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working for the construction industry have seized the opportunity to promote the idea that the green belt is an outdated concept that has to go so that millions of new homes can be built around our cities.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
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”.