HONK! Here’s the big news coming out of the Town Hall following the Tollgate Village petition set up by @ColchesterViews. HONK!
The Colchester Borough Council Local Plan Committee will accept and debate the petition when it next meets at the Town Hall on 4th April.
In terms of epoch-defining life events, this may not seem that significant; but back in the protocol obsessed world of local government, this is a major, major breakthrough – especially so ahead of the ‘all out’ local elections in May.
You may remember that the fine fella @ColchesterViews wasted no time in setting up a petition after the ‘apolitical’ Planning Committee at CBC threw out the Tollgate Village planning application earlier this month.
— Colchester Views. (@Colchesterviews) February 19, 2016
Mr. Views believed that the esteemed members of the Committee had dropped a major bollock. He wasn’t alone in his observations. ‘Ordinary’ [arf!] folk around Sunny Colch soon signed the petition.
The target of 1,000 signatures was SMASHED before the weekend was out. The current total stands at a pretty amazing 2,100 people, all telling CBC that the Tollgate judgement ‘aint great for the future of our town.
You are all LOVELY.
And so what does this all mean back in the ‘progressive’ world of local politics?
The CBC Standing Orders state that any petition that hits the 1,800 barrier will automatically trigger a debate at Full Council.
But seeing as though CBC is about to enter purdah – the period of political inactivity ahead of an election – there is no scheduled Full Council meeting until a new administration is formed.
Plus Planning is quasi judicial – the Little People don’t get to question what those not so ‘ordinary’ have decided upon.
But wait! What’s this?
That nice Cllr Martin Goss has agreed for the Tollgate petition to be presented and debated when the Local Plan Committee that he Chairs next meets on 4th April.
This is arguable of greater strategic importance than the showboating and poxy party politics of Full Council.
The Local Plan Committee has real balls. It was the policies drawn up by the Committee that led to the esteemed members of the Planning Committee rejecting the Tollgate application.
The land has been designated for employment use by the Local Plan. Put simply, shift this policy and any new application for retail at Tollgate becomes a lot more palatable for the apolitical Planning Committee.
Conservative Cllr Sue Lissimore will be presenting and leading the delegation next month.
Disclaimer: Mr Views and The Chronic – and nope, we aren’t one of the same as the big boys in media land have suggested – have asked the Prettygate Cllr to lead on this.
Yeah, yeah – it will become politicised, especially so in the run up to the local elections. But Cllr Lissimore has shown genuine concern about how Tollgate has been handled. Credit as well to LibDem Cllr Goss for agreeing to put the petition on the agenda.
And then what next?
You need to sit in the political long grass when it comes to achieving ANYTHING at CBC.
It will be 18 months before a new Local Plan is published. The Committee may agree to listen to the Little People of Sunny Colch next month and remove the employment only use for the site. But it will take a year and a half for this to become official CBC policy.
We only hope that the developer has a similar sense of patience and doesn’t decide to offer this commercial opportunity to any of our near neighbours…
The early feedback however has been promising. *Some* members of the Planning Committee have indicated to The Chronic that this is a fantastic idea and the best way of navigating what has been a complete balls up at CBC.
Play them by their rules, and sometimes you might just win.
And so well done to Mr @ColchesterViews for stepping forward and showing that collectively we can have some influence.
It would be most odd if the Local Plan Committee refuses to listen to residents with ‘all out’ local elections taking place a few weeks later…