PLANS to ‘dispose’ of a parcel of land in Stanford-le-Hope neighbouring The Crooked Billet Public House, took a step closer last week following a meeting which saw the incumbent Labour Cabinet agree with officer recommendations to the sale of the land for £340,000 for a new sporting use. Now that the sale has been agreed in principle, planning permission is the next hurdle for the redevelopment of the site.
Conservative councillor for Stanford West, Shane Hebb said “I asked the Labour Cabinet to consider deferring the decision to approve sale of Billet Field, Stanford-le-Hope, so we could ask the correct Overview & Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise the disposal recommendation before an executive sell-off decision. A large part of this was for the council to satisfy itself that all checks and balances have been observed in this asset disposal process to-date. There is significant local concern over this sale-off, and it needs addressing”.
However, the Labour Cabinet refused this request and have consented to the sale of the land pending planning permission being secured by the lead developer, East Thurrock United Football Club.
The Tory councillor is worried that local residents views are not being considered in enough detail: “There are massive concerns from the Stanford community, which have been made in representations of written form and via a petition of 184 local people”, notes Cllr Hebb.
“The questions people are asking are: a) is the cost / value to the taxpayer of asset disposal right; b) now we know about the covenant that once was, can we protect sporting usage of this parcel of land; and c) whether the public’s viewpoints have been adequately considered in this disposal plan.
“To say that the covenant was only ever in place for 10 years so isn’t a “material factor” goes to show how much Labour have misread the local feeling. If I have had one letter saying that local residents are against the sale, I’ve had a hundred. All they want is a voice in the matter”.
Drawing contrasts with the sale of King Street, Shane Hebb wants a more of a ‘two way, rather than a one way’ debate about strategic land sales.
“Residents deserve an opinion, and should be heard when there is one message of complete worry from the local community. The Sand Pits car-park was sold for pittance as part of the Labour’s Asset Disposal program and I do not want this land sold just to balance this council’s books. It is hard to convince residents that the council is taking their views seriously when their requests for more scrutiny are ignored”.
Applying for planning permission is likely to be the next step for the local football club who seek to relocate, whereby resident engagement in a planning application process is arguably easier than a land-disposal decision.
“We have two groups of passionate people who want to best for their local field – one being the local residents, the other being the football club. I hope to see a sound debate in the coming months about what merits this land sale could have, but most importantly, I want the people of Stanford to be given a forum to be listened to”, says Cllr Hebb. “It is only fair to do this for something so precious to the local area”.