UPDATE: 20.00hrs Thursday 14.2
The planning committee at Thurrock Council saw sense and have rejected the proposed development at King Street car park: Controversial flats plan in heart of Stanford is rejected. Locals campaigning against this scheme can deservedly claim a victory:)

The saga of the King Street car park in Stanford-le-Hope is a long, sorry one. More years ago than we care to remember, the car park was flogged off by Thurrock Council to a developer, Capital Land Partners, for what many in the area saw as a bargain basement price. After sitting on the site for ages, a final proposal to ‘develop’ the site has now been forwarded with the plans being drawn up by Chetwoods Architects. See here for an update on the latest instalment in this saga: No love for town centre project but it’s set to gain approval if officers get their way.

Planning officers at Thurrock Council have recommended the proposed development for approval. It’s due to be discussed by the planning committee this Thursday (14.2). Residents objecting to the scheme will be lobbying and attending the committee meeting in a bid to get local councillors to listen to their concerns and reject the proposal. Over 500 objections – a 498 signature petition and 35 letters of objection – have been received by Thurrock Council. Whether these will cut any ice at the meeting on Thursday remains to be seen.

The concerns expressed by local residents range from the height of the building (apart from the church tower, way higher than anything else that has ever been built in Stanford-le-Hope) through to anger about the number of parking spaces that will be lost, posing a threat to the future viability of the town centre. Concerns that the planning officers at Thurrock Council seem to have blithely ignored.

Here we have a secretive developer in the form of Capital Land Partners seemingly aided and abetted by planning officers at the council shoving a scheme no one in the town wants down the throats of local residents and traders. There has been sod all in the way of meaningful dialogue between Capital Land Partners and locals as to what an appropriate development for the site should look like. Yes, there’s a derelict building at the northern end of the site that’s an eyesore and needs to be re-developed. In an ideal world, residents and traders would have been involved from the outset in coming up with a scheme that would enhance the town.

We don’t live in an ideal world. We live in one where secretive developers and out of touch, unaccountable planning officers connive to foist unwanted developments upon us with no consultation. If the councillors on the planning committee are bamboozled into passing this scheme, what little faith that remains in local democracy will be pretty much eliminated. When it comes to Thurrock, unsurprisingly there wasn’t much faith anyway to be honest!

As we’ve said more times than we care to remember, all of this shows that the system of local (and national) governance that we have to endure is broken beyond repair. Communities have to have the power to decide how their towns and neighbourhoods develop and grow. What’s needed is a robust discussion on how we take power from the self serving politicians and bureaucrats who run our lives and bring it right down to the grassroots.