Surrendering to the developers…

This is a post we wrote a few days ago about the developers, Orwell, who want to build a high rise apartment development in Basildon town centre, winning an appeal against Basildon Council who wanted to reject the scheme: It’s now open season for the developers – 18.12.21. Given the way the planning system is rigged in favour of the developers, it was no surprise that the council’s bid to fight the appeal failed. We said that the bid to fight the appeal from Orwell was effectively a token gesture to justify promises made by the ruling Tory group on Basildon Council in run up to the local elections back in May.

In the aftermath of this failed bid to fight the appeal, Cllr. Kerry Smith (Ind) has called for the leader of Basildon Council, Cllr. Andrew Baggott (Con) to resign: Basildon: Resignation calls following Market Square inquiry. Smith claimed that contesting the appeal was a waste of council taxpayers’ money because the result was pretty much a foregone conclusion. As much as it pains us to admit it, Smith has a point because that’s the way the planning system is rigged – in favour of the developers.

The failure of Basildon Council to defeat Orwell’s appeal could potentially lead to control of their planning decisions being taken over by the government. If 10% of an authority’s planning decisions are overturned at appeal over a two year period, then the government can step in to take over their planning functions. So, regardless of whatever ‘vision’ Baggott and his fellow Tories may have for the future of Basildon town centre, at the end of the day, it’s the developers who will have their way.

Whatever people may think of Smith and his calls for Baggott to resign, it has made one thing very clear. Namely that it’s the developers who call the shots with councils being mere bystanders who can maybe make a nudge here and there, but that’s about all. Smith has effectively surrendered to the developers. It’s a harsh truth but, at least there’s no doubt whatsoever as to where we all stand.

If the developers can pretty much do what they want, then what is the point of local democracy? Smith and his overlord, Gavin Callaghan, were booted out at the local elections back in May by residents who did not share their vision for a mini-Manhattan out here in Essex. It now turns out, unsurprisingly, that the developers will pretty much get their way in creating this high rise hellscape and under the current regimen, there’s sod all us mere plebs can do about it .The big question is this – what are we going to do to ensure that decisions about our communities and towns are made by us, the residents, and not by the developers?

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