Judge critical of EDDC’s ‘discourteous and unhelpful’ conduct

EDDC has voted to move from its Sidmouth HQ to offices in Exmouth and Honiton

EDDC has voted to move from its Sidmouth HQ to offices in Exmouth and Honiton - Credit: Archant

A court has taken the ‘unusual and unfortunate’ step of criticising the district council’s conduct during a lengthy legal battle over the release of confidential relocation documents.

Yesterday, (Tuesday) a tribunal ruled that East Devon District Council (EDDC) must publish classified reports used by an authority working group that was looking at a move away from its offices at Knowle, Sidmouth.

In the court’s decision, the judge in the case, Brian Kennedy QC, said the process had taken ‘much longer than it should have done’ because of EDDC’s failure ‘to address itself with sufficient attention to the details of what information and documents it was supplying’.

An initial hearing took place in August 2014, but the judge said the council had taken until March 2015 to supply a ‘fully legible copy’ of the disputed information.

He added: “Correspondence on behalf of the council, rather than ensuring the tribunal was assisted in its function, was at times discourteous and unhelpful including the statement that we had the most legible copies possible.

“A statement, which was clearly inaccurate as subsequently, we have been provided with perfectly legible documents.”

“We believe this appeal could and should have been dealt with completely at the hearing in August 2014 and the decision promulgated six months ago had the council discharged its responsibilities properly.”

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Reacting to the news, campaign group Save Our Sidmouth, said: “EDDC has spent over £11,000 of public money in fighting this case, money which could have been spent on much more worthwhile and productive activities.

“Throughout our campaign against the relocation of the Knowle we have continually been battling against EDDC errors, deliberate obfuscations and a refusal to examine rational options.

“A decision to confirm the relocation was made by the Council in late March 2015, based on what we still believe are very doubtful foundations.

“We fully endorse the Judge’s conclusions on EDDC’s behaviour not only related to this particular event.

“We believe that EDDC personnel involved should be considering their positions.”

Before any documents are published, EDDC can choose to apply to appeal the decision of the tribunal.

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