The application to convert a mushroom shed into 4 light industrial units was passed by the District Council Development Control Committee last Thursday evening. But the voting couldn’t have been closer….
There was standing room only in the public gallery , with about 60 people watching. The first speaker was Richard Vingoe, on behalf of Hockley Parish Council (Parish Councils can address the Development Control Committee on applications they think are important). He outlined resident’s concerns, especially about traffic. He also pointed out that although County Highways had not objected to this application, they had said that they would recommend refusal of any further industrial applications on this site because of the likely increase in traffic.
The next speaker was the first member of the public to speak at one of these meetings. It was a proud moment for the the Lib Dem councillors – we had campaigned for a long time to achieve this , despite Conservative opposition.What it means is that one person can speak in favour of an application for up to 5 minutes, and then one person can speak against.
So the first ever public speaker was a Ms Kate Jennings, on behalf of the applicants. She said that the mushroom shed owners had lost a contract, and so had to reduce mushroom production. She also said that this was one of only 35 buildings on the 4.3 acre site. They intended to market these units for start-up businesses. She emphasised that Highways had no objection.
The next speaker was Brian Guyett , another ‘member of the public’ and chairman of Hockley Residents Association. He described the proposed use of the shed as ‘wholly inappropriate’ and queried why officers had only referred to one policy with regard to this application when they had referred to 7 with the Beauty Salon application at the last meeting.
The first councillor to speak was the ward member, Cllr Liv Hungate. She said that residents were most concerned about the effect on traffic and the industrial nature of the application. “Road networks in this area are stretched to breaking point”. She eventually moved refusal of the application on the grounds that it was” A major application inappropriate in a quiet residential setting in the Green Belt” This was seconded by her husband, Cllr Colin Hungate.
This reason for refusal ran into trouble with officers, who said the only real possible grounds for refusal were on traffic grounds, so the the reason for refusal was altered to that.
There were several other speakers, notably Cllrs Terry Cutmore, Chris Black and Chris Lumley.
When it came to a vote, the councillors were evenly split – 13 for refusal, 13 against refusal. So it went to the chairman’s casting vote – and Simon Smith voted against refusal.
So the scheme was passed, and a lot of Hockley residents clearly went away feeling dissatisfied with their district council.