Building plans

Article by Charles Thomson: Basildon Tories’ decision to axe homes from their strongholds in the Local Plan has cost the borough more £20million in infrastructure investment, planning officers have confirmed.

Civil servants said the biggest cause of the reduction was the removal of 300 homes from Billericay, because the land had been so valuable.

Labour leader Gavin Callaghan said it meant the council had lost ’close to 20 per cent’ of its infrastructure funding by cutting around three per cent of its proposed housing.

The infrastructure cash would have been raised by the council’s ’Community Infrastructure Levy’ (CIL), which forces developers to pay towards roads, health services, play areas and other local amenities, based on the value of the land they are bulldozing.

An officer told a council meeting on Wednesday, October 3, that as a result of axing the 300 Billericay homes, plus 350 more in Noak Bridge, “the total funding achievable through CIL contributions has been reduced.”

The officer said the former Local Plan, passed by a Labour, UKIP and independent administration in March this year, would have raised £127.3m for infrastructure.

The new Tory plan would raise £105.1m – a reduction of £22.2m.

The figure could rise to £110.6million if a proposed ’neighbourhood plan’ for Bowers Gifford is approved several years down the line, but that would still amount to a loss of £16.7m.

Cllr Callaghan said that even under his own administration’s plan there had been an infrastructure deficit of £187m, but that it would now rise to more than £200m. He said:

“Surely, in an ’infrastructure first’ plan, as we are constantly told, I’m sure that there is a mitigation strategy for how you plan to recoup that money?”

Officers told Cllr Callaghan there were talks ongoing with other local authorities in the region about how they could collectively raise the money, but that nothing would be finalised until next year. Deputy Tory leader Kevin Blake accused Cllr Callaghan of ’playing politics’ and of penalising Billericay. He said:

“I can now understand why you wanted to build all over Billericay and Wickford – because that’s where you were getting your money. So you didn’t mind about that. But we do care about it and we care about the whole borough, and that’s why we reduced those numbers to a sensible amount – and we would still like them reduced even more, but we are where we are. You clearly wanted more houses built in the Wickford and Billericay area just to help out the CIL.”

Under the former administration’s plan, Billericay was asked to accommodate 3,292 homes and Wickford 3,624, whereas Basildon was asked to take 9,220. The numbers were calculated using a ’spatial strategy’ which had been written by a former Tory administration.

Cllr Callaghan responded:

“We have a target of how many homes we need to build. That is a target that was set by the Conservative Government. Let’s get away from this hysterical rhetoric that we are somehow trying to do Billericay in. The reality is that those 650 homes should have been in the plan. We now know that that was worth £22m in infrastructure. You have denied the whole borough of £22m, because you decided to play politics.”

Article by Charles Thomson, Yellow Advertiser

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