Basildon Council fights town centre flats appeal

Essex councillors are fighting an appeal to stop thousands of new flats being built in Basildon town centre, saying the plans would create a town within a town.

The applicant, InfraRed UK Lion, wants to partially demolish Eastgate Shopping Centre and build 2,800 flats, as well as new retail and commercial space.

Permission was granted by the authority’s previous planning committee in April this year, but developers went to appeal on the grounds of non-determination after planning agreements were not signed.

The current committee voted to say it would not have granted permission for the development at a meeting on December 2.

This comes as the council is fighting two other appeals over stalled plans for residential developments in the town centre.

Councillor Craig Rimmer (Con, Pitsea South East) criticised the development for its small offer of affordable housing despite its size and called its potential impact on town centre landmark Brooke House “a poor show indeed”.

He said: “Here we have a development that is creating, as Councillor Ademuyiwa said, a town within a town, yet we can only afford 5 per cent affordable housing.

“Sounds like a joke to me. Especially when we’ve had other developments which are much, much smaller, who are able to actually hit the demands of Basildon, in terms of our standard for affordable housing.”

However, Cllr Rimmer also applauded the proposals for meeting national space standards and for encouraging biodiversity via its living roofs.

Planning director at Iceni Projects John Mumby told the committee the Eastgate centre is currently unsustainable and the plans would represent up to a £1billion investment in the town.

He said: “The application proposes a significant number of new homes in an urban, brownfield location which would go towards Basildon’s urgent need for new homes.

“Developing this type of site will relieve pressure on the release of green belt land in the borough, something that is well acknowledged in the council’s emerging local plan.”

But a letter from a resident read out at the meeting said thoughts on the development remained unchanged since it was last considered.

A section read: “We need environmentally friendly, social and council housing, not privately owned estates.

“The Eastgate centre is a valuable community asset and more should be done to save it, rather than selling it off for inappropriate housing.”

According to council documents, the application seeks outline permission for the part demolition and redevelopment of the Eastgate centre and neighbouring land to provide 2,800 residential units, including built-to-rent flats, open market sale and student accommodation, new retail and commercial floorspace, parking, new public spaces, footpaths, walkways and landscaping.

Basildon Council is also fighting similar appeals for Town Square and Market Square, voting to say they would have refused permission for both applications at meetings earlier this year.

The Eastgate centre went into administration earlier this week.

The council’s decision will form part of its submission to the planning inspectorate.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter