Hockley Residents’ Association (HRA) – Council exposes tax payers to massive compensation

September 22, 2006 by  

RDC have refused to consider HRA complaints, before the Development Control Committee meeting next Thursday, that the Pond Chase Mushroom Farm planning application has not been properly processed. The application is to convert part of a mushroom farm in the Green Belt into industrial units.

Once granted, planning permission cannot be rescinded. This means that if RDC or the Local Ombudsman subsequently uphold the complaints, RDC could face massive compensation bills from home owners whose properties have lost value as a result of the change of use.

The HRA has appealled to RDC to reconsider and to try and avoid this risk. Councillors cannot make informed decisions if the information they are given is incomplete, inaccurate and misleading. Its fool-hardy to take the risk of large compensation claims.

The building in question started this planning application (in the applicant’s own words) as “a shed which is inefficient”. Two months later, in the latest RDC report, its suddenly become “a substantial buiilding”! . How can this be?

The answer is, of course, that the Government’s planning criteria (Planning Policy Guidance 2 – PPG2) requires that Green Belt agricultural buildings must be capable of conversion without major structural work. Residents spoke of using this as a planning objection at last week’s meeting of the Hockley Residents Association (HRA). Suddenly, within days, RDC have changed the description. Why?

Similarly, in the August report it stated that no additional hard surfacing was required. The latest report (page 9 para 2.3) now reverses this without comment or explanation. You have to check report line by line to spot the changes.

Residents are also angry that:

  • RDC Planning originally proposed to approve this via the weekly non-contentious list, despite having received over 60 objections.
  • The council quoted 7 different planning policies 13 times when opposing a similiar application last month but only mention 1 policy 3 times in this case, so residents are concerned that councillors are not being fully briefed.
  • What lengths will RDC go to to support this piecemeal application?

Brian Guyett
Chairman, Hockley Residents Association



One Response to “Hockley Residents’ Association (HRA) – Council exposes tax payers to massive compensation”
  1. admin says:

    Councillors failed to represent our views

    I recently attended a Rochford District Council development control committee meeting at the Civic Suite, in Rayleigh.

    I went to listen to the debate and hear the decision on an application to change a redundant farm building at Pond Chase Nurseries in Folly Lane, Hockley, into light industrial units.

    The meeting was attended by possibly more than 50 residents with homes close to the site, who have strong objections.

    During the meeting, my attention was drawn to the attitudes of committee chairman Simon Smith and head of planning and transportation, Shaun Scrutton.

    Each time a councillor raised an objection, they seemed to look at each other with a big smirk and dismiss the argument.

    This was even more pronounced when it was time for the public to have its say.

    Three speakers were allowed, Richard Vingoe (chairman of Hockley Parish Council), Kate Jennings (the agent acting for the applicant) and Brian Guyett (chairman of Hockley Residents’ Association).

    All three were told their speech could not exceed five minutes. I couldn’t help noticing Mr Scrutton set a timer at the beginning of Messrs Vingoe and Mr Guyett’s speeches.

    He also made sure the chairman interrupted to say the final minute their allotted time had started and stopped them at exactly the last second.

    When Mrs Jennings gave her speech, I did not see or hear this timer being set.

    I was glad, at the end of Mr Vingoe’s and Mr Guyett’s speeches, the public gave a huge round of applause. About three people clapped at the end of Mrs Jennings’s speech.

    Many strong arguments were raised against the development, the strongest being the extra traffic on local roads, already stretched beyond capacity.

    These arguments were countered in a report sent to councillors hours before the meeting, with details of theoretical figures for increased traffic.

    These were based on countrywide averages and did not take into account the nature of small country roads such as those surrounding the site.

    They also did not take current traffic, which often includes large, articulated lorries into account.

    The council put the proposal to a vote, and it tied 13 for and 13 against.

    Mr Smith, as chairman, then gave his casting vote in favour of the application, despite our strong objections.

    I always thought councillors were elected by the public to support public views. Everybody I know who lives around Folly Lane strongly objects to this development.

    Numerous letters of objection were sent. Hockley Parish Council and Hockley Residents’ Association, both submitted detailed objections and no substantial argument was presented in support of the application.

    Yet the council still allowed it, apparently without listening to the people who elected it and who will be affected the most.

    I always thought a local council was there to look after the interests of local residents.

    Rochford District Council appears to be nothing short of a dictatorship in what is supposed to be a democratic age.

    Chris Teeder
    Hawthorne Gardens

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