Transparency plea

Could I, through your pages, raise some questions concerning East Devon District Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF), the public’s responses to which are, as I understand it, currently being considered in the council’s planning committee?

In December last year, Council Leader, Sara Randall Johnson wrote: “I do understand the concerns of some, that expansion must not jeopardise our delightful East Devon environment. I couldn’t agree more. We now believe some of the housing and employment building estimates may have been too high and I have ordered a complete review of this strategy – with a report due in the summer.”

My presumption, then, is that the original plan is to be significantly reduced in its scope and that the outcome of the present review will, indeed, result in a far more modest and sensible blueprint for the future, one less likely to result in Exmouth’s precious green hinterland, with its irreplaceable landscape and wild-life habitat, being engulfed in yet more housing estates.

This would certainly be in tune with the public response, which greeted the original LDF with a mixture of disbelief and indignation at the scale of its insensitivity. Does Sara Randall Johnson’s commitment still stand? And will the public still be consulted on any revised LDF document?

Of course, I assume that those councillors who sit on the planning committee have all declared, in full, any land-holding interests they may have.

I would be interested to know of any way of making these interests more widely known to the public, other than through the rather cumbersome and opaque process I understand people need to go through at present, which is to appear in person at the council offices in Sidmouth and ask to see the record, but make no copies of information within it.

Surely, such detail should be fully in the public domain. Do any of your other readers agree with me that – particularly in view of the forthcoming council elections in May - it becomes very important for each of us to know whether the person who seeks our vote has private interests which might obscure his or her view of the public good as they come to make decisions affecting us all?

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The LDF – so important in determining the future of our local environment for decades to come – is surely an issue crying out for such transparency.

As a voter, I do not want to vote for anyone who might one day be in a position to make planning judgements from which they could benefit financially.

What’s more, I should be particularly offended if I cast my vote in ignorance of their interests because it was difficult – or even impossible – for me to have found out what they were before polling day.

Professor Mike Newby

Wilderness House, St John’s Road, Exmouth.