THE revamp of a dilapidated town centre tower block should not exclude families in need of affordable housing, campaigners have urged.

Basildon Council has revealed plans to refurbish Grade II listed Brooke House, opposite the Eastgate Centre, as part of its town centre regeneration strategy.

The authority said it is still drawing up proposals for the building - which will add to work to revamp neighbouring Freedom House and East Walk.

Andrew Gordon, Labour councillor for Lee Chapel North, grew up in the tower block.

He admitted the building needs refurbishing - but said he hopes it will not come at the expense of current tenants.

Mr Gordon said: “We need to sit down with them as a council and find out what it is that they want from the refurbishment.

“It seems as though we are trying to gentrify Basildon, and when I speak to people living and working in the town centre about the regeneration plans for Basildon they seem to be worried about being priced out through rents.

“We can all agree that change needs to happen at Brooke House, but it has to be the right sort of changes.

“It is really important we don’t exclude anyone and consult with the residents.”

David Burton-Sampson, Labour councillor for St Martin’s ward, echoed Mr Gordon’s calls.

He said: “Affordable housing is a major issue for Basildon, and we do need to deliver far more than we have done.

“This is a good opportunity for us to do so, and to combine it with improved shops in the centre.

“People need houses, and prices in the borough are rising, but we need to make sure those who are currently there have a say in refurbishment and the chance to remain a part of it once it has been completed.”

Basildon Council insists plans to revamp the town centre will help to create a strong night time economy as well as housing it needs to meet government targets.

A spokesman said the authority has consulted with residents and developers regularly since approving its regeneration strategy in July 2016.

He said: “Since then, the council has been meeting regularly with its development partner, Barratt Wilson Bowden Ltd, to progress the scheme.

“Ongoing engagement with other landowners has been very positive and this will continue through the development process.

“Council officers sought views from residents as part of the recent Love Your Borough event, and the majority of people were supportive of the proposals the council is working towards.

“Further consultation will take place as the scheme progresses.

“The scheme, which also involves the Freedom House and East Walk retail block and the refurbishment of Brooke House, will provide a combination of residential, retail and leisure uses to promote family friendly activities and create a night-time economy in the town centre.

“It is expected that a report outlining progress on the town centre regeneration scheme will be presented to cabinet in the spring.”