COLCHESTER Council bosses have hit back at an MP’s claims they are refusing to accept comments from the public on plans for development.

Conservative Priti Patel, whose Witham constituency includes Stanway, issued a stinging attack on the council claiming it was turning down submissions regarding the authority’s Local Plan if they are not written in complicated planning terms.

The document, which governs development across Colchester over the next 17 years, has been put out to consultation before being signed off by a planning inspector.

Ms Patel said: “Colchester Council should hang their heads in shame for making it as difficult as possible for residents to respond to this important consultation on the future of the borough.

“I have received a complaint from a resident who has had their submission arbitrarily rejected by the council.

“Their insistence on using particular forms and making people refer to certain issues is putting people off and preventing residents in communities affected by development proposals from having their voices heard.

“Most members of the public are not experts on planning policy but they do care passionately about their communities and have important issues to raise with the Local Plan proposals.”

She added: “Other local authorities who consult at this stage on their Local Plan are more flexible.

“This rotten council has a track record ignoring residents on planning issues and this is the latest example of their incompetence.”

However, a spokesman for the council said there were specific requirements for responses at this stage. He said: “Colchester Council has been encouraging respondents to submit responses in a format which is consistent with the examination requirements of the planning inspectorate.

“Giving people the opportunity to provide this information as part of their response ensures their views are accurately represented and submitted for examination.

“Where this information is not provided, the council has to decide whether the representation has sufficient information to be a valid representation or make assumptions in respect of the gaps in the information.

“For these reasons, we have been pursuing further clarity and, to help people navigate the process, have been encouraging the use of standard forms accompanied by guidance notes.”

The spokesman added no representations had been rejected as invalid at this stage. To have your say go to