Havering Council’s planning department branded ‘deliberately obstructive and not fit for purpose’ during public meeting

Cllr Steven Kelly said the comments were unfair

Cllr Steven Kelly said the comments were unfair - Credit: Archant

Havering Council’s planning department came in for abuse at last week’s committee meeting when it was described as “at worst, deliberately obstructive and overall not fit for purpose”.

The comments were made by a Harold Hill homeowner as the group debated an application for four flats and two houses to be built on the Briar Road estate.

During Alan Lewin’s two-minute window as a speaker, he drew attention to what he said were errors in the planning report relating to the development.

He also brought up concerns about who actually owned the land in question, saying the plans – which had been resubmitted following previous objections – failed to solve the problem of new parking spaces blocking access to rear gardens on Straight Road.

Mr Lewin asked the committee to defer its decision on the development to give him time to answer a letter from senior officer Cynthia Griffin about his concerns.

But councillors ignored his wishes and passed the application by seven votes to four.

Ward councillors weighed in and as debate became heated Cllr Barry Tebbutt (Brooklands, Conservative) threatened to move that Cllr Denis O’Flynn (Labour, Heaton) be removed.

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Cllr Steven Kelly had admonished Mr Lewin and Cllr O’Flynn, saying: “To sit there and abuse people who can’t defend themselves I find totally unacceptable.”

Cllr O’Flynn responded without having permission to speak, saying: “I have names of officers, but I deliberately didn’t use them. I wouldn’t do that.”

Chairman Cllr Barry Oddy asked Cllr O’Flynn to stop speaking, but declined to ask for him to be removed.

Cllr Kelly said land ownership issues would not be dealt with by the planning department as planning permission would not give the developers the right to build on anyone else’s land.

The Labour group’s sole planning member, Cllr Paul McGeary (Heaton), also raised concerns about the removal of a tree and the possibility of new properties overlooking existing ones, but these were dismissed.

It was the latest chapter in the estate’s embattled redevelopment, which will see the council demolish crumbling garages across the site to build 164 houses and flats.

The council says it will bring a new lease of life to the area, but ward councillors have objected to the removal of garages and what they see as an increased pressure on amenities.

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