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Devon council meeting descends into chaos as members clash over 'planning fraud' claims

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Dramatic outburst at Teignbridge District Council meeting

Tensions surged at the Teignbridge District Council in Devon when Cllr Liam Mullone stood to give an impassioned speech against a controversial development in which he made allegations of planning fraud, before refusing to sit down. Footage of the full council meeting, which was being live-streamed on YouTube, appears to show fellow councillor Gary Taylor confront Cllr Mullone by pulling him away by his jacket. Before Cllr Malone is dragged out of shot of the camera, he is heard shouting: “Get off me you paper nonsense.”

DevonLive has seen an uncensored video of the incident from a different angle and reported it shows that as Cllr Mullone walks towards the front of the room, Cllr Taylor stands to confront him before dragging him away.

Cllr Sarah Parker-Khan can then be seen standing and attempting to calm the situation and also drag Cllr Taylor away before she follows Cllr Mullone to the front of the room as he finishes the delivery of his supplementary question. It is understood that the incident has been reported to the council.

Leader of the Newton Says No group Cllr Mullone had been accusing the council of being behind false “ghost objectors” who mysteriously dropped out just hours before the planning meeting for the controversial Langford Bridge development.

After standing up and continuing his speech by walking to the front of the room, executive member for planning Cllr Taylor is seen standing to confront him. The meeting is then adjourned shortly afterwards. The live stream then stopped.

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Tempers erupted at the emotionally charged council meeting (Image: TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL)

The full council meeting had seen Cllr Malone express concerns about planning procedures, predominately around how the Langford Bridge application for 450 homes for Newton Abbot was managed, according to DevonLive.

The councillor claimed false “ghost objectors” to a planning application in January 2020, decided by the chairman’s casting vote, had been deliberately chosen by the council to occupy two permitted speaking spots that otherwise would have been taken up by “concerned locals or their advocates”.

Cllr Mullone said in his supplementary question on how the council had improved its procedures since: “In a massive decision, the two speaking slots against development were allocated not to concern locals or their advocates but to persons unknown who have since become known as the ghost objectors and who have always been kept secret from us and the public. M

“My supplementary question hinges on this – we know who the objectors are and we always knew, but it took 18 months to gather the evidence and the documents.”

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Cllr Mullone is leader of the Newton Says No group (Image: TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL)

“The first objector allocated a slot was a 23-year-old male, described by a former employer as having learning difficulties, who is on record as saying that he was encouraged to write a letter of objection by a friend of his mother, a person who worked for TDC in the planning department.

“The letter was received before the application was even validated and was selected by TDC from 100 or so received.

“He was a farm labourer whose previous employer was Anthony Rew, the farmer and chief landowner of the NA3 development.

“The letter he wrote was a poetic entreaty; he did not object on planning grounds. It was not an objection that was admissible under TDC guidelines.

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Cllr Mullone stands to give an impassioned speech against a controversial development (Image: TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL)

“He does not live in Teignbridge, but on a still under construction development in Paignton, in a family house that was entirely owned by Linden Homes

“Prior to the Planning Meeting, he was telephoned by a council officer in Forde House who solicited him to be a speaking objector, along with his brother as second objector.

“Even though his brother had made no objection, written no letter and had no interest in the issue. Thus were these spots, so precious to the other side of the argument, filled by TDC.”

At the time of the meeting more than 20 months ago, it had been claimed the pair had drooped out due to a bereavement, but Cllr Mullone added: “It appears neither of them, contrary to what we were told, suffered a bereavement on the morning of the meeting of January 21st that prevented their coming. They simply didn’t come.

“We have asked many times for full disclosure on the ghost objectors, and have been advised that the withholding of this information under GDPR is a misinterpretation of what GDPR is for.

“We asked the Executive Member for Planning to be honest with us, several times, under part 2 conditions.

