Councillors fear residential towers could leave Basildon town centre in darkness

Councillors have criticised a developer over plans for a development which is so tall it could leave parts of Basildon town centre with little sunlight.

Basildon Council is currently fighting an appeal from Basildon Estates Ltd, who want to build a 495-home development across two plots, one of which could reach 23 storeys, in Town Square.

According to a council report, 83 per cent of St Martin’s Square and 60 per cent of Town Square would receive “at least two hours of sunlight” a day if the towers are built, which is compliant with Building Research Establishment (BRE) guidelines.

But officers at a planning committee meeting on Tuesday October 12 said the remaining areas would receive as little as half an hour of sunlight a day.

The committee unanimously voted to say they would have refused the application, a decision which will form part of its submission to the Planning Inspectorate for the appeal.

At the meeting, Councillor Craig Rimmer (Con, Pitsea South East) said the applicant was being “disingenuous” by not providing more detailed measures of the buildings’ effect on sunlight.

He said: “At the moment, you can go out onto St. Martin’s Square and it is bathed in sunlight and, you know, we’ve seen it even in October that that’s been the case and I am worried, I am considerably worried, that actually we’re just going to be in the shadows if this is built.

“The best way to address concerns like that is to be totally transparent about that and actually say yes there’s an effect and this is the effect.”

Later he said: “We’re left in the dark about sunlight and daylight in St Martin’s Square.”

Speaking on behalf of Basildon Estates Ltd, Karen Jones (RPS Group) told the meeting: “We strongly believe that the design form and scale of the proposals are sympathetic and appropriate to its location within the town centre.

“Within this context, Basildon Estates Ltd will continue to promote their site for development as they consider their proposals to complement the council’s long term regeneration strategy and ambitions for the town centre.”

But the application’s compatibility with the new administration’s desires for regeneration was disputed by Councillor Andrew Schrader (Con, Billericay East).

He said: “Its height, bulk, scale, mass is just I think completely out of kilter with both our ambitions and the residents’ ambitions for the town centre, what we would want to see coming forward there.

“I think on page 58 [of the council report] it says ‘buildings are considered to sit uncomfortably in the wider townscape’, which is a fascinating bit of wordsmithery to say that basically it’s an absolute carbuncle.”

The proposals are a hybrid application, seeking detailed planning permission for one plot for the demolition of existing floorspace, erection of new buildings up to 23 storeys to provide 265 residential dwellings, along with landscaping, amenity space, car and cycle parking, new pedestrian access, plant and storage and associated works.

For a second plot, it seeks outline permission for the demolition of existing floorspace, erection of new buildings to provide up to 230 residential dwellings, along with associated landscaping, amenity space, car and cycle parking, new pedestrian access, plant and storage and associated works.

Basildon Estates Ltd is appealing on the grounds of non-determination, which is when a local authority does not issue a decision within eight weeks.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter

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