This looks serious….

There is going to be an extra meeting of the Full District Council on Thursday 23rd July. The exact purpose of the meeting is still a secret. The agenda simply says:

extra council 2

At the moment all the Lib Dem District Councillors, Chris Black and Ron Oatham, know is that the District Council will be discussing a confidential officers report on a forthcoming planning appeal. It will be in a private session of the council with the public (including Mark Francois) barred from attending. We don’t know for sure which appeal it is , though we expect it is the one for the “North of London Road” site. Chris and Ron should receive a copy of the confidential report pretty soon, but when we do, we can’t speak to non-district-councillors about it.

It is extremely rare for the council to meet to discuss a planning appeal…

  • If you are right Chris Black about the subject how do Members stand on the matter of Pre-Determination as there is a new Planning Application. As the Ward Members perhaps you can obtain clarification? Thanks John

  • This needs the press to get hold of it. Who do these Planning Officers think employ them and pay their inflated salaries? George Orwell was so right when he wrote Animal Farm. Come on everyone get emailing and sending letters everywhere. before they produce another stitch up that we have no chance of thwarting. Where is our MP?

  • I’ m no expert but, as defined above , ” exempt information would be disclosed ” seems quite clear that they are hiding something under the cover of a section in the Government Act 1972 – which might be technically legal but only adds to the widespread distrust of RDC that the electorate feel already.
    In fact point three is to get agreement to keep it secret – if enough Councillors vote against that then it must be made public -surely?,
    so a little test for each and every Councillor’s integrity in my view .

  • I’ve just read the appropriate part of the Act, which makes this decision even more disturbing. I hope that whoever decided on this secrecy has read the part of the Act that states public interest must be considered, as must openness and transparency before meetings are held behind closed doors. Assuming it is the North of London Road appeal, and nothing else at the moment seems big enough to warrant such reports and discussions then RDC must be aware of how much public interest and concern there is over every aspect of this proposed development. I’m sure the Tory majority will whip into line and vote for secrecy, however all of RDC need to remember one very apt saying “truth will out”. Unless they decide not to oppose it, in which case they definitely have something to hide, the appeal will be open to the public at which time things may come to light that they may prefer remained in the dark.

  • Perhaps the Ward Members can research my question above and Christine’s so that we can all know what the legal position is on both from the Council’s Legal Officers? Thanks. John

  • I managed to raise awareness of this via the Letters page of today’s ECHO -hopefully some of you will follow it up with other comments on this cloak and dagger stuff……..?

  • I anticipate that this is about putting pressure on the attendees to re-think their decision with regards the North of London Road site, and to ignore the public demand to reject the whole idea. There are good reasons why this application, and the supporting core strategy/LDF have invoked a strong reaction. Its because they are the wrong way forward for Rayleigh, at least. A huge single development area for the whole of Rayleigh is not the best way forward when more numerous, smaller sites around Rayleigh could be used to:
    – make better use of existing infrastructure
    – integrate into the existing community better
    – spread the load (traffic, school places etc) across the district, rather than concentrating it in a single area.
    – is more likely to be developed by locals, rather than national/international construction companies.
    RDC may prefer the North of London Road site, but the public have made their point that they dont agree. Now we get to find out what Localism really means.

  • Yes, it could indeed be about pressure, and, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, it could also be about RDC’s legal response to the Planning Appeal and they want to hold the meeting behind closed doors to ensure that Countryside and/or their agents don’t get wind of their tactics in advance. However, with the massive public interest and concern over this whole thing any meeting that is held that excludes the public is bound to raise suspicion that all is not right. It would be much better if RDC actually said, in broad terms, why they want to exclude the public. If you don’t tell people the truth they will invent their own.

    • The real problem is that for RDC this location is the only place they have deemed acceptable to develop. RDC spent much money employing “experts” to come to the conclusion that North of London Road was their preferred location, so nowhere else will do!
      Unfortunately now the penny has dropped with the public, they dont agree. You mentioned “tactics”. What is in question here is tactics to achieve what? Is it tactics to allow the development, despite the publics objections, as per RDC’s core strategy or Tactics to how best to reject the planning appeal?
      I find it difficult to believe that its tactics as to how best to reject the appeal, as this is in conflict with the core strategy. This will be far too embarrassing for the planning team at RDC, and they would have to admit that they got it wrong and wasted much money and time. Someone high up may even be held responsible for that!
      If this meeting is secret, I (and many other “cynics”) will always suspect that the objective is to how best to allow the appeal. Remember that RDC planning did recommend that the application be permitted last time, despite the flaws. RDC planning have an agenda, and it doesnt take a genius to work out what it is. To allow the appeal, despite public wishes.
      Now its up to our duly elected reps. Will they tow the councils line, or represent the desires of the people that elected them?

