Last week I reported on the deal struck between Southend UKIP and Southend Conservatives, which now seems to be common knowledge, including that Cllr Floyd Waterworth (UKIP – Blenheim Park) would get chair of Development Control Committee.
Now, never minding the horse trading still going on behind closed doors–including the sheer number of Conservative councillors suddenly realising that they have their leader Cllr John Lamb (CON – West Leigh) over a barrel and can demand plum jobs for themselves–there seems to be a groundswell of scepticism as to whether Cllr Waterworth is up to what is — in effect — the most senior non-cabinet role on the council.
Development Control is the committee on the Council that deals with planning matters. It is a cross-party, quasi-judicial body which needs to assess planning applications and any objections to them in an impartial light with a view to the law and to the council’s planning policy. It is not a place for politics, and it is not a place for grandstanding.
The last two occupants of this role were former Leigh councillor Alan Crystal, and Cllr David Norman (LAB – Victoria). Both of these were longstanding members of the council, respected on all sides.
Cllr Waterworth is…not.
Not only that, but as yesterday’s Southend Echo reported, it seems that there are concerns about whether Cllr Waterworth has the necessary training.
Said Cllr Mike Assenheim (IND – Shoeburyness),
“…the two UKIP councillors haven’t even been councillors long enough to know all of [the planning policies and laws], and haven’t had the amount of training let alone to sit on these committees, let alone have the chairs.”
Given that the only interaction I’ve seen from him with the planning process was the time that he branded residents objecting to planning applications as “nosy” and “complainers”, it hardly inspires confidence in his judgement. One of the most common complaints on the doorstep across the town centre and even in parts of Blenheim Park was of overdevelopment. Residents are sick of a system which overtly favours developers over people, and look to the Council and the Development Control Committee as the buttress against those interests riding roughshod over their own.
Having a chair of Development Control who, other lack of qualifications aside, has already shown himself to be pro-developer and anti-resident interests is hardly going to inspire more faith in the already beleaguered system, is it?