Call for further consultation on Relief Road plan

Councillors vote to request another round of consultation when a preferred route has been identified

Calls have been made for a second stage of consultation on Cullompton’s relief road once a preferred route has been identified.

At a full meeting of Mid Devon District Council (MDDC) on December 19, Councillor Nikki Woollatt (Cullompton North, Independent) put forward a motion which was backed by the Council.

It said: “That this Council would like a second stage of consultation on the relief road once a preferred route has been identified to feed into and comment on the further more detailed work which will take place on development of junction strategies, engineering, environmental assessments and so on, prior to submission of a formal planning application.

“Further to that, that this Council ensures that residents and businesses within Cullompton are informed in advance of the consultation commencing by direct contact via a letter or leaflet delivery.

“Also, that hard copies of information regarding the consultation and means of responding be left in public buildings in the town in order that people who are not online or comfortable using computers can easily access and contribute to the consultation.”

Cllr Woollatt said that it was not unusual for councils to carry out secondary consultations and that the Council should be doing its job to engage within the community to the best of its ability.

“The second stage of consultation I am proposing would comment on more detailed proposals to enable it to be the best it can be for Cullompton,” she said.

“If it goes straight to a planning application, the consultation process at that stage does not so easily allow for changes and tweaks to be made. It’s likely that a scheme will be imposed on Cullompton by those without the benefit of knowledge which comes from living, working, and driving there. It has to be better to have a scheme which has the most possible input from local people.”

Councillor Richard Chesterton (Lower Culm, Conservative) cabinet member for planning and economic regeneration, said that at the previous consultation there had been 632 responses, 800 people had visited one of six public events, and there were 1319 unique visits to the consultation’s website.

He said: “I think the various methods used had a good success rate in drawing out views from the public as to what they thought, and I understand that there is a clear preference from the people of Cullompton on a preferred route.

“Mid Devon’s cabinet will be looking at the responses that are being compiled by Devon County in association with our officers, and we’ll be giving an opinion on our preferred route as a cabinet on behalf of this Council at our meeting on January 31. I am sure that meeting will be well attended and that plenty of people from Cullompton will take the opportunity to voice their view in public question time or in other forms of lobbying before that meeting.

“However, at that point, the matter leaves this Council, and it goes to Devon County who will ultimately be the authority who will be putting together any planning application and moving forward with that. We will have stated our preferred option and route, but at that point, it becomes a Devon County matter.”

He added: “I don’t think its necessarily possible for us to unilaterally decide to do another level of consultation because it won’t be our information and process to be consulting on. Devon County is aware of this motion and that there is a desire for further consultation.

“We know that they will be holding public exhibitions in advance of any application being submitted. I appreciate that some members will say a public exhibition is not the same as a public consultation, but they will be aware of the desire for it.

“Ultimately it will be the choice of Devon County on how they want to move forward on this matter.”

Questions were also raised regarding leaflets and how residents in Cullompton did not receive promotional material regarding the initial relief road consultation in September 2018.

Cllr Woollatt moved a motion calling for the company contracted to deliver leaflets be held to account for the non-delivery and that the Council sought to recover a refund for the element of work which was not carried out.

Cllr Woollatt added: “I have evidence from many residents, myself included, that leaflets were not delivered to their homes.

“There has been no evidence or proof from the delivery company to back up their claim that they have delivered them all.”

Cllr Chesterton added: “Originally the writing to individual houses in the form of a leaflet and delivering that to the individual homes was an extra that the cabinet agreed to. We felt it was a sensible idea as an additional means of consultation, but one must remember that within our scope of consultation we would not have needed to do that.

“The benefits of the leaflets being produced was that many people were able to take them away for both themselves and others at our consultation events. I think it’s fair to say some did get successfully delivered through the doors in Cullompton although it’s hard to know exactly how many.”

Kathryn Tebbey, legal services manager and monitoring officer, added: “Questions are being asked and answers are being sought. I wouldn’t want to give the information out in the public domain at the moment, but we are looking into it.”

What’s your view? How should consultation materials be shared with stakeholders? How much time should be spent on consultation before submitting planning applications? Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on 04 January 2019 on Devon Online. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

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