THE THREAT of legal action has meant that all future building plans in Thurrock have been suspended until further notice.
The decision was made by the government planning inspector Laura Graham at a pre-inquiry hearing at the Thurrock Hotel last week.
Ms Graham decided to postpone the public hearing sessions due to the avalanche of objections, criticisms and possible legal actions made by a large number of companies, business interests and developers.
After years of meetings, plans, discussions ,consultations, spatial strategies, more meetings, frameworks, outline plans, it appears that what has become known as the Local Development Framework (LDF) is now suspended until further notice.
With the abolition of the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation (DC) announced on Thursday, the decision now throws into doubt all the regeneration plans for the borough from the Aveley to Corringham, from the re-shaping of Grays Town Centre to the Blackshots Sports Hub.
The Inspector’s decision was to allow Thurrock Council the chance to carry out further consultation on Schedule 2 – Proposed Minor Changes to the Core Strategy.
The Inspector said she considered not to do so would leave the council and the whole process open to legal challenge.
Documentation showed that a number of organisations tabled objections to Thurrock Council’s plans including the DC who made a number of scathing criticisms.
They question why many of their proposals have been omitted including: Essex Gateway – major leisure flagship development; Grays Marina – regeneration, retail, leisure, jobs and housing; Tilbury riverside mixed use development – regeneration of Tilbury. Approximately 11 hectares of employment land at Tilbury Marshes; Employment site at Stanford-le-Hope Gas works and employment site at Ponds Farm 2
They have also questioned why there are sites included “that are not consistent with national and regional policy”.
• Residential site on Green Belt land to north of Grays
• Residential site to north east of Corringham (Gable Hall School)
• Residential site on Green Belt land Stanford-le-Hope Gas works site
It doesn’t stop there. The DC go on to slam the LDF as frankly not “fit for purpose”.
The government have stressed that such a framework should be “clear, succinct and understood by all.” Thurrock Council’s LDF is 326 pages long. Indeed, when the council presented the weighty tone at a full council meeting in January the meeting descended into farce after mistake after mistake was found in the document and the meeting had to be suspended.
The DC are backed by a host of organisations whose criticisms range from plans to build in flood zones to a failure to predict the amount of housing needed for the past five years.
There is also a representation from the former Mayor of Thurrock, Colin Churchman who states: “The process has been undemocratic. The question of members (councillors) interests must be revisited.”
Many individuals comment, stating that it is in legal “gobbledygook”
Stanford’s Rev John Guest queries the relocation of William Edwards school and asks why they can’t simply rebuild on site and spare the green belt.
Other companies believe that the councils failure to give planning permission to facilitate employment land and business opportunities could see the potential loss of 2,000 jobs.
There is also a detailed representation by the representatives of Mr Ian Agates for the Watts Wood lorry park proposal as well as a proposal from the former England manager Terry Venables for an Academy of Dreams at the Essex Sports Village in Purfleet Road, Aveley.
It is not all bad news. Ms Graham said her request did not imply she had any fundamental problem with the basic soundness of the plan at this stage.
Given the background of pending legal challenges to the revocation of the Regional Spatial Strategy by the Secretary of State and legal challenges by local resident groups against those councils that have retained their housing allocations in their core strategies Miss Graham confirmed that a cautious approach was appropriate.
She wanted to avoid any possible opportunity for any party to our plan expressing a grievance of the basis that they had not been consulted about the proposed changes. She reiterated she had very limited powers to make changes to the plan without such consultation.
A Thurrock Council spokesman said: “The council was disappointed about the delay, but would be pressing for an early resumption of the examination hearings early next year.
“If that happens, the council believes there is still a good chance of completing during the summer of next year.”