THE £1billion Basildon masterplan has been branded a shambles after ambitious plans to convert former offices into 348 flats were rejected.
Basildon Council planners vetoed plans by property firm Criterion Capital to convert Trafford House, in Cherrydown East, due to there being no parking.
The decision is a major blow to Basildon’s overall redevelopment as plans to convert the deteriorating block, vacant since Ford left in 2010, were hailed as a key part of the scheme.
Criterion argued people buying the flats would not own cars because it is so close to the bus and train networks.
A council report said: “Although the site is adjacent to the town centre and train and bus stations, occupiers of the flats are still likely to want to own cars due to limited options provided by existing public transport and limited availability of a good range of retail, entertainment and leisure facilities within walking distance.
“Occupants are therefore likely to want to own cars and will put pressure on parking in and around the town centre.”
Basildon Labour group deputy leader Nigel Smith said the masterplan was fast becoming a “shambles” full of unwanted changes, such as the new cinema, moving the market to St Martin’s Square to allow a new campus for South Essex College in its place.
He said if there was a parking shortage: “Then why do we have a derelict car park off Roundacre and Laindon Link that has been unused for more than two years.
“During that time it has become an eyesore.
“Why has it not been developed with homes in the past few years, but used and maintained as a car park until building started?”
He said there were a number of options with it being used as parking for Trafford House, or instead the college moving into Trafford House and the former car park being used for an alternative housing development.
Tory deputy leader of the council Kevin Blake said: “The council is willing to work with anyone to get empty buildings developed. I do not want to see any empty buildings in the masterplan area when they could be put to use to help boost a nighttime economy.”
He supported officers going against Government policy which says flats near train stations do not need parking.
He added: “That policy only works where the public transport is up to scratch and it simply isn’t yet.
“Although because of the policy, we could struggle if they appealed this decision.”
Kerry Smith, Basildon’s Ukip group leader, added: “The developer should negotiate buying part of the bus garage to develop a multi-storey car park for residents.
“If not, they should look to invest in the building to attract the sort of young techies that are in Old Street, London – it is a good office location, but would need investment.”
Criterion offered to go into an agreement with the council saying new occupants would not to apply for local parking permits, but this was turned down.
The Echo contacted Criterion but got no response.