I saw local government in action at the Torridge Plan Committee meeting on February 7.
The application to develop a Marina Village at Knapp House was to be decided. Bideford Town Hall was packed with opposers to this development. Finally the decision to refuse the application was voted five votes to four.
I came away from the meeting with very mixed feelings.
First, I was full of respect for Lewis Andrews and his team, who, after several months work had produced an intelligent, comprehensive and balanced report on the proposed Marina Village. His recommendation to the committee was to refuse the application on four separate counts based on local, Devon and national policies.
In contrast, I was shocked by the behaviour of some of our elected councillors whose arguments were subjective, illogical and blind to the wishes of more than 600 people opposing the development.
They made no reference to the policies protecting the site, in fact Chris Leather took it upon himself to deem the Knapp site of little significance. He airbrushed it from the landscape and pronounced that the development would be hardly visible. Apparently the Knapp House site can not be seen from Westleigh village.
Despite the environmental officer's advice that putting a residential site so close to an industrial unit would jeopardise work and expansion at the shipyard and probably contravene regulations, Kathy Murdoch still felt it would be worth giving the development a chance and leave the responsibility to the developers if they went bust.
There was a point I felt the planning officers and council's solicitor were having to spell it out to Kathy Murdoch and still she did not or would not get it.
I am left with some questions. How much money is the planning committee prepared to waste, paying professional officers to advise them only to disregard that advice?
What happens when our elected representatives make decisions which could contravene important local and national planning policies?