PARTIALLY demolishing the Eastgate Shopping Centre and building 2,800 flats would “create a town within a town”, councillors fear. 

Under plans, Asda in the shopping centre would be downgraded and thousands of homes built alongside new retail and commercial spaces.

Permission was granted under Basildon’s previous Labour-led administration in April, but developers went to appeal on the grounds of non-determination after planning agreements were not signed.

The current committee voted to say it would not have granted permission for the development at a meeting on Thursday night - with the decision forming part of the council’s submission to the appeal hearing. 

Conservative Craig Rimmer criticised the development for its small offer of affordable housing despite its size.

He said: “Here we have a development that is creating, as councillor Ademuyiwa said, a town within a town, yet we can only afford five per cent affordable housing.

“Sounds like a joke to me. Especially when we’ve had other developments which are much smaller, who are able to actually hit the demands of Basildon, in terms of our standard for affordable housing.”

However, Mr Rimmer also applauded the proposals for encouraging biodiversity via its “living roofs”.

Planning director at Iceni Projects John Mumby told the committee the Eastgate centre is currently unsustainable and the plans would represent up to a £1billion investment in the town.

He said: “The application proposes a significant number of new homes in an urban, brownfield location which would go towards Basildon’s urgent need for new homes.

“Developing this type of site will relieve pressure on the release of green belt land in the borough.”

However, a letter from a resident disagreed.

A section read: “We need environmentally friendly, social and council housing, not privately owned estates. The Eastgate centre is a valuable community asset and more should be done to save it, rather than selling it off for inappropriate housing.”

Basildon Council is also fighting similar appeals for Town Square and Market Square, voting to say they would have refused permission for both applications at meetings earlier this year.

The Eastgate centre went into administration earlier this week.