The Basildon Borough Local Plan Core Strategy is currently out for consultation. I appreciate and understand the Local Plan is a matter of huge concern to local residents, not least here in Billericay.
I think it is important to understand what the Local Plan is and why the Borough needs one. First off, it is a statutory document (that is to say, Basildon Borough Council is legally obliged to adopt one). The Local Plan sets out a vision for the anticipated growth within the Borough and identifies strategic areas for development. This is a really important point – not every site identified in the Local Plan will definitely be developed! It simply points out where development *could* happen. Specific sites will be identified at a later stage of the Local Plan – the ‘Site Allocations and Development Management Policies Document’ – which is published following the approval of the Local Plan Core Strategy.
As to why the Borough needs one – I do not think many residents will realise or appreciate (I certainly would not have done prior to my being elected to Basildon Council last year!) the degree to which *not having* an Approved Local Plan, found sound by the Planning Inspectorate, leaves Billericay and the rest of the Borough at the mercy of developers. The evidence in the Local Plan shows that all areas of the Borough have to grow. Doing nothing is not an option. Basildon has not had a Local Plan for many years now and what this means is that, all too often, planning decisions made by our Development Control Committee are overturned on appeal to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government.
Having a realistic and credible plan is absolutely vital if we are to retain the maximum amount of control over development in our Borough over the next twenty years. If we do not have a robust plan in place, we will leave ourselves vulnerable to piecemeal development that will not deliver schools, health facilities and improved transport networks that we will need to support the growth. In short, without a Core Strategy we will see far more building that is unplanned, uncoordinated, unacceptable, and on the Green Belt.
I know a lot of residents have concerns about the number of dwellings envisaged in the Local Plan but the Council already tried to submit a Local Plan for approximately 6,500 new homes but this was rejected as unsound, as it was insufficient for the projected growth of the Borough. We have to submit a Local Plan that will *pass* and we feel this Core Strategy, currently out for consultation, represents the best option for the Borough moving forward.
Obviously, another particular problem for our Borough – and Billericay in particular – is the issue of Green Belt land. Our Borough is currently 63% Green Belt and, even if every site identified in the Core Strategy were to be developed, it would still be nearly 60% Green Belt. So, although we would prefer not to develop the Green Belt at all, the reality is that we do not have Brownfield Sites left undeveloped in Billericay and simply cannot achieve the number of dwellings required without using some Green Belt land.
The Local Plan proposes three different options to accommodate the growth. Our preferred option is that growth is accommodated proportionately between the main towns of Basildon, Billericay and Wickford. (The Labour Party have made little secret of their preference to put it all in Billericay and mostly social housing!)
The Council would like your opinion on the plan. It has designed a set of eleven questions, covering key aspects of the plan, to assist you in providing your comments. The recommended method is to submit online via the consultation portal at http://basildon-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal.
Responses may also be made using the Comments Form which is available to download from the Council’s website www.basildon.gov.uk/basildon2031. Hard copies may be obtained from the Library or Billericay Town Council.
Completed forms and any other comments can be sent to: Planning Policy Team, Planning Services, Basildon Borough Council, St Martin’s Square, Basildon SS14 1DL.