Ockendon resident: “Understanding planning is like a Danny Kaye film…..”

COUNCILLORS on Thurrock’s planning committee were treated to some vintage film rhetoric by an objector to planned new housing development in South Ockendon.

Local resident Tony Alford brought colour to the meeting in his eloquent lambasting of council planning documents as he expressed his opposition to plans for 11 new homes in place of existing derelict buildings at Kemps Farm off Dennises Lane.

Mr Alford said he had no personal objection to the applicant, who he got on well with, he felt the application itself was poorly constructed, full of jargon and was misleading – meaning residents who studied it had no real sense of what was happening.

He told members at last Thursday’s meeting: “My objection has been the paper chase. I was educated by the Jesuits and I have got a degree It seemed to me I got lost in this mishmash of policy guidelines, some of which were obsolete, some of which referred to Brown Belt, some of which referred to Green Belt.

“There was this inference that seemed to drag in halfway through about our area being residential but certainly anyone who was writing a report ought to have come and asked us if we regard it as residential.

“For example we don’t have mains drainage, we have been without telephone service for a considerable period this year. It sounds as if I’m exaggerating but If I have a shower and my next door neighbour turns on a washing machine I get third degree burns. This is not a residential area.

“I find it impossible to get through the jargon in this application. I got lost in the mish-mash of documents.

Where you this type of amalgam. You have to wonder what it’s there for. You start to think are we talking about the chalice from the palace or the vessel with the pestle when you are seeing references to one policy and references to another. Is this to elucidate us, to help us make decisions or is it to confuse us?

“As an ordinary layman I’d like to think that people do have the best motives but I would also think that someone willing to spend less time on this than I have would have given up the ghost after a few pages. As W.C. Fields said: ‘I’d rather have been in Philadelphia.’

“Other parts are like “the vessel with the pestle” scene out of the Danny Kaye film (see below).

“That’s my objection, I think this document is misleading and I hope you regard it as much a waste of your time as much as it has been a waste of my time going through it.

Mr John Pittaway addressed members on behalf of the applicant, saying: “In considering this application it must not be forgotten that the outbuildings at Kemps Farm are grade two listed and therefore both the national policy framework and local development framework encourage their preservation and suitable re-use.

“As acknowledged in the report the building are deteriorating and their reuse should be welcomed.

“The submitted planning statement also refers to the housing delivery which can be seen contributing towards the five year housing land supply. In 2010 just 88 new homes were delivered in Thurrock, while sites like this will not solve the housing shortfall, they are important.

“The officers’ report refers to concern over parking and landscaping but these are not insurmountable and can be overcome by planning conditions.

“The site is positioned in the Green Belt and the applicant acknowledges he needs to avoid encroaching into the Green Belt. This proposal restores existing buildings and will not increase the footprint.

“In conclusion the applicant has sought to work with Thurrock Council and its heritage advisors to create a sustainable development and believes the scheme balances the need for a viable use with the need to preserve this heritage asset.”

After being questioned by Cllr Tunde Ojetiola about why he believed the plan was an improvement on previous submitted schemes, Mr Pittaway said it was because the design had been drawn up with the advice of heritage officers and was more suitable to the character of the area. Cllr Ojetola expressed his surprise that an application had been submitted because of the location, saying: “You have been advised that this in Green Belt but you don’t seem to have taken that advice. ”

Cllr Phil Anderson wanted to know why the applicant had gone for a high density of smaller homes rather than larger homes, Mr Pittaway said he had been advised that the demographics of the area warranted smaller houses.

Cllr Martin Healy sought clarification on utilities, prompted by the local knowledge of Mr Alford and he wondered if new occupiers would have to “draw their water from the well.” Mr Pittaway said he believed if he got permission, the utility companies were obliged to provide the appropriate services.

The issue of utilities was raised by Cllr Barry Johnson who suggested that if the problems could be overcome, it would be worth members visiting the site and he called for a site visit.

That was welcomed by chairman Cllr Terry Hipsey who said it would be nice to see what this application is all about as he wouldn’t want to lose more historic buildings in the Borough.

The call for a site visit was approved and councillors will now visit the site after deferring a decision on the scheme, which would create three one bedroom homes, four two bedroom ones and four with three bedrooms.

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