Local plan update November 2019
We still have no definite dates for the Examination in Public (EiP) but council officers are suggesting February 2020 as a possibility.
Since Gavin Callaghan became the leader of Basildon Council and announced his acceptance of having previously ‘got off on the wrong foot with Billericay residents’, the BDRA had been seeking a meeting to find out just what he plans for our town. We eventually agreed a date and our representatives arrived well before the appointed hour. Some time later a council official appeared to tell us that Gavin had decided not to meet us and instead had passed the task to Adele Brown, Chair of the Infrastructure and Inclusive Growth Committee, but she could not be found. So, we still can’t tell you what Gavin, or Adele, intends for Billericay.
We did have a separate meeting with the Head of Planning at Basildon Council, Christine Lyons, but we did not get the impression that she feels residents have a major role to play in Planning activities, including the Local Plan.
The council had received 19 responses to the Consultation on the Statement of Community Involvement, towards the upper end of national response rates for such activities. She did not seem to consider the apparent lack of clarity around the function of the Consultation and the factual inaccuracies in the Response Questionnaire to be of concern.
Although unwilling to discuss the Local Plan she did give us some general comments. The EiP has been delayed due to DEFRA initiated issues on air quality. These specifically relate to the Wash Road and Rettendon Turnpike/A127 areas. She felt that as Billericay was one of the areas least affected by air quality issues it could therefore be a perfect place for more houses.
We did not get the impression that Infrastructure First was being taken to mean that necessary infrastructure to support the planned house building would be a precursor to any house construction.
She believed the plans for Billericay were totally viable.
She considered that a Sustainable Transport Policy was the answer to resident’s concerns about the scale of proposed building and the impact on the existing transport infrastructure. She suggested that houses having individual parking places were not a priority and that more use could be made of cycle lanes. We did not have the opportunity to question the detail in these proposals.
As an association representing over one third of the households in the town, we are disappointed to conclude that the Council and its officers seems to believe it unnecessary to engage with residents other than when required to, and then with reluctance.
Finally for now, you may recall that back in July some of us attended an event held by Feria Urbanism on behalf of the 4 developers planning to build in the south west of Billericay to take resident views into account and to ensure the whole area was planned in a coordinated fashion. We were told to expect a public feedback session in September, but this has not happened although we understand that Feria have recently met with Basildon Council. We now know that the 2 developers involved in the Mountnessing Road and London Road sites, H17a and H17b, plan to hold their own, individual, public session in the Reading Rooms on Billericay High Street on 23 November. We will provide more details on this as soon as we have them.