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Tory’s revolt over Dry Street homes
11:00am Wednesday 8th August 2012 in Local News
A TORY politician has broken ranks to join the battle to stop controversial plans for hundreds of homes being built on a beauty spot.
John Schofield, county councillor for Westley Heights, is the first Conservative politician to publicly oppose plans for an estate of up to 850 properties on land including the Dry Street wildlife haven.
The Echo’s save Dry Street campaign in 2006, backed by 10,000 readers, stopped previous plans for 1,200 homes on the land and had cross-party support.
However, Basildon Council’s ruling Tory administration is supporting the new proposals after being promised funding to move South Essex College from its current location in Nethermayne, to a new town centre site.
Mr Schofield has now come out against his own party’s plans.
He said a new college was not enough to sacrifice the meadows ,which have been registered as a significant wildlife site since 2005.
He said: “It is my belief Dry Street’s meadows should not be surrendered for this scheme and I am objecting to the proposal when plans are submitted to the council in October.”
The council argues the new college is needed to help reduce the number of 16 to 18 year olds who are unemployed and not at college or in vocational training.
Mr Schofield added: “If Basildon's youth academic attainment record is low it should be considered the route to attainment and a positive outcome starts a long way before 16 to 18 years old. It could be proposed that failing primary schools, of which the town has too many, are leaving an unsatisfactory proportion of children disadvantaged at Year 6.
“If a new college is intended to do this it is speculative and not worthy of sacrificing part of Dry Street’s rural precious meadows which will in time put pressure on the other green spaces.”
The new proposals from the Homes and Communities Agency involve building on the existing college site and some of Dry Street to provide cash to move it to the town centre as part of the £1billion masterplan regeneration.
Malcolm Buckley , Tory cabinet member for regeneration, argued the new town centre college would improve education, and, if the council opposed the Dry Street plans, it would be imposed on the borough because the site is set aside as a long-term housing site.
He said: “Mr Schofield is perfectly within his rights to speak out as the proposals are within his ward.”
But he said the council needed to support the plans to ensure it got the best deal for the borough.
He added: “If we don’t support this it will still go ahead, but we won’t get the college and the retention of a lot of green space to the west of the site, which is what we are now looking at.”