A COUNCILLOR gained wholehearted support from across the political divide following his call for an inquiry into Thurrock’s planning department reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
Neil Speight, Independent councillor for Stanford-le-Hope West, called for an extraordinary council meeting to demand an investigation into the department which he said was blighting businesses and residents.
At the meeting on Thursday, cllr Speight said Thurrock’s planning system was “shambolic”. He said: “Applications, even of the most simple kind, take two years or more to pass through the system. There is blatant warfare in the chamber between officers and councillors.
“Legal officers dither over advice, or they are not being present to offer it. There has been ridiculous delays over the processing of paperwork, particularly that related to section 106 agreements.”
Cllr Speight added: We have seen developers play the system, twist the rules
“At the other end of the planning scale we have seen small businesses go to the wall, waiting for planning decisions that never come through as the ever whirling door of the planning office sees officers come and go with monotonous regularity – meaning their case work has to start all over again.
And architects and builders, who rely on the work, have also struggled to carry on.”
Cllr Speight said the council had paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for officers to deliver a local plan since 2015 but it is still not complete.
Luke Spillman, Conservative councillor for Ockendon, said: “I think it would be hard to challenge this motion in any way. It’s eminently sensible. There are definitely problems within Thurrock. There’s no doubt about that. My concern with planning full stop is the planning system is dysfunctional across the entire country.
“The great value of this, shining the light on our system, is that it will bring up the total farce that the national planning system is. The whole system is broken and needs root and branch reform. The system was built for a bygone age and it’s about time we had a proper discussion to get it sorted.”
At cabinet meeting on Wednesday, council leader Andrew Jefferies, criticised Mr Speight for calling for a council meeting which was likely to cost £3,000 rather than just questioning cabinet.
At the council meeting, Mr Speight said emails to cabinet had gone unanswered and the Independent group would forgo their allowances until the cost was paid.
Cllr Speight’s motion calls on Thurrock Council to commission a fully independent inquiry into the management and achievements of Thurrock Council’s planning department since 2015 – with its remit to produce a year-by-year performance analysis.
All 39 councillors present supported the motion with no abstentions.