Tollgate Tinkering

Strong words in The Gazette today from Priti Patel, the MP for Witham.

Speaking about the #TollgateVillage folly from last Thursday, the local MP for the Stanway area stated:

“Planning committee members have been leaned on and pressured by outrageous claims and scaremongering by the council.”

LEANED ON.

Ouch.

You try repeating that without your Parliamentary privilege, Madam.

We certainly aren’t.

Phew. Gad that one has been cleared up.

The MP continues:

“This rotten, incompetent and spineless council wants to put its own narrow self-interests first and destroy any prospect of major retail and leisure facilities being developed elsewhere in the borough.

Residents in Colchester borough deserve better and a change of leadership is urgently needed to turn around this inept and failing council.”

And whaddya know – there is the small matter of ‘all out’ local elections coming up in May.

Timing is everything in politics, as Priti Patel knows only too well.

The composition of the ‘apolitical’ [ha!] CBC Planning Committee is worked out as a ratio of the number of seats held overall by each political party.

The Conservative hold the largest number of seats in the borough, although they are prevented from having any power due to the Cabinet With No Mandate.

But this does leave them holding five seats on Planning.

The Love Me I’m a Liberal Lot have four, the Comrades of the Colchester Labour party two, and the weird Highwoods Indies just the one.

Highwoods Indie Cllr Gerrard Oxford held the power and Chaired Thursdays meeting, as well as voting against Tollgate Village.

A change in administration next May would also lead to a change in power at Planning.

But it is worth repeating: Planning is APOLITCAl and is certainly not whipped.

Nope.

Just ask Cllr Manning for confirmation of this…

Meanwhile it seems that back in Sunny Colch, and the MP for the town Will Quince has a few concerns about the planning process last week.

In a very guarded tweet, Will has stated that he wants to take up the matter with Adrian Pritchard, the Chief Executive of CBC.

We would LOVE for that meeting to be minuted.

And so what next for Tollgate Village?

It’s all pretty much down to the developer to be honest. An appeal would be costly, and with little chance of succeeding given the current inertia from the LibLabIndie convenient coalition.

@ColchesterViews has managed to mobilise over 1,600 ‘ordinary’ people over the weekend to sign a petition calling for a re-think.

Fine work.

We personally feel that petitions count for very little behind the closed doors of the Town Hall.

But of significance here is that 1,800 signatures *should* trigger a CBC Full Council debate on the matter.

There is the small issue of there being no more Full Council meets between now and the May elections. Purdah (a period of no political interference) will soon kick in.

But there is a precedent for calling a Special Meeting.

Will Quince achieved this last year with the street traders, stepping back at the last minute when the LibLabIndies realised that they had dropped a bollock or two.

But even then a Motion would achieve little, apart from showing up the current administration on how out of date they are with their views.

It would all come back to the current Planning Committee and the head in the sand attitude of we have always done things this way, we will continue to always do things this way.

You can hear the sound of people pissing themselves in Chelmsford and Ipswich from the solitude of Castle Park.

Plus here’s an FoI worth keeping an eye out for.

We also wait with great anticipation how the ‘apolitical’ Planning Committee will treat the CBC application to develop the Northern Gateway site.