- The silence from Basildon Council on the Local Plan means it is dead, and BAG with it. Nothing is further from the truth.
- The West side of Billericay has been saved from development by the intervention of Essex County Council. It hasn’t.
- The recent electoral results have saved Billericay’s Green Belt. They haven’t.
- The local Billericay councillors support the aims of BAG. They might not.
- That Basildon Borough Council has the best interests of the Billericay residents at heart. The last one didn’t.
It was always known that once the consultation responses had been received Basildon Council would spend time analysing the inputs before producing any necessary amendments and offering the revised plans for further consultation. The silence of the Council and the lack of frenetic activity by BAG are therefore only to be expected. Even when the council’s professional planners have finished their analyses it will be for the elected councillors to decide what to do next. Any revised plans for further public consultation are unlikely to become available until at least September, and BAG is working assiduously in the background to collect the information necessary to respond to the revised plans, once they are produced.
Essex County Council’s Highways Department has reported to Basildon Council saying that the roads of Billericay could not cope with the planned expansion without enhancement. They specifically refer to the West side of Billericay, but we say the same conclusion applies to all of Billericay. We are told that ECC says no money has been earmarked for the necessary improvements to the roads and this has been interpreted by some to mean the plans for the west are defunct. However, if such funds became available the situation would change. Basildon Borough and Essex County Council have already lobbied for funds for improvements to roads, are currently doing so and are likely to continue to do so. It is also possible that developers could be encouraged to make a contribution. Therefore, whilst the ECC Highways report is helpful, it does not prevent development on the west side of Billericay. The only sure way of preventing unsustainable development around Billericay is the continued protection of the Green Belt.
Basildon councillors will propose future plans for Billericay. See Myth 1. They cannot redraw the boundaries of our Green Belt without a Plan. They cannot have a Plan in place without, eventually, the approval of the Planning Inspectorate. The recent elections took away the overall majority of the Conservative group, with UKIP now holding the second highest number of seats. We expect that Labour and Liberal Democrat members of Basildon Borough Council will not support the protection of the Green Belt. UKIP councillors were elected on the basis of local issues, including ones similar to our own. It cannot, however, be assumed that they will extend their opposition to building on their local Green Belt to the wider proposition of not building on green belt at all. And as noted in the response to Myth 4, the new leader of Basildon Borough Council has reiterated the view of the Conservative group that some Green Belt will need to be sacrificed. Nothing has changed. Our Green Belt remains at considerable risk.
Some local Conservative councillors expressed their admiration for BAG during the elections and we are grateful for all support. However, the plans that we are now fighting were the preference of the Conservative administration which previously ran Basildon Council. Eight out of the current nine Billericay Conservative councillors were part of that administration and the new leader of Basildon Borough Council, Phil Turner, one of our councillors, has stated in his inaugural address to the new council that some Green Belt will have to be sacrificed to meet the current plans. It is therefore essential that we continue to lobby all politicians, local and national, if we are to meet our objectives.
Plans for Billericay cannot be taken in isolation from those of the neighbouring boroughs, each of whom have their own equivalents of BAG. Basildon Council has worked with the councils to the east and west, under the Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership, to produce plans for increased development throughout the already most densely packed areas of Essex to the detriment of the existing population. It may not be a coincidence that all of the ruling parties lost control of these councils. The numbers proposed by Basildon Borough Council are not supportable. Indeed Councillor Ball, the previous leader of Basildon Borough Council, was reported in the Southern Daily Echo last October claiming that the range of 5500 to 17000 houses for the Basildon borough would be an undeliverable build target. The unacceptable impact of the Local Plan on Billericay is evident to all but the councillors who represent us. Add in the knock-on effects of the proposed builds in council areas east and west of Billericay, particularly on transport infrastructure, and the wisdom of the total package for the whole of this part of Essex must be called into question.