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East Devon councillor quits over 'lack of democracy'

Thursday, 2 March 2023 06:00

By Rob Kershaw, local democracy reporter

Cllr Mike Allen (Image: East Devon District Council)

Mike Allen will leave in May

A councillor in East Devon is qutting in May because of what he claims is a lack of democracy.

The decision by Cllr Mike Allen (Conservative, Honiton St Michael’s) comes after the local authority chose not to revisit a previous consultation phase of the local plan, a document which sets out planning policies and possible locations for development.

The government’s delayed announcement on its own policies has halted progress for East Devon on selecting new areas for housing and infrastructure.

The council has been putting its ideas for its new local plan to the public, but had faced criticism over the handling of a recent online consultation.

Some residents reported that they encountered technical difficulties, so were unable to put their views across. Others, however, completed it without issue.

As a result, Cllr Allen asked the council to revisit the consultation, but this request was denied on the grounds that it did not have the resources to go back and re-do it.

Mr Allen felt that this was not a good enough reason not to begin the process again. “The only thing that they said, despite the errors, was that it was going to be too costly to re-do it,” he said. “If it’s wrong, it’s wrong, and if a consultation is done wrongly, then it will come out if it goes ahead because the inspector will be duty-bound to look at the whole thing. And that just wastes money.

“I’m disgusted with the lack of democracy in the present council, and I’m leaving it in May.”

Cllr Dan Ledger (Independent East Devon Alliance, Seaton) conceded that it is difficult for consultations to work for everyone, but he assured that “a raft” of future consultations is on the way.

“It’s a 3,000-page document so trying to consult and make that really clear and concise and short exercise for people to do is really hard,” he explained. “So, trying to condense 3,000 pages into a 20-minute exercise for people is never going to happen.

“So, we try to reduce it so that everyone can answer individual questions but it’s never going to be able to do everything for everyone.

“It’s never going to be perfect but we’re trying to get as many views as possible, and hopefully we can do that over the next couple of consultations we do.”

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