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COUNCILLORS have approved the building of a road through a 60-year-old washland, so more houses can be built on green land off of Dry Street.
Basildon’s Planning Committee voted by majority last night to approve 42 new homes and a new road on ‘Land West of Basildon Hospital’, despite concerns raised by local residents and ward councillors.
Independent councillor Kerry Smith walked out of the meeting after the decision was taken, exclaiming: “If only it had a Billericay postcode!”
Cllr Smith had earlier told the meeting that Westley Heights, where the development would take place, was the highest point in Essex and the washland, designed to absorb surface water, should be ‘sacrosanct’.
Chelmsford developer Stonebond Properties Ltd wants to build 13 four-bedroom properties, 17 three-bedroom properties, 10 two-bedroom properties and two one-bedroom properties.
Residents and ward councillors addressed the Planning Committee last night, arguing that the develop would cause disruption for the surrounding community, worsen existing traffic problems and leave Basildon Hospital at risk of flooding.
One resident told councillors: “This road is going to go down into the washland. I don’t know if you know the history of the washland. In 1956, Basildon flooded. That’s why the washland was built. Now you’re going to destroy that washland.”
Cllr Smith said he would have backed the plans if the vehicular access had been via the existing luxury housing development, approved in 2013, to avoid building a road through the washland.
But he said Dry Street was already prone to flooding and the washland should be protected.
“For the residents of Dry Street, it’s the biggest joke,” he said. “For locally minded people, it’s a bit hard to fathom in your mind’s eye how we get to the point that this is the lowest flood risk, because when you go to where the most popular part of Dry Street is, in mid-summer there are pools of water on the highway.
“We are doing something future generations will curse us for… This is to protect the hospital. The cardiac centre for south Essex. If that gets flooded, this is the protection. That’s all we’ve got. That bit of washland. We will be cursed.”
But head of planning Christine Lyons told the meeting that a ‘detailed surface water drainage’ plan would be required before construction which, with other measures, would ‘minimise the risk’.
Another officer said the bank of the washland would be raised, meaning it could even provide more protection than it does currently.
Speakers also raised concerns about traffic on Dry Street. One resident said community had been promised that the creation of the luxury housing estate approved in 2013 would have ‘no ill-effect’, but in fact the effect had been ‘horrendous’.
He said: “It’s quadrupled or more the amount of traffic and it’s just a matter of time before a kid or a horse gets knocked over.”
Nethermayne Independent councillor Derrick Fellowes agreed: “When I drive up and down Dry Street, because it’s so narrow and the volume of traffic going up and down there, I say a little prayer. And when I get to the other end without an incident, I’m quite amazed, because it’s inappropriate for the amount of traffic going up and down there.”
Planning officers told the meeting that Essex Council, responsible for highways, had raised no concerns or objections over the proposal.
Cllr Smith replied that at a recent appeal over another planning application, “The appeal body turned them into dogs food, Essex Highways. So their opinion counts for nothing. That’s why this authority’s going for unitary. County don’t give two monkeys about us.”
The planning permission was granted by a majority vote. Five councillors voted for it, whilst two voted against.