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Complaint made over committee’s decision
Monday, 13 August 2012
ANGRY: Councillor Dave Blackwell has submitted a formal complaint to the chief executive. Picture by Mark Cleveland
PLANNING chiefs who supported a Thundersley housing development will be investigated following a complaint.
Castle Point councillor Dave Blackwell has made a formal complaint to council chief executive David Marchant against planning committee chairman Bill Dick and a senior council officer Steve Rogers after permission was granted to build houses on a designated wildlife site.
Councillors approved plans to build 150 dwellings on a designated Local Wildlife Site in Thundersley at a meeting last Tuesday.
Essex Wildlife Trust and the Essex Badger Group objected to the plans after five badger setts were found on the site.
More than 90 concerned residents filled the council offices to hear the application.
The application was initially refused on the night, after six of the 11 councillors voted against. But the vote was changed – when councillor Simon Hart backed down – after Mr Dick insisted the council had no reasonable grounds to object.
Mr Blackwell attempted to block the application’s approval on the grounds that it was a wildlife area. He also pointed out that a similar application in 2010 had been rejected by both the council and then an inspector at appeal for the same reason.
But Mr Dick told the council that this was not allowed, as a negative impact on wildlife was no longer a ‘planning consideration’.
Mr Dick’s view was not challenged by planning officer Mr Rogers.
“It was a very sad day for democracy,” Mr Blackwell said. “I have made a formal complaint about both Mr Dick and Mr Rogers because I believe they have inadvertently allowed members to think we would lose an appeal. This is not the case.”
Conservative councillor Norman Ladzrie said he was also considering making a formal complaint. He said: “I feel the way the meeting
was run for the first two agenda items was
When asked about Mr Blackwell’s concerns, Mr Dick said: “If I’ve made a misjudgement, I’ve made a misjudgement.”
Papers presented to the committee seemed to support Mr Blackwell’s view. The 1998 Local Plan stated that: “The council will refuse development which is prejudicial to the interests of all wildlife and the retention and management of important habitats.”
A previous planning application on the same piece of ground was rejected in May 2010, against officers’ recommendations, because councillors were concerned about ‘unacceptable impact on wildlife’.
The developer appealed, but an inspector upheld the council’s decision in April 2011.
n Turn to page 3 for more.
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