THE MP for Thurrock has defended her right to stick up for her constituents in the wake of tough questioning on the first day of a probe into how controversial plans for 501 homes in Aveley were given the go-ahead.
The huge development on the former London Fire Brigade Sports and Social Club, which is green belt land, was given the green light in November last year, sparking uproar among residents.
MP Jackie Doyle-Price called for a public inquiry, which started on Tuesday, and came under attack by the developers’ legal team.
Barrister Harriet Townsend on behalf of developers quizzed Ms Doyle-Price on whether an MP should be getting involved in local planning matters.
Mrs Townsend also questioned the legitimacy of her near-500 signature petition against the development.
But laying out her intentions, to the inquiry, Ms Doyle-Price said: “My purpose is to allow local residents to coalesce and allow their voices to be heard because they were not heard when this application came before the (planning) committee.”
She said her main objections were over the development being approved on green belt when there was former industrial land available for housing in Purfleet, that the development would effectively merge Aveley and Purfleet and erase its “village character,” her concerns about road capacity and safety and that the development was approved with only five per cent of homes as affordable housing - when the council’s own threshold was 35 per cent.
Residents reacted furiously to the plans being given the go-ahead last year, arguing that Aveley would not be able to cope with all the extra homes.
The developer promised to build a new sports centre and football ground for Grays Athletic at Treetops School in Grays.
Mrs Townsend quizzed the Thurrock MP over the benefits to Grays Athletic and Treetops and referred to a petition signed by 160 people calling for more sports facilities in Thurrock.
But Ms Doyle-Price pointed out some of the signatures were from as far as Corringham and Rayleigh, with one name even being listed as Mickey Mouse.
When asked to spare a thought for those outside the village who use sports facilities in Aveley, she added: “I make no apology for saying that the views of people who live in Aveley are more important than those who travel to use facilities in Aveley.”
The inquiry was due to continue on Wednesday, with Terry Hipsey, the chairman of the planning committee giving evidence.
*For the very latest on the inquiry, go to www.thurrockgazette.co.uk