Article by Billericay Gazette: Protecting green belt land is high on the agenda for all three candidates battling it out at Billericay Town Council's west ward by-election today (August 7).
Independent candidate Adam Ashead, Tory Nicole Stephens and Ukip's Terrence Gandy will all be hoping to win as many votes as possible.
The by-election follows the resignation of Councillor Jules Bottazzi in May.
Mr Ashead, a member of the Billericay Action Group, says he decided to run because of proposals by Basildon Council to build 2,500 new homes on Billericay's green belt by 2031.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Adam Ashead"]Green belt land is the lungs of the Billericay. It is the place people go to spend their time around Billericay, local produce is grown there and it is a habitat to many animals in the area. The ultimate danger is that all these towns could merge into one block with no green belt land. Before the proposals, there were 10,048 homes in Billericay and the amount of homes they want to build would see around a 25 per cent increase in that. We want people to move to Billericay but this is a massive increase."[/quote]
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Conservative Ms Stephens"]In the town I want to try and preserve the character of Billericay and support the conservation of the area. It is beautiful and we do not want it to be developed and for Billericay to become a concrete jungle. Norsey Wood is a beautiful place, which people in the town love to visit, and it would be such a shame to lose it. I know we are in the middle of a housing crisis but there has got to be a balancing act. I think that we have got to use areas of brown belt land before green belt and we should utilise those areas first.[/quote]
Meanwhile, Mr Gandy, who lives in Norsey View Drive, blamed the government's policy on immigration for the housing problem Billericay now faces.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by"]We want to stop any building on green belt land. I see this as part of a get-out for the present government. It has allowed so much immigration into the country that these people have got to live somewhere.[/quote]
Opposing proposals for development in Outwood Common Road would also be high on Mr Gandy's agenda he says, as would any other issue he feels is not in the interest of the public.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Mr Gandy continued"]I will fight the cause of the residents. I will consistently oppose anything that I do not agree with even if I am on the town council.[/quote]
Mr Gandy said he believes the Conservative Party are only against building on green belt land because they lack money for infrastructure.
But this accusation was refuted by current Tory Billericay town councillor Jim Devlin, who says his party is against the idea but added some houses will have to be built on green belt due to national government policy.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Tory Billericay Town Councillor Jim Devlin"]We are against it but if we do not surrender some green belt land we could surrender a whole lot more because builders could go to the council and say no houses are being built and then be given permission to build more on green belt land. We have to be practical with it and fight the battles we can fight and not the battles we can't, we have to be pragmatic.[/quote]
Mr Ashead says he also wants to reinvigorate Billericay High Street if he gets elected.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Ashead"]I would like to see more use made of the high street and try to find ways of bringing people into the High Street because a lot of shopkeepers are complaining that people are not going there. One of the ways the council can help is by spending time with local shopkeepers and working alongside them.[/quote]
And Ms Stephens, who at 25 is the youngest of the candidates, believes the prospect of bringing a more youthful voice to local government gives her an advantage.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Ms Stephens"]It gives me an edge being young, as it gives me the ability to have a different point of view from the other people on the town council. I think I would be an active member of the town council. I live in Billericay, I am getting married here, I work as a nurse at Basildon Hospital and I would like to give back to the community where I live.[/quote]
Article and images by Billericay Gazette