By Local Democracy Reporter
ATTEMPTS to stall thousands of new homes in Basildon failed last night (Thursday).
Conservative councillors demanded a six week public consultation on a plan for more than 18,000 properties.
However, councillors at the full council meeting rejected the delay, pointing to a series of public consultations since 2014.
The ruling administration agreed 9,000 homes in Basildon, Laindon, Pitsea and Noak Bridge; more than 3,000 in Billericay and more than 3,500 in Wickford.
“To keep putting this back on the shelf and doing nothing is not an option,” said UKIP leader Linda Allport-Hodge.
Conservative councillor Richard Moore, for Burstead ward, had told the meeting at Basildon’s Sporting Village that the public had not had a say on increased house number or 56 new traveller and gypsy pitches.
“The plan has changed significantly,” he said.
He was backed by Tory leader Phil Turner and other conservatives.
Conservative councillor Tony Hedley, for Billericay West, insisted that if the administration refused the amendment, the “purest form of consultation takes place at the ballot box in May”.
Conservative councillor Terri Sargent, for Crouch ward, added: “It seems like the local plan is being railroaded through.”
Conservative councillor Andrew Baggott, for Burstead ward, said: “This is a Frankenstein monster of a policy. It’s disgrace to the public and to democracy.”
Conservative group leader Phil Turner criticised all four group leaders that make up the administration coalition.
He described ‘some good things’ in the plan: more housing for residents, employment land.
But he said the four group leaders – de facto council leader Gavin Callaghan; Leader of the Independence from the EU Group, councillor Kerry Smith; Mrs Allport-Hodge, and Wickford Independents leader, councillor David Harrison – were ‘forcing things on people they don’t like’.
He criticised the administration for rejecting a number of conservative amendments to improve the plan.
“We’ve put stuff before you for the whole the borough,” said Mr Turner. “Yet you have not listened.
“This is a fantastic opportunity missed.
“Officers been bullied and intimated into putting this plan together.
“This is going to be put to a test by an inspector. He will hear from the public and developers and their legal council. He will uncover what you’re trying to hide in this.”
The meeting was told that Basildon greenbelt cover will go down from 63 per cent to 59 per cent to accommodate the homes, commercial premises, two large hotels and 53 traveller pitches and three plots.
The ruling groups said the loss of greenbelt was significantly less than proposals in previous years.
Councillors who voted the plan through described it as ‘fair’ for everyone.
Kerry Smith said: “I should be dead against this plan. But it’s as good as it gets.”
De facto council leader and Labour councillor Gavin Callaghan said schools, roads and GP surgeries would be put in place before housing development begins.
He added: “For 20 years developers have been allowed to build without infrastructure because we didn’t have a plan.
“We can put control back in the hand of the authority.”
Wickford Independents leader, David Harrison, said developers had had a ‘field day’ because the borough had had no local plan since 1998.
“No plan will ever suit everyone. But this is fair across the borough.”
UKIP leader Linda Allport-Hodge made the final comment.
“The average wage in Basildon is £21,000,” she said. “The average house price is £400,000. I’ve done economics. Supply and demand impacts on house prices. This may bring house prices down for out younger generation. That’s what we should be doing. Building homes for our residents.”
The plan was approved by the majority.