Posted: 14.02.20 at 08:32 by The Editor
RESIDENTS are celebrating after a controversial planning application was rejected.
Thurrock Council’s planning committee voted 7-1 against the application for eight homes on land adjacent to Curling Lane, Helleborine and Meesons Lane in Grays - overturning planning officers’ recommendation for approval. Only committee chair Tom Kelly supported the application.
When the vote was made after an hour of debate, a gallery of residents applauded the committee last night (Thursday, 13 February).
After the meeting local ward councillor Martin Kerin, who had opposed the plan together with councillors Jane Pothecary and Tony Fish, said: “‘We are delighted with this outcome. We knew that this application was terrible for the residents of Badgers Dene and Meesons Lane - that’s why we campaigned against it.
“We urged the planning committee to chuck this scheme out, and they did. This is a victory for common sense.”
The reason for rejecting the plans centred on the design of the three-storey homes and the size of their gardens, which went against council policy.
But the biggest topic of discussion was the presence of badgers.
A decision on whether to grant planning permission had been delayed in January over fears the houses would be built on land occupied by a badger sett and potentially endanger the animals.
Further investigation by the council and the Essex Badger Protection Group concluded that there were no badgers living on the land but residents living in the area maintained there are.
Labour Cllr Gerard Rice pressed the planning team on the issue telling them “there are a lot of concerned residents” but the planning officer told the committee, “there were no badgers living on that site, there is no evidence of them living there”.
Conservative Cllr David Potter said: “I went down to this site the day after the last planning committee. I didn’t tell anyone I was a councillor and I walked around the site and I engaged with residents, saying at night do you see badgers, and most said yes we do.
“They had no reason to lie to me. I believe there are badgers there and I am pro-badger.”
Further concerns about were raised when the planning officer told the committee that three surveys had been carried out in 2018 and all took place during the day – despite badgers being nocturnal animals.
The officer justified the daytime surveys, explaining that they involved looking for “scratch marks and fur – we were looking for evidence they had been there”.
Labour ward councillor Tony Fish said: “We all have serious objections to the proposals in this application.
“The design out of keep with surrounding properties, construction is completely different to properties on Meesons Lane, as regards to the issue of badgers, the residents clearly feel badgers are there. These properties will be completely out of keeping with the area.”