A proposal by the developers, Orwell, to build 492 housing units* in a series of towers on the site of the Moon On The Square pub, a Greggs and a Subway, was twice approved by Callaghan’s administration but has been rejected by the current Tory administration at Basildon Council. Orwell have appealed against the decision to reject their proposal. This appeal, which is costing Basildon Council £2 million, will be heard at a formal public hearing on November 9th. This is how the issue has been covered in the Echo: Basildon Council to fight Government on 492 homes plan – 24.10
The proposal from Orwell is part of the contentious Basildon Town Centre Masterplan (a.k.a. the ‘disasterplan’) which was evangelically championed by Callaghan’s administration before they got ousted in the local elections earlier this year. The current Tory administration are allowing apartment tower developments, but only up to 12 storeys, as we noted in this piece: New faces, same old shite:( – August 7, 2021. Basically, they’re going for a watered down version of the ‘disasterplan’ – one which the more cynical among us have (half) jokingly suggested won’t disturb the views enjoyed by a number of ruling group Tory councillors from their homes in the leafy heights of Billericay.
It could be argued that allowing apartment developments up to 12 storeys has conceded enough ground to persuade the developers to keep on appealing against Basildon Council rejections of their proposals. It would appear that the strategy of the developers is to keep the pressure on the council until they relent and allow high rise developments going way over the 12 storey limit. It has been suggested that there is a threshold for the number of appeals a council can fend off before the government steps in and effectively takes over the planning process.
The forthcoming battle between Basildon Council on the one hand, Orwell on the other, with government inspector going head to head with the council’s barrister is a bit of a distraction. What it’s a distraction from is the harsh fact that there’s only so much control a local authority can exercise over the planning process. When the planning priorities of a local authority start to conflict with government policy on development and meeting housing targets, it’s no surprise that the way things are rigged at the moment, it will be the developers and their mates in government coming out on top.
All of this reinforces the point that the planning system we have alongside the system of local and national governance we have to put up with does not serve our needs and is not fit for purpose. A point we have made more times than we care to remember. Also, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the details of an array of planning applications and appeals, and lose sight of the bigger picture. Namely that wholesale system change is the only way we’ll ever get real control over how our neighbourhoods, towns and cities develop and grow into the future.
*The developers would prefer us to use the term ‘homes’. We don’t think ‘homes’ is an appropriate term for the dystopian, de-humanising hellholes the likes of Orwell want to foist upon us, so we’ve used ‘housing units’ instead. To be honest, we’re being polite using that term – high tech cells would be more accurate. What these towers actually represent is something we’ll be dealing with in greater depth over on our sister blog, The Stirrer.