Basildon Council Pulls 20,000 Homes
Plans for more than 20,000 homes in the area of Essex run by Basildon Council have been shelved for the second time.
Among the reasons for withdrawing the proposals – which included 3,738 new homes in Wickford, where our site is located, as well as in and around Basildon and Billericay – were that there were fears of overdevelopment of rural areas and to prevent the construction of high-rise flats.
The plans were first shelved in February, but an intervention by council officers over the implications of the decision led to another vote being needed in early March. The council officers had raised concerns about the waste of resources used in both preparing the old plan and creating a replacement, which in all likelihood would still involve building on the green belt and in the town centre.
Council leader Andrew Baggott is convinced that the decision was “fundamentally and absolutely the right decision”, and asserted that the council was committed to coming up with a new set of proposals that would meet the government’s housing targets. However, there are significant concerns that this new uncertainty leaves the area open to speculative developments, while there also remains the possibility that the government may intervene to move things forward.
Minister of State for Housing, Stuart Andrew MP, has written to Andrew Baggott to point out that: “Given my continued commitment to ensuring up-to-date local plans are in place, I must remind the Council that the Government remain prepared to intervene where local authorities fail to make sufficient progress in accordance with the existing statutory powers in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.
“I will carefully consider all appropriate action using available statutory powers, including whether to direct with regard to the local development scheme and inviting the County Council to prepare a local plan for Basildon.”
That threat to appoint the County Council to come up with a new plan is worrying opposition councillors, as the local authority would lose control over where any new housing might go. It has been further suggested that the move to withdraw the plan may also be unlawful.
Since the vote, a new plan has been submitted by developers for a 370-home site on green land on the edge of Wickford. Local councillor David Harrison said: “Now the local plan has been withdrawn, we are now going to see developers taking a chance and putting in speculative applications for large-scale developments in the hopes they can force them through.
“It feels like they are taking a chance and there will be a lot more of this in the future and I can see this happening across the borough.”
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