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Campaigners fear green belt inquiry
12:10pm Tuesday 10th December 2013 in Echo News
CAMPAIGNERS, councillors and planning bosses fear a controversial development will be pushed through at the final hurdle.
Battle lines will be drawn today as Castle Point Council goes head to head with developers over plans to build 165 homes on fields between Sadlers Farm roundabout and Glebelands.
In a closed meeting head of regeneration Steve Rogers told councillors he was 60 per cent sure the Government appeal would go in favour of Fox Land and Property.
Planning Inspector John Felgate will hear seven days of arguments from both sides.
Campaigners have been supported throughout their battle by Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris, but it is now feared this might stand against them.
Developers have previously complained to the Government about MPs making submissions as their opinion may unfairly sway planning inspectors, who act on behalf of the Secretary of State .
Neville Watson, Canvey Independent Party councillor, said he thought the chances of the development being granted are even higher than Mr Rogers predicted.
He added: “The problem with Glebelands is it’s sustainable, deliverable and sound. The only real objection is to do with the green belt.
“It will all come down to technical issues of whether the land is classed as green belt. It could set a precedent for the whole country.
“If the scheme is passed, developers will keep coming forward and we won’t be able to fight them off.
“I can understand the emotive reasons for appealing and Mrs Harris obviously wanted to stand by her constituents, but when the MP got involved she should only have given facts of planning.”
A decision was originally expected by around Easter, but sources told the Echo it will now come in before Christmas.
Campaigner Susan Buhr, 73, of Jotmans Lane, Benfleet, said: “It would be an absolute disaster for the green belt of Benfleet if the scheme was passed. It would lead to all sorts of developers coming out of the woodwork.
“Mrs Harris was elected by the residents and if she can’t speak on behalf of us, then what’s the point?”
The Tory MP said: “Obviously I can’t comment on the specifics of an ongoing court hearing, but naturally the developer has submitted numerous reasons why it thinks the Secretary of State should not have sided with the council and local residents.
“I gather it’s not unusual for developers to complain about an Member of Parliament speaking up for their own residents in these cases, even though it is perfectly normal for Members of Parliament to contact the Minister at any time and for him to take their views into account if he sees fit.”
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