And more about that Newton Poppleford meeting … muddled minds …

26 Jun

Thanks to several correspondents for nuggets of information below about the meeting of Newton Poppleford Parish Council on Monday – your contributions to sidmouthindependentnews@gmail.com gratefully received.

Some highlights:

It was claimed that Clinton Devon’s Planning Statement contained inaccurate statements such as ’The scheme has the explicit support of the Newton Poppleford and Harpford Parish Council..’ and  resulted from ‘lengthy discussions with the local community’. The parish council voted to make a complaint to EDDC about these two statements.  ….. Parish Clerk, Mr Atkins, (who is also a Councillor at EDDC and on the Planning Committee), instead of making a complaint to East Devon District Council about this appears to have instead contacted Clinton Devon Estates agents and asked them to change their wording. …..  Reports from the meeting allege that Mr Atkin’s said ‘I got in a muddle in my mind..’

Clinton Devon appears to have submitted an ‘amended’ Planning Statement for their revised Application which still contains these inaccurate statements.

In papers divulged to the parish council, Clinton Devon’s agents appeared to know about the complaint about Councillor Salter, which it is said (but not confirmed) was made by one of the other Parish Councillors, a week before the Councillor himself knew.

It was also brought to the public’s attention that the Parish Plan was put together after the Clerk had identified, in the SHLAA process, a site for a community hall and surgery. Though it was not strictly speaking in his remit to allocate sites for specific purposes at this stage. [ A parish clerk’s job is to advise councillors of their alternatives and then follow their instructions after they have discussed the matter and made their decision, whether he or she agrees with their decision or not, as long as that decision is not illegal].

Praise was given via a letter for a recent article in the Sidmouth Herald by a resident which called for democracy in Newton Poppleford and this received warm applause from the floor.

A speaker who said his former job was a principle planning officer for East Devon for 25 years, spoke in favour of the application. He was a volunteer driver who took people to Ottery for appointments, and said a surgery in Newton Poppleford would free up appointments and accommodation in the Ottery surgery.  He said suggestions that Sidmouth people would register were spurious as they were on the Sidmouth register and  Sidmouth were not taking any more, but Ottery were.  A later speaker pointed out that the surgery was shown as having four consulting rooms which seemed a lot for just Newton Poppleford and surrounding villages [It should be noted that people can register with any surgery they want if it has spaces and can leave their current surgeries without needing to give a reason so there would be nothing to stop people from Sidmouth registering with the new surgery if they wished and there were places].

Disappointment was raised about the lack of professionalism concerning Parish Council minutes and failure of the PC to make the minutes available for the public viewing, even for the previous planning meeting concerning King Alfred Way on 13th May.

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2 Responses to “And more about that Newton Poppleford meeting … muddled minds …”

  1. Shan Merritt June 27, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    As minutes of some previous meetings have not been approved by all members of the parish council, they are not uploaded to the website.

    • Emma June 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      The NALC toolkit for local councils looking to achieve Quality Status outlines good practice that should be followed by all councils (http://www.nalc.gov.uk/Toolkits/Quality_Status.aspx.)

      The following recommendation is made: “Council meetings test – Councils will be required to publish draft minutes of meetings within two months of it taking place and make them available for inspection by any elector in the parish, as a minimum”.

      It is therefore not only perfectly acceptable, but actively recommended that non-agreed minutes are made available for public inspection within a reasonable period of time. They may be published with a clear indication, e.g. watermark, that they are in draft form, until such time as they are agreed and a final version can be published.

      As a member of the public, I would welcome draft minutes, as in the current system there is no opportunity for the public to pick up errors before minutes are signed off as an accurate record of the meeting. Given the degree of public input into recent meetings in Newton Poppleford and Harpford, it is particularly important that we are able to have our say in the accuracy of the minutes, especially as the Clerk has been known to “get in a muddle” on more than one occasion.

      Furthermore, I am unclear as to how informed discussion (on the part of both councillors and public) on a particular issue can take place when the minutes of the previous discussion on that topic have not yet been agreed, let alone published for public perusal.

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