A letter written to the Gazette by the SHS Chair and published on the morning of South Hams District Council’s Special Meeting on 13 October, called to discuss applying to add Investment Zone status to the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport, failed to meet with the approval of Council Leader Judy Pearce. The letter raised a number of questions and highlighted the Society’s valid concerns about the Council voting in haste for a course of action that could have devastating and irreversible consequences for our countryside.
To quote Cllr Pearce:
‘Those plans show the full extent of the Freeport and the full extent of the Investment Zone enhancements that will now be added to it. What I want to make quite clear is that it is those zones only – it is not Dartmoor, it is not all the other things that have been circulating, and it does not include any housing. So can that be taken away from this meeting please and made clear, because there is a letter in the Gazette today that says quite different things and the author is sitting in the room at the moment and I’m not at all happy about what that letter says.’
The plans she showed were only of the three customs sites at Sherford, Langage and South Port. And, as we know, the Government’s map of the Freeport encompasses a far wider area. She also failed to address the other points raised in the letter.
More worrying is that our Councillors voted, by 13 to 11, and along strict party lines, to apply for Investment Zone status without, as the debate made very clear, having any real idea as to what that will eventually actually mean. By setting a deadline of tomorrow the government has effectively railroaded them in to a decision, and it seems they will have no opportunity to change their minds once the reality becomes clear and should that reality not meet with their approval.
The debate can be viewed below. Cllr Pearce made her comments around 29 minutes from the start. Cllr Denise O’Callagahan very kindly offered a defence of the Society’s letter to the Gazette around the 51 min mark: