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Leigh Town Council votes no to Havens Hospice plans
LEIGH town councillors have unanimously rejected plans for a hospice on green belt land.
Bosses at Havens Hospices told councillors at a planning meeting they had searched 212 sites across Southend, Castle Point and Rochford for a suitable site for a new hospice. Despite this, they insisted the land off Belton Way West uniquely meets their needs.
Changes to the original plans, which were withdrawn last December, involve lowering the hospice into the hillside, allowing it to blend in with the environment, as well as having more trees and bushes. But the changes did little to convince councillors to approve the scheme.
During a packed planning meeting, representatives from Havens reassured town councillors the building would not open the floodgates to more development on the land.
Peter Marriner, project manager for the development, said: “We know about the controversy from the last application and worked with the councils to assess all the sites available.
“I was told by the head of planning at Southend Council to look at green and greenfield sites because brownfield sites were not acceptable.”
The committee unanimously agreed to oppose the plans.
Carole Mulroney, chairman of the council raised concerns about the development setting a precedent for other work to take place on the site.
She said: “The differences that have been put forward are cosmetic. They have not made a difference to the reasons why this council objected to the application last year. This is still on green belt land.
“My view remains the same. It is an inappropriate development and I don’t consider the very special circumstances have been met.”
The council opposed the development last year because of issues with noise, possible further expansion or development, and as it was green belt land and a nature conservation site.
The controversial plans were withdrawn after planning officers recommended them for refusal, to the relief of campaigners.
However, since the plans re-emerged in July, fierce debate among residents and councillors has re-ignited.
Councillor Caroline Parker added: “Nobody will deny the hospice does a wonderful job. People come from a very wide area to Havens.
“I personally cannot believe, given how big Essex is, there is not another site available that could accommodate this building.”
Southend Council, which has the final say, will debate the application in November.