Basildon Council facing huge bill as developer appeals over stalled Market Square housing plans

Basildon Council may be hit with a £2million bill after a developer has gone to appeal over stalled housing plans in Market Square.

Orwell Real Estate is challenging the Conservative-led council’s decision to stall the plans approved by the previous Labour-Independent alliance administration earlier this year.

The major development would see a large part of Basildon town centre knocked down for 492 homes and shops, but council leader Andrew Baggott (Con, Burstead) said fighting the appeal would cost the authority £2million.

The council remains committed to fighting the development, which the Conservatives campaigned heavily against during last May’s local elections.

Addressing residents via a video on his councillor Facebook page, Cllr Baggott said the developer was “perfectly within their right” to appeal but the public are “very, very, very much against the idea of high rise monstrosities in the town centre.”

He said: “We are very much aware with that appeal we will have to fight it and we may win and we may lose.

“The cost of it though we reckon is going to be in the region of £2m and that is the cost of listening to residents and actually following through on what residents want to do.

“Am I happy about the fact that it’s likely to cost the public purse that amount of money? No of course not, but what I am resolute on is the fact that if the public wants us to fight their corner that’s what we will do.”

Orwell Real Estate was approached for comment.

Former deputy leader of the previous Labour-Independent alliance, Councillor Kerry Smith (Ind, Nethermayne), called on Cllr Baggott to resign if the council loses the appeal.

He said: “The taxpayer during the local election was made very ambiguous promises based on no facts at all by this incoming Conservative administration that they would stop all the flats in the town centre.

“The public gave them the benefit of the doubt and their support and now the pigeons have come home to roost.

“Once they do this U-turn to try and stop this two million Baggott’s credibility is dead, so it’s time now for them to get a new leader to start protecting the taxpayer’s interests and what residents want.”

The proposed development is part of the Basildon Masterplan, which will see a huge amount of housing and mixed-use developments built in the town centre.

The Market Square development would replace a line of units facing the old Basildon Market with a 17 storey high-rise tower of 492 flats and several retail units on the lower levels.

The current administration scrapped the masterplan in June, before launching a consultation to get residents’ views on the future of the town centre, which closed on July 7.

Cllr Baggott said in the video that Orwell Real Estate has gone to appeal on the basis of non-determination, which is when a planning authority does not issue a decision within eight weeks.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter