THE housing plan that will bring 20,000 new homes to Basildon continues to spark controversy as members of the Basildon Labour Party demand a meeting with the government.
Council leader Andrew Baggot met with Simon Gallagher, director of planning at the Ministry of Housing, on June 27 to address concerns about the borough’s Local Plan which has been plagued by delays.
The following day he took to YouTube to say that the meeting was “positive” and he made assurances that the council will hit their target of delivering the plan within five months.
Speaking on the video, he said: “Today I had a meeting with the ministry responsible for these affairs and a very positive meeting with civil servants the result of which is while they understand exactly what it is we are doing, they have a little bit of concern about the fact we are going to be doing this in five months rather than the three months we had anticipated but I’ve accepted that.
“They want us to work with them, we want to work with them, it’s very important we get that Local Plan so I’m very, very pleased to be able to announce today that we are working very closely with the ministry, we will hit our target on delivering the local plan and they are supportive of the reasons behind why we are doing what we’re doing.”
But Labour councillors hit out at the council leader for the video’s lack of clarity and called for more information. Last week they managed to obtain the minutes from the meeting, which have not been made public.
Labour claims that the minutes do not reflect Mr Baggot’s positive portrayal of the meeting and say he failed to disclose the fact that government inspectors will visit the council to assess why delays are taking so long.
They said the minutes note that it would be helpful for inspectors to visit so that they can “understand production timetables and issues in more detail”.
The party is now calling for their own meeting with the government so that they can get a full understanding of what is happening.
Labour Group leader Adele Brown said: “Labour has lost confidence in the officers who have presided over this six weeks shambles. We want to meet the government officials and make our views clear. Given the council is likely to be hung again in nine months’ time, it is vital we are all on the same page.”
The dispute has occurred one week after councillors agreed to recommend a new Local Plan timeline for council approval at a planning and infrastructure committee meeting.
Conservative councillor Richard Moore, chairman of the committee, said: “A copy of the revised timetable, including a detailed work plan, has been provided to the ministry and discussions are underway between officers as to the need for and nature of the proposed visit, given that this would take time out of a work plan that was agreed by the Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee on June 28.
“We are currently on schedule to present a revised publication Local Plan to Full Council for approval in October.”