A COUNCIL leader has met with the Government’s chief planning officer to discuss the future of at least 20,000 homes in Basildon.

The borough is one of three in the county, including Castle Point, at threat of Government intervention and losing control of major planning decisions.

The council is yet to agree its Local Plan - which will decide where new homes, traveller sites and businesses are placed during the next 15 years.

Council leader Tory Andrew Baggott insisted the meeting was one of support rather than recrimination ahead of a council meeting early next month when the plan is finally due to be announced.

Mr Baggott said: “There are challenges involved with producing a Local Plan and the chief planner wanted to hear how we are going to meet those challenges.

“He also wanted to hear what safeguards we had in place.

“We are committed to planning Basildon’s housing need, its business growth potential and infrastructure requirements but it is important we get it right.”

The council received a written warning about its failure in November and was threatened with civil servants taking over. It was given until next January to complete a plan.

Councils without plans risk giving more control over where homes are built to developers rather than where councillors, as representatives of the public, think would best serve the borough.

A plan had been approved under the Labour led administration March but the now Tory controlled council ripped this up.

Any new plan would still have to go out to consultation and Labour councillors warned the last one took eight months with 21,000 responses.

This one must be signed off by January 24.

Former council leader and now Labour group leader Gavin Callaghan said: “

Councillor Gavin Callaghan, who also met the chief planning officer on behalf of Labour, said: “The chief planning officer was clear Basildon can run but it can’t hide.

“The timetable must be met, the number of homes outlined must be met and the plan must be adopted.

“Councillor Baggott must stop hiding in dark rooms hoping no one will ask him difficult questions.

“He must tell us how he plans to overcome these major challenges in passing a Local Plan and he needs to tell us quickly.” A spokesman for Basildon Council insisted “plans are in place” for the public to have a say.