Friday, April 12, 2024

"Less is more grief" say Stanford residents over planning application

LESS is more grief was the message from Stanford-le-Hope residents to Thurrock planners over a new homes development in the town reports the Thurrock Enquirer.

Approval had previously been given for 19 dwellings on the site of one existing, burnt-out bungalow on Branksome Avenue, but applicant Jason Allen came back to Thursday’s meeting with a changed plan, containing one new home less – but also proposed a number of changes to the original scheme including cutting back on the number of trees and some siting changes for garages.

That prompted protests from residents, reflected in an address by local ward councillor James Halden who said: “The residents have worked with the developer in good faith and thought they were getting a quality development but they have been let down.”

Councillors heard that planning officers were recommending approval for the new scheme despite the changes and at the end of the debate agreed to approve the plan, though they added some ‘beefed up’ requirements for screening.

In addition to losing one dwelling, the new scheme featured design changes to a number of the permitted properties and moving a number of garages nearer to existing residents, a number of whom were in the chamber to hear the debate and applaud Cllr Halden.

He said: “The site had obviously always been earmarked for development. Residents weren’t delighted by that but were pleased it was high quality design and fewer buildings than it might have been. They feel they have engaged with good faith with the developers and now had the rug pulled from beneath their feet.

“The new plan shows far fewer trees and the plans have been devastated. The further aesthetic changes also change the eyeline. Residents thought they were getting a quality development but are not now.

“The applicant has got permission for quality housing and does not need to change this application, making undesirable changes. It is a small change for the developer but a huge change for the residents, who are not asking for this development to be pulled apart, but they would like their quality of life respected by going with the original development.

“The changes are the difference between a development within the local community or one that is an overbearing concrete jungle. It will have a large impact on residents’ quality of life.”

There was opposition to the whole scheme, despite it having been given permission for development previously from UKIP councillors Chris Baker and Kevin Wheeler, both said they thought the development was wrong.

Cllr Baker said: “It seems to me that this is a massive great property development built on people’s back gardens” while Cllr Wheeler added: “Surely it’s about time we stopped doing this? There are already lots of developments in Stanford that people can’t afford and yet I don’t see anything about affordable housing here, this is getting ridiculous. It beggars belief that we are building on gardens.”

Planning officer Jonathan Keen confirmed that the Council have waived any necessity for the applicant to include affordable housing in the scheme as it was not financially viable.

Cllr Brian Little expressed his frustration about developers returning “time and time again” to the committee with changes to already agreed plans.

He said: “We have people changing their minds on things they have approved previously. We got the developer here to make meaningful changes to his original plan but here we are, discussing the same thing again. It’s frustrating that people think they can get away with a different plan when they have got permission already. I am not very happy about this.”

Cllr Tunde Ojetola asked officers: “Was there any consideration given to building a hedge to create some sort of demarcation or privacy for the residents?”

Summing up, and proposing approval, committee chair Cllr Terry Hipsey said: “I will reiterate Thurrock Council has to develop 18,500 homes by 2021. That is the serious number we are looking at. There is a national policy that allows builders to knock down one house and pack it. Originally there were 40 odd dwellings passed on this area. It’s now down to 18. If this went to the planning inspectorate on appeal you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”


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