Basildon green belt development plan rejected

Plans to build affordable housing on green belt land in Basildon have been unanimously rejected by the borough council in a decisive win for the site’s current residents.

The development would have consisted of nine homes to the east of Hardings Elms Road, next to Belvedere Golf Range, suitable for housing elderly and disabled residents and young families.

Chairing the meeting, vice-chairman of the planning committee Cllr Andrew Shrader (Con), described the case as “open and shut.”

He said: “It’s clearly an inappropriate development in the green belt of which there are no special circumstances.”

Cllr Phil Turner (Con) said his blood was “boiling” after listening to the proposal.

“The green belt is more important than what we’re being offered here,” he said.

“All we’re doing is lining the pockets of the developer so he can walk away and leave the legacy to the settled community, that’s already bought as I say in good faith, with a social development on their doorstep.”

The proposed site already has 23 properties, which were given planning permission in 2019 despite its green belt status.

Plans for a further five starter homes and four bungalows were submitted earlier this year, including for associated access, landscaping, drainage and parking at the site.

All were proposed to be sold at 60 per cent of market value – significantly less than the 80 per cent usually expected for affordable housing.

However, residents in the existing properties felt approval for such plans would mean they had been mis-sold their homes, since they moved to the area on the basis of its heavily advertised green spaces.

Catherine Munns, head of school services and clinical development at Brentwood Catholic Children’s Society, told the planning committee there had been a lack of transparency from the developer.

She said: “We were very surprised that we heard second hand, not from the developer directly, that there were going to be additional properties placed on the site that we live in.

“We feel frustrated that we purchased an expensive house on a small, bespoke, family friendly estate and it was very heavily advertised as this.”

However, speaking on behalf of the developer, Bidwells planning consultant Sam Metson defended the plans, citing the over 1,000 strong waiting list for affordable homes in Basildon.

“We’ve engaged extensively with officers and with Sempra over the last 18 months to progress these schemes, which compromise nine new affordable homes as officers have highlighted, to meet the needs of Basildon families alongside a substantial amount of retained green space,” he said.

Labour Cllr Allan Davies concluded: “A 60 per cent affordable housing market value is a very big pull and is exactly what this council needs.

“However, I asked a very specific question earlier about whether there were policies that would allow limited infilling of affordable housing for local community needs and there aren’t any policies, so as has previously been said, this is a black and white, open and shut case and I shall be voting accordingly.”

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter