Councillor accused of ‘torpedoing’ factory office plans

An artist

An artist's impression of what Ottery's former factory may look like once developed.

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An Ottery councillor has been accused of ‘torpedoing’ plans to create employment for at the old factory by revealing sensitive commercial negotiations.

David Cox says the meddling of his fellow ward member for the town Roger Giles has resulted in a scheme to create offices in the former mill being scrapped.

But Cllr Giles has hit back, saying East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) plan to discuss an agreement behind closed doors was ‘wholly wrong’.

When the agenda for Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting was published, it contained a report on the former Ottermill Switchgear site in Part B, which is closed to the press and public.

Cllr Giles had asked for any discussions to be in the public domain, or be deferred until a planning application, which is expected imminently, had actually been submitted.

But Cllr Cox, who is chair of the council’s Asset Management committee, said his intervention has ‘scuppered the whole thing’.

Because of potential flood risk, planners will not allow domestic residences on the ground floor of the Town Mill.

Develop Paul Conway recently revealed plans to create 100 houses at the site, with the potential for office space, which Cllr Cox said the council was looking at purchasing on a long lease, and then sub-letting to local businesses.

But he said the opportunity was now lost, adding: “Until the thing was signed, sealed and delivered it had to be done in private, and by (Cllr Giles) sending emails about it I have had to pull it.

“It could provide employment in the town potentially, and help regenerate a bit of the town which is in dire need of it.

“It’s a great shame it’s been torpedoed on this way.”

Cllr Giles disagreed, saying EDDC would have acted ‘wholly undemocratically’ by taking the report and considering its recommendations before a planning application had been submitted.

“A planning application is coming in for probably the most important site in Ottery, and the council was going to agree what goes on there, even before it happens, and before any members of the public of the town council had the chance make a decision.

“I think that’s wholly wrong.”

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