New Wickford Action Group Website

View of Wickford from St Margaret's Church, Downham
The Wickford Action Group was set up in 2005. Our initial purpose was to fight against the Wickford Town Centre Masterplan, which proposed the building of over 700 flats in the centre of town in order to fund what we saw as pie in the sky regeneration. 
Although the Town Centre Masterplan is now dead and buried, there have been some 500 flats built since then, with precious little regeneration, and we continue to fight for a better Wickford, with any increase in housing being family friendly and with sufficient support services (roads, schools, doctors etc.)
We do want to see improvements to the town, which has suffered for many years from neglect by Basildon Council. Local roads are a disgrace, and the traffic congestion at peak times is almost unbearable.

What is happening now?
The current situation is that, under a government directive, Basildon council has had to produce a plan for house building for the next 20 years. They have proposed 3,300 more homes in Wickford, many on the green belt, two new traveller sites and extra pitches on existing sites. It was put out to public consultation, and the Wickford Action Group had many objections to the plan and urged all residents to submit their responses. An independent planning inspector is due to make final recommendations and there will be a 'consultation with residents' at the beginning of 2018.
This blog/website will keep you informed of progress in this project, and maintains links to relevant housing developments in the town - see links on the right.

Our Facebook site.
In parallel with this, our Facebook site is where you can participate in a lively up-to-date discussion with other residents on Wickford issues. We have over 4,000 members - view here and join now!

Basildon Local Plan 2014 - 2034

Following a government directive, all local councils have to produce a house building plan for the next 20 years. Basildon Council claims that 15,200 new homes will be needed in the borough, of which 9,000 will have to be built on our green belt in areas of Basildon, Billericay and Wickford. You can read all about it on their website here Local Plan 2014 - 2034

They say that infrastructure upgrades such as widening roads will be funded from sources including a levy on developers. If the houses are not built there will be economic and social consequences. They tell us that central government is behind the housing numbers and nothing can be done to avoid the expansion.

We don't agree! Here is how we in the Wickford Action Group see it:

Where do the required housing numbers come from?

The government have not set any housing targets on local councils.

The numbers in the Basildon Draft Local plan have come from the Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership (TGSE), of which Basildon is a partner, and their consultants Turley Associates, well established supporters of the building industry. They conjured up a figure of 15,260 for Basildon as the Objectively Assessed Need, OAN, for the period under review, and of this 9,600 is for natural growth, with the remainder being an allowance for migration from London.

Wickford has been allocated 3,300 new homes, an increase of 27% above the current level of 12,306 households. This does seem like an excessive increase.

Do we need a Green Belt?

The green belt is a huge success. It preserves the heritage of peaceful villages that would otherwise be threatened by the expanding metropolis. Its trees and fields provides the lungs that clear the air. Our abundant rainfall is absorbed into the ground instead of being channelled into rivers to cause flooding. It is a haven for our countries’ wildlife and it is a place nearby where we can go to escape the busy pace of life. Now all of that is threatened. England faces a housing crisis fuelled by an underlying population crisis. Consultants working for the construction industry have seized the opportunity to promote the idea that the green belt is an outdated concept that has to go so that millions of new homes can be built around our cities. Legislation has kept land values in the green belt low compared to nearby areas that are available for building. Huge profits can be made whenever the status of a piece of green belt is changed to allow housing development. The public is not fooled by the lobbying but politicians are. Slowly but surely pressure is mounting under the weight of all the money that waits to be made and our green belt is feeling the squeeze.

BUT, the government have pledged to protect the green belt where local councils wish to do so. Councils must protect our precious green belt land. Despite this, Basildon Council want to remove 481 hectares (1180 acres) of land from our green belt that is 7% of the total, an area the size of Billericay.

Look at how the route from Wickford to London is being transformed into a continuous building plot:
The slow but sure transformation of Wickford as a town, to a suburb of Greater London
The map above shows how our green and pleasant land is being slowly eaten away, leading to unending building all the way into London. The grey areas are built on already, and the areas in green are under threat from the various local councils’ draft plans. The yellow area with the $ sign is going to be the new Enterprise Park. It was used during the widening of the M25 for construction traffic, and the agreement was that it would be returned to green belt on completion. Change of plan. It is now going to be built on, leading to an almost continuous building from Wickford to the M25. BUT WE CAN HOLD UP THE PLAN IF WE ALL OBJECT TO THE LOSS OF GREEN BELT

If we allow this loss of green belt, then more will follow until the purpose of the green belt is lost.

Will the railways cope?

Any rail commuters will know that at rush hour the trains are barely able to cope, even with the maximum 10 coaches. Imagine in 20 years if all of the extra homes are built - not just 27% more passengers in Wickford, but at every station on the line (all councils are putting in similar numbers)

Will our responses be listened to?

Probably not. Does anyone remember a Basildon Council consultation in 2006 about the Regeneration of Wickford? One of the strongest responses from residents was that we didn’t want high rise buildings, yet the very first thing to be approved was the 7 storey eyesore that stands alongside the bypass. (Built by Bradgate Developments, director Ray Ride, councillor for Runwell, who had privately agreed the project in emails to the then Council Leader - we have copies).
BUT - we must still fight to get what the residents want for the town, not greedy planners and developers.

