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265 homes for green belt in Benfleet rejected
6:00pm Friday 4th October 2013 in News
CONTROVERSIAL plans to build hundreds of homes on green belt land have been rejected by councillors who labelled the proposals an “abscess” on the community.
Proposals to build 265 homes on 21 acres of land south of Jotmans Lane, in Benfleet, were scuppered when Castle Point Council’s development control committee voted unanimously to throw them out.
More than 150 worried residents packed out the council chamber on Tuesday night to watch the proceedings, applauding when the application was refused.
Conservative councillor Alf Partridge said: “This is the only bit of green belt we have left in St Mary’s ward, so, if we lose it, it will all be gone.
“Over the years, development has been on a small scale, so we have been able to absorb more people into the community. But it will not be possible to absorb this number of people. It will totally destroy the image of St Mary’s.”
The decision comes after the Echo revealed secret plans to build 2,995 homes on the mainland, raising concerns major green belt sites could become a target.
About 580 residents wrote to Castle Point Council objecting to the plans – an unprecedented level of opposition to a planning application in the borough.
Tory councillor David Cross, who also represents St Mary’s ward, said: “Over the past year I have had many phone calls about this abscess of an application. It is a carbuncle in my view and it is not needed. About 600 residents are against it for very valid reasons and that counts for a hell of a lot.
“We have got to fight and fight it and, if necessary, go to court again and again to stop it.”
Tory councillor Andrew Sheldon also said the authority should be prepared to go to court to defend the land.
He added: “Every single piece of green belt with this level of opposition deserves to go to court and we can afford to fight it. We need to stick to what’s right and stick to what the Government is saying that we should not be building on green belt.
“It is rare for an application to come forward where the applicants do not come to defend themselves, which shows how little confidence they have it will get passed.”
Opposition councillor Peter Grieg said: “I fully support saying no to this ridiculous application.
We do not agree with building on any green belt in Castle Point."
Developer Persimmon Homes has criticised Castle Point Council for spending taxpayers’ money on appeals when the borough needs more housing.
A spokeswoman from the company said: “We’re not surprised by the committee’s decision and we will consider our position in light of this and look carefully at the options available to us. The fact remains there is an overwhelming need for more homes to be built locally and Castle Point Council has consistently failed to deliver enough.
“This local authority has some difficult decisions to make, but at some point it is going to have to make them.
“It is disappointing the council is prepared to divert taxpayers’ money into defending appeal decisions when that money would be better invested in preparing the Local Plan as quickly as possible. Once in place, it would greatly reduce the likelihood of appeals as the preferred location of housing would be identified.
“New homes are desperately needed.”
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