Tories Lose Seat In Chelmsford Where They Plan To Put Houses

Some interesting news this morning from Stephen Robinson’s website in Chelmsford!

There’s some good news for Lib Dems:

…. it was off to help the Liberal Democrat campaign in the by-election for the vacant Broomfield & The Walthams seat borough council seat. Broomfield is where the council wants to put the three lumps of 250 houses. Needless to say, this was the main issue in the campaign. We had an excellent candidate in Malcolm Taylor, who stood down from the parish council in May after many years as chairman. And he won, on a 29% swing compared to last May!

The full result was

LD 1198 (57.4%) +39.4% on May 2007

Con 742 (35.6%) -18.7%

UKI 57 (2.7%) -6.3%

Grn 53 (2.5%) -7.9%

Lab 36 (1.7%) -6.6%

That’s a spectacular change from May:

Con 1433, 1279, 1214
LD 469, 440, 399
Gr 256, 251, 248
UKIP 216
Lab 200

But , less cheerfully, Stephen reports that the public inquiry kicked off into the Chelmsford Borough Development Plan :

In the morning, the Inquiry Inspector made it quite clear that he was operating under the new Government rules designed to push things through as quickly as possible. We must not stand in the way of progress, must we? Whitehall knows best, as always, whether it is Labour or the Conservatives running it.

The Inspector stated that, provided the council could show it had followed all the correct procedures, he was unlikely to amend the Development Plan, let alone stop it going ahead. The fact that the procedures had produced an illogical mass of contradictions was not going to trouble the inspector much. After all, there are all those thousands of houses that have just GOT to be built; no time to lose ? there’s green fields out there just waiting to be bulldozed. Grade 1 listed building (used by King Henry VIII) in the way? Well, better not demolish it but let’s build the houses all around it instead. New station needed? Yes, we mostly agree on that, but of course it should go in the more expensive location.

The Council made much of the fact that it had public support for its proposals. But then it had asked probably the most loaded questions ever asked in a consultation. It gave the public one viable option for where to put new houses; one option that NO-ONE thought was a serious option (merely there to make the others look better) and a variant of the first option that included a bit of the second.

It was a bit like asking the public whether they would like haggis and chips or mushy peas and chips for lunch at 11.00am. If you said “well, actually I would like something else please” the Council’s response was quite simply “tough that is all that is on the menu; you have to choose one of them”. And that’s how they arrived at claiming over 50% support for their preferred option ? the haggis and chips option of 4-5,000 houses in one place and three lumps of 250 houses elsewhere.

As if that was not bad enough, the Inspector decided he had to ignore one of the elephants in the room ? an extra 2,000 houses almost certain to be forced onto the Borough by the Government, on top of the 14,000 it already knows it has to take.