Monday, 21 July 2014

District Council: vote on restricting public speaking........ full council meeting Weds 23rd July: further reports

There will be a crucial vote this Wednesday at the full Council:
Futures Forum: District Council: vote on restricting public speaking........ full council meeting Weds 23rd July

There have been several letters critical of the move to limit speaking time at planning meetings, including:
Letter to Councillors re. decision to be made (at Full Council, 23rd July) on new rules for public speaking | Save Our Sidmouth

And there have been press releases from the East Devon Alliance urging Councillors to rethink:
Curtailment of public right to speak at EDDC meetings – your chance to stop this | East Devon Alliance
Curtailment of public speaking at EDDC meetings: EDA response and suggestions | East Devon Alliance

The latest being in this week's Herald:


We are writing on behalf of the East Devon Alliance, a non-party-political campaigning group concerned with matters of planning and related transparency of government in our district. Our membership is drawn from across East Devon and our Charter and purpose are stated clearly on our website, which may be found at http://www.eastdevonalliance.org.
The key issues of Planning and Transparent Government intersect most significantly at the monthly meetings of EDDC’s Development Management Committee (DMC). Planning applications may come before this body of councillors, rather than being determined on the delegated decision of a Planning Officer, and that is right and proper. Particularly in cases where applications may be for development in a sensitive location and/or involving large scale destruction of open countryside.
Applications which come before the DMC will have an appropriate recommendation from the experts in EDDC’s planning office, i.e. to approve (with or without conditions) or to refuse. On a number of occasions, however, public contributions on the day have contributed to open debate to the extent that officer recommendations have been overturned. That is not to say that the recommendations were flawed in the first instance. Rather it is the sign of a healthy democracy that the public voice may be heard, and may inform intelligently the outcomes of what are, in many cases, both contentious and large-scale proposed development. The cost of such democracy in action is small: hitherto members of the public have been allowed but three minutes in which to present their views on the day.
The East Devon Alliance has watched with increasing concern as even that small price to pay, an allocation of 180 seconds (always carefully timed!) in which a member of public may express an opinion, is now threatened. The desire to strip the public of the right to speak on specific planning proposals or planning policy has worked its way through various EDDC sub-committees, and will finally reach a full meeting of Council for a decision on July 23rd.
We respectfully request that all councillors, of whatever political persuasion, consider deeply the principle and issues at stake. We propose accordingly not the introduction of new or complicated practices as far as public speaking is concerned, but the entirely reasonable practice of simply leaving public speaking arrangements as they are. This seems to us a not unreasonable request that would do much to restore public trust and confidence in a Council which, for many, has much to prove; not least in respect of its inability to deliver on time a Local Plan.
Yours faithfully
P Arnott and J Withrington
Chairman and Vice-Chairman, East Devon Alliance
EDA – public speaking: further response in local press | East Devon Alliance
Latest local news & information in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

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