We are a community campaign group, formed to lobby for the 14 acres of publicly-owned land at Fossett’s Farm to be sold to Southend Borough Council to develop and build up to 400 new homes for Southend-resident families and individuals who are most in need.
This land was formerly owned by the NHS and a brand new £100 million diagnostic and treatment medical centre for Southend had been planned to be built on the site. These plans were axed and the site was sold by the NHS in August 2018 for just £7.8 million to Homes England, the government agency for development, with none of that £7.8 million going back into local hospital services. With planning permission for residential homes, the true value of this land could easily exceed £40 million! We believe that this public land should be used for the good of the people of Southend and not sold on by Homes England at a bargain basement price to a private developer for its owners to make a handsome profit at our expense.
Southend’s Chronic Housing Crisis
With a dire shortage of good quality, affordable private rental properties in the town and a very long waiting list for council properties, Southend Borough Council could utilise this land to not only relieve housing pressures, but also bring in much needed revenue to the Council which has seen its grant from central government cut by around £8 million year on year to the tune of £40 million in total.
The campaign has the full backing of several councillors and we need Southend Council’s administration to formally support our aims and welcome discussions with Homes England with a view to purchasing the land at a fair price for the development of social housing. So far, Homes England has proved reluctant to engage with our elected representatives and seems more intent on making money for the Treasury than seeing this publicly-owned land used for the best consideration of the local public good. Our campaign is pressing Homes England to take a wider view and offer the land to Southend Council, and we are pressing Southend Council to take on the development of 100% social housing at the site. If you agree with those aims please sign our petition and please share that page on social media and elsewhere.
We want everyone to be aware that if our campaign to have social housing built at Fossett’s Farm is successful, the homes will be offered to people who already live and work in Southend. That includes workers in key local services, people already on the housing waiting list and families in substandard accommodation who are unable to get on the waiting list. Council policy does not permit developments such as we are proposing to be used to house people from outside the borough, so there would be no additional strain on existing infrastructure and services.
The decision to build houses on the land has already been taken and that will happen regardless – we are fighting for the right sort of houses: good quality homes that local people can genuinely afford, not another development of expensive properties that will be bought by people from elsewhere and non-resident investors looking to make a quick profit.
Please tell us your views
We need to demonstrate the large amount of local support there is for social housing to be built on this land. Homes England carried out a very poorly advertised initial consultation in June 2019 where the displays and questions were designed to lead responses towards their ideal of a mixed development of executive homes, with just the legal minimum being so-called ‘affordable’ housing. We have designed a survey that we hope allows people scope to give a wider range of responses and indicate their priorities for new homes in our town. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey by clicking here. If you would like some paper copies to pass on to friends, neighbours and colleagues please email us with your postal address and we will gladly sent them to you.
What’s the latest?
An application to Southend Council for Outline Planning Permission for the proposals has now been submitted by Homes England. The Council has the power to refuse to grant approval on various grounds in planning law, including that the proposals do not represent good use of the land. The council must also consider valid objections from local residents.
We therefore asked everyone who supports our campaign’s aims to send a formal objection to the plans to the council’s planning department before the deadline of 25th March. Those objections form the proper legal basis on which councillors can reject the plans. The council has not released to us the number of objections received, but we know it is quite substantial and many more than for most planning applications.
The plans and planning officers’ recommendations, along with the letters of objection and our petition (almost 1,000 signatures so far), will be put before Southend Council’s Development Control Committee and at that meeting a decision can be made to approve the application as it stands, to approve it with conditions attached or to decline it. Because of the current Coronavirus restrictions a date for that meeting has yet to be set, but it could take place by video conference soon and we are lobbying the committee members and asking our supporters to do similar. Please see our latest update here.
Want to get involved?
If you would like to offer practical help with the campaign we would be delighted to hear from you. We are a small, friendly and committed group of volunteers who endeavour to run the campaign in a professional manner and welcome support and offers of help from other like-minded local people and organisations. To pledge your support please click here and one of our team will get in touch using the details you give. Thank you.
The Fossett’s For The People campaign is backed and supported by the New Economics Foundation, a charitable organisation which has extensively researched public land sales in the UK and campaigns against land privatisation and for more social housing. The campaign is not affiliated to any political party and we are pleased to have received support from organisations and individuals across the whole political spectrum.
Committee – Co-Chairs: Tricia Cowdrey & Kate Sheehan; Campaign Secretary: Martin Berry; Press Officer: Mike Smith
Fossett’s For The People, C/O New Economics Foundation, 10 Salamanca Place, London SE1 7HB