The Planning Committee considered an application to build seven flats at the current site of Elizabeth Cottage in Billericay High Street.
Unfortunately, some of my old blogs were lost when I upgraded my website but regular readers will doubtless recall that the plight of Elizabeth Cottage is something that has been vexing me almost the entire time that I have been a councillor for Billericay East.
The application was considered on 10th October and you can listen to a recording of the proceedings here (my speech is at 54:32).
There was a lot of talk about parking, or the lack thereof, as the application is for seven flats – all bar one of them two-beds (so thirteen bedrooms) – but provides no parking on the site. The important thing to note is that the layout of the site is such that it is simply not possible to provide parking and any scheme that comes forward will most likely provide no parking. There was a cycle rack and obviously there are good public transport links nearby. The developer had really latched onto these discussions but they were entirely tangential and did not form part of the refusal.
The Committee rejected the application (and I voted against it as well) purely and simply because what was proposed was just too big. It was excessive in terms of depth and scale and it violated the 45 degree rule in relation to the proximity of neighbouring properties. The flat-roofed element was also out of keeping in the Billericay Conservation Area.
I am as anxious as anyone to see this site developed and remove an eyesore that has blighted our High Street for far too long. But I am not prepared to allow my anxiety to see something happen there lead me into voting in favour of just anything. The character of our High Street is important. Billericay residents rightly take pride in our High Street. It is important that the Elizabeth Cottage site is tidied up and improved. But it is also important that we get it right.
I think a scheme similar in scale to the application that was granted on appeal back in 2011, for either a mixed-used residential/retail or a flatted development for, say, four or five flats, would be a scheme I would look at more sympathetically.