Update on a masterplan for SW Billericay
Feedback from the workshop on a Masterplan for SW Billericay
On Thursday 11 July representatives from the BDRA and BAG, as well as other representative bodies in Billericay, attended a consultation workshop with Feria Urbanism as commissioned by the developers aligned to the four sites earmarked in the submitted Local Plan for south west Billericay.
By way of providing some history, theses sites have been proposed as a cohesive block of 1,700 houses, linked by a new road, making up the bulk of the c.2,700 dwellings targeted for Billericay as a whole. The council has made it clear that these sites must come under a single Masterplan. This is important considering the scale of development and the infrastructure the high number of new, plus existing, residents will demand.
Summary of key points from the workshop;
1. Event was based upon the premise that the 4 sites in the SW of Billericay go ahead.
2. We stated our view that it was premature to be considering design and planning at this stage as the Local Plan is not yet approved and we don't have a date for the Examination in Public (EiP).
3. We stressed that our attendance did not imply acceptance or endorsement of the Local Plan and we would continue to fight. Feria acknowledge this.
4. We reiterated our view that some sustainable development was appropriate and identified our Four Firsts Charter as the fundamental basis for any development around Billericay; Infrastructure First, Local First, Affordable First and Environment First.
5. The opening slides presented by Feria clearly demonstrated that the historical expansion of Billericay over 100 years or so had resulted in a situation where any further rapid and extensive growth would require considerable infrastructure enhancement across the town.
6. Although not an official position, the idea that a road through the 4 sites might provide congestion relief for Sun Corner now seems to have been discarded. The road will merely provide access to the sites, although is likely to become a rat run. However, it is not impossible that at the EiP there will be attempts to resurrect, what we believe to be false, ‘relief’ benefits.
7. We highlighted concerns about the impact the 4 sites and associated road would have on the rest of Billericay, not just the area they occupy. Especially as the workshop highlighted that all key services are some distance from the sites i.e. station, shops, schools and health facilities.
8. It seems that the developer community now regards Green Belt as a disposable commodity, presumably based upon the acquiescence of councils to their and the Government’s pressure. There remain considerable discrepancies between government minister’s words and the deeds of their officials.
9. Feria seemed surprised at the lack of associated infrastructure in the submitted Local Plan for the 4 sites and elsewhere in Billericay..
10. A council officer claimed that when the individual Planning Applications for the 4 sites are submitted they would not be considered in isolation, although we have yet to be convinced this is allowable, or will be seen as desirable by Basildon Council. The Masterplan concept may just be a way to bring the disparate developer views under what appears to be an harmonious umbrella.
11. We stressed the need for the initial builds to be of truly affordable houses for local people preceded by the necessary infrastructure. The council representative at the workshop claimed that the latest NPPF limited the opportunity for developers to claim viability concerns as an excuse for not meeting such requirements, but there is no evidence to prove this will work and it relies heavily upon councils willingness to take on developers.
12. We also stressed the likely direct impact upon Mountnessing Road (especially the railway bridge) of these 4 sites and the associated roads.
13. Feria supported the view that destroying existing features of a site to make development easy and then constructing replacements was not an appropriate or satisfactory approach e.g. trees and hedgerows.
14. However, it was claimed that Basildon Council can only process 1 Tree Protection Order (TPO) per month due to resource constraints so getting wide protection in place ahead of development is limited.
15. The Feria leader supported the view that volume building does not lead to reduced house prices and gave an example of where this had happened, and houses remained unsold. The implication for us is potentially 12 year+ building sites around Billericay with a slow 50 dwellings per year build out.
16. We offered Queens Park as an example of an acceptable development model in terms of density, housing mix, integral infrastructure and landscaping/open spaces.
17. We suggested that based upon the current draft Local Plan we expect/fear cramped, shoddy built housing aimed at incoming commuters. Council and developers complicit to maximise profits and minimise public expenditure with little concern for the development of real communities. Little concern for the environment and an overall deterioration in the quality of life for new and existing residents.
We understand that the output from the workshops (3 were held on the same day) will be used to formulate the Masterplan for south west Billericay and will be presented to residents later this year for comment. We will provide more information as soon as we have it.