CLAIMS have been made that it would be impossible to build more homes in Billericay to meet Government need without destroying green belt land.

Last week, the Echo reported how Basildon’s housing target had been increased by an additional 4,000 homes, which had to be included in its housing plan.

Pat Rackley, former councillor for the St Martins ward, claimed it was about time that the likes of Billericay started to take its fair share of homes, with Basildon already over-saturated.

Initially, the council needed to meet a housing target of 15,260, but this figure has been increased to 19,440 across the borough.

In comparison, the number of homes needed in Billericay is believed to have risen from 1,700 to 2,600.

But chairman of Billericay Action Group, Mike Andrews, believes although Billericay may not be hitting the number of homes as other areas, it would be impossible to build more in the town without destroying green belt land, something which directly contradicts national planning policy framework.

He said: “We accept there is a need across the borough and in Billericay.

“But we are seeing a contradiction with the framework, the policy instructs that we should be protecting green belt land, so the extent that we give up green belt land should be carefully controlled.

“The policy says that meeting housing numbers is not a valid reason to build on green belt, so if we take all these extra homes, where will they go?”

Mr Andrews added that it is no use building hundred of homes, if the infrastructure does not accompany it.

He said: “Yes, they are right in saying Billericay may not be taking as many homes as other areas in the borough, but housing has to be sustainable. It must come with infrastructure, we can’t just build houses. We need to consider everything that will come with all these homes, we are a commuter town really, and our biggest complaint at the moment is the rail network. We have been told there is little scope to increase it, but they are planning to build homes the length of the line to Southend.

“Roads are a considerable issue, and we don’t believe the plans for the relief road to the south west will help, we actually fear they could exacerbate issues. We are seeing across the borough all these factors and they must be taken into account. The whole issue of housing needs to be tackled in a cohesive manner, we can’t randomly build homes because we have been told a figure.”

Tory councillor for Billericay West, Anthony Hedley, raised concerns that the housing plan has halted since the Labour and Ukip coalition in May this year.

He also pointed to a severe lack of Labour and Ukip councillors in Billericay, meaning the town could be lumbered with additional homes as councillors look to avoid angering their own residents.

He said: “If you want to preserve more green belt it is impossible to provide these homes, particularly in Billericay.

“The huge delay has been caused by the new administration.

“They have promised the resident they can reduce numbers, and now we are delayed because they have failed and if they come forward they will have to admit failure. The plan has not come forward and all I hear are numbers going up.

“The real concern for Billericay residents is that we have a administration with no representation.

“There is a danger they will push numbers here so they do not damage their own votes. They are unlikely to win any seats north of the arterial road, so why wouldn’t they shove a load of houses there?”

But Basildon independent councillor, Kerry Smith, pointed to huge developments at Gloucester Park, Dry Street and Dunton Garden in Basildon, to suggest it may be about time Billericay sacrificed some of its precious green land.

He said: “To be honest with you, it has been my view is Billericay has not been pulling its weight for some time.

“Quite simply, Basildon has pulled more than its own weight, and destroyed a number of beautiful sites in the process. Its not just a case of numbers, and you can’t just focus on numbers, we have lost some of our premium open spaces enjoyed by the community to protect Billericay.”