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.
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 condidtions 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.
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. We will be informed of the date in due course and will have representatives present to speak at the meeting. Before that, the campaign organisers – and we hope a great many many supporters – will be lobbying councillors by letter and, when possible, in person. 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 of them to oppose it as we can get.
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.
* 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.