BASILDON council hopes to create at least 8,500 jobs in the borough over the next 20 years.

People in the borough will shortly be asked for their views on Basildon Council’s Local Plan, which sets out its planning strategies for the period between now and 2031.

The document outlines sites where 12,500 homes might be build across the borough – most of them on green belt land.

It also highlights areas where business and industrial development would be allowed, to create at least 8,500 jobs.

Matt Winslow, the council’s planning policy manager, said: “We’ve estimated 8,500 jobs at the very least.

“National planning policy means you have to match the number of homes with the likely number of jobs, and this is the figure we’ve arrived at.”

Clive Simpson, the council’s most senior planning officer, said: “You can’t bring in business if you don’t have anywhere for them to build. This will make sure that Basildon does not stagnate. Our studies show there is demand for business in the borough.”

The plan highlights major commercial sites in west Laindon, north-east Pitsea, and a long strip of land just off the A127, north of Basildon and Burnt Mills Industrial Estate.

Amile of the strip is designated for heavy industry and commercial ventures.

The plan also incorporates the town centre masterplan, which aims to completely revamp the town centre, with a new hotel and a cinema – proposals which could create hundreds more jobs.

Latest figures released to the Echo show despite the council’s lofty ambitions, 12 per cent of the borough’s industrial sites are vacant. However, Richard Moore, Tory councillor responsible for planning, said he saw this as an opportunity, rather than a problem.

He explained: “A 12 per cent vacancy rate is a good thing, because it allows for a churn in businesses to happen.

“If Basildon was full, businesses would be looking to other places in the county, as there will be no new major designated sites in the borough until our Local Plan is officially agreed.

“Prior to the recession, we were operating with the same level of vacancies, so I don’t think we’re doing too badly.”