A MAJOR question mark hangs over half of Basildon’s biggest regeneration project, after the council admitted it has no cash for it.
Just 592 homes out of 1,310 planned for the Craylands regeneration, the biggest project of its kind in the East of England, are definitely in the bag, the Echo can reveal.
They form part of the first two phases of the project, but Basildon Council has yet to find any cash for the last two phases – meaning hundreds of homes could be in jeopardy.
With residents left in limbo, senior Tories admitted they may have to scale back plans for the fourth and final phase of the 12-year regeneration – due to start in 2017 – after admitting it is looking “very, very difficult”.
Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said: “I appreciate there is nothing worse than uncertainty and we have been open with residents that we still have clear hopes to finish what we started. Phase Four is looking to be very difficult because of the owners currently in the homes.”
The last stage of the rebuild would mean the council having to buy out homeowners currently on site, but that is estimated to cost £23million.
The authority is looking to scale back the final stage, and has applied to the South East Enterprise Partnership for £6million of Government cash to kickstart the redevelopment.
Questions also remain over the third phase of about 245 homes – due to start in 2016 – with Mr Ball admitting no cash has been lined up so far. Mr Ball added that bids had gone in to unnamed organisations.
The first two phases of the huge £250million regeneration have been funded by the Government, but that cash runs out next year, when the next comprehensive spending review is due to take place.
Phil Turner, the council’s cabinet member for housing, added: “We have told the residents the bad news and they are in a bit of a twilight zone as they don’t know whether to do up their houses or not. It’s a bit of a blow to them.”
The project, which was first mooted in 2003, got approval in November 2006 and Swan Housing was awarded the contract.
It was expected to take about 15 years to complete, but a decade on, Phase One is still yet to be completed.
Nigel Smith, leader of the opposition Labour party, said: “We could even go as far to call this a crisis situation if they do not proceed to finish the project.
“Labour has always been against flogging off the council homes and now we have a serious situation where the council is looking to cut corners, but what has been done, has been done really well.”
Nigel Smith on Craylands estate
Development blighted with delays
CRAYLANDS estate was built in the Sixties, but decades later homes were found to be not of a sufficient standard.
In 2002, regeneration plans were first mooted, and Basildon Council successfully applied for Government cash.
Plans were finally given outline permission in 2006. A community hall, health centre, and new shops were also proposed.
Demolition is also taking place in phases. In phase one 337 homes will be built. A total of 131 homes have been built so far. Another 206 are under construction.
Work was delayed in 2012 while the council bought out homeowners’ properties. Phase two is earmarked to start in 2015 – three years behind schedule.
Some 500 homes were proposed for phase two and three, but no information was available for the number of houses in phase four.
A spokesman for Swan Housing could not answer how many homes are earmarked for the last two phases, as they say plans are not that far advanced.
He said: "Swan, Basildon Council and the Homes and Communities Agency continue to be committed to delivering a full redevelopment for the local community."
Loretta’s five-year wait to be re-housed
Loretta Ellis with children Joseph nine, Shannon, seven, Daniel, five, Mayson 16 months and Olivia 11 weeks
LORETTA Ellis, 28, lives in one of the masionettes in Lincoln Road, and is due to be moved as part of Phase Four.
She said: “When I moved here in 2009 I was told I was to be moved in 2013 and I would have never taken the house if I thought I’d still be here.
“It doesn’t surprise me the council is looking for money for the project, because it is so behind with it.
“I was told I was in Phase Two initially, but the council has now told me I’m in Phase Four and I might not be moved until 2018. There is a big question mark over this.
“It will look ridiculous if half the estate is developed, but the other half still looks like a construction site.
“I’ve held off re-decorating the house. The council also won’t do the ceiling repairs that have been needed since 2009, because the block is supposed to be coming down.”