A former entertainment venue in Basildon that was once the scene of a major drugs raid will be redeveloped into a housing complex.

Members of Basildon Council’s Planning Committee voted to approve plans to build 23 new homes on the site of The Belvedere, in Harding Elms Road, Billericay on Tuesday night.

Councillors praised the plan as being the kind of development the borough needs and a positive scheme for a site which has been abandoned and is being used for fly tipping.

The Belvedere operated as a music and entertainment venue but closed five years ago when a planning application was successfully submitted for an 82-bed care home.

The care home plans faced several delays and the disused site became the location of a drugs farm where police uncovered 1,500 cannabis plants in a raid in 2014. It was said at the time the seizure was estimated to be worth more than £1million.

The care home application was made a fall-back scheme in case the housing application proved to be unsuccessful.

The new housing complex will comprise 11 apartments of varying sizes spread across two apartment buildings, as well as 12 houses which will be a mix of semi-detached and detached.

An area of concern for the committee was that The Belvedere site is located on green belt land.

Councillor Phil Turner, of the Billericay West ward, said: “We’ve got clear guidance on greenbelt and this is a massive increase in the loss of greenbelt compared to what is already there and I don’t understand how we can casually say it’s okay because it’s quite a nice development.

“I quite like it, it looks nice, it looks pleasant but in terms of the green belt policy it contravenes everything that we would normally kick it out for. This seems to have fallen down at the first hurdle.”

A council planning officer acknowledged that the development would usually contravene the rules but because it is a previously developed site it is acceptable aslong as it doesn’t have a bigger impact on the land than what is already there.

The development will not include any affordable housing but the developer will be required to contribute towards homes elsewhere in the borough.

Committee chair councillor Carole Morris, of the Wickford North ward, said she was backing the scheme because, “it ticks all the boxes for what we need to do in the borough”.

Five councillors voted in favour and two chose to abstain.