Teignbridge Full Council meeting 28/4/22

Full council meetings are not always the most gripping of events, but voting is important.

I don’t think I have ever cast a vote in the council without considering carefully and listening to the points made. The debate is often very thoughtful and informed, and can add as much to my view on an issue as reading the reports and recommendations.

The outcome is sometimes not what some people want so I try to explain why I have voted as I did, especially on contentious issues.

One of the first items on the agenda in any council is to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. It is usually a formality or occasionally minor corrections are made. It is normal in such cases to notify the officer as soon as you spot a problem, so it can be ironed out before the next meeting.

The minutes are not a transcript of every comment that is made in the meeting, they at least include all decisions and votes, but beyond that that they are normally only a brief and neutral summary of debate.

Councillor patch was concerned that a point of order he had raised in the previous meeting, which was dismissed, was not reported in the minutes. He asked that a lengthy explanation of his point of order be included in the minutes, in effect restating his case which had already been rejected as not relevant at the previous meeting.

He proposed an amendment to the motion to accept the minutes, which was seconded, so we had to vote on it. I voted against this amendment.

Jetty Marsh link road

This is a proposed road improvement that forms a ‘strategic’ part of the A382 corridor between Newton Abbot and the A38. It also serves new housing at Berry Knowles. The land owner for the housing is releasing the land for the link road and will provide inert fill material directly from the homes site to form the road’s embankment. A great example of the re-use on site that we are pushing for in response to the numerous landfill sites being demanded by the county council.

There was strong opposition but it is really quite difficult to say exactly what is supposed to be wrong with the plan.

There were nebulous comments about climate emergency, and road building. I agree it is vital to reduce society’s dependence on the car, but this small section of link road includes segregated cycle lanes and crossings to provide good quality pedestrian and cycle access.

The NSN councillors’ one defining issue is opposing virtually all development, to the point that the abstain on just about everything else, even no-brainer rubber stamping items of clear benefit to society. They abstain. I suspect their objection here is more pathological than informed.

Councillor Mullone of NSN gave a very angry speech repeatedly claiming there is “no mitigation whatsoever” As usual Cllr Mullones contribution is more theatrical than evidence based. The proposal includes areas of tree planting, green space, a pond and a bat and wildlife corridor. Councillors Mullone’s speech, though passionate and exceedingly loud, was not, in fact true.

I was happy to support he proposal.

Selling Land in Teignmouth for a health centre

One significant item is the proposal to sell land in Teignmouth town centre to the NHS for them to build a new health centre. This will lose a car park in Teignmouth, but back to back, a derelict site will be cleared to provide a replacement car part with a small net gain in parking provision. This is the land that was to be used for a hotel but the purchasers pulled out.

Some members made a strong case against, saying that we should instead pressure the NHS to save, or failing that, re-use Teignmouth Hospital. There are also points made about the pedestrian traffic across the current car park, and claims it would be better to keep the existing car park and derelict site.

There has been a long and valiant campaign to save Teignmouth hospital, but it has sadly failed, and the NHS has decided the hospital will close. In my view the health centre will allow some services to be retained in Teignmouth.

The proposal seems to offer an improvement to the area, including resolving issues with the derelict site which includes underground concrete tanks. It will improve services for Teignbridge (compared to not doing it).

There is a net parking gain, and considerable capital raised for Teignbridge to re-use by selling the land.

One councillor wanted to retain the car park by building higher on the other part of the site. To have done this would have required 9 storeys!

I was happy to support the proposal, and also voted against an amendment to defer the decision while a very ill defined question about other options was asked of the NHS. I think this would have jeopardised the project anyway, but I am also concerned the amendment was so unclearly worded as to be virtually impossible to put into action had if the vote had succeeded.

Councillor’s questions

An important part of the meeting is councillor’s questions. This is an opportunity for councillors to formally and publicly ask questions of the senior councillors and officers. It can be an important tool in scrutinising the work of the council and ensuring that we can all be held responsible.

For example in a recent meeting colleagues and I asked three crucial questions about allegations made by Councillor Mullone. He claimed he had proof that the council had breached its own rules and was “guilty of conspiracy to defraud the residents of Teignbridge”. Extraordinary words for a councillor to utter in public. Our three questions revealed that: The council’s rules are not as Cllr Mullone claimed, Cllr Mullone, after being asked to produce his evidence of wrong doing over a year ago, has not done so and finally that the council did not breach its rules. In fact the council followed the rules, but as far as possible within those rules, did all it could to help the people that Cllr Mullone claimed were being defrauded.

Today there were 29 questions from councillor MacGregor in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to spam the councillors questions mechanism, rendering it unusable. Perhaps this is because it has been so powerful in exposing his colleagues’ lies, false allegations and attempts to undermine the democratic principles of Teignbridge.

Highlights of councillor MacGregor’s questions include: Q28 Can the Leader update the council on attendance at the Health and Well-being Board meetings? Response from the Leader: Details of attendance at the Health & Wellbeing Board can be found via this link:https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=166

After asking 27 questions already, he still though this one was worth adding!