The council chamber was packed, probably the fullest it has been since the Southend United stadium application. The parents behaved impeccably.
Downhall Under Fives – application for single storey building.
The debate began with a presentation by the planning officer. He emphasised that the proposal was against council Green Belt policy, and that there weren’t any exceptional circumstances. He also mentioned that there had been a lot of support from the public for the preschool. As a last minute addition to his written report he had added the previous planning history of the site and 2 1/2 pages of comments taken from what people had written here on onlinefocus.
We then had Hayley Bloomfield speaking on behalf of the preschool. She emphasised the problems the preschool had without a permanent home. We then had a resident speaking against the application, expressing his concern about likely parking problems.
Chris Black then spoke and said that the application had caused a lot of anxiety to both sides. He had visited 3 homes near the entrance to the site, and 3 people from the preschool. He had decided to support the application , and moved approval, on condition that there would be no evening use. Chris emphasised that the preschool was greatly needed, they had already been there for 19 years, and that the parking problems would be less than before because there would be no evening use and the preschool was arranging parking facilities for the 6 staff and Lubbards Farm.
Lesley Butcher from Hullbridge spoke next in support , saying that the we couldn’t afford to lose a community facility like the preschool.
Ron Oatham then seconded the approval, saying he couldn’t see any reasons for refusal.
Terry Livings then spoke firmly against the application, saying he was fighting to save the Green Belt. The tension among the audience went up a notch – would his comments swing the councillors against the application?
Next speaker was Tory leader Terry Cutmore.He came out in full support of the preschool. What’s more he was very critical of the officers report – why did it say ‘there is no relevant planning history to this site’ when there were planning applications passed as long ago as 1986?
Chris Lumley also spoke in support – “We are making a nonsense of ourselves otherwise”
Phil Capon from Hawkwell also came out in support – “If the scout building has been made of brick the preschool would be on the site right now”
After a question from Great Wakering councillor Colin Seagers and a summing up from Chris Black , it went to a vote.
It was passed by 16 votes to 2 , with 3 abstentions. Cllrs Terry Livings and Mavis Webster voted against.