A BASILDON office block could be turned into flats, giving a boost to plans to regenerate the outdated town centre.

Plans have emerged to convert Northgate House, the block above the BHS department store, into 60 flats.

It follows the announcement of a facelift for the nearby St. Martin’s Square and a tree-lined boulevard linking Gloucester Park with the town centre, under the much-heralded town centre masterplan.

The Northgate House proposal echoes a project first put forward for the building in 2005, but never brought to fruition.

Malcolm Buckley, Basildon councillor responsible for regeneration, said: “We have seen some developers fail to deliver in the past, most notably on Northgate House and on the Laindon Centre. However, we’re optimistic that this will not be a repeat.

“In principle, it is a significant deve l o p - m e n t w h i c h w o u l d bring a lot to the town centre.

I do have some c o n c e r n s over parking, but as long as they are adequately designed and offer proper, decent accommodation for local people, then it is to be welcomed.”

The application asks whether prior approval is needed for a change of use of the building, following a change of law designed to speed up planning processes for proposals that look to convert buildings.

The distinctive block has stood empty for years. Planning permission was granted in 2005 to convert Northgate House into 90 flats, adding an three extra floors to the building.

Now Croydonbased developer Anwar Ansari has applied for permission to use it for flats – as asked the could to decide on the plan within 56 days under new fast-track planning rules.

The majority of the flats would have two bedrooms, with one-bed, three-bed, and studio flats also part of the mix.

Mr Ansari’s agent, Suburban Studios has said the proposal would offer no extra parking, but offers to find a residents’ parking scheme in the town centre in the two years after the flats are occupied.

Northgate House stands next to Great Oaks car park.

The council’s own studies suggest only half the town centre’s 1,400 parking spaces are being used all day, so parking might not be the issue it would be in other town centres.

PAT Rackley, Independent
Labour councillor for St.
Martin’s Ward, which covers
the town centre, has voiced
strong reservations about the
proposal, and especially the
lack of parking.

She explained: “I’m
gobsmacked by this.
“There are already a lot of
problems with town centre
parking and people trying to
get a space. There are a lot of
town centre flats already.”