Lexden planning cock-up angers residents

LIBERAL Democrats and Labour in Colchester have hardly covered themselves in glory over the planning application for a 12-metre high mobile phone mast which is to be built near three schools in the suburb of Lexden.

Graham Dines

LIBERAL Democrats and Labour in Colchester have hardly covered themselves in glory over the planning application for a 12-metre high mobile phone mast which is to be built near three schools in the suburb of Lexden.

At a development committee meeting on January 22, councillors threw out the proposal from O2, but this was outside the 56-day rule which sets the time by which decisions have to be made once proposals are lodged.

January 20 was the cut off date and Colchester's failure to deal with the application within the permitted time has given O2 permitted development rights by default.


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Ward councillors Sonia Lewis and Mike Hardy, who helped co-ordinate public opposition to the plans, say they are “bitterly disappointed” at the cock-up, while a spokesman for O2 says laconically: “The council had 56 days - that's a long time.”

Councillors are only as good as their officers, and no doubt someone way down the pay scale will end up taking the blame. However, the controlling Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition in charge of the council should have had the decency to admit their fault rather than leave it to an officer to “very much regret the error of timing that has occurred.”

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The promise is that “lessons have been learned” - it's remarkable how many times ministers, councillors and public bodies come up with this pious line in the hope that that will placate those they have wronged.

HARRIET'S BUS SERVICES CLANGER

THERE is no vacancy at the top of the Labour Party, but that isn't stopping leading Government figures positioning themselves for a scarp if the next election is lost. The most blatant is Harriet Harman, the public school educated deputy leader who may deny she is manoeuvring but few believe her.

However, if her utterances on buses become Labour policy, she'll keep the party in opposition for decades. She has suggested that buses should be banned from “middle-class areas” prompting a Department for Transport spokesman to brand it “madness.”

Surely the aim is to cut the usage of Chelsea tractors and fuel guzzling limos, rather than giving their drivers no alternative other than to carry on with the school run.

BNP CASH IN - WHERE DOES THE BLAME LIE?

SO the BNP is making advances in local council by-elections. The party won a seat from Labour in Sevenoaks and polled well is other area last Thursday.

It's no use Labour - which is most at risk from the defections of white working class voters - shaking its collective heads in puzzlement at the advance of the BNP. When Gordon Brown's “British jobs for British workers” speech - cheered to the rafters when he made such a daft and totally illegal declaration at Labour's conference in 2007 - was exposed as a con last month through EU workers being bussed to major building and infrastructure projects, it's little wonder that people feel cheated.

David Cameron's Tories can't take any comfort either - why is the BNP the repository for Labour voters and not the Conservatives? The threat to mainstream politics is there for all to see. There is only one way to combat it, and that's through honesty, which seems in short supply.

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