’t nice. They came to my farm, had a cup of tea and talked to me about rich European industrials who wanted to invest in East Devon.

    I was speaking to them as a planning consultant and was trying to beef-up my business, not as a councillor.
    They led me all the time asking why they should employ me, to which I answered, I’m the best.

    I’ve been running Greygreen Planning for around nine years and always declared it as an interest. I’ve never been on a planning committee or voted on planning applications or accepted work on applications in my ward.

    The way it works is developers come to me and I employ other specialists like architects to put together the best planning application we can. I am embarrassed and extremely sorry that I’ve caused embarrassment to my former councillors and officers.

    Q What do you think about being suspended from the Conservative Party?
    A Initially I was shocked, but I understand. There’s been a long campaign by residents and campaigners in East Devon who are concerned that I am pro-development, to get rid of me from the party, so I know there was pressure there.

    I’m not anti-development but I’ve always thought it is better to control development locally, and get the best out of it in terms of infrastructure, than for it to be controlled nationally.

    Q How would you justify there not being a conflict of interest between your role as a councillor and chairman of the East Devon Business Forum, and your professional work as a planning consultant – particularly in light of the fact that former council leader and Conservative Party member Sara Randall-Johnson recommended you should not be member champion for business and tourism as well as the chairman of the forum because of a conflict of interest?

    A Concerns raised at the time were referred to the monitoring officer who wrote to the Standards Board and it was ruled I could remain in these positions.  Being chairman of the forum means I am the link between the council and business.

    We never discussed individual planning applications or lobbied on behalf of individual applications.  By virtue of the fact I knew what business the forum was doing, I knew there was no conflict of interest being a councillor. I think being a councillor was a help, because I was able to take things from the forum back to the council.

    Q Why did you resign as a councillor and then as chairman of the East Devon Business Forum?

    A The pressure was so great I felt this was the right thing to do for the good of the council and of the leader.
    I feel awful, I loved being a councillor, on and off for more than 20 years, and always tried to help people. I will miss it.

    Regarding the forum, I felt as I was resigning from the council, I’d make a clean sweep. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone any longer or make it difficult for anyone.

    Q How would you justify there not being a conflict of interest between your role as chairman of the Local Development Framework Panel, and your role as chairman of the employment land Task and Finish Forum (TAFF), and your professional work as a planning consultant?

    A My business is all about individual planning applications and what we were dealing with on the LDF Panel was not individual planning applications but a strategic, more general brief.

    I was appointed the chairman of the LDF Panel and the TAFF and I think we did an outstanding job in proving there was a real shortage of land supply.
    We did not look at any individual sites, but put forward the premise there was a shortage which, according to recent figures, we were right all along about.

    Q What is your response to the report put together by the East Devon Business Forum in 2007 calling for far more employment land, contrary to two independent reports commissioned by East Devon District Council?

    A The forum was asked to look into the issue by the council. Members realised the Atkins Report was badly flawed, and found there was significantly less land available than was portrayed, which generated our report in response. I had ceased being panel chairman when the Roger Tym Report came out so I never saw it.

    The forum tries to attract as wide a membership from the business community as possible, so it stands to reason, some members are going to be landowners.

    Q When the application for Acland Park, Feniton, came before the Development Management Committee last year, you spoke in favour of the application, which was subsequently opposed, and said you thought other developers such as Strategic Land Partnerships and Wainhomes, would be likely to submit applications for the village – had you had conversations with them, or any other developers for Feniton?

    A I had absolutely no correspondence with any of the developers for Feniton, other than attending public meetings at the village hall for example. This was pure speculation – lots of people anticipated both developers coming forward.

    I understand people’s concerns about more houses in Feniton, but I still believe Acland Park should have been approved because of the contribution to infrastructure.
    There has been tremendous work to secure funding to deal with the issue of flooding but this needs bolstering.

    I know I’ve made myself unpopular with this view but we’re so close to dealing with the issue of flooding I don’t want to see it fail.
    I hope in time I will be remembered as a councillor who tried to help people.