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Cllr Mullone vents his fury during his speech (Image: TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL)

“We got silence. We have exhausted every official, polite, courteous and reasonable avenue and got nothing but obstruction and contempt. So now this is happening.

“Due to this straw-manning, Abbotskerswell Parish Council and the Wolborough Residents Association were unable to bring their Expert from Oxford to put forward a scholarly environmental case for the planning committee to hear.

“The speaking slots were knowingly misallocated by TDC officers breaching their own rules, in a deliberate attempt to disadvantage the case against adoption of the proposal. The Planning Committee was lied to.

“The leadership of this council has committed, at the very least, conspiracy to defraud the residents of Teignbridge.”

Council chairman Cllr Colin Parker then tries to interrupt him by saying: “Is there going to be a question please?”

Shortly afterwards, Cllr Mullone is then heard saying: “You are in contempt of the law and in contempt of the people,” before standing up and walking off-camera.

devon council meeting clash

Cllr Mullone continues his speech as he walks to the front of the room (Image: TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL)

Cllr Parker hits back: “Please sit down. Cllr Mullone, can you sit down please,” as Cllr Mullone walks forward in the room.

Cllr Taylor then takes to his feet and appears to confront Cllr Mullone, with him shouting back at the Liberal Democrat: “Get off me you paper nonsense.” Cllr Taylor is then seen dragging Cllr Mullone away and grabbing him by the shirt.

Phil Shears, the council’s managing director, then disputes the allegations, and says: “If [he] would like to provide the evidence that seemingly me and my colleagues have never seen or heard, then perhaps that would help, or we could adjourn the meeting, chairman.”

Cllr Parker then adjourned the meeting and the live stream was cut but minutes later, the stream reappears with a statement from the authority’s solicitor Paul Woodhead.

He said: “Members and all present will have just witnessed the events of a few minutes ago and heard the allegations made, and I’m sure will appreciate that no one here is in a position to comment further in respect of what was said at this time and indeed it perhaps would be inappropriate to do so in any event.”

“The councillor who has raised those issues is invited to meet with me and/or to provide me with the information that he has alluded to and made reference to, whereupon it will be properly considered and investigated as appropriate.”

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Cllr Gary Taylor is seen confronting Cllr Liam Mullone (Image: TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL )

The chairman then says: “If we can continue this meeting now with a sense of decorum and I don’t want any more further outbursts from anyone, otherwise we will have to suspend the meeting again. So, if we can continue in a sensible manner, please.”

After the meeting, Cllr Mullone said: “I delivered my final line about who organised this deceit and I turned around and started walking back and on the way back to my seat, he then stood up and walked in my way. I had to shout as I was determined people would hear these allegations or facts depending on which side of the line who are on.

“We had to be certain of this and we are certain. I had to make sure everyone heard it but I was done and heading back to my seat, had hands on hips and he was standing in front of me and next thing I know he has got hold of my jacket and pulled me to the side and felt like trying to pull me out of the nearest door.

“I have made a speech where I said 20 months begging and pleading to be told what the portfolio holder wants he knows, but he didn’t tell us, so now we are telling everyone what we know. But it doesn’t look good that I said all this and the person I have named as not given the truth then attacks me physically when I was walking back to my seat.”

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the council and the Liberal Democrat group in which Cllr Taylor is a member, said: “At yesterday’s council meeting we saw the aggressive and thuggish behaviour of Liam Mullone.

“Cllr Gary Taylor, a 67-year-old pensioner, had the presence of mind to step in, in an attempt to calm the situation and divert Mr Mullone from continuing his rampaging behaviour.

“Newton Says No continue to make allegations about Teignbridge Council for which they claim to have supporting evidence but, as I understand it, have so far failed to provide. My call to them is to ‘put up or shut up’.

“If they have the evidence they claim, then take it to the Council Solicitor or the Police. If they choose not to share the information they claim to have then we can all draw the conclusion that NSN is an empty vessel.”



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