A CHARITY has criticised “daft” plans to build council home on the site of a communal garden created for older people.

Age UK Essex has is opposing Southend Council plans to build as many as six bungalows in the grounds of its Bishop House sheltered housing complex, in Western Approaches, Eastwood.

Officials looking for places where Southend’s first new council homes since 1989 might be built, picked the Eastwood site after looking at 124 areas in the borough.

The move has angered opposition councillors and the charity Age UK Essex, whose chief executive AndrewGardner, said: “We have particularly strong views about what is being proposed.

“There is no going back once you concrete over something. It’s just daft.”

The council’s new coalition administration – made up of Independent, Labour and Lib Dem councillors – is backing a £3million pilot scheme to build on underused garage sites in Ashanti Close, Bulwark Road and Exeter Close, Shoebury. Between 13 and 27 council houses would be build.

If the scheme is judged a success, the Eastwood site could be next in line.

The garden, along with garage sites in Rochford Road, could take as many as 18 homes in the second phase of the plan, aimed at easing Southend’s affordable housing crisis.

About 1,550 people are on the waiting list for social housing in the borough.

However, Mr Gardner warned building on Bishop House’s garden could prove costly to the council in the longer term.

He explained: “A lot of evidence suggests if you make available grounds where people can be active, it improves their health and wellbeing.

“It increases life expectancy and keeps them out of social care.

“If you build housing on green land, you limit the ability of people to go out and be active and you get a knock-on effect with health and social care costs.

“It’s a false economy.”

The plans have also been criticised by residents and Mark Flewitt, Tory councillor for St Laurence ward who described them as “cruel and silly”.

David Norman, Southend councillor responsible for housing, said: “The way it has worked, we have given away council land to housing associations in return for nomination rights on the properties.

“That meant the land was lost.

“This plan is to build councilowned homes on council-owned land.

“There is a full commitment to consult with all parties.”