HYTHE QUAY

After two years of probing, the final cost of the “forgot to nail the writ to the mast” saga has finally been made public.

It now emerges that the secretive Liberal Democrat & Labour Coalition that runs the Council cost the Borough Taxpayers £138,000 by omitting to nail a writ to a boat mast.

In its capacity as the Harbour Master, we understand that the Council had granted a licence to moor a boat at the Hythe Quay.  Following a dispute in 2017 about payments between the Council and the boat owner, the Council tried to terminate the agreement. The Council went to court and obtained a possession order for the boat.

However, as every schoolboy knows, international marine law requires a marine writ to be “nailed to the mast, or otherwise served by securely affixing a sealed copy of the writ to the mast or some other conspicuous part of the ship’s superstructure”.

In the absence of the writ nailed to the mast, sources tell us that the Council unlawfully executed the possession order and had the boat moved, resulting in the owner claiming significant legal damages.
 
On hearing what had happened, the judge gave a ruling in court, ordering the Council to pay for on-land accommodation for the crew until the matter was resolved because the boat was deemed uninhabitable following the Council’s unlawful action.

The final cost for hotel accommodation and legal fees since 2017 is now revealed as a £138,000 loss to the Borough coffers.

Conservatives believe in obeying the law, whether on land or at sea.

2019-10-08

Cllr Lewis Barber, Deputy leader of the Conservative Group, writes: "For the last week, the future of one of Colchester’s key pieces of town centre land has been debated at a public appeal heard by a Government Planning Inspector. The developer Alumno is arguing that its monstrous proposals for the Borough’s Cultural Quarter should be given the green light. A site designated to help stimulate regeneration through culture and our heritage risks being lost forever to student accommodation, empty for large portions of the year."

It should have never got this far. The Liberal Democrat and Labour controlled Council’s decision to sign a questionable contract with Alumno allows the developer control of this publicly owned land, if successful at appeal. This contract should not have been signed. It has risked fatally undermining the Colchester community’s ability to decide the future of this important site. 

This contract and the handling of the Alumno planning application reflects a wider cultural problem in the Council. Too often the Council pursues a top-down approach to decision making where it sees itself as right and everyone else as wrong. It sees communities as an irritation that must be overcome rather than a wonderful source of ideas, passion and inspiration. 

That is why Colchester Conservatives would take a different approach.  We would look to work with people to improve our Borough. Not just ‘consulting’ but involving. Lib Dem Councillor Martin Goss sees criticisms of the Alumno plans as “hot air substantiated by nothing” by those who are “loony”. But Colchester Conservatives see people desperate to have their say and involve themselves in the future of the Borough.

If, and I hope it is, the Alumno appeal is dismissed then a good place to start is allowing people to shape the future of our Cultural Quarter. A Conservative run Council would allow that to happen.

2019-10-24

 

 Colchester Borough Council’s Liberal Democrat and Labour ruling administration caved-in to Colchester Conservative’s demands for an alternative Plan B to be produced to the administration’s current New Town Plans in Council on 16th October in the face of rising opposition. This alternative Plan B would be implemented if an Independent Planning Inspector rejects plans for two new towns totalling 40,000 homes east and west of Colchester that the Liberal Democrats and Labour Groups are trying to force through without adequate public involvement or the necessary infrastructure and services.

Conservative Deputy Leader, Cllr Lewis Barber, proposed the motion calling for an alternative, Plan B to be formulated to the New Towns as a matter of urgency, in case the mandatory five-year supply of housing land was found to be unsound.

The motion said: “A lack of five-year housing supply would put the Council and the Borough at risk of speculative planning applications being permitted at appeal, and highlights the importance of having a new, valid Local Plan. Planning officers should be instructed to develop, with immediate effect, a contingency plan, Plan B.

Cllr Barber continued: “The Conservative Group has consistently voted against including the New Town proposals in the Local Plan because we had concerns about the further acceleration of house-building in the Borough. And unfortunately, while the arguments about the new Towns have dragged on, the approved supply of housing land is falling below the critical 5-year level, with disastrous consequences to the Planning Committee’s powers to control speculative development across the Borough.”

