CAMPAIGNING residents have expressed their disappointment after a controversial housing development was given the green light despite their objections – and those of council planning officers.
At a recent Thurrock Council planning meeting officers had recommended the rejection of an application to demolish existing buildings and build 11 houses on the site of Bentons Farm, Mollands Lane, South Ockendon reports the Enquirer
However, their objections, and those of campaign group OCRAG (Ockendon Concerned Residents’ Action Group) were outweighed by a majority of councillors after a lengthy debate.
Resident Derek Duke represented OCRAG and told the meeting: ”The officers have come up with a really good report that reflects the objections of the residents.This proposal is on two and a half times the existing building footprint and there will be 11 homes where at the moment there is one.”
Mr Duke also spoke about residents’ concern that if permission was granted there was no guarantee that trees cut down by the applicant and currently subject to an enforcement order for replacement, would ever be replaced. He said the new scheme replaced them with smaller and fewer tress than had been destroyed.
“There is an order to put back ten mature trees and this plan does not include this.”
He also expressed concerns that the views of local residents were not being considered, concluding: “The majority of people agreeing to this site don’t live anywhere near. They will not go anywhere near it yet the people objecting do live near it.”
When the item was debated, it was clear there were differing views among councillors.
Cllr Richard Speight spoke about the danger of setting an example by allowing an application that did not meet the authority’s standards, saying:”We have to make sure the proposals before us are of the highest quality. We shouldn’t lower standards.”
However, Cllr Barry Johnson reflected on the troubled history of the site and felt that something had to be done, despite the long list of objections put forward against the developers and owners of the site.
He said:”It’s been the bane of my life for years. If we were sitting here thinking about people’s behaviour and morals we would never pass anything.
“As a member of this planning committee I have to look at the bigger position. Ockendon needs new houses, not flats.”
Cllr Charles Curtis agreed, saying: ”This site has become a tip, something like this will clear it up.”
After a lengthy debate committee chairman Cllr Terry Hipsey summed up by saying the site was not really in the greenbelt in the truest sense, saying: ”When you look at this site on Google Earth, to the east, north and south there is development. By developing it I can’t see how the openness of the greenbelt is going to be damaged.”
When it came to a vote, the officer recommendation was overturned by four votes to three. After a brief adjournment Cllr Tunde Ojetola proposed the site application should be approved, though he struggled to find words to justify the special circumstances required to build in the greenbelt and in the end the wording was left to officers to compile, much to the consternation of members of OCRAG in the public gallery who afterwards issued a statement of their “disgust”.