Basildon Council votes down Eastgate flats plan as appeal date set

Government inspectors will decide on plans to demolish a Basildon shopping centre to build 2,800 flats after a local council voted it down for the second time.

If approved, the plans would see part of Eastgate Shopping Centre in Basildon demolished to provide a new mixed-use development, the largest building of which would be 21 storeys tall.

Developers InfraRed appealed to the planning inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination after the council stalled the plans, which had already been approved under a previous administration, last year.

A public inquiry is set to take place in August this year over eight days.

As part of the appeal process, Basildon Borough Council’s planning committee voted to say it would have refused the plans at a meeting on June 22, citing its potential effect on the town centre.

Conservative councillors at the meeting called the development a “monstrosity” which would create a “town within a town.”

Councillor Craig Rimmer (Con, Pitsea South East) said: “There is a need to repurpose our town centre, there is a need to replace empty retail units with residential units.

“But to the extent that it has gone, and what it would actually leave behind for us, would be a scar on our town.”

He also criticised the plans for a lack of affordable housing. The percentage of the flats which would be classed as affordable would be five per cent.

Labour councillor Alex Harrison (Lee Chapel North) said inspectors were likely to approve the application, as they had done the previous two appeals, which had set a legal precedent.

He said: “This decision would be a lot easier, of course, if we had a local plan.

“I don’t see any reason to believe that the precedent set from the previous two applications where the inspector pushed them through anyway, I see no reason why that wouldn’t happen again for this one.”

The council initially approved the application in April 2021 under the previous Labour-Independent run administration, but after the Conservatives took control of the council later that year it chose not to pursue the plans.

After the developers appealed, the planning committee voted to say it would have refused the plans for the first time in December 2021.

Since then, the council has withdrawn its local plan, a blueprint for over 20,000 homes across the whole borough, and lost two appeals for similar mixed use developments in the town centre, in Market Square and Town Square.

This required it to reconfirm its decision, which it did at this week’s meeting.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter