Planning Committee: Stalemate

RIGHT from the beginning of the meeting, Chair of Planning Stuart St Clair-Haslam referred to the “subdued” atmosphere in the chamber. Early on, councillors and officers made reference to “Monday’s training” which appeared to be a seminar session on Green Belt issues.

What marked out this meeting, the first since last week’s, where a QC had to be brought in to “direct” the committee, was a fearfulness in making decisions.

The defining issue of the night was the application for a new three bedroom detached house in Hobletts Nursery in Green Lane, Stifford Clays.

For two hours the committee discussed the minutae of the application. It had been recommended for refusal on the basis that it was within the green belt.

It was Labour councillor, Gerard Rice who became the most frustrated as he believed the application had economic advanatages.

He said: “We must encourage business. We can all hide behind policies but we have to be courageous otherwise enterprise will turn its back on the borough.”

Lay member of the committee, Mr John Vesey expressed his anger at the visible impasse.

He said: “Common sense seems to have gone from all our deliberations.”

The discussion then centred on: Polytunnels, ancient law, whether sole traders are audited until Chair noted: “We are making very heavy weather of this.”

It is at this point that Cllr Andy Smith asked the legal officers: “Will planning consent be given if we go against officers advice”

Council lawyer, Mr Williams said: “You would be going against the professional advice of an legal officer and an agricultural consultant; that could make your judgments unsustainable.”

The committee agreed to defer the application.

Items in respect of flats in Lansdown Road, Tilbury, leisure facilities in Orsett Hall, a restaurant in the Lakeside Business Village were all deferred.

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