Farm site plan is thrown out

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PROPOSALS to put 14 houses on the site of a former listed building have been thrown out by councillors.

The controversial develop-ment was proposed for Bentons Farm, Molland Lane, in South Ockendon, where the original farmhouse still stands. Until recently the farmhouse was a listed building but its status was controversially delisted recently by English Heritage, paving the way for the planning application to demolish it and build homes.

However, while councillors said they thought there were merits in allowing some sort of development on the greenfield site, the plan put before them on Thursday was too big.

It also did not allow for the reinstatement of trees which were torn down by the site owner, prompting enforce-ment action by Thurrock Council who say he has to replant trees on the site.

Plans for the 14 homes, put forward by applicant Ryan Turner, have been roundly condemned by local residents action group OCRAG, and its spokesperson Derek Duke addressed the planning meeting to outline why they believed it should be rejected.

“We see no need for this development in greenbelt,” he told the committee. “It is regrettable English Heritage are no longer interested in this site and perhaps the Council ought to look for a relisting as English Heritage were not made aware of all the information.”

Speaking for the applicant, barrister Megan Thomas said the site was not greenbelt, but effectively a brownfield site in the greenbelt that was “derelict on the edge of a housing development.”

“We should make the most effective use of brownfield land,” she added.

However, while councillors were supportive of the idea of developing the site, they did not believe it should be on the scale proposed.

Cllr Phil Anderson said: “With rigorous application of greenbelt policy I can see how you can make a successful application on this site. You could do something with it but to permit a small housing estate on this footprint is clearly pushing the limits. I would, however, welcome an application that is smaller and more in keeping.

That view was echoed by Cllr Richard Speight, who said: “It needs to be an appropriate development”, Cllr Tunde Ojetola, who said: “The size and proportion is wrong. You could welcome something that improves the area but not this”, while Cllr Steve Liddiard described it as “putting a quart into a pint pot.”

Local councillors Wendy and Charlie Curtis did welcome the scheme, however, saying that they believed it was important to improve the site. Cllr Charlie Curtis said: “Let’s get in the real world. Something needs to be done and the answer is not to do nothing.”

However, when it came to the vote – and after Cllr Curtis found himself exchanging angry words with members of the public gallery – a majority of councillors voted against the scheme.

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