New Fossetts Farm homes set for green light despite wave of objections

Controversial plans for 131 new homes near Waitrose in Southend are set to win approval, despite an avalanche of 1,000 objections from people opposed to the scheme.

The new development is planned for a 15-acre plot at the back of the supermarket and near to B&Q.

The site neighbours land earmarked for the new Southend United football stadium and hundreds more homes.

The land for 131 homes was formerly owned by the NHS, but cash strapped Southend Hospital gave up on its plans to use the land for a diagnostic and treatment centre back in 2014.

The land was sold to Homes England – a Government department – and was initially earmarked for more than 400 homes.

The latest outline plans, submitted by Homes England, include a mix of 60 two-bedroom flats in blocks that are up to four-storeys high.

In addition, there would be a mix of three and four-bedroom houses.

While 40 of the homes must be classed as affordable housing, it is feared many of the homes will cost in excess of £300,000.

Campaigners have previously urged Homes England to build affordable homes on the site to quench the need for social housing across Southend.

Trevor Harp, Southend Independent councillor for St Luke’s ward, said: “My view is that, since it was taken over by Homes England, we should have as many affordable homes there as we can.

“I would love to see it used for housing for essential workers.

“It would be an ideal opportunity to provide good housing for NHS workers and to attract more into the area because Southend struggles for staff.

“I’m relieved there will some affordable housing but I hope it will be truly affordable homes.

“My guess is that the three and four-bedroom homes will be quite expensive as they are right on the border with Rochford and currently overlook open green fields.”

The proposed development is near Prittlewell Camp, a scheduled monument.

Heritage campaigners Historic England has raised concerns about the Prittlewell Camp, which consists of buried archaeological remains of a late Bronze Age and early Iron Age hill fort.

It is a designated as a heritage N New homes – an artist’s ‘s impression of the planned homes Southend Council likely to approve plan for old NHS land near Waitrose set to win backing asset and protected by law. Part of the camp sits within the boundary of the development.

A report to planning officers said the development would encroach on the camp, but Historic England concluded the development would be acceptable if a planned programme of conservation work on the camp could be carried out via a legal agreement with Homes England.

If the plans get the green light, a further Section 106 financial contribution of £368,290 would also be required towards secondary education at Chase High School or another secondary school within acceptable travel distance.

The development control committee will consider the application on Wednesday. Officers have recommended approval of the plans.

Affordable homes

The sparked a chorus of disapproval over a perceived lost opportunity to build affordable homes for Southend residents.

Of the 40 affordable homes required of the developer, there would be 24 affordable to rent and 16 shared ownership homes included in the scheme.

Campaigners say 400 smaller but truly affordable homes could be built on the site but the average price of homes under the latest scheme is estimated to be about £315,279 – ten times the annual salary of a nurse.

More than 150 letters of objection were received by Southend Council, largely over a lack of affordable housing for key workers in the borough.

Objectors maintain the land is publicly-owned and should benefit the 1,500 local people who currently waiting for housing.

The number of three and four bedroom “executive” homes didn’t impress objectors.

The lack of infrastructure – schools, surgeries and roads – to cope with the number of homes planned for this land and other parts of Fossetts Farm was also a concern for residents.

A campaign group Fossetts for the People was set up to try to get Homes England to sell the land to the council for social housing.

The group submitted a 482 signature petition, with one participant saying: “Four out five homes will be unaffordable to an average nurse who would have to save on average for 53 years to afford the deposit.” Another said “There is a dire shortage of good quality, affordable private rental properties in town and long waiting lists for council properties.”

A second petition in opposition of the development, with 542 names was also submitted.

Fossetts for the People said: “The campaign is fighting for that publiclyowned land to be transferred to Southend Council and used exclusively for desperately-needed social housing for local people.

“We do not feel that it is right for Homes England to sell off this land to whichever private developer offers the most money, to develop it as Executive Homes. We know that it is their intention to include the bare legal minimum of so-called affordable housing – which is not actually affordable for most people in Southend.”

Strain on services

This is just the latest in a series of planning applications.

In September, plans for a mini village of 221 “flat-pack” homes were approved by Southend Council.

A four-storey block of 32 flats and 189 houses were proposed for land in Fossetts Way, off Eastern Avenue, Southend – close to the site of the latest homes plan.

A total of 68 homes will be affordable in excess of the council’s requirement of 30 per cent.

The one to four-bedroom modular homes would be built off site by Ilke Homes before being assembled on a 15-acre plot near B&Q, some in under 36 hours.

The latest 131 homes neighbour land earmarked for a new Southend United stadium.

The huge scheme, off Eastern Avenue, will eventually have 1,461 homes, a 107-bedroom hotel along with a club shop, a restaurant and conference space.

The influx of new homes has led to fears there is insufficient infrastructure to cope.

This has been a concern shared by many over the intensity of plans in Southend.

One of 156 objectors who wrote to the council about Homes England’s latest plan said: “Current infrastructure including roads, schools, GP surgeries, dentists, hospitals, etc cannot cope with new people coming into the area and this development will increase the strain.”

Southend Council is also working on its local plan which decides where housing is allocated over the next few years.

One of the options being presented is a “new neighbourhood” of 7,254 homes on green belt land between Sutton Road and Star Lane.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter