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The development committee tonight heard a presentation from Rochford District Councils planning officer that heavily weighted the argument to approve an illegal travellers camp on the basis of what a government planning inspector could rule if the application went to appeal.
Rochford District Council currently finds itself in a precarious position as the portfolio holder for planning has failed to drive through the site allocation for travellers and it leaves the door wide open for travellers to claim to government inspectors that the district council is failing to provide legal pitches in the district.
As the officer describes the site, Councillors and the viewing public were aghast at the omissions of facts and full information relating to the application.
Following the officers presentation a member of Rayleigh Town Council, Cllr D Mercer gave a very comprehensive speech to object to the application - if only she were a member of the District Council she'd be an asset to the Development Committee!
The criticism came thick and fast on this application with Cllr C Roe questioning why a representation from Mark Francois MP had not been included in the report, he'd sent it in early August!!
Cllr S Smith, Chair of the development committee and portfolio holder for finance, appeared desperate to persuade the committee to accept the officers recommendations in his 'summing up' of the debate.
Another appeal will surely hit the councils coffers (and those that Cllr S Smith is responsible for!) and this will be at least the 3rd appeal lost if the council are unsuccessful in defending. It will be interesting to see if the applicant attempts to use the recent IT failure to their advantage as representations in FAVOUR of their application may not have been received as the council could not be sure of if they have received ALL documentation sent in electronically - it's a real possibility as we've seen previously planning applications 'rerun' for lesser IT problems!
Ultimately 'on the night', FOR Cllr N Hookway moved to refuse the application, seconded by Lib Dem Cllr C Cannell on greenbelt grounds & the majority of the committee voted to refuse the application.