Non-accountable

Professor Mike Newby has raised some very important questions regarding the Local Development Framework (Journal, March 10).

His concerns are shared by growing numbers of residents, particularly in the parishes (Axminster, Westclyst) that have already had huge developments foisted on to them ahead of the reconsideration, promised by Cllr Randall Johnson, of the housing and employment estimates.

These estimates were compiled by the LDF Panel, whose agendas and minutes were kept secret until only recently.

After pressure from an action group (see website “Communities before Developers), edited (“redacted”) minutes are now in the public domain.

They show the changing membership of the panel; which other councillors attended voluntarily; and who else was invited (eg landowners, developers, businessmen, and council officers).

Perusal of the minutes is unlikely to answer Professor Newby’s questions about the land-holding and other interests of potential candidates for the next local election. They may alter in their ways after election. The council leader has the privilege to terminate committee memberships, and to appoint replacements.

The Localism Bill, when made law, should eliminate this non-transparency and stop the recent practice of totally disregarding local opinion. Nevertheless, the present LDF may survive with only minor reductions or alterations. How?

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EDDC’s planners seemed set, on March 15, to farm out the revision of the document objected to by hundreds of residents, Devon County Council and Natural England, by inviting tenders from commercial consultancies to complete this mammoth task

The available funds are modest, and time is short. First-class consultancies may not respond. Anybody can run a planning consultancy.

Such consultancies are not accountable to residents, who have no say in selecting them. In theory, elected councillors can vote against a consultancy’s recommendations – but how many would have both the technical knowledge and the courage to do so?

(Dr) Anita Jennings

Budleigh Salterton.

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