Developers have set their sights on building a new 220- home estate in Wickford, the Echo can reveal.
A leaked document shows housebuilder Crest Nicholson has bought land the size of 28 football pitches in West Wickford, south of London Road.
The developers have slated Basildon Council’s local plan, which has earmarked four sites in Wickford for 2,800 homes, calling them unsuitable.
They have raised doubts over the Tory administration’s preferred western site, claiming it is beset by problems and would be hard to deliver. The firm has asked for its area to be included instead.
While Crest Nicholson has not yet submitted a planning application for the site, campaigners fear one is on the horizon.
David Harrison, vice chairman of Wickford Action Group, said: “Now that Basildon Council has said that much of the green belt around Wickford is OK for development, the vultures are gathering.
“This appears to be a developer who has been left in the cold by Basildon Council, so is now getting its shots in early.
Mr Harrison, who is also representing Ukip in the forthcoming Wickford by-election, added "Wickford cannot cope with all this proposed housing.”
Basildon Council has already dismissed the proposed development on Bell Farm in its local plan, bulding on land between Tudor Way, The Chase, and Ramsden View Road.
It said it was not suitable as it could mean Wickford gets too close to Crays Hill.
The detailed designs show 220 homes could be built there, including two access roads off London Road, including a new health centre, and a recreation ground.
A park would be created in the middle of the estate, while footpaths to the east will link into the Chase and local schools.
Letters are being sent out to residents advertising an exhibition at the Wickford Community Association Hall, in Market Road, between 3pm and 8.30pm, on Wednesday.
The developer said the first 100 homes could be built by 2016 – but campaigners fear that in an absence of a local plan being rubber stamped, it could mean five major housing developments are built in Wickford.
A spokesman for Crest Nicholson said: “The working draft brochure has been produced to support our planning representations that will be submitted in response to Basildon’s draft Local Plan Core Strategy consultation – deadline March 18. This will be finalised following feedback from our consultation event on March 12.
“We will not be submitting a planning application imminently and will be promoting the site through Basildon’s emerging Local Plan process.
“Crest and the consultant team will be available on March 12 to answer any queries.”
Why Crest thinks existing sites are wrong
THE developer behind Bell Farm has criticised the four Wickford sites in line to be developed to bring 2,800 homes to the area.
In Crest Nicholson’s report, it claims:
- North east Wickford, earmarked for 150 homes along the A130 should be discounted because it is next to sewage works, falls within a flood risk area, and could lead to congestionon the A129 roundabout.
- South Wickford, earmarkedb for 760 homes, is susceptible to flooding and will bring Basildon closer to Wickford.
- West Wickford, earmarked for 220 homes north of London Road, is the least suitable choice out of the four. The developer claims there is no suitable land to build an access road, it does not have the space to deliver all the houses proposed there, it isb covered in protected trees, and it is in the River Crouch’s flood plain.
- North-west Wickford, earmarked for 620 homes, will have traffic impact on the junctions with Runwell Road and the A132, has a large amount of protected trees, and half the site is classed as “open space” in the council’s 1998 local plan.
Basildon Council did not answer the Echo’s questions on Crest Nicholson’s take on its local plan.
Richard Moore, Tory cabinet member for planning, said: "Crest Nicholson is entitled to run public consultations on any matters should it wish but this is being run by a private housebuilder, not Basildon Council.”
Developer claims whole town will benefit
Crest Nicholson claims developing Bell Farm will bring several benefits to Wickford.
In its planning document, it said the estate will include a health centre and massive recreation ground to the west of the site.
This could include sports facilities.
Details would be worked out later down the line if a planning application is brought forward.
The document said: “The council’s evidence shows there is a need for a health centre to
the western side of Wickford.
“The proposals allow for a health centre large enough to accommodate three GPs although the centre is flexible enough to allow other uses
such as dentists.”