A GOVERNMENT planning inspector’s probe into a Thurrock Council enforcement action has backfired thanks to a red tape wrangle – leaving council tax payers facing a big legal bill and residents angry and frustrated reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
On Tuesday residents from Stanford-le-Hope turned up to have their say as demolition contractors Squibb attempted to overturn Thurrock Council enforcement action, which came with conditions.
The firm have angered residents by operating from an industrial site just outside the town centre on Wharf Road – with large vehicles, including low loaders carrying huge demolition equipment, thundering through residential areas.
Last year the Council’s planning committee ruled the site was operating illegally and issued an enforcement order on the site, insisting that it could only operate within daytime hours.
Squibb appealed, prompting the Planning Inspector’s inquiry, which was due to take place at the Civic Offices on Tuesday.
But with all sides set to have their say, the inspector ruled that he couldn’t proceed because of the complexities of planning law.
He announced that, while planning legislation does not prohibit the service of an enforcement notice with conditions, it restricted the actions he could take and he had no choice but to quash the enforcement notice and the Council are now left with the possibility of picking up Squibb’s big legal bill.
Local campaigner Terry Piccolo was left angry and dumbfounded, saying: “I have taken a day off work to represent residents, to fight against this menace and the blight on our lives but it appears somebody has not got their act together and now residents who just want some peace and quiet and safety and sanity in their lives are left facing the possibility of at least another year before this is sorted out – and we might have to pick up the tab for it as well.
“It is a shocking state of affairs and it is difficult to take in. I am so angry and disappointed and I know local residents will share those feelings.”
A spokesperson for Thurrock Council said: “The meeting of Thurrock’s planning committee of 7 July 2011 unanimously agreed: ‘That an enforcement notice be served to impose enforceable conditions on the site to mitigate any harm that is being caused from its use.’
“On Tuesday the Planning Inspector informed the Council and Squibb, on opening the proceedings, that while planning legislation does not prohibit the service of an enforcement notice with conditions, it restricted the actions he could take.
“The Council’s enforcement notice was a first. There was nothing illegal or wrong in it and the appellant’s legal team along with the inspectorate found nothing wrong with the approach but it could not stand as it was.
“The appeal was about the ‘excessive nature’ of the conditions.
“This restricted the action the Inspector could take and, he said, it left him no choice but to quash the Enforcement Notice because of this technicality. The Inspector apologised that this information was given on the day of the appeal. At the end of the proceedings, the appellants submitted a costs claim to the Inspectorate as expected and the council responded to this claim.
“A decision from the Inspectorate is expected in the next couple of weeks. “