Over two years ago, we wrote this post about the concerns of residents in Parker Road in Grays over a proposed housing development on the neighbouring former Belmont allotments site being ignored by the council: Thurrock Council indifference to residents getting grief from developers – March 14, 2019. Residents were rightly concerned that a large section of the Parker Road Recreation Ground would be used as a compound during the construction of the housing on the Belmont site. The original proposal by Thurrock Council was seen off by concerted campaigning from the residents. Since then, the residents have applied for a ‘Green Space Designation’ to be applied to the park so it’s never again threatened by construction work.
The planning consent for this scheme runs out on November 15. With no chance of any work starting by that date, Thurrock Regeneration Ltd., a housing development company wholly owned by Thurrock Council, will be seeking new planning permission. This is how Your Thurrock covered the story: Thurrock Council back to the drawing board in order to build 80 homes in Grays after allowing planning permission to lapse. Understandably local residents and the ward councillors are not happy about any possibility of a renewed threat to the Parker Road Recreation Ground, should part of it be needed as a compound during construction. The ward councillors issued a statement telling Thurrock Council they’re not prepared to stand for ‘The Belmont Debacle Part 2’: Councillors issue warning over council’s latest plans for allotments site.
One of the issues with any kind of development is that with the way the process is conducted, residents see it as something that’s done to them rather than anything they can have a meaningful stake in. The ‘Belmont Debacle Part 1’ was a classic example of this with Thurrock Council taking a dismissive attitude towards residents angry about losing a chunk of their local park plus all of the other disruption that would have taken place.
The problem was Thurrock Council thinking that because they own the former Belmont allotments site, they thought that they could act as they saw fit when it came to planning the construction. What they failed to understand was that most residents rightly feel that their neighbourhood morally belongs to them and that if there is to be any new development, they should be consulted and involved in the process from the outset. Instead, they found themselves regarded as a nuisance to be controlled and kept out of the way as far as possible. This applies to all local authorities, it’s not just an issue with Thurrock Council.
The proposed development looks like it will be back on the table at some point. Will Thurrock Council take the opportunity to include residents in the planning and construction process from the outset? Or will they just steamroller their way through as per normal practice? We’ll see what happens…