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A 245-home 11-storey complex in Basildon town centre has been approved by councillors.
Great Oaks, which has been vacant since 2019, will be demolished to make way for the 38metres tall U-shaped building aimed at first time buyers.
Basildon Council’s planning committee approved the plans last night (August 11) which also include two communal gardens and an art studio.
The height of the building was lowered from 14 storeys after 13 objections to the original plan were received from neighbours, meaning it won’t be as tall as Brooke House.
Concerns were also raised by councillors over the lack of parking, with only 45 spaces available for occupants, and the absence of any affordable housing.
Councillor Andrew Schrader (Con, Billericay East) said at the planning committee meeting affordable housing and parking were “two massive elephants in the room,” but was enthusiastic about the rest of the scheme.
He said: “I take on board the viability issues with the town centre development but it is disappointing that there isn’t any room for some provision.
“On the parking, as we know we are completely snookered by these completely unrealistic EPOA parking standards on sustainable locations. We all know it’s nonsense, it’s a completely inadequate level of parking.
“I appreciate the fact that the applicant has actually worked constructively with officers on the issue of the height because we know that there are major anxieties in the town centre about the heights that have been banded around for some of the buildings that were being proposed for the town centre.”
Ben Spencer, the developer, told the meeting the proposals would positively contribute to the town.
He said: “As with all of our projects, the community always comes first, so early on in the process we held community workshops and engaged with a number of local stakeholders to ensure our proposals delivered long term benefits for locals.
“As a business, our two core principles are to promote home ownership and to deliver truly regenerative developments, for which we are a market leader in both. As such the 245 new homes are proposed to be 100 per cent for sale and are a mixture of one and two beds aimed at first time buyers and as such we’ve committed under Section 106 to only market to first time buyers living in Basildon for the first three months.
“We’ve worked hard to listen to officers and local stakeholders since our initial submission in December, making significant changes to the scheme based on this feedback.”
Labour councillors at the meeting disagreed the development justified its omission of affordable housing.
‘Not enough affordable housing’
Councillor Allan Davies (Labour, Fryerns) said: “Over the life of the Local Plan route we are supposed to find over 6,000 affordable homes for people in this borough and this borough has wards in it which are in the lower 10 percentile economically in the country so we are in desperate need of affordable housing.
“This is disappointing that a development has come forward that doesn’t have that amount of affordable housing allocated in it already. I’m not sure that the late and early stage reviews will produce the affordable housing sums that we need.”
Applications are expected to include a minimum 10 per cent affordable housing according to the National Planning Policy Framework and 31 per cent according to Basildon’s Local Plan.
According to The Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2016, 54 per cent of residents cannot afford to buy a property in the borough.
The developer has agreed to contribute £336,671.65 to highway improvements, £234,770.65 towards sustainable transport, £51,378.95 towards local healthcare services and £324,598 to provide places at early years, primary and secondary schools.