ANGRY residents have been told Billericay’s green belt could be sacrificed for hundreds of homes despite preelection promises it would be saved.
Basildon Council’s Tory administration said earlier this year the town could not cope with 1,400 new houses and would remove them from its local plan.
However, councillors have now admitted Billericay will most likely have to have its share of new homes – although the final amount, and where they will go, has yet to be decided.
Tories have blamed the May election, which left the council with no one party in overall control, and said they could not rely on Ukip to back the building ban on green belt in Billericay.
But Ukip say they want to stop building on green belt across the borough altogether.
Kevin Blake, Tory borough councillor for Billericay and deputy leader at Basildon Council, said they had been left in an impossible situation.
He said: “What officers will recommend for councillors to vote on has not changed.
“What has changed is the structure of the council.
“Ukip do not have any borough councillors in Billericay and it would be quite easy for them to disagree with us.
“That’s why we can’t offer a guarantee.
“Because of this we can’t say ‘no’ to all green belt development in Billericay. The Government could then turn around and say we have to build on it. It would be someone else making the decision for us.
“If we find the best places for development in Billericay we can then have some measure of control over where these homes could be built.”
Following the May election, Basildon Council has 17 Tories, 12 Ukip, ten Labour, two Independent Labour and one Lib Dem.
Kerry Smith, leader of Ukip on Basildon Council, said the claims were nonsense and his party wanted to remove Basildon from the East of England Local Association, which decides on how many new homes each area needs to build. He said: “We do care about Billericay. We have an elected town councillor there and we have no problems working with other parties.
“We don’t want the green belt to be built on anywhere in the borough, not just Billericay.
“It’s not fair that all these homes have been dumped on us by a body which is not elected and not held accountable.
“We want to focus on removing ourselves from the body, which is what we will do if we gain overall majority of the council next year.”
Adam Adshead, of Billericay Action Group, which has been campaigning against development on the green belt, said he was disappointed, but not surprised.
He said: “It’s amazing that so many people in Billericay don’t know this is happening.”