RESIDENTS in EAST Tilbury have spoken of their anger after planning permission permission was given for lorries to continue tipping soil at the former Mucking Tip for another four years.
Members of Thurrock Council’s planning Committee were barracked from the public gallery of the Civic Chamber as they ‘reluctantly’ approved the application by tip owners Cory Environmental.
The decision ultimately fell to acting committee chairman Martin Healy to make as just four councillors were able to vote on the issue and they were split 50-50, Cllrs Phil Anderson and Charlie Curtis voting against granting permission and Cllrs Healy and Steve Liddiard backing their officers’ recommendation to approve.
Cllr Healy, standing in for the absent chair Cllr Terry Hipsey, said he would approve the scheme – immediately being subject to a barrage of abuse from the placard-waving protesters in the gallery.
Among them was independent ward councillor John Purkiss who wasted little time in slating Labour councillor Healy, saying: “Martin Healy has just subjected all the residents of East Tilbury to another four years of misery. This committee is a joke.”
Cllr Purkiss’s independent ward colleague, Cllr Barry Palmer, had been barred from casting his vote as a member of the planning committee because he had predeclared his opposition to the application.
This was described by members of the residents’ protest group as an outrage against democracy with one resident shouting out: ”It’s shameful he can’t speak. That’s what we voted him in for.”
The application had been deferred from a meeting in November when councillors decided to make a site visit to examine the problems on narrow approach roads to the tip – but just one councillors made the trip. On the night of December’s meeting, because of the complex rules of the planning committee, only four members of the committee were able to vote, having been present at the first meeting.
That promoted a discussion among councillors about the credibility of the decision-making process – and even of the right for its members to speak during the meeting.
One member initially banned from speaking was Tory Cllr Tunde Ojetola, a full time member of the committee but absent from November’s meeting, but after legal consultation he was told he could speak but not vote. Cllrs Richard Speight, Shane Hebb and Cllr Hipsey attended the first meeting but not the second. Cllr Sue Gray stepped in as a Labour substitute member but she too wasn’t able to vote.
When the debate on the application got under way, with several strongly-worded interruptions from the gallery that meant a security officer was called into the meeting and at least one resident threatened with ejection, Cllr Anderson wanted to know if the Council could take over the job of restoring the site, get it done quickly and then send the bill to Cory.
Legal officer Philip Cunliffe-Jones told him it was possible but wasn’t an action he could recommend, saying: “It is not an attractive remedy. I have known it used but very rarely because of the delay and difficulties in recovering the cost.”
Cllr Healy told the meeting: “I understand the emotions of this and people saying ‘How long must this go on’.
“It is just unacceptable and I feel for the people of East Tilbury.”
However, he felt he had to abide by the recommendations of planning officers and believed that in the absence of a viable alternative, the authority had no option but to grant permission.
Cllr Anderson did his bet to find that alternative but in the end could only speak of his frustration, saying: “Over the years the applicant has had a very clear set of obligations – they have broken them all.
“They have caused real harm to people’s lives. In other circumstances there would be a remedy but it seems we have absolutely no power to do anything about it. We seem to be in a position where there is no remedy and no compensation for the fact that Cory have broken their conditions.
“We are powerless and I cannot understand why the law can put us in a position where they can get away with it.”
His words were echoed by Labour councillor Charlie Curtis who called on his colleagues to be brave, saying: “Let’s stop the lorries and tell Cory they have to bring the rest in by river.”
However, his plea went unheeded and on the chair’s casting decision, permission was granted.
Cory now have four years to complete restoration of the site and bring in the materials to cover the tip – however, Cllr Palmer, who had been unable to speak in the chamber, summed up the mood outside saying: “I don’t expect them to keep to their word about that either. We will be back here in four years when they want more time. It’s a disgrace and it flies in the face of democracy, common sense and everything that is right.
“We, as councillors, are supposed to be able to represent and protect our residents but when it comes down to it the law doesn’t support that and big business like Cory gets to ride over the needs of local people and can just continue to ruin their lives.
“It makes me very, very sad.”
I am not suprised by Healy voting in favour at all.
Having lived about a mile from the tip for most of my life and being run off the road twice by lorries around the tip I cannot believe they have been granted an extension on an extension etc.
This should have been done via the river, Cory has made it’s money from the site and now wants to the easy cheap option in restoring it.
The fact Cllr Palmer was not allowed to vote is farcical, lost a lot more respect for local government today, and I wasn’t a fan anyway.