A LONG-SERVING Tory councillor has criticised the leader of Castle Point Council as being “totally out of touch” as campaigners call for a vote of no confidence over housing proposals.
Last week the authority revealed its draft local plan, setting out where 4,000 homes could be built between 2015 and 2031.
The council hopes the plans will pave the way for 2,100 jobs by expanding industrial estates on Canvey and in Benfleet and provide homes for young families who want to stay in the borough.
However, Conservative councillor Alf Partridge, who has represented St Mary’s ward for almost 50 years, is calling for a backbenchers’ revolt and said Tory leader PamChallis is not listening to residents’ concerns.
The new plan proposes 800 homes on the Jotmans Hall Farm green belt site in Benfleet, despite councillors vetoing plans for 265 homes by Persimmon Homes there in October. Mr Partridge said: “I will be going into battle tomorrow. I think the leader is totally out of touch with the community.
She seems hell bent on increasing industry which no one wants and turning Castle Point into something it’s not. People have lost confidence in the council.
I’ve had phone calls from residents tearing their hair out over this.
“Backbench members should forget their political differences and band together to take control of the council and do what needs to be done to protect Castle Point.”
The council’s first housing document was thrown out in September 2011 after backbench councillors refused to vote it through following an outcry from residents. Meanwhile, green belt campaigners are calling for a vote of no confidence in the council after learning half the newhomes will be on green spaces.
Susan Buhr, of Jotmans Lane, said: “The council has taken the lungs out of Benfleet and will go downin historyas the council that ignored its residents and sold off the green belt.
“A vote of no confidence should followthis botched local plan after spending possibly £1million at the expense of council tax to get back to where they started.”
Sharon Knight, of Philmead Road, Benfleet, said: “Where is the need for all these homes? They are not for local people.”
Councillors will vote on whether to send the draft plan out to consultation at 7pm tonight at the council offices in Kiln Road, Thundersley.
If approved, residents will be able to have their say between January 24 and March 21.
A COUNCIL spokesman said: “The council must have a formal plan based on evidence to identify where development will take place to meet housing and business needs, while protecting the environment. Tonight, councillors are being asked to approve a draft plan for consultation with all residents.Councillors are facing a difficult decision.
“To do nothing is not an option, as twice as many houses will be imposed on the borough by developers and planning inspectors, with council tax payers footing the legal bill and not reaping any benefits.
“The plan protects the majority of the green belt, with only 4 per cent being released for housing. Each development will offer benefits, such as improvements to the roads, woodlands and space for schools and medical facilities. If we don’t provide for growth, facilities will disappear – the Deanes School is a good example.”