Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group members joined the large crowd of Jotmans farm residents to witness the expected Refusal of the planning proposal.
The Council chamber and atrium was packed and the “audience” cheered and clapped almost every speaker.
In previous meetings under the previous chairman this would have been noted as possible intimidation of the committee members and nipped in the bud.
The debate was an opportunity for councillors to voice their concerns on this development that would if approved alter the face of west Benfleet. However, with what I believe was a 10 vote unanimous decision, the proposal was refused.
Councillors expressed their desire to oppose and fight all development proposals, wherever they are sited within the Borough, Benfleet, Hadleigh, Thundersley even Canvey Island.
This is a remarkable turn around as many of these councillors were the ones that in their effort to protect their own ward Green Belt sites actually put forward Canvey’s Dutch Village as the preferred development option within the “unsound” Core Strategy.
In fact the thought crossed my mind that if Persimmon had not been misled and encouraged by Castle Point Council over the Dutch Village, they may have behaved differently where Jotmans Farm is concerned.
It was suggested that the developer had failed to attend a pre-application meeting.
However the local authority are hardly blameless, if I remember correctly they failed to inform the Glebelands developer of the date of the development committee meeting in which their proposal was to be discussed!
Listening closely to what certain leading councillors had to say, it was clearly apparent that what is most relevant, is what they don’t say!
There are too many rumours around of what is actually planned for the Jotmans Farm area to view the committee meeting as anything other than an opportunity to reclaim some of the political ground lost to UKIP.
No doubt most councillors expressed their true feelings, but the bigger picture, what is proposed beyond the 5 year housing supply within the emerging Local Plan, was not addressed last night.
As far as the Development Committee was concerned, there was no need, they were there to discuss only the planning proposal in front of them.
Inevitably the applicant will go to appeal, eating into the £1.3m fund “set aside” to fight such appeals.
Unfortunately money will not save our Green Belt, only sound planning argument will, something some councillors failed to include within their rhetoric yesterday!
Whether by going to appeal on this proposal will send a message to the High Court, due to consider the Glebelands challenge, may well be a further unwelcome lowering of the profile of our local authority!
Well done and the best of luck from Canvey Green Belt Campaigners, to all of the residents who took the trouble to turn up at the Council offices to support their cause.