Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Tuesday 25th May has been announced as the date for the inquiry into this planning decision on the Goldhawk Block that residents successfully applied to have 'called in' by the Secretary of State for a formal inquiry. This was with the assistance of Andy Slaughter MP and much to the anger of the Council who at the time caustically asked what 'national importance' the development had in order to warrant the government stepping in.
Led by the indomitable Rosemary Petit, Secretary of the Brackenbury Residents Association, the locals who don't want London & Newcastle the developers to move in and transform their area with more high density housing, locals have been fundraising to pay their barrister at the Inquiry almost non stop since the planning decision was passed at this hot and stormy meeting - which is one I will never forget. It resembled something from Monty Python's "silly" sketches, where a planning officer would say something completely wrong, councillors who obviously wanted the development passed anyway would sagely nod their heads, and scribble something in their notebooks and the locals at the back would be shouting 'rubbish'! Democracy in action.
The most obvious thing about this date is that it falls well after the General Election - so this won't be resolved until after then, which makes it an election issue when we go to vote for our next MP and Council on May 6th. In her latest update Rosemary has asked her members to support another Residents Association which has also been up in arms about another high density housing development being imposed on them by the Council. So both of them will be running the 'No Votes for Candidates who Don't Listen' campaign which will feature these posters in people's windows. This is aimed squarely at Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey who, in fairness, in his interview with me acknowledged that mistakes have been made and committed himself to do just that - listen. His problem is that the other two candidates Andy Slaughter and Merlene Emerson have been actively working with the residents associations to support their campaigns.
Rosemary is calling on local residents to attend the hearings, which will finish by Wednesday 2nd June, in order to "..to take notes or keep an eye on documents." She goes on to say: "The inquiry is open to the public. It will be attended by busy lawyers and heavyweight developers, so we need your support." Interesting that this really seems to be residents who in their own time and at their own considerable expense are taking on the might of full time Council officers, lawyers and developers with little or no support. Their own Council will be working to ensure they do not succeed by presumably providing the Inquiry with the reasons why they want the developers to move in.
So what about the Council itself in all this? At the 2006 election Labour, who used to run the authority, was routed with the loss of 16 seats. The Tories enjoy a majority at the moment of 20 councillors which on paper makes it a pretty safe borough for them, and may explain why they are sometimes so disinclined to listen to residents in places like Brackenbury and Aschurch. But if they've been doing this sort of thing all over the borough and people are similarly angry, might it be so safe for them? Probably, but..
Posted by Chris Underwood at 05:33