Southend Times
December 4, 2001


From: Mike O'Connor, Priorywood Drive, Leigh.

Sir, Earlier this month, the Government announced plans aimed at reducing further the capability of residents to scrutinise and object to develpment programmes that affect their local area.

Labour proposes to streamline the planning system by taking decision making on major road and urban development projects out of the hands of local residents and councillors, and handing it to MPs.

This absurd notion, further evidence of the Government's 'control freak' mentality, is designed to erode local democracy and remove local people from the accountability process.

The plans seriously threaten our future quality of life and the integrity of the natural environment, as it will become a simple task for Government to force through developments irrespective of the damage done to the local community and green spaces.

Bizarrely, both Labour and the Conservatives claim fast-track road building is necessary to achieve economic regeneration and, worse, believe this approach is consistent with the theme of sustainable development.

Under the proposed changes to the planning system, major schemes affecting the Southend area could be implemented without first consulting local communities.

But such projects immediately raise quality of life issues for local residents and inevitably have adverse effects on the natural environment, through increased levels of pollution and disturbance.

It is therefore imperative that such plans be carefully scrutinised by local residents and elected local councillors and not just MPs or the council's Conservative Executive, against whom the charge of 'control freak' can also be levelled, to ensure quality of life and the integrity of the natural environment is maintained.

Both Labour and the Conservatives appear unable to recognise what is meant by sustainable development.

They equate economic development with quality of life and pay scant regard to the effects of their policies on social and environmental concerns.

The proposed revision of the planning system is one more example of their distorted and inconsiderate thinking.

Clearly, as demonstrated by public opposition to the Priory Park traffic 'initiatives', the time has come for economic interests to pay regard to the needs of sustainable development, and for a stand to be made.

The right to scrutinise developments that are likely to affect our well-being should not be taken away.

I strongly urge local residents to oppose these planning system proposals and lobby the Government, MPs and Southend Council to demand local democracy be enhanced, not further diminished.

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