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We will fight to preserve Dry Street green belt
A GREEN campaign group has vowed to continue its fight against the development of special meadowland in Dry Street, Langdon Hills.
They made the vow to 100 residents who packed out Lee Chapel Community Centre to hear the latest update in the battle to stop 725 homes, a primary school and shops being built on the green belt land.
Outline planning permission was granted for the housing estate at Dry Street in June last year, despite 838 letters of objection and a 5,000-name petition.
The meeting followed the successful appeal for a judicial review which was announced two weeks ago.
Miriam Heppell, from Basildon Green Action Group, said: “If this development goes ahead it will be devastating for the area.
But we have got this far and we have to keep going. It’s a marathon. Every time we hit a wall we have to keep going. I hope we can.”
The group has employed barristers and solicitors to take its battle to the High Court, and in doing so has halted any development until the case is heard.
If it is upheld, the Homes and Communities Agency, which owns the land, will have to come up with a whole new design, which could be thrown out altogether.
But it comes with a price tag.
Already £1,000 has been spent on initial legal advice and £1,800 on a barrister to take the case to court. The Green Action Group has estimated it will cost £10,000 more to prepare the case and make representations in court.
On top of that, if the group lose and are forced to pay Basildon Council’s legal fees, it will have to fork out up to £5,000.
This could have been £7,000, but Miriam has put her name forward to fight the case as an individual, on behalf of the Green Action Group.
She added: “I’m sure Basildon Council will defend this to the hilt. But this is worth doing and worth spending the money on.
“We are able to stop if we run out of money, but that would be a tragedy.”
Under the proposed Dry Street development, Langdon Hills meadowland, which is classified as a wildlife site and the equestrian centre, would make way for the 725 homes.
Cash generated from the project would then pay for a new campus for South Essex College to be built in Basildon town centre.
The college’s current site, in Nethermayne, would then also be developed for further homes.
Danny Lovey, who is also a member of Green Action Group, said: “All these things are interlinked and people think if we knock one of the dominoes over the whole thing will come down.
That’s not what we are about. We are about the preservation of Dry Street. That land should be preserved for Basildon.
“We objected to it in principle in 1996 on environmental grounds. If it wasn’t right in 1996, it’s still not right for housing. It is even more valuable because then it wasn’t a local wildlife site which it is now.
“Everything we are standing for is driven by principle because it’s something we believe in.”
Residents are just as passionate about protecting the area and worry about losing green space on their doorstep.
Susan Shadrake, of Ardleigh, Basildon, said: “People want quality of life. People don’t want to live somewhere where there’s literally no space to breathe. It’s not selfish to want that for everybody in Basildon.
“The Green Action Group should feel confident because of the confidence everyone felt at the public meeting. We will continue to feel it until this land is finally saved.”
Geoff Williams, Basildon Liberal Democrats councillor for Nethermayne, said: “People who are living with two or three children in a one bedroom maisonette need a bigger house.
“I have had cases where there are four couples in a private house with children because they can’t afford a place of their own and there isn’t anything available. That’s where the present need is in this town.”
The date for the judicial review is not yet known. But one thing is for sure, the Green Action Group and residents of Langdon Hills will not take it lying down.
Dermot Kavanagh, chairman of Green Action Group, said: “The council wants the public to be nervous. It doesn’t want them to support us. It wants us to be individuals. If we stand together we are OK. If they divide us we are lost.”