The new Tory administration at Basildon Council promised to ‘listen’ to residents regarding their views on the re-development of the town centre. One of the reasons the previous Labour / Independent administration led by the now departed Gavin Callaghan was voted out of office was because residents were unhappy about the way re-development proposals involving a lot of high rise apartment blocks was being forced through.
Have the Tories actually listened? Will residents get a real say in how the town centre is re-developed or were the Tory promises at the local elections back in May just more hot air? Well, the proposals for the apartment blocks are coming in along with some pretence at ‘consultation’: Plans for 245 homes in Basildon Town Centre to get go ahead.
Somehow, the leader of Basildon Council, Cllr. Andrew Baggott has settled on a figure of 12 storeys as a maximum acceptable height for apartment blocks out of the air. That is now the guideline being set for any developer with a proposal for the town centre. Where Baggott got this figure from we’ve no idea, nor have the residents in the Basildon Residents Action Group Facebook group. They certainly do not recall any meaningful conversations with anyone from Basildon Council that have led to this figure being plucked out of the air.
To all intents and purposes, it looks as though the massive re-development of Basildon town centre will be going ahead with the only difference being a few stories knocked off the original proposals and some pretence at ‘consultation’. Other than that, it’s the same old shite isn’t it? A council doing the bidding of the developers, albeit with a few more guidelines here and there to give the illusion that residents are being ‘listened’ to.
Residents of Basildon and visitors to the town centre recognise that refurbishment and re-purposing of existing buildings plus some appropriate re-development is needed. What they want is a genuinely inclusive process where their views are fully taken into consideration and help to re-shape the town centre. Sadly, that’s not what they’re going to get.
This is yet another example of how the system of local governance we have is broken and not fit for purpose. Local councils appear to exist to facilitate the wishes of developers with a few token nods at ‘consultation’ for presentational purposes. Development is seen as something that’s done to us, not something done by and for us. All this does is breed a deep cynicism about local government which is reflected in turnouts of 30% and less at local elections. This cannot be allowed to go on…