IN an emotionally charged three hour meeting, Thurrock Councils Planning Committee have given the owners of the Titan Lorry Park just twenty-eight days to discontinue their activities as an unauthorised lorry park.
The original proposal was for one year but in a dramatic about-turn, Leader of Planning, Cllr Terry Hipsey urged fellow members of the committee to give the Industrial Chemicals Group (ICG) only 28 days to cease using the area in Oliver Road, West Thurrock.
The proceedings began with Parents Against Lorry Parks representative, Steve Cooley outlining a number of objections from the residents.
He said: “For three and a half years, this has been a daily blight for the residents.
“I understood that any decisions regarding regeneration in Thurrock is supposed to put the community at the centre. 1,967 residents have signed this petition against a lorry park at the heart of the community.
Mr Cooley made reference to air pollution studies, traffic surveys, toxic emissions.
He was followed by Planning Agent Brian Pooley representing Industrial Chemical Group Limited.
Mr Pooley said: “The lorry park is not making any demonstrable harm. Indeed, it is a much needed facility.
“It is well placed close to major highway networks. Many of the lorries do not pass through residential areas instead taking the Stonehouse Road route.
“Over the past three years, there has been ongoing meetings between the Development Corporation and Thurrock Council.
“We have also had dialogue regarding the Local Development Framework (LDF).
“One year is too short a notice. An Enforcement Notice would only involve a costly public inquiry.”
Councillors were invited to ask questions.
Cllr Gerard Rice asked: “You know, if I decided to build someting at my house, without planning permission, the council would immediately come down on me like a ton of bricks.
“I am still at a loss to understand what on earth has been happening for well over three years.”
Leader of Planning Terry Hipsey had more specific questions to ask:
He asked: “Could you tell me if you have been paying business rates in respect of the lorry park?”
Mr Pooley said they had.
Mr Hipsey then asked him to detail the council officers and members who ICG had met at meetings.
Mr Pooley requested that the council refer to the minutes of meetings. Cllr Hipsey insisted that he name them.
He said: “Bill Newman and Andrew Millard from the council and Nigel Hebden from the DC.”
He pressed further as Cllr Hipsey insisted that Mr Pooley name councillors.
Mr Pooley said: “There were no councillors involved in discussions.”
The meeting had to be halted several times as members of the public became infuriated with proceedings.
West Thurrock and South Stifford Councillor Oliver Gerrish spoke.
“ I understand that this has become a highly emotive issue but the presence of the lorry park is unsustainable. The evidence is well documented with the South Stifford Traffic Study as well as other forms of evidence.
“This is a challenge for the leadership of this council but we can make it into a win/win. It is all a question of where we put a future site.
Head of Planning, Andrew Millard updated the committee on a recent correspondence from the DC.
Councillor Rice tried to pin down Mr Millard as to why almost four years had elapsed without an agreement or movement towards an application or indeed enforcement.
Mr Millard replied: “It is a complex strategic framework.”
At this point Stanford Councillor Phil Anderson entered the debate.
He asked Mr Millard how long would it take for an application to be submitted
Mr Millard replied that it would be any time between four and six months.
It seemed at this time that members of the committee were trying to think of all the possible permuations that could see the continuing presence of an unauthorised lorry park.
Cllr Steven Veryard expressed an opinion that it could be stretched until 2014.
He said: “With a years enforcement they could do nothing for eleven months and then appeal. It could go on for four years.”
It was at this point the the Leader of Planning Terry Hipsey made a stand.
He said: “We cannot allow this company to give the V-sign to the DC and Thurrock Council.
“Almost 2,000 residents have spoken and we as elected members must recognise this.
“We are here to serve and companies such as this make me livid.
“We have to adopt a robust approach and so I propose that we enforce in 28 days.
The motion should read….
That the Planning Committee authorise the service of an enforcement notice which seeks to ensure the cessation of the unauthorised lorry parking and its associated workings within 28 days.
Tory councilor Phil Anderson urged caution.
“I have full sympathies with the residents but I must warn against Gesture Politics.
“We are in receipt of the best professional advice from Mr Millard and he has suggested one year.
“The 28-day proposal will be subject to challenge and we could find the whole matter kicked into the long grass
Cllr Hipsey disagreed and believed that this was a time to stand strong.
Cllr Rice agreed: “An Inspector will see that we have gone to every length to initiate a planning application and it has not been forthcoming.”
The matter came to the vote. After initial confusion, when the Chief Executive Graham Farrant had to intervene, the committee voted in favour of enforcement
Councillors Steven Veryard, Steve Liddiard, Barry Palmer,Martin Healy, Gerard Rice and Terry Hipsey voted for the enforcement.
Councillors’ Phil Anderson and Joy Redsell voted against.
However, Councillor Anderson had earlier proposed an amendment that instead of a one year enforcement, it should be for four months. This was out-voted.
Cllr Rob Gledhill abstained but wanted, for the record to indicate his abstention was as he was in favour of the four month rule.