by Jo Hayes on 23 February, 2016
In a week when the Tory MP for Witham, Priti Patel, lashed out at Colchester Borough Council over the Planning Committee’s decision on 18th February to refuse approval for a shopping mall in Stanway, she rode roughshod over Conservative-controlled Braintree District Council’s emerging local plan and her own Government’s planning policy!
In an extraordinary outburst Ms Patel savaged the Council for turning down the application, even though approval would have meant loss of strategic employment zone land – and even though she is Employment Minister!
Ms Patel’s behaviour is breathtaking.
As an Employment Minister she should know better than to support the loss of strategic employment zone land to become a shopping mall.
Only a few months ago she was praising the opening of new offices in Stanway. I support her position on that.
Being near Junction 26 of the A12 trunk road and close to Felixstowe and Harwich, that land is a great place for businesses to be, not only offices but R & D, studios or hi-tech. That argument is not being heard, but the Borough needs jobs like those to bring opportunities and prosperity to what is currently a low-income area. We do not want our well-qualified people moving away because Stanway has nothing to offer them.
This ties in with what Sir Vince Cable has been saying, that the UK needs to rebalance the unbalanced, consumer-driven economy we have (which Tollgate Village would add to) and get back to making and exporting. He did so much towards this while at BIS.
Does she think that her constituents’ best interests are served by zero hours contracts on the minimum wage, as a proportion of Tollgate Village jobs would be?
Aside from the jobs issue, Ms Patel is failing to look after her own town of Witham, which would suffer significant damage through loss of trade if Tollgate Village were built.
Ms Patel fails to mention what impact the Tollgate proposals would have on retail traders in Witham. Did she consult them before making her outburst?
Besides, she is contradicting national and local policy of both the Government to which she belongs and Conservative-run Braintree District Council. Both Government and Council state that new retail development should be in town centres, including Witham.
By jumping on the Tollgate Village bandwagon, Ms Patel has betrayed the traders and residents of Witham.