The following letter from a Hockley resident was published in yesterday’s Echo:
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.