Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 12:54 UK

Council sorry for racism threat

Bryan Lee
Bryan Lee's objections were never heard after the plans were withdrawn

A Devon council has apologised for threatening to prosecute a man for racism over a letter he wrote objecting to a travellers' site.

Retired dairy farmer Bryan Lee, 65, objected to plans for a site near his village home in Silverton, near Exeter.

Mid Devon District Council warned him that he could be reported to the police for racism.

But the council's chief executive later wrote to him saying the response was "over-zealous".

It was inappropriate for us to end the letter with reference to a possible referral to the police for investigation
Chief Executive Gerald Hirsch

Chief Executive Gerald Hirsch said he would be contacting Mr Lee as soon as possible to apologise for the tone of the letter and any distress caused.

He said: "I accept that the letter we wrote to Mr Lee was over-zealous.

"In particular it was inappropriate for us to end the letter with reference to a possible referral to the police for investigation. We will be revising the letter we send in similar situations in the future."

Mr Lee's objection stated that problems were caused by the number of families using another permanent site for vehicle wrecking.

Mr Lee also highlighted that the police were called to the site a number of times and livestock was regularly let loose on his land.

The authority replied: "I have to tell you that if the council receives any more racist representations from you, this matter will be referred to the Commission for Racial Equality or the police for investigation."

Mr Lee said he had been outraged by the response.

He said: "I am not a racist. It was a factual report of my own first-hand experiences. I crafted that letter as carefully as I could."

The plans for the site were eventually withdrawn so Mr Lee's objection was never heard.

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