THE new leader of Castle Point Council has made it his top priority to bring future housing demands back under the borough’s control.

The borough faces the very real prospect of thousands of new homes being built - with the Government choosing just where they go after the council failed to come up with its own satisfactory local plan.

Straight away new leader Norman Smith has vowed to create a new local plan, before civil servants in Whitehall make the decisions.

He said: “We are under threat of intervention, so we have been in meetings with officers from the secretary of state offices and we want to prove we are going to bring forward a local plan that is right for our borough.

“The public will not thank us if we lost control of our capability to make a decision and allow officers from London to come in and do that for us.

“I am confident we can put a plan together and that has to be achieved very quickly.”

Mr Smith, a councillor for Boyce ward, takes over just weeks after then housing secretary Sajid Javid wrote a letter warning the Government would take over the plan.

Castle Point Council claimed there were exceptional circumstances which explained why they failed to come up with a plan of where to fit 4,000 new homes.

But, these circumstances were dismissed as not exceptional - and similar to many other areas.

A local plan allows a council to assign sites suitable for housing. If it identifies enough then it gives the council a greater chance of refusing developments elsewhere in the area. If sites are not identified and no plan is completed developers have a greater chance of building where they want, rather than where those elected deem suitable.

Mr Smith also promised to consider infrastructure including a third route off Canvey.

He said: “Any development has to have infrastructure and that is the whole point of us having control of our plan.

“All of these issues will be taken into account, when we put forward our plan.

“Roads and the number of homes built are being considered because if we do not do something about it now, the Government will.” After taking control as leader he added: “We are proud of the achievements of this council which have seen frontline services protected and council tax kept low, but I have instructed my members to go further.”