Housing approved for vacant Basildon car park

An abandoned car park in Basildon which has attracted fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour while lying vacant for a decade will be turned into 105 houses and flats.

Basildon Council’s latest bid to redevelop the “car park 14” site, now referred to as Chapelgate, was approved at a planning committee meeting last night (December 14).

Councillors and planners at the meeting said there was a “desperate” need for housing in the town centre, but others criticised the application, which was submitted by the council’s commercial housing arm Sempra Homes, as dull and not in keeping with the area.

This is the second attempt to build houses in the site, between Laindon Link and Nether Mayne, after a larger scheme was withdrawn in late 2021, shortly after a change in administration in the council.

Melanie Keys, service manager at Sempra Homes, said: “[The site] has remained unused for over ten years, attracting antisocial behaviour, nuisance and fly tipping.”

Cabinet member for regeneration Councillor Craig Rimmer (Con, Pitsea South East) said: “We’re in a situation where we need to build homes in Basildon. This is a worthwhile project with homes that meet the national space standard.”

The height of buildings in the scheme will reach up to six storeys tall, according to a report. The housing mix will be between one to three bedroom-apartments and four-bedroom houses.

The plans were also supported by Labour’s Councillor Alex Harrison (Lee Chapel North), who said car park 14 had been run into the ground and the scheme would be a positive use of the site which would benefit the community.

He said: “We desperately need housing like this in the town centre.”

Planners said the latest version of the scheme had been significantly reduced from an earlier version, which was withdrawn last year.

The previous plan proposed 233 homes, including some in tower blocks up to ten storeys tall.

But Councillor Kerry Smith (Ind, Nethermayne), who was deputy leader under the previous Labour-Independent administration, said the older plans were more in keeping with the area.

He said: “If you’ve got a great set of plans, make them dull. Take the greatness out of it, that’s what we’ve got here tonight.

“I want this site developed, but I just look at it and I think to myself we’ve traded a perfectly good diamond for a cheap bit of crystal glass.”

Additionally, there will be no affordable housing in the Chapelgate development. According to a council report, an independent assessment concluded it would be financially unviable to contribute to provide affordable housing without access to grant funding.

Sempra Home will seek to obtain grant funding at a later stage to comply with minimum percentage of afforable housing usually expected in developments of this size.

The site originally contained a small number of houses, but was converted to a car park for the Westgate retail park in the early 2000s before closing and becoming disused, according to a design and access statement.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter