Essex: MP warned not to use planning as a ‘political football’ in row over Colchester United’s Tiptree training ground

Priti Patel, MP for Witham

Priti Patel, MP for Witham - Credit: Archant

An Essex MP has been urged not to make planning a “political football” in a row over Colchester United’s training ground.

Priti Patel, MP for Witham, has waded into a long-running dispute between residents living close to the U’s Florence Park facility in Tiptree.

She blamed Colchester Borough Council (CBC) for a lack of action to tackle concerns raised by residents.

The latest row centres around the placement of temporary buildings at the training ground and the timing of matches at the site.

Ms Patel said: “Residents in Tiptree are fed up with planning controls being abused and no real action being taken.

“It’s taken weeks for the council to confirm that this Sunday’s match time will now comply with planning controls and their dithering over the demountables is shameful and shambolic.

“This Lib Dem and Labour-controlled council continues to let down the people of Tiptree with its feeble efforts to enforce planning controls.”

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But Anne Turrell, councillor for planning at CBC, said it was wrong of the MP to bring party politics into the realm of planning.

She said: “Planning is run by law and policy, both national and local, and it should not be used as a political football.

“I can’t just change it, we are legally bound.

“I am very happy with the officers at CBC and they are carrying out their job correctly and following the rules.

“The council has spent many working hours dealing with all the complaints that come through and we have investigated everything.

“I am disappointed that Ms Patel did not come to the council for up-to-date information. The council works closely with all of the area’s MPs.”

A CBC spokesman said that with regard to the latest issues, the club had negotiated with opposing teams to move fixtures to times which comply with the planning permission attached to Florence Park and had moved the demountable buildings to a suitable position in partnership with the authority’s environmental protection team.

She added the club has moved youth coaching sessions to Shrub End in Colchester when they clash with under-16 and under-18 matches to reduce the impact of parking, and had employed a parking attendant for weekends to address the parking issue.

As well as being the U’s training ground Florence Park is also a key part of the club’s youth set-up.

U’s chairman Robbie Cowling said he did not want to comment on the row.