SOUTHEND Council’s boss has apologised to campaigners for taking almost a year to deal with an application to make Shoebury Common a village green.
Rob Tinlin, Southend Council’s chief executive, said sorry to the Friends of Shoebury Common for delaying the application, aimed at protecting the open space from development.
The Friends of Shoebury Common successfully campaigned against plans for a 7ft seawall across the common and hope the village green status might put the controversial scheme to bed.
Member Peter Lovett, 68, of Leitrim Avenue, Shoebury, said: “I’ve had so many apologies about delays – and it’s not just the delays, it’s the fact they set deadlines and then break them and don’t have the courtesy to say they are struggling and can they have more time.
“It’s all well and good apologising, but it’s like stepping on someone’s foot, saying sorry and then doing it again.”
The campaigners applied for the common to be designated a village green in November 2013, straight after the council agreed plans for the seawall. The new joint Independent, Lib Dem and Labour administration, which took control of the council chamber in May, is reviewing the controversial flood defence.
Council officers only advertised the application, which will be considered by an independent inspector before being decided by the council, last month.
Objections to the application must be sent to the council by today.
Mr Tinlin has admitted council officers failed to start processing the application fast enough and failed to inform the campaigners of the delay, caused by a need to seek legal advice.
Responding to an official complaint by Mr Lovett, the council chief wrote: “We acknowledge a review of the file confirms the council did not acknowledge and begin the formal process of the application as promptly as we would have hoped, within the guidelines set by Department for Food and Rural Affairs and we are sorry this did not happen.
“Your application was the first the council has processed and, as you are aware, there are covenants in place in respect of the common.
“It was necessary therefore, for the council to seek legal advice to establish the legality of the registration.”
RESIDENTS BACK PLAN
A RESIDENTS’ association has backed plans to designate Shoebury Common as a village green.
Shoebury Residents’ Association has offered its support for the application, made under the Commons Act 2006.
Planning officers have admitted the designation, allowed for public spaces used for sports and pastimes for at least 20 years, would prevent its redevelopment.
Treasurer John Budge, of Leitrim Avenue, Shoebury, said: “We wholeheartedly support the application for village green registration for Shoebury Common as this will ensure this land is retained for public usage and not sold off for commercial purposes such as the building of flats.
“If this registration is successful, we believe the current usage by local residents including parking and other leisure activities will be able to continue for perpetuity as will the continued use of and repairs to beach huts and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”