Anger over ‘village green’ inquiry delay

RESIDENTS face months of frustration in their bid to halt flats being built on Green Belt land after a public inquiry was postponed by the council.

Campaigners and people living near Ongar Way and Newtons Corner, South Hornchurch are furious after being told the public inquiry into an application for village green status for the land – due to be held this week (Wednesday and Thursday) – is being rescheduled.

Campaigner Ian Weatherley said: “I think it is just ridiculous that the council cannot organise themselves for the public inquiry when people have already taken time off their work and were prepared to speak at the inquiry.”

The two-day inquiry was set to decide whether residents could stop developers from building a five storey block of flats by proving the land has been used as a village green. It was expected to hear evidence from residents and councillors before a final decision from the Secretary of State, but is now expected to take place next year.

Mr Weatherley said: “The public inquiry is critical because if we do not get the village green status, then a five storey block of flats will be built on the site which is definitely not in keeping with the area. We are not very happy and just feel that the council have let us down and are trying to delay the decision.”

The proposals to build the flats plus 13 homes in Ongar Way, South Hornchurch, was given the go-ahead by the Regulatory Services Committee last year, despite objections from residents and the Adamsgate Action Group that the development would blight the area.

Graham Williamson, chairman of the group, said: “By postponing the public inquiry the council are just trying to delay the village green application, but it’s important that it does go ahead because it is land that is very important to a lot of people.”

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Cabinet Member for Legal Services, Councillor Geoffrey Starns said: “We needed more time to consider this application and take further legal opinion, as a result, we decided it best to postpone the date of the inquiry. We gave residents more than four weeks notice of this decision and we are currently looking at alternative dates.