I attended Development Control Committee yesterday afternoon. Actually, I attended part of it. I left after just under three and a half hours, once the application I was interested in was dealt with.
Development is a contentious issue, and I do not envy the seventeen councillors tasked with scrutinising these. Aside from the occasional fraught nature of the proceedings, I was impressed with the somewhat tortuous process that meant that it took over an half and a half to just deal with the first item; there was something like twenty-one applications on the agenda.
Democratic oversight is important, and I would much rather see elected members deal with applications than officers whose accountability is zero.
The first application dealt with was in respect of land between Barge Pier Road and Ness Road. This land has already been granted planning permission for commercial purposes, and so could be concreted over in its entirety tomorrow. The application was to change this so that some houses could be built. I will be honest, I could see little wrong with the application. Flooding, of various types, was alluded to in the debate. The liability to flood must be less with housing as compared to factory units, you do not get gardens etc with commercial developments. Cllr Moyies (UKIP, West Shoebury) made an absurd reference to Archimedes. Archimedes’ displacement principle refers to measuring the mass of an object and has nothing to do with the dynamics of water flow. In the end the officer’s recommendation was rejected (5 votes to 11). It was then proposed that this item be deferred; this was carried by the Chair’s casting vote after a 6-6 tie.
Cllr Byford (Conservative, Eastwood Park) intervened to say that he was opposed because Essex is full up. This odd statement somewhat ignores the chronic housing shortage; I presume he is content to see the housing list remain as it is, to see aspirant home-owners perpetually denied, and to see youngsters staying at home indefinitely. Cllr Byford contributes little to debates normally, and after this intervention I see no reason to encourage him.
There was also mention made to the local infrastructure which is deemed inadequate to cope with the extra cars, school children, etc. There is merit in this argument, although a commitment to improving this in the east of the borough will only incentivise developers, in my humble opinion.
Cllr Moyies left muttering something about a lack of democracy. I am not sure what he objected to, it seemed an open and fair debate to me.
There was also a debate about a street tree in Salisbury Road (Leigh-on-Sea). This was also deferred (motion carried 11-0). I confess to not understanding why this was deferred. (I am also perplexed why we had abstentions in this and other votes – I thought we were elected to make decisions not pass the buck.)
And so onto the Shelter, Western Esplanade – otherwise known as The Leas or sun shelter. I was delighted that the officer’s recommendation was rejected and this application was refused. Cllr Jonathan Garston (Conservative, Milton) gave the most lucid speech I have heard him make, and I am grateful to him for his support. The vote to refuse was carried 11-5; three Tories, one Independent and a Liberal Democrat were content to see the erection of a single storey glazed rotunda above the shelter.