“Is the council planning department still alive?” asks lorry park lawyer

THIS was the first question that the Titan Lorry Park lawyer asked planning consultant Russell Forde on the second day of the public inquiry into the unauthorised lorry park in Oliver Road, West Thurrock.

For the first day and a half there had been constant references to meetings, e-mails, telephone calls that planning supremos Bill Newman and Andrew Millard had had with a variety of people involved with the matter, so it was a slightly exasperated Mr Lowe who used this question as an opening salvo in his examination of Mr Forde.

Mr Forde replied that he wasn’t up to speed with the state of health of the planning officers at Thurrock Council.

In front of a gallery with members of the Parents against Lorry Parks, Mr Forde fielded a number of questions regarding the park which is the subject of an enforcement notice in relation to a number of its activities.

He outlined that the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation (DC) and Thurrock Council had two plans for the borough: The Masterplan and the Local Development Framework (LDF). The plan was that they would both dovetail into a coherent plan.

It was here that he began his critique of the lorry park.

“Their plans are flawed. There is no reference to strategic nature of riverside and no connectivity with other developments.

“This area has been marked out as a key economic hub in the whole of the country. There is more to being part of a logistics area than concrete and razorwire.

He added: “This has been built and developed according to the lowest common denominator. If you look at the aerial shots it appears that they have done nothing to it.

Under cross examination, Mr Forde confirmed that the presence of ICG in Oliver Road had been welcomed by Thurrock Council and confirmed that 22% of jobs in the Thurrock area were dependent on the logistics industry.

Mr Forde said: “But what you have here, to all intents is simply a park. Neighbouring applications from Proctor and Gamble and the Co-Op are “by the book” applications with higher environmental expectations.

Earlier in the day, ICG’s planning consultant Brian Pooley gave some stark warnings if the enforcement went ahead.

He said: “We could comply in 28 days but there would be total chaos in the borough with lorries everywhere including up streets but severe implications for jobs.

“He added. You will have a situation where Thurrock may not have a lorry park until 2014.”

Mr Pooley reaffirmed that there was a stark contrast between the DC’s officer Nigel Hepburn’s attitude which was “one of enforcement” to the council’s Andrew Millard which was “one of support.”

Mr Pooley outlined a number of meetings with council members and officers. He was probed on several occasions as to why they did not put in a full request for planning permission. One reason proffered was: “Planning permission is difficult in Thurrock. Outside it is different.”

ICG lawyer Mr Lowe read out several testimonies from companies in England and France which stressed the importance of the Titan lorry park to their business.

The inquiry continues.

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