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COLYTON:Dispute over council office relocation to go to tribunal
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
EAST Devon District Council will be taken to a tribunal in an attempt to reveal more information about the authority’s proposed move to Skypark, Exeter. Sidmouth resident Jeremy Woodward made a request under the Freedom of Information Act in November 2012, for details on the proposed move from the existing offices at the Knowle discussed at working group meetings to be released to the public. An Information Commissioner assessing the case last month ordered the council to release the reports, but the dispute is due to be put before a tribunal after district council bosses appealed the decision. Following the announcement of a date for the hearing – August 28th – Mr Woodward has spoken out about the case. He told Pulman’s View: “The Information Commissioner wants EDDC to make public the report on the state of the Knowle buildings – because they say it was produced by external, independent consultants. But EDDC has insisted it was an internal matter to help them with their own deliberations and so should not be published. “However, back in February, when the district council’s own scrutiny committee voted for a completely new report to be commissioned without interference from the political leadership, councillors and officers said the report which declared Knowle unfit was independent and professional.” Councillors decided earlier this year to press ahead with plans to move the district council headquarters from Knowle to Skypark but angry residents have voiced concerns about the expense of the relocation at a time of austerity, as well as the site itself, which is on the outskirts of the district. Colyton parish councillors have also spoken out against the plans, saying the proposed site at Skypark will be too far for residents and East Devon staff to travel. They had encouraged the district to choose a more central location in Honiton. Mr Woodward’s attempts to uncover confidential details from the council’s relocation meetings now hinge on the public hearing, which will be held at Exeter Magistrates’ Court next month. He added: “My own feelings are that, whatever the outcome of the tribunal, the district council's political leadership has shown it is absolutely determined to go ahead with this relocation project, regardless of any counter arguments. More depressing still is how most of the majority party councillors have not been asking any awkward questions themselves." When contacted by Pulman’s View, an EDDC spokesperson declined to comment on the case ahead of the tribunal.
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