Latest update – and action for supporters to take

Affordable Housing graphic

We would like to thank each and every person who submitted a formal objection to Southend Council against Homes England’s plans* to develop our public land for private profit. The plans Homes England submitted are public documents and are available on the Southend Council website.

Where we are now and what we need
Now that the deadline for formal objections has passed, we watch and wait (likely longer than expected due to Covid-19) but we shall keep you informed. The next stage will be a meeting of the Council’s Development Control Committee, which will consider at the plans along with Planning Officers’ recommendations and all of the objections. That committee could make a decision to refuse the application, which is what we want and would mean Homes England having to think again and – we hope – deciding to transfer the land to the council so that it can be used for social housing that benefits the people of our town. Alternatively Homes England could appeal the decision, and if that happens we are prepared for it. The Development Control Committee also has the options of granting the application with conditions attached or to grant it unconditionally. That last outcome would of course be the worst and should only happen if the councillors on the committee choose to ignore the expressed wishes of a very large number of local residents.

If you live in one of the Wards listed below please contact your councillor(s) – they are the ones who sit on Southend Council’s Development Control Committee (the planning committee) and they are the people who will decide on Homes England’s planning application for Fossett’s Farm.

Let these councillors know that you want them to refuse planning permission to build luxury executive homes on Fossett’s Farm, and stress that would be the wrong use for this land when it could be used for the genuinely affordable social and key worker housing that Southend so desperately needs. In your email or letter please include the planning application reference 20/00337/OUTM and you could add that you know they may not wish to express an opinion publicly about an application before a decision has been made, but that you want them to have your views very much in mind while they’re considering their decision to support this one or not. Being unable to comment publicly is an unfortunate side-effect of the law on ‘predetermination’ that’s really meant to stop councillors on the planning committee from actively speaking out against (or for) particular planning applications – ‘making their minds up before they’ve seen all the papers’ – but has been taken to mean they can’t say anything about them at all. We would very much like to see any replies you receive – please email scanned / photographed copies to if you’re willing to share them with us. One councillor so far has said in his reply that he can’t vote against the application just on the grounds that it’s the ‘wrong type’ of housing and we’ve corrected him: he can. We’ve become pretty knowledgeable about planning law and are only too happy to guide supportive councillors to the relevant aspects of it, so seeing the replies is helpful.

You can find your Ward Councillor’s contact details by clicking here.

Belfairs: Cllr Alan Dear
Chalkwell: Cllr Stephen Habermel
Eastwood Park: cllr Chris Walker
Kursaal: Cllr Matt Dent
Leigh: Cllr Carole Mulroney and Cllr Ashley Thompson
Prittlewell: Cllr David Garston
Shoeburyness: Cllr Anne Chalk and Cllr Steven Wakefield andCllr Nick Ward
St. Laurence: Cllr Daniel Cowan
St. Luke’s: Cllr Brian Ayling
Victoria: Cllr Jennifer Beck and Cllr Margaret Borton
West Leigh: Cllr Fay Evans
West Shoebury: Cllr Derek Jarvis
Westborough: Cllr Anne Jones

Having spoken with Homes England by video call on 3rd April one of our concerns is that they indicated they will not even guarantee the 30% ‘affordable’ homes stated in the planning document – that 30% is only 40 homes to start with and the definition of ‘affordable’ is very loose. We want as many truly affordable homes as possible on this land and our stated aim remains for it to be transferred to Southend Council to be used exclusively for social housing.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in any stage of the fight to keep our public land in public hands to benefit our community. Special thanks to the New Economics Foundation, trade union members and organisers and of course to our fantastic team of active supporters who have devoted time, energy and effort into our nationally recognised campaign. The formal objections are in but the campaign is far from over – we won’t be stopping until we achieve the council and keyworker homes Southend desperately needs.

It is impossible to say at present when the Development Control Committee will meet, because of the suspension of all but essential council meetings to conduct urgent business, but it could take place by video conference fairly soon. We will be informed of the date in due course and will have representatives speaking at the meeting. Letters to councillors before that from, we hope, a great many supporters will be a big help to us and, ultimately, to all the residents of Southend seeking homes who – if Homes England’s current application gets approved – will see their chances of finding a decent affordable place to live diminished even further. A development of this size will ultimately have to be approved by a vote of the Full Council, not just the Development Control Committee, so if the plans do go forward to that stage we will need as many councillors to oppose it as we can get – your letters can also help with that.

* As we feared but expected, the plans are for up to 145 homes that most local people will not be financially able to buy or rent and would therefore be sold to people from outside the area (further stretching local schools, healthcare, transport and other services) and to non-resident investors (damaging commuity cohesion).The plans make provision for only 30% of the new homes to fall within the ‘affordable’ category (which is itself a very loose definition and capable of being sidestepped by developers) and of that 30% (which is 43 homes) only 26 of them at most are indicated as being for social rent. That’s just 26 homes – out of a development of 145 – for keyworkers and others on low incomes who already in the town and are desperate for somewhere decent of their own that they can manage to pay for. Our proposals would see the land used instead for the building of around 400 homes for social rent – and that would genuinely benefit our town.

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