“So, what’s happening?” … the Graham Brown investigation

It’s been a whole year since the extraordinary revelations exposed in the Daily Telegraph and witnessed in glorious Technicolor across the nation, of former EDDC councillor, Graham Brown.

The story is picked up today in the Express & Echo (www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Police-confirm-investigating-Graham-Brown-year/story-20793167-detail/story.html) as many questions are being asked about the sordid affair.Image

To recap, the Daily Telegraph sent an undercover reporter, posing as an agent for investors looking to put money into the southwest (of all places), to meet with the former Councillor and see what he was prepared to offer them in his capacity as planning agent.

I am constantly being asked “So what’s happening?” by people in Feniton and I know immediately what they’re asking … so today’s report in the Express & Echo will be welcome news. There are residents in the village who need to be interviewed and can’t understand why the police investigation appears to have stalled.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of the scam a whole year on, as the revelations are truly jaw-dropping (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9921344/Councillors-for-hire-who-give-firms-planning-advice.html).

Former Tory Councillor, Graham Brown, was District Councillor for the Feniton and Buckerell ward. The ward has been aggressively targeted by developers keen to exploit the planning vacuum left by the complete absence of a Local Plan. (In order to respond to the Coalition Government’s desperate push to build the country out of recession, EDDC should have had its plan in place by March 2012, but failed to do so.)

So why did EDDC fail to have its Local Plan in place?

The Local Development Framework Panel, chaired among others by former Councillor Graham Brown, was charged with ensuring that the Local Plan was delivered on time and that it would serve the people of East Devon up to 2026. So the question of EDDC’s failure will have to be asked (and must be answered) another day once the police investigation has concluded.

Had the Local Plan been adopted, there would be clarity about the Council’s policies for housing to be placed at the Growth Point around Exeter, for Cranbrook to flourish as a New Town, for the major towns to take strategic allocations … and for rural villages (including Feniton) to take minimal growth of 5% to maintain the sense of a rural community.

Instead of that, East Devon is left in a state of complete limbo while being targeted by rapacious developers, none of whom were democratically elected to decide on the future of the District.

Feniton itself is still reeling from a lengthy Super Inquiry where three developers squabbled over the rich pickings to be found in the village … and who are seeking to grow the village by a massive 42%. The results of the inquiry will be known by 4 April.

It is good to hear that the police investigation is still ongoing. East Devon, and the people of Feniton in particular, need closure on the whole heinous episode.

The police investigation must come to a rapid conclusion and then questions can be asked at EDDC as to who is going to take responsibility for the planning chaos in which we find ourselves.

With the benefit of hindsight, watch the video on the Daily Telegraph sting again because Graham Brown was absolutely right in the final sentence of his quote … “whereas East Devon was traditionally one of three hardest areas in the country to get planning permission … that will change. I don’t see it as the floodgates opening, but I do see a stampede coming.”

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4 Responses to “So, what’s happening?” … the Graham Brown investigation

  1. Sandra Semple says:

    Yes, how exactly did he know the stampede was coming? The EDDC Task and Finish group was set up to answer questions such as that but, of course, the Chief Executive and the Leader kicked it into touch. And with an election next year the chances of finding out the truth without a police jnvestigation is nil.

  2. Dan Bramwell says:

    What is the on-cost to EDDC as a result of the uncertainty created by this situation – anybody asked EDDC?

  3. Sandra Semple says:

    There is no on- cost I think – they are going on as if the event never happened and filling in the hole as quickly as possible. But, to my mind, this is not just about the recent past – it has its deep roots as far back as the Stuart scandal in the 1980s.

  4. Paul says:

    I don’t think we can level all the blame for not having a Local Plan on Graham Brown.

    About 50% of local councils do not have a Local Plan, so EDDC is not alone, and without a Local Plan there is a presumption in favour of development under the NPPF. For most local councils this is far less of an issue than for East Devon which has such a wonderful countryside which is ripe for development. The Tory government are to blame for this disastrous policy.

    That said, the ongoing Tory leadership at EDDC have starved the Planning Policy Unit of funds for several years, severely limiting their ability to get the Local Plan approved. You also have to wonder why the Tory leadership have done this, giving so little priority to getting a Local Plan approved, and whether this is a deliberate ploy to allow the the planning free-for-all to continue and if so whether corruption in planning is still ongoing. The ongoing secrecy on publication / FoI disclosure of reports and recent approvals of public speaking restrictions (rather than more openness following the Graham Brown accusations) add to this appearance of potential corruption.

    Either way, the lack of a Local Plan can be blamed on Tory’s!! We need more Independent Councillors after next year’s EDDC elections!!

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