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BASILDON Council is in talks to buy an office block in the town centre, it has been confirmed.
The council is seeking to purchase Acorn House as part of a plan to crack down on London councils buying up the town’s buildings and use them to house its homeless residents.
Acorn House – in Great Oaks, next door to Basildon police station – formerly housed the Yellow Advertiser, a Government tribunal court, NHS staff, Amazon offices and training services.
However, tenants were asked to move out earlier this year after planning permission was granted to build an extra storey on top and turn it into a block of flats.
Government rules about ‘permitted development’ for office blocks means councils cannot block such conversions as long as certain basic standards are met.
But Basildon Council is now seeking to gain ownership of the building, to ensure any accommodation installed in the block benefits Basildon residents.
A number of other buildings in the town centre have been used to house homeless residents from London boroughs.
Landlords market their properties at London councils knowing there is a constant supply of homeless residents. They price the properties above the average rent for Basildon but below what a council would expect to pay for accommodation in London.
The ‘Basildon Borough Alliance’ which currently runs the council said it was planning to prevent London councils from buying up Basildon accommodation while the local council’s own housing waiting list remained long.
Labour council leader Gavin Callaghan said a meeting was planned for October 2, at which councillors would consider purchasing a number of town centre buildings.
He said: “Acorn House is one of the first sites that we have been beginning negotiations with. It’s a building that forms part of our thinking for our strategic asset acquisition, primarily because we are determined to end the blight of permitted development of office spaces being turned into residential that is not fit for purpose and is being sold to London boroughs to house their vulnerable residents.”
Basildon Council’s press office confirmed: “We are currently in talks with the owners of the building about its future.”