  • This Government plays lip service to Localism ,but in the recent Budget Osborne made it abundantly clear he would like to bring planning issues to be decided centrally and by pass local decision making .I agree with Zaphod above .There are smaller sites available ,I pointed them out in the earlier stages of the strategy .

  • Logically this is probably either ‘North of London Rd’ or the ‘ Hullbridge’ application ( recently put back ?) or indeed both as they are under the same Core Plan/ Allocations document , and for all us pleb’s it is worrying that we continue to be excluded from decisions.

    My guess is that they have taken legal advice and it says RDC are liable to lose the Appeal ( because their own Officers recommended acceptance – they would would’nt they , it is their plan ) and that the costs involved are very ,very high – not something they would
    want becoming public just before next years mass Council elections.

    So the ‘tactics’ that Christine mentions above are in fact to avoid the Appeal process by fostering agreement to push through the recent
    ( convenient ) re-application from Countryside thus making it easier to approve the ( recently conveniently delayed ) Hullbridge application – because they both fail on the same lack of Infrastructure criteria ( roads / flooding/ schools….. ).
    Please all write to the Echo on this , a constant stream of spotlighting what is going on.

  • Admin – can you categorically confirm this is the only agenda for 23/07/15 , as I am being told it is also North of London Rd re-application to be discussed on the night ( I don’t think that is correct but don’t want to be blind sided ), thanks – JIM.

    • Hi Jim, the North of London Road application(s) are NOT being discussed at the Development Committee – I will be writing something now about Thursday night…

  • I have some further information and questions for Ward Members. I understand that the Council has a meeting with Countryside on Friday straight after the Exempt Full Council on Thursday. Is it to discuss the outcome and decisions of Full Council? Ward Members will know that the Minutes of an Exempt Meeting are also Exempt unless Full Council agrees that that can be published without restriction. But is that the intention? Would it be wrong for the Council to disclose the contents of an Exempt Meeting to an interested party unless the decisions are made public beforehand? What do Ward Members think? Have you any answers to the other questions I have posed including Pre-Determination for the public?

  • Suggest we let them break the rules then make that public – don’t prewarn them of a protocol misdemeanour; this whole project ( Local Plan ) has now become farcical ( secret meetings by people who we employ to represent us and we are the only ones in the dark ). If
    this is about Countryside and RDC divulge ‘ exempt’ information it is a case for the National Press / BBC surely?.

  • I don’t know about the legalities of it, but to call it underhand to disclose the details of an exempt meeting to an interested party but not the public would be an understatement. This has all the hallmarks of a stitch up of the highest degree.

    Admin, if any details are disclosed to an interested party but not the public is there any way we can complain to the Local Government Minister and get this fully investigated? or can our MP involve the Minister as he is in that department?

  • Having referred to a Meeting to be held on this Friday with Countryside, following the Exempt Council Meeting on Thursday, the following instruction has been issued by the Council ” it is important that, even if a meeting is not marked as ‘private’, no detail of any meeting should be disclosed to Members or the public unless it is absolutely necessary, or is cleared with the officer concerned.” Residents might like to know that the information about the Meeting came to me from a resident not the Council !!

  • Is it any wonder that there is so much contempt and scepticism for local democracy? No doubt next years “super” election will still attract only 20 -30% turnout ,please prove me wrong. Trouble is we all complain about various outcomes but do not take control by using our vote .Officers because of their high qualifications can possibly bamboozle some of our more susceptible Councillors.All this is carefully controlled by central government dictat and everyone hides behind confidentiality whereas it should be all our business.In this era of increased and instant communication there should be better ways to allow us all to influence our futures.We are in danger of allowing big business to have undue influence on our lives .Rant over !

  • So, and I quote – “……. No detail of any meeting should be disclosed to any members or the public unless it is absolutely necessary…..”,
    – as that does not include a reference to ‘ any interested party ‘ then presumably everyone but Councillor’s and The Public can be told ie;-
    the Developer on Friday.
    PLEASE all attend tonight to witness this “DEMOCRACY” in action – it might well dictate your vote at the next Council elections ( 2016 ).