AN application submitted by former East Devon district councillor Graham Brown for a certificate of lawfulness for his Ottery St Mary farm house on the basis he has not been using it to conduct agriculture – a condition of the original planning permission – will not be heard in public.
Ottery St Mary Town Council wrote to East Devon District Council with concerns about “contradictory evidence” in the application.
And town councillors and campaign group, the East Devon Alliance want the controversial application to be heard in public.
But a district council spokesperson, said: “It is not considered necessary at this stage to depart from normal procedures that make this a delegated decision.
“Consideration of Certificates of Lawfulness depend far more on assessing the legal quality of the evidence submitted in support of the claim, rather than opinions as to whether a certificate should be granted.”
As previously reported by the Echo, Mr Brown – a planning consultant who resigned from the district council last year after being caught on camera boasting to undercover reporters that he could secure planning permission for a fee – wants to lift a condition which restricts the use of Ware Farm to those employed in agriculture.
Ware Farm was recently advertised online for £1.55m on the property website Rightmove, but was withdrawn by the estate agents.
The lifting of the restriction could mean the value of the house could increase, the meeting heard.
He claims he has not been using the house to conduct agriculture – a condition of the original planning permission in 2000.
He is seeking a “certificate of lawfulness” for the property because he claims not farming the land means he has been breaching a planning condition for more than a decade.
Both Ottery St Mary councillor of 20 years, Roger Giles, and ward member for Lympstone and Woodbury, Councillor Ben Ingham, are demanding that consideration of former Feniton and Buckerell ward member, Graham Brown’s application must be heard at a meeting of the council’s Development Management Committee, rather than be decided between planning officers and the committee chairman at a Chairman’s Delegation meeting in private.
Cllr Giles has now criticised the decision by the district council not to permit its consideration in public. “I do not disagree with the council’s assessment of the importance of the requirement to assess the legal quality of the evidence submitted,” he said. “However I do not see why this might result in the matter being decided away from the public domain.
“It is a completely separate issue.
“The underlying principle of British justice and decision making in this country is that justice should be done, but justice should be seen to be done.
“It is important that the district council recognises this, and acts accordingly. Not to do so in this case – and deciding the matter behind closed doors – would be a thoroughly misguided and unacceptable decision.
“It would result in a justifiable very angry reaction from the public, who might well ask what the council has got to hide.”