JUBILANT residents are celebrating after plans for 750 homes on green belt were thrown out.

Residents campaigning against Meridian Strategic Land’s plans for hundreds of new homes off Pound Lane, Bowers Gifford, waited four months for the Secretary of State’s decision, after a public inquiry in February.

Basildon Council refused the original application in September after 5,000 outraged residents signed a petition.

However Meridian, working for Nottinghamshire County Council, appealed the decision, and a four-day inquiry was held.

Local Government Minister Eric Pickles backed the inspectorate’s decision to refuse the proposals for land at Little Chalvedon Hall Farm, off Homestead Road.

It was found developing the land, which the county council’s pension fund bought for a reported £4.2million, would be “inappropriate” and would increase traffic to an unacceptable level.

Campaigners said proposals for 750 homes, a medical centre and primary school would blur the boundaries between Bowers Gifford, North Benfleet and Pitsea – turning the village into a small town.

Mr Pickles said if the site wasn’t green belt it would have been developed, saying it was a “strong candidate for housing development, being in a sustainable location and well related to existing settlements.”

Rose Griffin, of Bowers Gifford and North Benfleet Residents’ Association, said: “We are so pleased. We spoke to the public and heard their views.

The residents of Bowers Gifford have been so supportive and we are delighted with the support not just from them, but residents in Pitsea too.”

Basildon Council’s Draft Local Plan sets out where 12,000 new homes will be built in Basildon, by 2031. A total of 9,100 could be built on green belt land and 3,425 in urban areas.

However, the plan, drawn up under the last Conservative administration, excludes the Little Chalvedon Hall Farm site – arguing it should be preserved.

Councillor Richard Moore, Basildon Council's cabinet member for regeneration and planning, said: “We are pleased the Secretary of State has upheld our decision to refuse planning permission for a residential development at Little Chalvedon Hall. Having said that, we note his comments that it's likely the council will need to release green belt land in order to meet future housing need.”

David Newberry, managing director of Meridian, said he would be pushing for the council to include the site in the local plan.

He said: “I think what we do now, is progress it to the local plan in the way the Secretary of State told us to. The fact of the matter is any decision about any green belt release will be made through the local plan. We still regard this as one of the best sites in the district.

“Basildon Council does not meet its building requirements, and the only way they can meet it is by building 9,000 homes in the green belt.”

‘We are so pleased. The residents of Bowers Gifford have been so supportive WHAT DO YOU THINK E-mail echo.letters@nqe.com DESPITE the celebrations, residents are not letting their guard down and say they will continue fighting if the case is taken to the High Court.

Bowers Gifford and North Benfleet Residents’ Association says it will continue to oppose plans from landowners Nottinghamshire County Council Pension Fund.

Rose Griffin, from the association, said: “It’s fantastic news and we are absolutely over the moon, but we know the battle is not over.

“I don’t think we are out of the danger zone until we have a core strategy in place, but we are ready to fight for the green belt again.”

Chairman Robert Smillie added: “We are excited and all the councillors are over the moon. To take it to High court the costs would be in the hundreds of thousands and if they lose it will be expensive, which is a risk for a pension fund.”

Basildon MP Stephen Metcalfe, who spoke at the planning inquiry on behalf of residents, welcomed the news.

He said: “I am delighted. I would like to thank every person who made their views known to me on this issue, as it enabled me to effectively communicate the strength of feeling against the plans to the Inspectorate.”

A DECISION to veto 165 homes on green belt land in Benfleet added weight to the ruling.

The High Court threw out plans for Glebelands in January, after developers Fox Land and Property took their plans to the top court after Local Government Minister Eric Pickles turned down proposals at the planning appeal stage.

A High Court showdown took place in December and Mr Justice Blake agreed with Mr Pickles’ ruling on the 7.4 hectare site. That decision was was considered in Mr Pickles’ latest ruling.

The planning inspectorate’s report said the plans for land at Glebelands was “less harmful” than the land just 800m away in Bowers Gifford, and the decision to rule out building must be considered. The report added: “The logic of that decision indicates that there should be a refusal on this site.”