Chat GPT – Middlewick Serious Questions

Appendix 6 – Concerns Over Middlewick’s Inclusion in the Local Plan: Questionable Decisions and Practices

The following is a summary of specific areas of concern regarding the circumstances and decisions which resulted in Middlewick Ranges appearance on the Local Plan. These raise very serious concerns about the integrity, transparency and circumstances regarding the process which resulted in Middlewick being placed onto the Local Plan.

Withholding Crucial Information

  • Suppression of Critical Correspondence: A significant letter from Natural England, a key statutory authority, was not disclosed to councillors ahead of the decisive Local Plan vote in June 2022, raising questions about the transparency and integrity of the process.

Ignoring Community and Expert Input

  • Disregard for Public Consultation: Thousands of local voices, including expert opinions from respected nature organizations like Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT), Essex Field Club (EFC), and Colchester Natural History Society (CNHS), were systematically overlooked, undermining the democratic process.
  • Overriding Expert and Public Objections: Expert concerns and substantial objections were consistently dismissed, including those addressing the inadequacies of commercial ecological reports and criticisms from a wide range of experts.

Procedural Irregularities

  • Last-Minute Inclusion without Consultation: Middlewick Ranges was abruptly added to the Local Plan in 2016, bypassing standard procedures such as initial sustainability reviews, hinting at a premeditated agenda for development.
  • Skipping Essential Safeguards: The normal due diligence processes and environmental safeguard checks were seemingly circumvented, indicating a predisposition towards development.

Presumption for Development

  • Development Bias Pre-Surveys: There was an apparent assumption in favour of developing Middlewick Ranges even before ecological assessments were conducted, questioning the objective assessment of the site’s ecological value.

For example, statement by Councillor Tim Young on 19th December 2016 (prior to the return of any ecological surveys):
“He (Councillor Tim Young) was of the view that both Garden Communities as well as the proposed development on land at Middlewick Ranges would need to be accepted and he agreed with the revised housing numbers for Mersea Island.”

Original minutes for this crucial meeting, search for ‘Middlewick’ in document for consequential statements at this time when the site was propelled onto the Local Plan at very short notice without proper scrutiny or public/expert consultation):
Microsoft Word – pbxizwq5.docx (

  • Unquestioned Destructive Potential: The fundamental question of whether the important Local Wildlife Site should be destroyed for housing appears to have been never raised, indicating a failure to consider alternatives or the site’s ecological significance and a complete failure to apply the mitigation hierarchy required under NPPF guidelines, which necessitates a presumption against development of Local Wildlife Sites.

Unsound Ecological Assessments which are not fit for purpose

  • Uncritical Acceptance of Experimental Claims: Claims about experimental methods like sulphur treatment for replacing ancient acid grassland were accepted without critical evaluation, raising concerns about the scientific validity of the proposed mitigation strategies.
  • Omission of Key Ecological Questions: Essential questions regarding the possibility of mitigating or compensating for the impacts on irreplaceable habitats and nationally significant invertebrate populations were not adequately addressed.

Overlooking Regulatory and Environmental Commitments

  • Bypassing Planning Guidelines and Legislation: Guidelines and legislation designed to protect Local Wildlife Sites and biodiversity, such as the NPPF, were ignored, undermining legal protections for critical habitats.
  • Contradiction to Declared Emergencies: The proposals starkly contrast with Colchester City Council’s declared ‘Biodiversity and Climate Emergency’ and commitments to biodiversity, revealing a disconnect between policy declarations and actions.

Misinformation and Misleading Threats

  • Perpetuation of MoD Myths: Planners echoed MoD’s unfounded threats of ‘2000 houses’ and speculative development, influencing council decisions under a false narrative.
  • Misled Decision Making: Councillors reported being misled or inadequately informed before voting, suggesting manipulation or misrepresentation of facts to secure the Local Plan’s approval.
  • ‘Opportunity to retract Middlewick at later date!’ Martin Goss

Council’s Vulnerability to External Pressures

  • Apparent Coercion by MoD: The Council’s seeming capitulation to MoD pressures, who has shown disregard for the community’s values, indicates a troubling susceptibility to external influence, possibly at the expense of public interest.

Transparency and Accountability Issues

  • Consistent Lack of Clarity: Ongoing obfuscation and the refusal to transparently address urgent community questions mark a significant governance failure, eroding trust in the decision-making process.

Financial and Ethical Concerns

  • Financial Incentives and Ethical Implications: The inclusion of Middlewick in the Local Plan, potentially facilitating a multimillion-pound sale to the MoD, raises profound ethical questions, particularly in the context of spending on military hardware, contrasting sharply with community values and the pressing need for conservation.

These points collectively suggest a pattern of concerning decisions and practices surrounding the inclusion of Middlewick Ranges in the Local Plan, warranting closer scrutiny and immediate re-evaluation to restore trust, ensure due process, and uphold environmental and democratic principles.

