At This evening’s Cabinet Meeting (9th August 2017), Conservatives called for a full independent inquiry into the state of planning in Colchester. This follows the finding by a Government Planning Inspector that the Council blundered twice in refusing the Planning Application for Tollgate Village, after making similar blunders on a planning application for the adjacent Stane Park site at Tollgate.

Addressing the Cabinet, which makes all day-to-day decisions on behalf of the Council, Conservative Group Leader Cllr Dennis Willetts said “This is the 2nd major project at Tollgate where the planning decisions have gone off the rails. The Council got it seriously wrong. The Planning Inspector castigated the Council, found in favour of the applicant, and had stern criticism of the Council decisions.

Cllr Willetts explained: “the Council has a good record of winning appeals on minor matters such as porch extensions and garages, but has made disastrous serial blunders on the Tollgate Applications. Taxpayers demand to know why?.”

It is clear that something is gravely wrong with the way decisions are taken on these major projects. We have an experienced Local Plan Committee performing strategic planning, and an experience Planning Committee performing detailed development control. Yet somehow their linkage and dialogue has failed, and under this inept Administration the promised internal reviews have been grossly inadequate and have not fixed the problem.

An independent enquiry would get to the root cause of the serial failures of planning at Tollgate. It would determine whether the cause was regrettable errors of judgement by the Planning Committee and Local Plan Committee, or whether there were deeper fundamental mistakes in procedure and decision-making which the Lib-Dem & Labour Coalition have deliberately failed to address, so as to enhance the revenue potential of competing developments promoted by the Council.

Councillors want to know the reasons. Residents of Colchester want to know the reasons because they are funding the enormous costs of these failed planning appeals. Everyone wants to know what is wrong with the planning system in Colchester. Only an independent enquiry is likely to produce honest answers.

Conservatives will provide a fair and transparent planning system which can be trusted by everyone in the Borough

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