Colyton: Councillors accused of trying to block affordable homes

COLYTON parish councillors have been accused of trying to sabotage affordable housing plans in the town.

COLYTON parish councillors have been accused of trying to sabotage affordable housing plans in the town.

Twenty homes are to be made available to local people this year at the junction of Hill Head and Old Sidmouth Road.

But Cllr Paul Arnott revealed during the annual parish council meeting that some councillors had tried to stop the project going ahead.

He said: "There have been attempts by members of this council to block the project entirely. I'm not going to name names, you just have to look at the [East Devon District Council's] website to find out.

"They hold very senior roles on this council and it's quite incredible."

He said, despite a unanimous decision, one councillor [Bill Waterworth] wrote to EDDC to say four members were against it - and offered alternative land for the development.

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He added: "After this decision was made, members of this council were offering their own land.

"The only thing I wish you to carry away with you is that, if you want more affordable housing, you need to be careful which councillor you approach."

The council held a special meeting in October 2008, and voted unanimously to approve the application for affordable housing.

But, in a letter to East Devon District Council on November 5, 2008, Cllr Waterworth wrote: "I am aware that four out of 13 parish councillors (including myself) strongly object to the proposal, but, in the public interest, decided not to show a formal objection.

"Furthermore, those at the October 9 meeting may have been influenced by an unfortunate, coercive remark by the applicant at the public meeting (ie 'if the application is refused it would be a long time before we (Rural Housing Trust) would look at Colyton again').

He called for the matter to be determined by the Development Control Committee of the district council.

Then, in December of the same year, Cllr Waterworth said he had been authorised by six local landowners to offer their land instead for consideration. One of the landowners was Cllr Colin Pady. Councillors did not verbally oppose Cllr Arnott's comments, but some shook their heads. Cllr Arnott argued in correspondence to EDDC that Cllr Waterworth's comments should be discounted. He said the councillors had not been named and landowners wishing to offer their land for affordable housing had not come forward in the ten months since the scheme was first announced.

Cllr Pady told the Midweek Herald the matter was 'closed' and had been discussed in private.

He admitted he had offered his land in Colyford, but said it had been on the same premise as RHT and due to the huge demand for affordable housing.

He said four councillors had questioned the planning of the development, but went along with it for the sake of democracy.

"It was obvious that the majority were for it and, in the democratic process, one has to go along with it. But we had to represent the views of people who were not happy with it."

He added: "This [subject] is raking over old ashes and we have to look forward and move on."

He said the offer of his land was still available.