Scare tactics from the Basildon’s Draft Plan document:
  • “If the houses are not built there will be economic and social consequences”. 
  • “Central government is behind the housing numbers and nothing can be done to avoid the expansion”. 
  • “If the Local Plan is submitted to the planning inspectorate without meeting their projected need for housing then it will be found unsound leading to delays that will allow developers to take advantage of the lack of plan to build where they wish unchecked”. 
  • Even worse, “the government will take over preparation of the plan if it is not approved by 2017 and will implement their own plan with even greater loss of the green belt”.

New Health Centre

New Health Centre for Wickford - will it ever happen?

A new doctor's surgery opened in July 2017 on the site of Wickford Market, having been relocated from the old London Road surgery. But residents would like to know if the town will ever get the long promised Health Centre!

With all of the new flats and houses being built in Wickford, it is well known that the increased population is not being adequately supported by the existing health service provision. Many times we have welcomed the news that a New Health Centre is being promised, only for the hopes to be dashed when nothing happens.

The Wickford Town Centre Masterplan was published in 2005, and one section of the plan included a vision of a health centre integrated with the library and community centre on the site of the swimming pool. This and other improvements to Wickford were to be paid for by building over 700 flats in the town, and although many flats have indeed been built, there have been precious few of the promised improvements, and certainly no health centre. The Masterplan was finally abandoned in 2010. see more…

Then there was the Basildon Renaissance Partnership, set up by Basildon Council in 2007 as its regeneration arm, with one-day-a-month chairman Chris Balch, which set out what turned out to be pie-in-the-sky plans for the area. This would include a new Primary Care Trust Health Centre for Wickford. The Renaissance group published 4 brochures a year outlining their wonderful plans for the area, at goodness knows what cost in terms of consultants fees etc, (and various jollies abroad) but it all came to nothing, and it was finally disbanded in 2011.

The body responsible for providing health facilities in the area at the time was South West Essex Primary Care Trust, SWEPCT, and they held numerous consultations with the public, including focus group meetings and road shows, side by side with Basildon council, but again, it all came to nothing, and SWEPCT was also disbanded in 2013.

Despite all of the above failed plans and untold wasted money and effort, there have been two occasions when a health centre came perilously close to actually happening. 

The first was in 2007 when a planning application was being decided for a medical centre and 30 sheltered apartments on the site of Frasier's Cafe Bar (and before that the Dickens Inn) in London Road (behind the Lon War restaurant). It was rejected by the planning committee when the chairperson turned it down using her casting vote, saying there was an over provision of sheltered accommodation in Wickford. She failed to understand that 30 elderly people could move out of their large properties thus freeing them up for families, and the town would also have its medical centre, and went against officers recommendations. The site now has a 5 storey block of 36 flats and 5 retail outlets. The shops are still boarded up ten years later.

The second possibility for a health centre was in 2010, on the site of the Essex Park Garage, (later a Toyota and then an Audi car showroom) next to the Co-op roundabout. 
An outline planning application for a medical centre on the site was approved, for a doctor's surgery, a second building which would be suitable for a new medical centre, and a block of 24 flats. more… 
Nothing was to come of this, and an alternative proposal for flats was agreed, and is now completed, as shown left.

And in all this time Basildon council has been controlled by the Conservatives, so what have our councillors been doing? The short answer is ‘nothing’, but here’s what they’ve been promising:

Election promises
  • Carole Morris, 2008 A ‘Mini Hospital’ for Wickford. Basildon Council has granted permission for a Mini hospital in Wickford Town centre. ‘This is great news, it means that at last we will be able to have all the additional doctors and dentists that the people of Wickford have been asking for, and much more.’ Says Carole Morris. [Nine years later, where is it?] 
  • Tony Ball election leaflet 2010. IMPROVING LOCAL SERVICES. Healthcare is vitally important to all of us and Wickford Conservative Councillors have been at the forefront of plans for the NHS to build the new health centre in Wickford. Both Labour and Liberal Councillors voted against transferring the land to the NHS.
  • Mike Mowe election leaflet 2011 '.. to press for a New Health Centre for Wickford...'
  • Conservative leaflet 2011. NEW WICKFORD HEALTH CENTRE COMING SOON. Wickford Conservative Councillors have moved quickly to ensure that health provision is improved in Wickford following the termination of negotiations to secure a development partner for the town. An agreement has been made to transfer the market site to the NHS to provide more GP surgeries and ancillary services like blood tests and x-rays. Residents have rightly complained at the overburdened primary care services in Wickford, the Council and NHS Trust are committed to deliver the new health centre at an early date. Announcements are expected shortly conīŦrming the timetable. The market will continue in operation on a new site yet to be decided, although our preference is to have the market in the High Street.
What now?

The now completed 2 storey building on the site of the old Wickford market houses the GP surgery which was in London Road. 
Richard Moore, Basildon Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and planning, said: “This is great news for Wickford and our residents. The new facility will provide vital public services and positively impact on the town’s wider regeneration improvements.” We fail to see how re-locating an existing doctor’s surgery is great news.

The new surgery will have 20 car parking spaces, for the staff as well as patients, despite this being far fewer than the Council’s own standards; the approval document states: The Council’s approved Vehicle Parking Standards in respect of medical centres would normally require the provision of one parking space for every full time equivalent staff plus an additional three spaces for each consulting room. However, the standards accept that a lower provision of vehicle parking may be appropriate in urban areas (including town centre locations) where there is good access to alternative forms of transport and existing car parking facilities.
You’ll just have to pay to park in the town, if you can find a space!
So, this ‘marvellous’ facility is just a re-located doctor’s surgery, and Wickford will still not have a Medical Centre