Basildon Council Bypasses Its Own Planning Committee

Sometimes planning meetings aren’t simply about passing something or refusing it. They are about suggesting improvements in the layout. A good example of this was back in the 80s with the Downhall Park Way Development . The Lib Dem ward councillors at that time got the layout altered in a number of places , to minimise the impact on neighbours. So , for example, they got the plan altered so that one family didn’t get seven lots of gardens adjoining their own garden. This was done at the full planning committee.

No such niceties nowadays in Basildon, according to the Yellow Advertiser:

BASILDON Council has approved detailed plans for the first phase of the Dry Street development, without holding a public meeting.

The decision was taken behind closed doors under delegated powers, at the suggestion of Tory planning committee chair Carole Morris.

Tory councillors overruled opposition members in 2013 to grant outline planning permission for 725 homes on green space off of Nethermayne and Dry Street.

The permission meant that more detailed plans would have to be signed off at a later date.

In an email sent to committee members on August 28, Mrs Morris said she did not wish the new, detailed plans to be discussed publicly as she felt residents ?do not understand? the process.

She wrote: “The council rules allow for reserved matters applications to be decided by delegation. In this case I feel that it is the wisest course, as members of the public do not understand the differences between what can and what cannot be taken into consideration and would expect to discuss whether to build or not.”

Cllr Morris also implied that she feared the committee – on which Tory members are now outnumbered – might fail to grant permission.

Since outline permission was granted, Basildon Council has voted by majority to pass a motion expressing regret at the decision.

She continued: “As we all know, the only matters that are considered are things like appearance, layout, landscaping and scale, which have not previously been considered.

“Because of this, I would not be able to allow [residents] to speak, as any attempt to revisit the matters which have already been decided could mean that the applicant go make a legal challenge, something to be avoided as it could cost the council a lot of money….

…..Labour?s Alan Bennett called it an ?abuse of power?.

He said: “The option to bring a huge development like this before the committee – and this is the biggest development in Basildon – means that if a developer has missed something out or bodged something up, local councillors can have some input, make suggestions for conditions and make sure they get the right development for residents. But none of that can now happen in this case.”

Full article here.

  • We are truly living in dangerous times when you read such abuses of process and power by ‘tin-pot’ Councillors that have probably only got a couple of hundred votes from the District in order to get elected. Like I have written before George Orwell had it bang to rights with his Animal Farm.

  • This is outrageous , a deliberate circumnavigation of due diligence and an insight into how those in power consider the electorate as beneath them intellectually.
    But the key point here is the same as the recent RDC moves , this is primarily
    to achieve planning approval in order to avoid Developer Appeal court costs –
    nothing to do with the merit of the plan one way or another.
    Seems to be that ( bouyed by the General Election result ) this manoeuvre is
    now Tory Party policy to push on with Boris’s expansion of London – it needs
    to be exposed in the National Press via an opposition Party ( Admin ? ).

  • Residents are right to complain about this move by Basildon and whilst the technical basis is different to the situation at Rochford the result from the perspective of residents is the same.

    In the case at Rochford the decision on whether the Council should defend an Appeal or not was, to my mind, in Exempt because specific outcomes in terms of potential costs were included in the Officer Report.

    But in the case at Basildon the mechanism for deciding detailed planning conditions was allegedly deployed for only political reasons because the decision on those detailed conditions might not have gone the way of the Administration. It is not known, of course, whether the detailed conditions that might have been passed could have given rise to an Appeal and potential costs.

    So my further interest in this case is whether the Delegated powers on planning decisions at Basildon leave these to be solely to be determined by Officers or Portfolio Holders intervened.

    There are Delegated powers at Rochford but I believe from a recent enquiry of mine on another small case that the delegation scheme is defined so that the situation devised at Basildon cannot be repeated in Rochford at least.

    But I will be checking as I am sure will Chris Black.

  • By my reckoning, the Conservatives are in a minority on the council, so it seems to me that the other parties should have been able to do something to prevent this – if they so wished. That seems even more worrying to me!

  • Brian – unfortunately it is the other way round by a long way , what could swing a vote against the ruling Conservatives is if all LD / Green / Labour / Ind /UKIP/ Ind Tory plus most the Rayleigh Tory Councillor’s combined to defend
    Rayleigh in the coming re-vote on Countryside’s proposal.
    However the party whip will be applied and most will do as they are told..