EDDC's top-heavy planning
PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:29 10 June 2010
Several letters from responsible and well-informed citizens are highly critical of East Devon District Council's leadership, and of its decision to use public funds for a second legal appeal (Journal, January 30, February 5). The strongest words came fro
Several letters from responsible and well-informed citizens are highly critical of East Devon District Council's leadership, and of its decision to use public funds for a second legal appeal (Journal, January 30, February 5). The strongest words came from district councillor Ben Ingham (Independent): "The rot must stop. We need strong principled leadership, not mystifying strategies that cost us a fortune." Not a single letter supports the present regime at The Knowle. That in itself speaks volumes. I believe the top-heavy set-up in EDDC's planning department also calls for change - even before we get a unitary authority. Currently, we have two corporate directors, one head of development control, one development manager, two assistant development managers, eight senior planning officers, six planning officers, 11 technical/supporting officers and 10 other specialists, appeals officers, etc. The Vanguard System for processing planning applications, introduced last April for Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton and neighbouring villages, coincided with the beginning of the credit crunch. Since then, press advertisements and site notices have all but disappeared, and neighbourhood notifications are restricted to owners of adjacent properties. Town and parish councils have been sidelined. Ward councillors' views can now be over-ridden by salaried officers. Some 97 per cent of applications are determined by officers under delegated powers. Six months later, splendid results based on "like-for-unlike" comparisons were used to justify extending the Vanguard System to the rest of East Devon. There has been a progressive drop of applications for new dwellings, reflected by a 40 per cent reduction in income from planning fees. Plans for the new town of Cranbrook have been "put on ice" for some five years. The workload has been decreasing, while a large workforce has remained static. The processing of minor applications for extensions, dormers, fences, hedges etc has become faster. What else was to be expected? EDDC's Scrutiny Committee debated Vanguard's success story on January 21. There was no shortage of complaints from councillors, irrespective of their political allegiances, or from the public. Lost confidence and mistrust were mentioned by councillors from all over the district (except Sidmouth). The discussion lasted for some 100 minutes and several resolutions were tabled to restore local democracy. What chances of these resolutions being acted on by the executive board? I feel pessimistic. As Noel Harrower writes (February 5), our local authority does not seem to understand the meaning of the word "listen". Anita Jennings,Northview Road,Budleigh Salterton.