NATIONAL planning rules are preventing Newton Abbot Town Council from representing residents and businesses who face huge changes in the shape of thousands of new homes and other developments.
The claim has been made as the March 13 deadline approaches for consultation on the draft Teignbridge Local Plan 2020 - 2040.
The scheme would result in large swathes of countryside being lost to housing, plus extra building on the livestock market and town centre car parks.
Teignbridge District Council, as the authority charged with drawing up a Local Plan, has been encouraging the public to have its say on the proposals. Town and parish councils have also been asked to comment but have discovered rules which prevent any meaningful exchange of ideas.
Newton Abbot Mayor Cllr Carol Bunday said: ‘There are many aspects of the draft we want to share our thoughts on but we’re simply not allowed to.
‘For example, we cannot express our opposition to the loss of town centre car parking or make a call for infrastructure to come before housing.
‘Instead, we are only allowed to say if we believe the consultation has been carried out in accordance with national policies and that the plan’s proposals are lawful.
‘We’re being silenced, prevented from speaking up on behalf of residents and businesses whose futures will be changed forever.
‘And if it’s difficult for us as a council with our knowledge of local government legislation to make any meaningful representations, how on earth are members of the public going to fare?’
Cllr Bunday added: ‘We’ve been told that this latest consultation has to be conducted in this very dry manner and that we ought to have made our thoughts known in the first round more than a year ago.
‘But back then, very few of the details were available, so really we’ve been given no chance at all.
‘And with only nine of the 47 district councillors representing Newton Abbot it feels like we’re having a scheme imposed on us by people who won’t have to live with the consequences.
‘The process is neither transparent nor fair.’