Colchester Borough Council should ‘hang their heads in shame’ over local plan consultation says Witham MP

Colchester High Street. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Colchester High Street. Picture: SU ANDERSON - Credit: Su Anderson

A consultation document that could help to shape the future of Colchester has been slammed as being “as difficult as possible for residents” by an Essex MP.

Witham MP Priti Patel. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Witham MP Priti Patel. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Witham MP Priti Patel has hit out over the consultation for Colchester’s draft local plan, which invites residents to share their views by post or via Colchester Borough Council’s online portal.

Residents wishing to take part are being asked to submit a special form and respond to specific issues in 100 words or less.

Speaking this morning, Mrs Patel said: “Colchester Borough Council should hang their heads in shame for making it as difficult as possible for residents to respond to this important consultation on the future of the borough.

“Their insistence on using particular forms and making people refer to certain issues is putting people off and preventing residents in communities affected by development proposals from having their voices heard.

“Most members of the public are not experts on planning policy, but they do care passionately about their communities and have important issues to raise with the Local Plan proposals.

“Other local authorities who consult at this stage on their local plan are more flexible.”

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A Colchester Borough Council spokesperson said the plan was being examined on the grounds of its soundness, legal compliance and the duty to co-operate.

“In order to help the examination process, local planning authorities are encouraged to do all they can to ensure responses received to the consultation relate to those requirements,” the spokesperson said.

“In the light of this, Colchester Borough Council has been encouraging respondents to submit responses in a format which is consistent with the examination requirements of the Planning Inspectorate.

“This includes sending a request to anyone whose response did not make clear their view in relation to soundness, legal compliance and duty to co-operate.

“Giving people the opportunity to provide this information as part of their response ensures that their views are accurately represented and submitted for examination.

“Where this information is not provided, the council has to decide whether the representation has sufficient information to be a valid representation or make assumptions in respect of the gaps in the information.

“For these reasons, we have been pursuing further clarity and, to help people navigate the process, have been encouraging the use of standard forms accompanied by guidance notes.

“Any representations received which remain without this information at the end of the consultation will be accepted in the format submitted and entered onto the consultation system, leaving gaps where the information is not available.

“At this stage, no representations have been formally rejected as invalid, while more than 70 people have been asked to complete a form/enter the representation onto the consultation portal, many of whom have subsequently completed their submission.”

The consultation ends on August 11.

To take part, visit colchester.jdi-consult.net/localplan/

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