Dunton homes decision delayed after claims developer donated £1m to Tory Party

Basildon planners have delayed a crunch decision for 269 homes in the Essex green belt after allegations the applicant donated more than £1million to the Conservative Party.

Labour Councillor Alex Harrison (Lee Chapel North) made the claims at a Basildon Borough Council meeting on March 22 and called for an investigation into whether local Conservative associations had benefited.

The allegations were denied by Conservative councillors and committee members present at the meeting. A spokesperson for Bloor Homes, the applicant, said in a statement they were “disappointed” by the events at the meeting.

The spokesperson said: “We have worked in collaboration with the planning officers and stakeholders to ensure there were no statutory objections and that officers can make a recommendation for approval.

“If the committee had been minded to grant consent this would have provided 269 new homes of which 36 per cent would have been affordable, including the First Homes initiative, a £4million contribution in S106 contributions fees and overall a development that was significantly above and beyond local policy in housing and sustainability terms.”

If approved, the application will see 269 homes built in Dunton, on the outskirts of Laindon. The proposed site is currently 9.5 Hectares of agricultural land in the borough’s green belt.

Cllr Harrison said at the meeting: “This applicant is known to have donated more than a million pounds to the Conservative Party since 2017. I request that this application be deferred to the next planning meeting so that it can be determined whether either Basildon and Billericay, South Basildon and East Thurrock, or Rayleigh and Wickford Conservative Associations have benefited directly from this applicant’s donations.”

After receiving advice from officers, the committee voted to defer the item, pending an investigation.

Committee chair Carole Morris (Con, Wickford North) said she did not find the reasons for the deferral acceptable, but said it will be investigated. Councillor Andrew Schrader (Con, Billericay East) said the claims were not true.

A number of local residents had turned up to the meeting, but promptly left after the committee voted to defer.

According to a design and access statement, the proposals will maximise walking, cycling and public transport and encourage opportunities for home working and community interaction. A section read: “The new proposed development, not only responds to people’s desires to live in a quality home but provides a whole new way of life, one that’s sustainable, healthy and community focused.

“As the development evolves it will continue to provide contemporary family homes of all sizes and tenures. Housing is focused around an attractive high quality central open space which provides an area of play along with a place for social gathering for all residents to enjoy.”

In addition to the homes, the application is also seeking permission for vehicle access off Dunton Road, open space, landscaping and an acoustic barrier.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter