MEMBERS OF a pressure group agitating against the unauthorised development of a lorry park in West Thurrock have continued to express a number of concerns at a number of matters as the inquiry goes into its second day.
A representative spoke to YT. They said:
“There has been meetings between Parents against Lorry Parks (PALS) and the council right up the last minute before the planning inquiry.
“But we got the feeling that the new regime were becoming increasingly unhappy at the changing course of information and prevarication coming from some council officers.
We had asked questions in October 2010 and here in July, the answers still didn’t seem to be forthcoming.
“In addition to the Titan Lorry Park, it has only been our continued complaint that has brought to light the current alleged breaches on the site which to date are:
1. Seven mammoth buildings where there has been no full explanation as to how they meet permitted development legislation. Should this be the case then there have been no applications for Lawful Development Certificates for said buildings, there are at least two additional buildings that require planning consent, two further unauthorised lorry parks, (which will continue to cause nuisance to local residents even if the forthcoming enforcement is successful), additional hardstanding, a motorbike training facility and a pallet storage company on site.”
“We do wonder why a thorough investigation of the whole site had not taken place and why taxpayers/voters money has been wasted by only enforcing on the one lorry park, when there are two more on the same site.
“Planning applications demonstrate that the former modern Power Station Buildings total 8,036 square metres and that the application states that these buildings will be used by ICG for the ‘same broad range of uses’.
Add dimensions from the diagrams and photographs. These total nine buildings. The sum total of square metres for the nine buildings is 11,368 square metres and gives a final total of 19,404 square metres.
Information from the Valuation Office 2010-2015 shows quite clearly that ICG pay rates on 5610.48 square metres factory and premises. This differs in sizes and numbers of buildings.
A difference of 13,793.52 square metres which at the rate shown of £60 per metre equates to an additional rateable value of £827,611.20 per annum. Multiply this by five years and this is then an additional rateable value of £4,138,056. This is without including storage silos.
“In April 2011 the Valuation Office levied NNDR on two other unauthorised lorry parks on the same site at £15 per square metre, yet the Titan Lorry Park has no distinguished current NNDR liability, despite being enforced on as a lorry park. As said lorry park has been trading for four years this would result in an annual rateable value of approx £728,300 over a four year period totalling £2,892,000. However, the Valuation office does show that ICG pay rates on 50,000 square metres of hard surfaced fenced land at £4 per metre (£200,000) and 70,000 square metres of unsurfaced fenced land at 1.50 per metre (£105,000) attachment 4 refers.
“I would also point out that the 2005-2010 rate assessment shows that while factory and premises were rated at substantially higher rates, there was no assessment of business rates applied on any of the land on the ICG site.
As land size has not changed – only the amount of hardstanding and use – there is a further loss of revenue re business rates of at least 120,000 metres of land annually from 2005-2010. The current assessment shows this to be a total rateable value of £305,000 per annum. However, even if the land during this period was all unsurfaced it equates to 120,000 square metres at £1.50 per square metre – £180,000 which again over a five year period is a total rateable value of £900,000.
“Finally, this site is stated to be approx 30 hectares or 300,000 square metres; 2005-2010 rates were only being charged on less than one hectare and the 2 010-2015 assessment shows rates are only being paid on approx 13-13.5 hectares in total– leaving 16.5-17 hectares unaccounted for.
According to the PALS group, they received a response from the Thurrock Council planning dept that: ‘The Council is satisfied that the appropriate level of business rates is being levied across the site.’
PALS are not so sure. A spokesperson said: “I am now asking yet again how that can be and how can this have been for the last ten years when the system is that the planning department supply measurements to Thurrock rates department, who then apprise the Valuation Office in Chelmsford?
“I am sure all Thurrock residents and businesses who pay the correct level of council tax/business rates will have an interest in the long awaited response. Please note that this is in addition to ICG’s non payment of planning application fees on at least nine buildings and the lorry park, possible evasion of building control fees, S.106 monies and it appears they may have avoided paying highway contributions as per the E16 development brief.
“I would conclude by pointing out that by this not being addressed- a clear precedent re rates and planning may have been set that in industrial areas in Thurrock planning applications may not be necessary – no matter the size of the building- permitted development may be the norm and may not be challenged, at least not until after buildings have been up for over four years, by which time they will have gained operational development status and nothing can be done. In addition no-one will now be expected to pay a full and/or correct assessment of rates. All may cite ICG.