An extensive list of potential house building locations was approved by Thurrock Council last week in a bid to meet a government-directed housing target but the approval has been met with anger in the community.
Senior councillors approved the list of development sites during a cabinet meeting last week, making way for more than 1,000 homes to be built on land such as Enborne Green and Derry Avenue in South Ockendon, and council car parks on Thames Road, Darnley Road and Crown Road in Grays.
Council leaders stressed the sites are all “feasible” but will not necessarily be built on. The final decision will be dependant on a public consultation and the usual planning process.
Councillor Barry Johnson, who oversees housing in the borough, said: “All the sites are technically possible. However, I am sure many Thurrock councillors will look at this list and not be enamoured. In my own ward there is an item which does not fill me with joy.”
He continued: “I would say to all councillors, we should only decide on any site when we have the full facts. No site referred to in this report is no nearer than any other. Sometime the only way to get a site removed from the list is to put it on the list.”
The council hopes to find enough room to build 1,000 social homes by 2023 and 500 ‘affordable’ homes by 2029. They will contribute towards the 32,000-home target the council is required to meet over the next 18 years as part of the Local Plan.
But the list has stoked anger among residents and opposition councillors who have come together to launch a petition which will aim to “save Thurrock green spaces”.
The campaigners have raised particular concern about sites including Callan Grove, Derry Avenue, Culver Centre and Field, Garron Lane, Humber Avenue and Enbourne Green in Ockendon and Belhus.
Ruth Clapham, Thurrock resident and lead petitioner, said: “We must nip these crazy plans in the bud. While we accept the need for more, we want housing that local people can afford in Thurrock, even thinking about building on these open spaces is wrong.
“These green spaces are essential for the health and community well-being of their local communities and are the only bits of green we have.
“There are plenty of areas in Thurrock which could fit more homes however the Tory council have purposefully targeted our green spaces. We are not prepared to give up these precious pieces of green land without a fight.”
Councillor Lynn Worrall (Lab), who chairs the housing overview and scrutiny committee, said: “Tory councillors have given clear political support for these plans – clearly no green space is too small for them to concrete over.
“Labour will do all we can to oppose the Tories’ plans and protect our open spaces across the borough.”
Meanwhile, council leader Rob Gledhill criticised Ms Worrall during last week’s meeting for not attending to give feedback on what the housing committee thinks of the list.
Mr Gledhill was backed by Cllr Andrew Jeffries (Con) who said: “I am totally disappointed Councillor Worrall hasn’t attended this meeting this evening to tell us what her committee decided.”