Back in the autumn we wrote this post concerning Basildon Council fighting an appeal from the developers, Orwell, who want to shove up high rise apartment towers by the Basildon campus of South Essex College: Let battle commence! – 26.10.21. The appeal was successful and the proposed development has now effectively been given the go ahead: Basildon: Blocks with almost 500 homes agreed at an appeal.
The new(ish) Tory administration made what was effectively a token gesture to try and rein in Orwell and the other developers who want to turn Basildon town centre into a mini Manhattan. One of the reasons the Tories were elected was because residents in Basildon didn’t agree with the ‘vision’ for the town centre championed by the previous Labour/Independent alliance led by Gavin Callaghan. A ‘vision’ that involved a heck of a lot of high rise apartment towers. Well, the Tories have gone through the motions of trying to rein in the developers and were beaten back by a planning process which is heavily weighted in favour of the developers.
Bear in mind that successive administrations at Basildon Council have allowed the town centre to decline and didn’t intervene to stop that. For a fair chunk of that time, it was the Tories who were running Basildon. The original vision for Basildon new town, including the town centre, was for a sense of openness and space. It was intended to be the antidote for the crowded streets of London that many of the original inhabitants of Basildon moved out there to get away from. Allowing the town centre to decline without any meaningful intervention to halt the process is a betrayal of that vision.
The ruling at the appeal means it’s now pretty much open season for the developers to do what the heck they want with the town centre. Which is slinging up high rise apartment towers aimed at relatively affluent commuters going into London. In other words, creating a mini city that has little or no organic relationship with the rest of Basildon. This is the consequence of a planning system that’s heavily biased towards the interests of the developers and against those of the residents. A planning system that’s not fit for purpose. Just like the system of local governance that’s subservient to it – also not fit for purpose.