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Billericay set to be spared West extension
Plans to build 1,400 of homes to the west of Billericay, which sparked outrage in the town, are to be shelved.
Basildon Council had earmarked the western side of the town for the homes as part of its local plan – fuelling fears the area would not be able to cope.
However, senior Tories have admitted the influx of homes would lead to “slaughter on the roads”, with Billericay already at bursting point.
Earlier this month, the Echo revealed County Hall’s transport bosses had vetoed the idea, and now Basildon’s Tory administration will say the western side of the town cannot handle the housing when submitting its local plan to the Government for final approval.
Phil Turner, deputy leader of the council, said: “For the west, it is ‘no’ to any future development and ‘no’ to any other considerations, unless we get assurances over infrastructure.
“This is me lying in front of the bulldozers. We can’t get any more homes in western Billericay.
“We have had the evidence now and 1,200 homes would be slaughter and carnage on the roads.”
A lack of money to create the road improvements has put paid to the plans, with the extent of money needed to bring Billericay’s roads up to scratch, and even build a by-pass, unlikely to be available.
The policy change also casts doubt over the viability of sites in the south east of Billericay for 180 houses, and the east for 430 homes off Outwood Farm Road.
Mr Turner admitted his authority was working with County Hall to look at evidence for the eastern side of the town, too.
The Tory administration deliberately left no specific site allocated for west Billericay as more research was needed when the draft version of the local plan was revealed in December.
Overall, the plan set out sites in the borough that could have delivered 12,500 homes by 2031.
However, the authority is unlikely to find space elsewhere in the borough for the Billericay homes and will submit a revised amount to the Government, which needs to approve the local plan.
Tony Hedley, Tory councillor for Billericay West, said: “Now we can say ‘I don’t think we can do anything in West Billericay’.
“Before that, the planning inspector would have said ‘well, where is your evidence?’ “We’ve found out from the evidence we have gathered that Billericay can’t even take what were modest numbers compared to the borough as a whole.
“We wanted to spread the pain out across the borough as we felt that was reasonable.”
Before the local plan is adopted in 2015, the evidence the council has got, could be used to protect the areas around Billericay from development in the meantime, too.
A submission to the Planning Inspector will take place in autumn for final approval.
Campaigners' jubiliation at plans
Campaigners are “ecstatic” that west Billericay is likely to be dropped from the Local Plan – and the east of the town could follow.
The three sites in Billericay put forward in Basildon Council’s Local Plan, consisting of 2,010 homes, sparked arguably the biggest response from people from all of the towns in the borough.
Hundreds of militant residents stormed local council meetings, set up a campaign group, and even called for a referendum on the plans.
Mike Andrews, who is behind the Billericay Action Group, which was set up in response to the Local Plan, said it was incredibly encouraging.
He said: “If this is the case then we’d be ecstatic.
“They were planning on building on areas that are populated with country lanes, that would need considerable enhancement.
“The council has gone for a policy of proportionate distribution, but that totally ignores the character of Billericay and that many of the roads are already at capacity.”
Another campaigner, Clive Aldous, of Outwood Farm Road, said: “The council can say what it wants. We are opposed to everything on the green belt in Billericay.”
Modest eastern improvements suggested
Despite County Hall and residents’ fears that roads to the east of Billericay will need to be updated, Basildon Council has proposed only modest improvements.
The council is working with Essex County Council to gather information on whether the east side of the town can cope with the influx, with a view to taking the two sites off the local plan.
The two sites are earmarked to deliver a total of 610 homes.
The draft local plan points out the need for “new or improved pedestrian and cycle links” to Billericay town centre, the train station and the A127 for both sites.
However, no major new roads were mooted.
The site could be pulled off the plan when the Tory administration submits it to the planning inspector if County Hall raises concerns about the highways network, at the west of the town, as it has done at the east.
The council will put together its finalised local plan in the summer ahead of an autumn submission to the Planning Inspectorate.
If it is rubber-stamped, then the local plan could be adopted in 2015.
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