Government stands firm on south Essex housing target

THE Government is pushing ahead with a bid to force councils to build 37,500 homes in south Essex, a councillor has revealed.

Speaking at a Southend Council meeting on Thursday, Councillor Martin Terry backed cross-party support to oppose planning reforms which will ban residents from opposing planning applications in growth zones earmarked for housing.

Cllr Terry, Independent councillor for Thorpe ward, said: “We have got a Government algorithm which is calculating that south east Essex will have 37,500 new homes.

Southend’s portion of that is 23,500. I’ve read the notes and Robert Jenrick, the Minister of State for Housing, is flatly refusing at the moment to reduce those targets.”

The council has given cross-party support for Steven Reed, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who has put forward a motion against the planning reform which could see developers given free rein to build against the wishes of residents.

Cllr Terry said: “With Conservatives in other areas, there is a threat of rebellion over this. They are actually fighting the Government against it. Even MPs adjacent to Southend. Rebecca Harris is objecting to these dramatic plans the Government has. Let’s not belittle this. This will change the face of Southend forever.

“If you look at the detailed plans what Castle Point and Rochford are planning to do is build along the boundary, all along the west of Leigh and all along the north of Bournes Green, so we are going to end up in a massive conglomerate. Can you imagine another 23,500 homes in Southend? You are probably talking at least 50,000 people, at least 50,000 cars.”

Cllr Terry added: “Where are you then going to put the doctors, the schools. This is beyond politics. I wish we still had Sir Teddy Taylor here because he would be sticking up for us on this. The Rochford and Southend East MP is sadly supporting this. It’s a dreadful situation. This is an existential threat to Southend, it really is.”

Cllr Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, also said the reforms posed a threat to the town. He said: “This is a very serious situation. We know with the local plan and the consultation that’s happening that every area in this town is subject to growth.

“If in an area zoned for growth or renewal, we won’t have that right to object. Even if it’s one house in that growth zone the people in there will not be able to object to any planning application.

“They will not be able to object whether it’s a house being converted into flats, whether it’s a house that’s going to be built anew or anything else built to the detriment of the neighbours. This is a serious matter. I support Steve Reed because I do believe that everybody has the right to object to a planning application that may affect the quality of their lives.”

James Duddridge, the MP for Rochford and Southend East, has been contacted for comment.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter