Development Update - April 2017
In 2005 the Council introduced the Wickford Masterplan, which would regenerate the town, funded by the building of some 650 flats. The Masterplan died the death after 5 or 6 years due to the recession amongst other things, but not without many of the flats being built - see below. Over 580 new homes were built since then, BUT WITHOUT THE PROMISED BENEFITS AND SUPPORTING INFRASTRUCTURE.
Here's what happened. Click a picture to enlarge
The Wave, Willows Centre
Now complete and occupied, this development added 2 extra stories over New Look in the Willowdale Centre for 24 flats by Metropolitan & County, similar to a previous development on the other corner of the building. Had Chelmsford Council been in charge, each 24 flat development would have had to include a contribution for affordable housing, but Basildon's weak planning policy let them get away with none at all.
10 of the public parking spaces have been reserved for residents of the 24 flats, which seems insufficient for them, as well as being a loss of parking spaces for shoppers, a lose - lose situation for Wickford residents!.
S-106 agreement. We understand that the developer has made a £50,000 contribution to improve nearby pedestrian crossings, and some changes to these have been carried out in 2013.
Riverside Place, 1-29 Lower Southend Road
On the Wickford Masterplan put to residents, this site was for 86 residential units and would include the demolition of the old Post Office, now used as a Sorting and Mail Collection office. When the Plan was actually published and approved in 2006, this had changed into a 7 storey block of 173 flats, with planning permission for Phase 1 already approved by the Council.
Phase 1 has now been completed by Bradgate Developments (one director is Chelmsford councillor Ray Ride), and the 70 flats occupied. A further section at the end was completed in July 2012, as shown opposite.
The Compulsory Purchase Order to demolish the Post Office Delivery Office for Phase 2 of the development was withdrawn, so the completion of the project is now in doubt.
S-106 agreement. A contribution of £250,000 for affordable housing has been paid to the council, and the money 'put into a pot'. A contribution of £30,000 to Essex CC towards road improvements is still outstanding, together with a scheme for safety improvements in and around the pedestrian subway, the latter should have been carried out before building started. This is not acceptable, and it seems that these contributions are often 'forgotten' and only when our Action Group chases them up does something happen.
Barn Hall - Land north of Station Avenue
The planning application from Gleeson Homes and the Gladedale Group, who own 37 hectares in this area, was for 200 homes on this site and was submitted in June 2007, but the council delayed the decision date and because of the delay, the developers appealed and it was eventually approved. Now nearing completion with many homes occupied.
Another part of the Barn Hall site is at the end of Downham Road, see below, and the same developers have been granted approval for a similar development, this time for 70 houses. This is on an open field at the edge of the town, and represents yet a further loss of green space. The planning application was vigorously opposed by residents, local groups, and councillors, but was passed by Basildon councillors.
3-31 Runwell Road ('Runwell Towers') - work stopped in July 2008
When the Wickford Masterplan was submitted to residents for approval in 2006, this plot (which contained an empty car showroom, tyre unit and car sales plot) was to have '35 town houses', and residents asked to comment on the plans. Then, the plan was actually published and passed by the Council, and this plot had magically changed into a 5 storey block of 84 flats, overshadowing Wickford tennis club and the cricket ground, and dubbed as ‘Runwell Towers’.
The Council planning committee held in public rejected the proposal from the mysterious 'Butie Limited', (registered in the British Virgin Islands, where Directors do not need to be named), but we were all outflanked because they had made a simultaneous application 'in writing' which was granted approval by a government inspector. This was rightly regarded by local residents as a scandal, but there was nothing we could do about it.
The plot with planning approval was then sold on to Explore Living, part of the Laing
Group, who boarded up the site and cleared it - but apart from an exploratory drilling,
no building has taken place for 7 years, and after pressure to the Council from the
Wickford Action Group, the obsolete advertising boards were removed in June 2012
and the site tidied up. It is now an eyesore, with wild plants, trees, and who knows
The only winners so far from this non-development are the previous owners of the site, including Runwell Councillor Ray Ride.
17-25 London Road
This site was previously Frasier's Cafe Bar and before that the Dickens Inn. It was earmarked in the 2006 Masterplan as 'an area of a strong leisure and recreational theme' but this went by the board when the current development for a block 36 flats with 5 retail outlets was proposed. Now built and occupied, but all 5 shops still empty.
Our Action Group felt that a previous application for a medical centre and 30 sheltered accommodation units on this site would have been a good addition to the town's facilities, but this was turned down by the planning committee on the casting vote of the then chair, Sylvia Buckley.
The 5 retail units are still unsold (2015) and the town is still waiting for a Medical Centre.
£250,000 has been paid to the council as a contribution for affordable housing, and has gone into 'the pot'.
The land is NOT green belt due to another oversight by the council, and the worry is that these homes could be the tip of the iceberg of 1,500 homes around Barn Hall. In the early 2000s, the Barn Hall plot, together with Dry Street in south Basildon, were highlighted as possible areas for massive housing developments, to help fulfill the then existing government house building targets. Basildon Council stated that they were against both of these, but in June 2012 Malcolm Buckley, councillor in charge of the environment, was quoted in the Echo (26 June) explaining his U turn on Dry Street, which he is now in favour of. So we wonder what this means for the Barn Hall site!
This was a thin piece of land between the bypass and Radwinter Avenue, one of the few precious green spaces left in Wickford. It was owned by the council, and in March 2013, they agreed to sell the land to a developer to fund a new public square, improved market facilities and a £2.4m gym and swimming pool refurbishment in the town. Building of 24 homes is now underway (they seem to be very tightly packed).
It was a controversial decision at the planning meeting, some comments made were:
Essex Park Garage (Audi showroom) 87 flats
Previously the site of Essex Park Garage, then a Toyota and later an Audi car showroom, this site was not in the Wickford Masterplan area. The first approved planning application was for 87 flats, but following the failure of Basildon Council and the regional health authority's plan to produce a new health centre for the town, a second proposal was submitted for this site
An outline planning application for a medical centre on the site had been approved, for a doctor's surgery (the London Road Surgery were looking for new premises and expressed an interest), with second building which would be suitable for a new medical centre, and a block of 24 flats.
The site had been empty since Christmas 2008, but building started in November 2013, and the flats are now occupied.
Wickford is still without a Medical Centre, although the council insist that moving London Road Surgery into a new building in the centre of town will accomplish the same result. They must think we’re stupid!
Known as 'The Forge', it was Foundry Corner in the early 1900s, this development was not included in the Wickford Masterplan. The proposal for 24 flats in a 4 storey block was eventually passed in June 2007 with a comment from the Planning Commitee that they accept it is 'not suitable for family accommodation', due to limited car parking and no gardens.
The site was an eyesore, containing an unoccupied second hand warehouse, and certainly needed improvement. These developments made a mockery of the council's claim to have a 'plan'. Ad-hoc buildings like this which are built for quick profit and which do not take into account the surrounding facilities, are the reason Wickford is in such a mess.
One councillor at the planning meeting, (Lynda Gordon) who was outvoted, said"... but is flats, flats and more flats the way to go? I don't want to see people at future planning meetings saying about us "look what a mess they made of the planning" and then go on to approve the first proposal that comes along. Yes, we should do something, but lets choose something better than this"
Now complete and occupied, there was no S106 agreement because at 24 housing units it just missed the requirement. Other councils such as Chelmsford have a lower requirement, which would have resulted in a contribution being made.
A key part of the now defunct Wickford Masterplan was a rebuilt swimming pool and library, and a new health centre, and to pay for it, various blocks of flats in the area. One of these was a rebuilt 'Willows', a rather old block of 20 sheltered flats, and replace it with a new block of 51 flats This is the only part of this section of the plan which has been completed.
The swimming pool, just visible in the left of the picture, remains, at least for the time being.
A £100,000 contribution towards Wickford's town centre regeneration has been paid to the council, but the council have not revealed where this money is or what it has been spent on. A contribution has also been paid to Essex CC for school places but a promised £10,000 for road improvements has not been paid
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