Southend Tories accused of misleading residents over use of green belt land

A complaint has been lodged over a letter sent out to Shoebury residents accusing Conservative councillors of lying over the use of green belt land in the Local Plan.

Independent Shoebury councillors Nick Ward and Steve Wakefield sent a letter on council headed notepaper accusing Conservatives of misleading residents over the issue of building on green belt land off Bournes Green Chase.

The letter said: “When the local Conservatives told you it was the current administration that was proposing to build on green belt land, this was a mistruth (sic). We, as anybody, do not want any more expansion of housing on green belt land but by default are forced to continue with a future proposal to be in place over the next two years.

“If not, the Conservative Government would put one in place for us. It doesn’t matter who has control of the administration, they cannot stop a future housing plan.”

It adds: “For the local Conservatives to accuse this administration on planning to build on green belt land, which is their own Government’s plans, which they themselves pushed forward with a future plan in 2018, is utterly disgraceful.”

Cllr Ward said: “People should know the consultation is out there at the moment. We want as many people to fill that in as possible so we can put some weight behind the Government trying to build 23,500 homes. It’s crazy to think we can build that many houses.

“The Government has got to try and stop using the algorithm because it’s not one-size-fits-all. Tony Cox should be putting a letter out as well. The Government is also trying to stop third party appeals on planning applications. How is that democracy?

“We should be shouting from every tree top that they are trying to build anything they want anywhere they want.

“I knew this would upset a few councillors but only because we let the cat out of the bag. They should be working with us on this, not against us.”

Conservative group leader, Cllr Tony Cox, maintains the green belt was only included in preliminary work on the local plan when his group were in power.

He said: “I have to say I haven’t seen a greater work of fiction since the last Harry Potter book. Using this letter head is not allowed. It’s quite explicit, if it is a political point and not just their work as councillors, it’s not allowed.

“They aren’t allowed to use it for party political uses and we have made a formal complaint.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter