A SENIOR Basildon councillor has urged residents to nominate their local play areas for ’Local Green Space’ designation.
Tory regeneration boss Richard Moore was responding to criticism from local campaigners that the council’s Local Plan does not award protection from development to small, green areas which are already highly developed.
The South East Essex Action Group Alliance (SEEAGA) – a union of 12 local groups set up to scrutinise development in their areas – said the council was not making use of the designation.
Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says local communities ’should be able to identify for special protection green areas of particular importance to them’.
The policy says the green space must be ’reasonably close’ to the community and ’demonstrably special to a local community’.
Dr Philip Gibbs, leader of the SEEAGA said: “Thurrock Council are doing the right thing by holding a consultation to decide which areas to designate, but the Basildon cabinet has brushed the whole idea under the carpet.
“The borough’s draft Local Plan listed all the public open spaces, but the council’s preference is to keep them unprotected. The only reason why they would do this is to leave them the option of selling them off for housing later.
“There is a serious concern that they may try this to make up a budget shortfall. We urgently need to get protection for these spaces before it’s too late.”
But Cllr Moore said the council was open to giving local green spaces the protective designation.
He said: “The NPPF is very clear that it is for communities to raise this as an issue. I’m not sure doing a petition is the right way. Normally we would do this under a Neighbourhood Plan or a parish council would bring it forward.
“The council is open to making this designation, but there has to be a strong case, as set out in the policy. There has to be some particular local significance, not just ’because we walk the dog there’.”