By Local Democracy Reporter
A MAJOR housing plan setting out where almost 18,000 homes should be built across Basildon before 2034 has been agreed by councillors.
There were accusations of nimbyism after the meeting of the full Basildon Council last night – with the policy to greenlight some previously unauthorised travellers sites, and the decision not to earmark land south west of Billericay for 300 homes and Noak Bridge for a further 350 homes, coming under particular criticism.
Following a change of leadership of the council in May, and an extraordinary meeting of the council a month later, there had been an agreement to rescind the decisions taken by the previous administration on March 22 – particularly focusing on seven specified components.
The revised local plan makes provision for 17,791 homes, of which at least 15,465 are expected to be delivered by 2034. There has also been a slight decrease of around 400 homes being planned since that decision was taken.
But it was revisions to where travellers should be accomodated and other housing changes that caused the majority of disagreement at the council meeting.
Among the most criticised changes to the previous plan passed in March focused on the Conservative administration’s decision to remove 300 homes south west of Billericay and 350 homes in Noak Bridge – reducing the amount of community infrastructure money by £22 million.
Leader of Basildon’s Labour group, Councillor Gavin Callaghan, said: “Naturally I am disappointed because I think the plan we have passed as a council is going to meet significant challenges from the inspector.
“I think we are likely to have a plan that is unsound and therefore lots of the sites that we have worked hard to not include or lots of the infrastructure that we have worked hard to try to get hold of, I don’t think we are going to now see coming into Basildon.
“I think we have made a big strategic mistake tonight.
“I think the reality is that for decades in Basildon we have had a Conservative administration that has prioritised the protection of Billericay over Basildon, Laindon, Pitsea and Wickford and it looks like tonight that those campaigners who have wanted to protect 300 homes have won. I said the local plan should be about more than that.
“This should not have come down to some narrow debate about 300 homes in south West Billericay or 350 in Noak Bridge. It should have been bigger than that.
“Sadly, it is a good day for nimbyism and a bad day for proper planning.”
There was also condemnation for the plans to travellers and gypsy provision and approving some of the previously “unauthorised” travellers sites, at least two of which are in Hovefields near Wickford.
Cllr Callaghan added: “I think it’s important that you protect the rule of law and it’s important as a planning authority that you stand up for law-abiding citizens.
“The policy we have tonight has significant legal challenges – it’s going to be difficult to enforce.
“Where we should have been serving section 61 notices on unauthorized development, we are actually going to end up in a situation where we are going to be handing out application forms to allow people to stay.
“It’s a scatter gun approach. It’s not strategic. We can’t plan properly around those sites. We are just rolling over and it’s a weak policy that Labour does not want to be a part of.”
Cllr Andrew Baggott, the leader of Basildon Borough Council said: “We put together those amendments because we listened to the public and we have now followed through with our local plan.
“Is it an ugly baby? Absolutely .
“All we have been able to do is make the amendments we said we would make. We would have liked to have gone further but we recognise going further risks intervention.
“Last year, we were disappointed that the administration at the time failed to listen to the public in various areas, we were disappointed they got confused about the extra houses in Billericay.