A neighbour clash in East Devon has resulted in the district council being urged to step in, ‘use its teeth’, and help sort out a debt dispute between Colyton and Colyford.
The chair of newly-formed Colyford Parish Council has urged the district council to “use its teeth” in an ongoing spat with neighbouring Colyton, writes local democracy reporter Bradley Gerrard.
Ian Priestley, chair of the parish that was legally established in April, addressed East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet meeting to plea for assistance in its ongoing dispute with Colyton.
A reorganisation order compelled Colyton to pay Colyford £11,202 for highways safety projects and advance rental income when the new parish council was formed, but Mr Priestley said the money still hadn’t been paid.
Colyton Parish Council submitted a legal challenge about the process that led to the creation of Colyford and the conditions linked to it, but its claim for a judicial review is yet to be decided by a court.
“Cabinet, you have teeth, can you please use them,” Mr Priestley pleaded with East Devon councillors.
“EDDC should be pulling out all the stops to assist a new council, not putting us into a position of potential failure.”
Mr Priestley added that Colyton had “voted to resist” the reorganisation order, which was issued by East Devon District Council and approved by the secretary of state for communities and local government.
Minutes from a meeting of Colyton Parish Council on Monday, September 11 acknowledge that advice given to the council by third parties suggested the reorganisation order “should be followed until a court order reverses it”.
It added that rental income in relation to Stafford Cross, which was transferred to Colyford as part of the reorganisation, should be paid to the new parish.
“[But] the council is still waiting to hear back from the courts regarding the potential judicial review,” the minutes of Colyton’s meeting said.
The minutes added that the chairman would “pen a letter to EDDC stating that Colyton do not believe that the money should go to Colyford whilst there is a legal challenge”, but if a judicial review went in Colyford’s favour, then Colyton would transfer the money.
Mr Priestley asked East Devon to pay Colyford the £11,202 it was owed, and seek to recoup that money itself from Colyton, rather than Colyford receiving funds from EDDC in advance.
“Another advance of our precept would just see us chasing our tails for the foreseeable future,” Mr Priestley added.
Mr Priestley noted that rent for Stafford Cross had now been paid to it by tenants on the land, but that the reduced sum it received from EDDC when the new parish was being set up – £750 compared to a previously discussed £5,000 – meant its resources were tight.
Councillor Sarah Jackson (Independent, Axminster) promised to convene a meeting with Mr Priestley and Melanie Wellman, EDDC’s monitoring officer.
“I am disappointed the reorganisation order has not been complied with and we have not heard back yet from the courts in relation to a judicial review,” she said.
East Devon council leader Paul Arnott had passed his responsibility for chairing the cabinet meeting for this discussion because of a conflict of interest, notably his position on Colyton Parish Council.
He said he “did not agree” with the position being taken by Colyton, and was “extremely concerned” about the logjam in the court system, which could mean a lengthy wait before a judicial review was completed.
“I have genuinely considered whether I should resign from Colyton to serve Colyford, but I think some people in Colyton might find that desirable, so I’m not going to,” he said.
A spokesperson for Colyton Parish Council said the parish could not comment because of the forthcoming judicial review.