CONTROVERSIAL plans to build 99 homes in Billericay are set to be approved after it was deemed the need for affordable housing outweighs potential harm to the green belt.

Developer David Wilson Homes is behind plans to build the homes on land off Southend Road, and Basildon Council planning officers have recommended the proposals are approved ahead of a meeting on Thursday.

According to the plans, 37 per cent of the new homes will be classed as “affordable housing” and planning officers have stated “very special circumstances” justify allowing homes on the green belt.

The site was previously included in Basildon’s draft local plan - with an allocation of up to 500 homes - before the plan was withdrawn.

Billericay West councillor Phil Turner said: “I don’t think the affordable homes makes the balance, although we kicked out the local plan, the fact it is on green belt should be a deciding factor and there are a lot of other sites across Basildon - brownfield sites - that could be used.

“Planners will tell you that it is their professional judgement, I think personally that we are seeing a politicisation, they are making policy for Basildon, and they are under the cover of affordable housing, it outweighs the green belt and we have lost the green belt area, this is just where we are now.”

Basildon Council was recently named and shamed by the Government for its failure to implement a housing plan, alongside six other councils across the country.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove threatened the council with Government intervention if it failed to introduce a local plan.

Mr Turner added: “Someone told me that if Wilson Homes gets the go-ahead, it won’t be the end of the world but that is not the point, the point is it is another greenbelt site, this is death by a thousand cuts, that is the way it will go, what will happen if other sites, such as Barrett home in Burstead come back.

“We are getting to the point where there is a gun to the head of council members held at ransom by planning officers, I will be against it as it is another part of Billericay, we are too eager to hand to the bulldozers.”

The planning application has come after nearly ten years after an initial consultation with residents regarding the site.