Posted: 16.01.21 at 10:08 by The Editor
THURROCK Council leader Cllr Rob Gledhill has criticised Thurrock Nub News in a valedictory announcement about illegal excavations and occupation of a site between Tilbury and Chadwell St Mary.
Over recent days we have given extensive coverage to events on the site adjacent to Sandy Lane of Biggin Lane after being alerted by residents last Thursday week (7 January) that diggers were being used to claw away a bank and create a large flat space. Local habitat was being destroyed by the diggers.
We notified Thurrock council and supplied it with evidence of the activity, as did a number of local councillors and residents. However, work progressed through last week static huts and a large mobile home were moved onto the site once hardstanding had been completed and the banking hacked away.
The local councillors from, Tilbury, East Tilbury and Chadwell St Mary were calling for the council to make immediate, preventative action throughout the week as work progressed but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
However, last night (Friday, 15 January) the council made a statement that its officers had completed their ‘excellent work’ and that unauthorised activities at the site had been brought to a ‘juddering halt’.
The announcement said: “Thurrock Council has obtained an interim injunction which prevents unauthorised occupation and development at a site in Sandy Lane, off Biggin Lane, Chadwell St Mary.
“The injunction was served on Friday afternoon following an investigation and numerous site visits by council planning enforcement officers and Essex Police.”
Cllr Gledhill was then quoted in magisterial terms saying: “This is excellent work by our planning and legal teams and demonstrates how seriously we take planning breaches of this nature. This injunction should bring unauthorised activities at this site to a juddering halt and prevent further development from taking place.
"This was done at the fastest pace the law allows and anyone in breach of this order may be sent to prison, fined, or have their assets seized.”
The site has been cleared of vehicles and caravans though a couple of structures remain and though the area is now vacant there appear to be no instructions to reinstate the natural habitat that has been destroyed. Local residents have already commented that it is only a matter of time before the site will be occupied again.
It is reported the large mobile home has been moved to an adjacent site in waiting.
Last year Thurrock Council eventually acted to stop similar works around the Hob Hill Farm site which is now home to a large amount of mobile homes and was illegally extended by excavations and removal of more of the natural habitat. The council said it would be taking steps to ensure that reparation took place on the disturbed land, but nothing has been done.
And while taking pride in his officers’ actions, Cllr Gledhill has also taken a swipe at Thurrock Nub News for its reporting of the issue and keeping it high in the public eye, saying we put the council operation at risk and hampered the council and police.
He added: ““Unfortunately our entire operation was nearly jeopardised earlier this week when information was sent to the local media and details published, potentially giving the occupiers an opportunity to vacate the site and hamper the progress of securing an injunction.
“This was after council officers faced threats of violence on the site and had to return with Essex Police whom I thank for their support.
“Fortunately hard work by our officers across the council means we have served an injunction and now we can be assured that action has been taken to stop these unauthorised activities.”
Thurrock Nub news editor Neil Speight said: “I make no apologies for our coverage. I make so bold as to say that had we not highlighted this, the council would not have done anything. The track record of Thurrock Council on enforcement in matters such as this is abysmal – you have only to look at Hob Hill Farm to see that – and it is not so long ago the council was rebuked by the Ombudsman for its continued failings in enforcement at Buckles Lane.
“Cllr Geldhill’s statement last night amounts to a pyrrhic victory. The council acted well after the horse had bolted the stable. This ground is now cleared and ready for use and no one will be surprised to see it occupied in the very near future.
“The council could and should have acted the moment the diggers moved in. To say it cannot do so is ridiculous, the council has legal avenues open to it that could have stopped this soon after the first spade went into the ground. What’s been carted away in trucks can’t be put back and more of the local natural habitat in this area has been destroyed forever.
"Shame on Cllr Gledhill for his grandiose flag-waving well after the event. Had we been talking about this last Saturday instead of today, things might have been different and I would be applauding him and the council but as we are a week on my take is the council may well have won a small battle – but I doubt it’s made little long term difference to the war on illegal development.”