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BASILDON councillors have approved plans to bulldoze a Langdon Hills bungalow and replace it with a block of flats.
Roughly 60 per cent of neighbours who were consulted over the proposal in Alexander Road had objected, saying it would worsen existing parking problems in the area.
Civil servants acknowledged that the plan failed to meet the council’s own minimum car parking standards, but claimed they had let the rules slide in the past for ‘small’ deficits and did not feel the shortfall was serious enough to merit refusing the application.
However, after the intervention of independent Kerry Smith and Conservative Carole Morris, officers did agree to put a condition on the planning application, ordering the developer to create a ‘car parking management plan’ and try to create additional spaces.
The Planning Committee met last night to rule on plans to demolish a bungalow at the junction of Alexander Road and High Road, then replace it with a two-storey block of six flats. It would contain four two-bedroom flats and two one-bedroom flats.
Planning officers had written a report supporting the development and claiming the site – which had contained a bungalow and a garden – was ‘underused’.
Conservative councillor had queried that description, asking a council officer, “So by definition, every property that currently occupies a site of this size is underused?”
The officer answered: “Well, the Government encourages councils to make efficient use of urban land. So you could say you are correct, yes.”
Cllr Hedley called the suggestion ‘perverse’.
A local resident, whose name was given as Mr Carson, told the committee there was already ‘overcrowding’ on local roads, that the Triangle shops car park was often ‘crammed’ and inaccessible, and that it sometimes took more than a month to get a doctor’s appointment.
He said there were currently 30 people trying to sell flats in the nearby area online and the council had recently approved the regeneration of the Laindon shopping centre, which would include more than 200 new flats.
Mr Carson said the evidence showed ‘an abundance’ of similar properties which were unsold, proving there was no local need for the Alexander Road development. He added that the proposal amounted to ‘garden-grabbing’ and would lead to ‘over-crowding’ in the neighbourhood.
He offered to show the panel photographs of existing congestion and parking problems, but was told there was no time.
Cllr Smith said the road was ‘narrow’ and had been built to accommodate bungalows, so a development of flats would ‘stick out like a sore thumb’ and clog up the road.
The meeting heard the developer had provided 10 parking spaces – two for each two-bedroom flat and one for each one-bedroom flat.
But, said Cllr Smith, that was unrealistic. He told the committee: “A young, working couple in a one-bedroom flat are going to have two cars.”
Cllr Morris pointed out that there were also no parking spaces allocated for visitors, which was a breach of the council’s own minimum parking standards.
After a condition was added requiring a car parking management scheme, the application was approved by a vote of four to one.