Editorially Challenged? Untruths allowed to be spread, The Echo acts undemocratically!

The Echo newspaper, not so long ago an investigative weekday daily journal of some note, now appears more selective in the way it approaches and responds to local, Castle Point issues.

On the 16th April it reproduced a letter from local Green Belt campaigner and Castle Point Borough councillor S.Hart.

echo letter

This appears to be cllr Hart’s response to this Blog’s post “Castle Point Local Plan Consultation? Some Tweaks possible but – All we have left is a Fall!” dated April 11th and can be viewed HERE.

Being a regular subscriber, and noting that cllr Hart had accused the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group of spreading “untruths,” I expected that our local newspaper, the Echo having reproduced the allegation would afford the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group the right to reply.

We wrote:

Dear Sir,

I can only assume that Castle Point cllr Simon Hart is referring to the Canvey Green Belt Campaign Blog post in his letter “Local Plan is a draft, not adopted.” Having been accused publically by cllr Hart of spreading untruths, I hope I have the right to reply. We are fully aware that the document was voted for consultation, we have never said otherwise. What our post was attempting to explain was the gravity of having done so. Work on a Local Plan has been ongoing for in excess of 8 years with much effort and expense spent on producing and interpreting the evidence base.

The Canvey Green Belt group have closely followed and taken part in the process.

It was cllr Smith on introducing the Local Plan motion to full council who said ““no stone had been left unturned” and that “ a lot of time had been spent by councillors looking at every conceivable (housing) site in the Borough, both brownfield and greenfield.” He went on, however, this was the best Local Plan possible and “following consultation some “tweaking,” will need to be done, and was prepared to work with that.” Cllr Hart himself should recognise the evidenced truth before accusing others.

For cllr Hart to dismiss this amount of work as leading to “Only a Draft” is in itself misleading us residents. The draft identified “deliverable” Green Belt housing sites. The fact that local councillors and “professional” officers have issued a Plan for consultation will be explored at Appeal by developers, especially when CPBC are now exploring further, what appears, “developable” but less “deliverable” sites in preference to those already identified. CPBC must take care that the next version of the Local Plan that is published does not appear to be more “daft” than “draft.”

Canvey Green Belt Campaign group (name and address supplied).

The Echo chose, as is their right if of little or no relevance, not to print.

On re-sending the letter and pointing out that having been accused of spreading untruths a response should be allowed, the echo again chose to ignore the Canvey letter.

Further Editorial comment also call into question the Echo’s policies.

Recently the echo made much of the situation at Thorney Bay, photos and reporting “exposing” claims that the site was not fit for year long habitation and yet Local Authorities were accomodating people from across the Country in the static caravans.

The Editorial comment referred to;

“More to the point, the dispute is clouding consideration of the much bigger issue. Is human dumping, for want of a less stark word, taking place on Canvey?”

“Evidence is mounting that tenants are being placed in Thorney Bay by Councils outside Castle Point. If so, it means these local authorities are divesting themselves of responsibility for their own people, and passing it on to Castle point councillors – and tax payers.”

Fine words from the seemingly righteous Echo newspaper.

However in stark contrast to the comment is an advertisement that is reproduced on a regular basis in the Echo advert columns on behalf of Thorney Bay Park offering:

“Accommodation to Let, long or short term Homes available now!!! homes situated on a beautiful secure park with a beach front location.
Fully furnished and all services. Call our friendly staff. “

A case of double standards, entering the pages of a once exceptional newspaper, perhaps?

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4 responses to “Editorially Challenged? Untruths allowed to be spread, The Echo acts undemocratically!

  1. Editor
    I can relate to your frustration.
    I agree what should not be expected from a local paper, that decries in its Echo Comments column page 10 of Friday’s edition, the fact that Parliament needs to address the fact that millions of pounds are being made from the homeless and vulnerable, and then goes on to display the very advertisement on page 24 that welcomes housing benefit tenants on short and long stay terms!
    Its a strange situation indeed that we now have our local authority declaring that they know nothing about this issue, despite evidence to the contrary.
    The obvious question is, do they not see the advertising pages of the Echo?
    And, if they are completely unaware of the situation, HOW have they missed it?

  2. No political view point then. Steve ?
    Think you will find the local authority or its CEO actually, said ” the council have no rite to do other than pay benefits where they are asked to by tenants and agreed by government “

  3. Bill
    Thanks for responding to my comments I am some what confused that you find them political, paying housing benefits is not the issue.
    You, as a senior councillor would, or should, be aware that CPBC have a duty of care for all of its residents.
    The Authority needs to consider that it may be deemed complicit if it knowingly, having contributed towards allowing persons to be put at risk, should there be an incident resulting in humanitarian consequences.
    I feel that the residual risk of a hazardous event is reasonably proportionate to have expected CPBC to act appropriately. I express my concerns with good intent and most importantly having no political bias in doing so.

    • Thanks Bill, Steve.
      We are happy to acknowledge that subsequently the Echo have produced the fore-mentioned letter in response to Cllr Hart.
      To have spent so much time and effort, and indeed personal expense without the support of community expenses, members of our campaign group were stung by unfounded accusations of spreading untruths regarding the position of the Green Belt and CPBC Local Plan.
      We acknowledge efforts are being made to adjust the draft document.
      We are not convinced that these efforts have fallen short of a document withdrawal ahead of May.
      We recognise that these efforts will require some re-interpretation of evidence and investment in infrastructure that will limit the speed of alternative housing site delivery.
      We note however the implication this brings on the acceptance of housing need numbers, possibly 200 dwellings per annum.
      The constrained areas we are informed of within Green Belt and Flood Risk Zones appear not to have been fully committed to.
      Local Schools, roads and hospital infrastructure appear to be stretched, this in turn should be reflected in the areas ability to absorb migration led numbers.
      Now we have started investigating further Green Belt sites may well be sending the wrong message.
      We are being asked to wait and see and have faith.
      Is this asking too much of the residents of Castle Point?

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