Conservatives wanted the Council’s Planning Department to start work immediately on a Plan B. However, the Leader of the Council maintained that there were insufficient experienced Planning Officers both to support the resumption of the Government Planning Inspector’s public examination of the ill-fated Plan A for the 2 new towns, and simultaneously to start work on Plan B immediately.

In  spirit of political cooperation, the Conservative Group accepted an amendment from the Leader of the Council that work on Plan B will commence as soon as the Planning Inspector has concluded his resumed of  the Public Examination of Plan A.

Cllr Barber concluded: “because of the complexity of the Local Plan proposals, we expect that the Planning Inspector will take some time in deliberating on this decision. This will provide a window of opportunity to develop Plan B as a contingency. So regardless of the Inspector’s decision, the Council will have a clear way forward, able to protect our communities from speculative development.”

Conservatives believe that housing developments should be limited to the mininimum needed to meet the internal housing demand of the Borough.

 

Living close to the River Colne, Castle Ward Councillor Simon Crow (Conservative) has been acutely aware over the past few months of the duckweed and water fern that has formed a dense carpet over the river where it runs through Castle Park. Not only does this look unsightly it can cause dissolved oxygen levels in the water leading to fish dying, and small children thinking it is a solid surface they can walk on.

Councillor Simon Crow said: “Having heard repeated claims from the council that it is the Environment Agency’s responsibility to deal with this problem I took matters into my own hands and contacted the Environment Agency myself to get to the bottom of the matter.”

Their response was a detailed email outlining their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the landowner whose land the river flows through. They made it quite clear that the removal of floating weed or soft vegetation is the sole responsibility of the riverside landowner, which in this case is Colchester Borough Council, and that the Environment Agency’s role is to intervene only when there is a risk to fish or a flood risk. The duckweed and water fern hasn’t as yet become a risk to the fish and it is not a flood risk. They also said they have given the Borough Council advice on actions that need to be taken.

Armed with this information, at full council on Wednesday night Councillor Crow raised the matter with Councillor Martin Goss, Portfolio Holder for Waste, Environment and Transportation in the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent coalition running Colchester, asking him who he believes is responsible for maintaining the river and dealing with this problem. Once again Councillor Goss talked about the Environment Agency’s responsibilities and refused to admit this is a problem that the Council are responsible for tackling.

Councillor Crow added: “The river is in a sorry state with this thick mat of duckweed and water fern that has sat on it throughout the summer and is still there now in mid-October. There are even drinks cans and other rubbish sitting on top of it. It is completely unacceptable for Councillor Goss to have taken no action and to continually point at the Environment Agency for something which he alone is responsible for. Sitting back throughout the summer waiting for the Environment Agency to step in once his inaction has caused a problem is reprehensible.

Conservative believe that it is time to create an action plan for future years should this problem arises again, which it very likely will. That plan needs to be created swiftly and made public so that residents can have faith that there will be no more failures of the Council to manage and care for our river.”

2019-10-18

 

  Neighbourhood plans, which set policies on a variety of issues such as housing, industry, infrastructure and services in a local area, are a fantastic way to ensure the community determines the future of its neighbourhood. 

Colchester Conservatives are calling for more resources to be provided for Neighbourhood Planning. Although often thought of as a rural issue, Neighbourhood Plans are appropriate for all types of communities.

The call came during a debate on West Bergholt’s Neighbourhood Plan, which was supported by 94% of its residents. This incredible result shows the positivity of local people being involved in decision making, not just being told by planners what is going to happen.

This approach, supported by Colchester Conservatives, stands in stark contrast to the top-down approach of the Liberal Democrat and Labour controlled Council, which is striving to impose two new towns, to the east and to the west of the existing Town, via its quango North East Garden Communities Ltd.

Colchester Conservatives pledge that the money being poured into NEGC, under a Conservative Administration would instead to be spent on supporting communities to prepare their Neighbourhood Pans.

2019-10-17