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Just Stop Soil! Southend residents in for 85000 truck movements of soil for Bellways project

Review of Place Scrutiny Committee 5th June

There are due to be 85,000 trucks to move in and out of Southend in order to transport soil for the new Bellway housing development in Shoebury.

This development has already been approved by the Development Control Committee. 

The route for the trucks had also been previously agreed. 

This was all done under the previous Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent Group coalition.

It should have been glaringly obvious that residents would find 85000 trucks moving through Southend a problem and a solution should have been provided before anything was approved. Somehow, the Labour-led coalition did not do this.

Scrutinising Questions that should already have been asked

This is a mess, make no mistake. It could have been avoided with a different set of decision-makers, but what is dumbfounding is that some of the questions asked by the very same people who made the decision to accept the Bellway project in its current guise, should have asked them before they agreed it! The questions were being asked as though they had nothing to do with it.  For anyone watching for the first time, you might have thought the Portfolio Holder was the mastermind behind the whole plan. For the councillors and officers that live in this tiny political bubble, I cannot imagine this didn't occur to them.

In fact, the Tories had pledged to explore alternative routes, which is what this motion was all about.

The new administration are sensibly looking into alternatives by sea or rail, and if they pull it off then that would be a relief for the trouble that very few residents realise is due to come our way.

But this is a last minute rescue job that was instigated by someone in the council whose job is not based on the concerns of residents.

Stopping Stupid

On a side-note, I have written before about one of the goals of our party being to ‘Stop Stupid’.  I mentioned that is was a crass statement.  However, this is once again one of those matters that you can’t quite believe is happening and have to spend half your time on a goal that is simply to take things back to normality.

Sticking to guns

To be fair, many other questions raised were consistent with sticking to the plan and really seeked the Portfolio Holder to accept that pursuing alternative transport is a forlorn hope.

I found the audacity of the leader of the opposition piling on the criticism for the Portfolio Holder to seek to make amends for the very policy his party implemented quite difficult to swallow. There is a damage limitation exercise going on and questions really ought to have been geared towards how to make this possible, not all the reasons why it shouldn't be done.

However, a special mention should go out for Labour Councillor Martin Berry, who was actually ok with the Tory motion. A ray of light to see party politics shoved to the side and how he spoke only to represent his St Luke’s ward residents.

Bellways' Perspective

It is true to say that Bellways have a plan and a budget, and they do not want this altered. Any conversation that doesn’t match up to this they will no doubt be against.  But, they themselves need to recognise the disruption they are about to cause and any future developments they may wish to pursue in Southend may not be met with the same goodwill as they have received so far.  How this manifests itself within the legal framework is difficult to tell, however, they will know how important having Southend onside is.

Ultimately, it had to make financial sense for Bellway and being that they are moving forward with this, it can be assumed it does.  Bellway are well within their rights to make money, that is their business.  It is not the fault of Bellways that individuals in high places within the council were not astute enough to realise the potential problems, or if they did, were not adequately motivated to do anything about it.

Questions I would have asked

The truth is approving a development that requires 85,000 of truck movements over 2 years should never have been allowed. What desperation was there to build on this land?

Why, when it was discovered that this soil was required, was the land continued to be made available? When did Bellway know of the requirement?  Did they know before they purchased the land? If before, were they given guarantees that they would be permitted to do this? If so, by whom? Was it part of the price?  Was the land sold by the council or was it already privately owned? If the council owned it, and knowingly sold it with this issue, who approved it?  Why did Bellway take on this project with such a significant requirement? What financial incentives were they given - if any? Were residents ever considered?

My View

It is absolutely right to explore all the options of the bad hand that has been dealt.  There may well be many issues with the exploration and if indeed it turns out there to be nothing that can be done then fair enough.  But residents do not want all these truck movements and we need to work backwards from that. 

Residents will not want this.

If it happens, they will want to know that everything was done to prevent it. This is what the Tories are doing. And whether for political gain or not, I support it.

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Tris Bee
Tris Bee

The question I would be curious to get an answer to is have or Bellway been ordered to reimburse the council for every penny of highway damage, every broken sewer, or any enviormetal damage caused.

This really is a must.

Tris Bee.

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