We feel each specific concern individually warrant further attention and investigation in order to provide transparency about the reasons which lie behind the apparent systemic failures of systems and decision making; and in order to prevent this happening at other sites of county/national level value for biodiversity – and other invaluable community assts and public green spaces.

Additional Concerns, 26th February 2024

Additional Concerns as of 26th February 2024 following the release of the ‘independent ecologist’ brief which confirms remaining pro development bias and presumption that allocation and development under Masterplan will proceed (see Friends of Middlewick statement 26-02-24).

FOI request results (see .pdf document via link under ‘References’):

  1. Unchanged Survey Brief: Despite new evidence, the 2024 ecologist survey brief remains the same as in 2023, favouring development and disregarding counterarguments and evidence presented by nature organizations and campaign groups.
  2. Dismissal of New Evidence: Overwhelming new and historical evidence highlighting the environmental impact of development on Middlewick Ranges has been ignored, undermining the credibility of the council’s commitment to due process and environmental preservation.
  3. Questionable Independence: The supposed independence of the ecologist conducting the survey is compromised by a brief that presupposes development is feasible and focuses on mitigating impacts rather than assessing their unavoidability.
  4. Contractual Limitations on Ecologist: The conditions set forth in the brief may prevent the ecologist from making unbiased assessments, pushing them towards conclusions that align with predetermined development goals.
  5. Neglect of Wildlife Concerns: There is a glaring omission in the brief regarding the catastrophic impacts on existing wildlife, particularly on the acid grassland Priority Habitat, indicating a lack of thorough environmental consideration.
  6. Inadequate Examination of Mitigation Feasibility: The brief fails to critically evaluate the possibility of mitigating or compensating for the impacts on irreplaceable habitats and protected species, revealing a superficial approach to environmental stewardship.
  7. Extended Survey Timeline as a Delaying Tactic: The decision to extend the survey period may serve to delay confronting the ecological findings until after the new Local Plan is potentially approved, sidestepping the need for immediate action.
  8. Risk of Prejudiced Local Plan Inclusion: The current trajectory suggests Middlewick could be irreversibly designated for development in the new Local Plan under false assurances of incorporating future ecological findings.
  9. Manipulative Use of Speculative Development Threat: The council’s narrative around the necessity of including Middlewick in the Local Plan to avoid speculative development exploits fears and may lead to irreversible environmental damage.
  10. Appearance of Due Diligence Over Genuine Engagement: The council’s approach gives the impression of listening and acting responsibly while fundamentally failing to engage with substantive environmental and community concerns.
  11. Obfuscation and Misrepresentation: The council’s actions suggest a pattern of withholding information, failing to engage in meaningful dialogue with campaigners and nature organizations, and misrepresenting the situation to the public.
  12. Ignored Requests for Alternative Studies: The council has not addressed requests for a comprehensive desk study, which could provide sufficient insight into the ecological value of Middlewick without the need for a full season’s survey, indicating a disregard for efficient and informed decision-making.

These points collectively suggest a concerning lack of transparency and genuine engagement with environmental and community concerns by the Colchester City Council regarding the development of Middlewick Ranges.

Conclusions and Action Required

Given the array of disconcerting practices and decisions surrounding Middlewick Ranges’ inclusion in the Local Plan, a cloud of suspicion inevitably looms over the integrity of the process. This intricate web of questionable actions and the apparent opacity in decision-making compel us to ponder the true dynamics at play. Could this situation be attributed merely to misinformation disseminated by the MoD, or perhaps a series of communication breakdowns and procedural oversights? Or does it hint at a more deliberate, perhaps even coordinated agenda beneath the surface?

The pattern of actions, from withheld crucial information to disregarding public and expert input, not only undermines trust but also signals potential lapses in ethical governance. This scenario becomes even more concerning when juxtaposed with the systemic issues of mismanagement and allegations of corruption unveiled in recent investigations and dramatizations, such as those highlighted in “Mr Bates” and “After the Flood,” alongside investigative reports by leading publications. These revelations have not only captivated the public’s attention but have also heightened demands for transparency, accountability, and justice across all levels of governance.

This collective unease begs for a deeper examination. It prompts a pressing need for transparency and a thorough investigation into the processes that led to the precarious positioning of Middlewick Ranges within the Local Plan. It is paramount that we explore all conceivable explanations to dispel any doubts or confirm fears of misconduct. The swift removal of Middlewick Ranges from the Local Plan would not only alleviate immediate threats to this ecological treasure but could also significantly reduce scrutiny and pressure on the council, offering a path towards restoring public confidence.

As long as Middlewick Ranges remains a pawn in the Local Plan, our commitment to uncovering the truth and advocating for its protection remains unwavering. The broader implications of this case underscore a collective call for integrity in environmental stewardship and planning decisions. This is in particular the very grave risk of setting a perilous county and national precedent, as discussed in Section 10.

It is in everyone’s interest, especially those at the helm of these decisions, to act promptly and judiciously to rectify this situation, thereby diminishing the spectre of further investigation and ensuring that the lessons from this episode lead to more transparent and accountable governance practices moving forward.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *