Monday, 28 July 2014

District Council: vote on restricting public speaking......... further reports

The chair of the East Devon Alliance met with the District Councillor whose motion on restricting public speaking was considered last week:


23rd July 2014

EDA’s Chairman Paul Arnott went head-to-head with EDDC Councillor Ray Bloxham – the originator of the idea to curtail public speaking (and who took 27 minutes to explain it at the meeting where it was first discussed) and, let’s just say that this was not Councillor Bloxham’s finest day … here is the link:


Use the slider bar to go to the section 1:08:34 minutes from the beginning of the show.

Oh dear, Councillor Bloxham – wasn’t your finest day was it!

EDA Chairman leaves Councillor Ray Bloxham floundering to defend the indefensible on Radio Devon this morning | East Devon Alliance

Nevertheless, the decision was made to restrict public speaking at planning meetings:
Futures Forum: District Council: vote on restricting public speaking......... the decision

Here is a further report from today's Express & Echo:

East Devon public speaking restrictions are “stifling democracy” says councillor

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: July 28, 2014
Comments (1)

A STRING of restrictions on public speaking rights at meetings to discuss planning applications in East Devon have been described as “stifling democracy” by a leading district and county councillor.

At the full meeting of East Devon District Council earlier this month, councillors voted through a series of alterations to public speaking rules at Development Management Committee meetings as a way of improving the system.

The vote followed the decision in April by Development Management Committee members who backed stricter public speaking rights at its meetings.

A working party had previously been set up following concerns at how long some meetings were taking, with some lasting several hours, and the impact this could have on decision making and the public.

The Committee minutes were due to be approved by full council in May, but after challenges at the April full council meeting by the independent group led by Cllr Claire Wright the matter was discussed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee first.

The now-passed recommendations include the pre-registration of all public speakers before the publication of the agenda.

In addition, only those who have previously submitted a comment as part of the consultation are allowed to subsequently register to speak.

Those permitted to speak on minor applications will be limited to four – two in favour and two against, with an additional slot for the applicant or agent.

And on major applications, the limitation will be five in favour and five against, with an additional slot for the applicant.

This was criticised at the time by Councillor Roger Giles who said everyone should be able to register to speak regardless of whether they had previously commented or not.

Cllr Wright previously described the alterations as “too restrictive and prescriptive”.

“This is an example of democracy being stifled,” she said, adding that her concerns were also felt by a number of cross-party councillors. “In the absence of a Local Plan and with the lack of five year land supply, there are going to be more major planning applications going before the committee which people will understandably want to speak on. It’s going to hugely limit people’s ability to get involved in planning meetings and their ability to address committee members directly.”

Cllr Wright claimed many councillors believed the hold-up during meetings was not down to the public anyway, rather due to drawn-out discussion among members which is not moved towards a vote.

At the full council meeting on July 23, Cllr Wright requested that the decision be deferred until the Local Plan had been finalised however this was voted down.

In April, the district council’s Draft Local Plan 2006-26 was deemed “unsound” with “serious evidential failings” by a Government planning inspector.

He confirmed what the council already knew – that it must demonstrate a five year land supply but can only demonstrate just over four years.

Members of the council’s planning policy team set about producing an action plan showing the extra work it intends to do and the timing of each stage.

The council expects to update the inspector in the autumn.

Cllr Wright added: “Myself and Cllr Giles have tried to amend the proposals several times but they’ve been voted down, so to get the decision deferred until after the finalisation of the Local Plan was a last ditch attempt.”

East Devon public speaking restrictions are “stifling democracy” says councillor | Exeter Express and Echo
Public speaking (or rather public gagging) continued … | East Devon Alliance

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