CALLS have been made for the leader of the council to resign over a botched attempt to block a 17-storey development in Basildon town centre.

Basildon Council was ordered by the planning inspectorate to approve developer Orwell’s proposals for a 492 homes development on land off Market Square.

The high-rise block formed part of Labour’s town centre development strategy but after the Conservative’s wrestled back control of the council in May’s elections the plans were scrapped – a promise the party had made while campaigning.

Independent councillor Kerry Smith has blasted the Tories for wasting taxpayers’ money on the inquiry, claiming it was clear all along the council would lose.

“In the three times this came to the planning committee impartial officers of the council said it should be approved,” he said.

“When the Conservatives refused planning permission they knew that when it went to appeal they would lose, and they did.

“It has involved taxpayers’ money and now none of us know if the Government will now take over the council’s planning functions.”

The Government can take control of a local authority’s planning apparatus if “the Secretary of State considers that there are respects in which the authority are not adequately performing their function of determining applications.”

If 10 per cent of an authority’s planning decisions are overturned at appeal over a two-year period, then the Government may step in.

He added: “The Conservatives have left us open to that happening, they have spent taxpayers’ money on a forgone conclusion, just because they made phony election promises that they knew they could never keep.

“On this basis, I think that Andrew Baggot should offer his resignation as the leader of the council.”

Leader of the council Andrew Baggott said: “We have always been quite clear that this development does not fit with our vision for the town centre. Our pre-consultation work showed that this was a view shared by the residents of the borough. We have listened and acted on residents’ concerns. This was absolutely the right thing to do and we are quite clear that we do not want anyone building tower block monstrosities in our town.”