I went to the public meeting organised by the Wickford North Green Action Group meeting last night to oppose the proposed development on the Barn Hall site. It was an excellent event, with Councillors from Basildon and Chelmsford as well as the very capable organisers of the Action Group all speaking and fielding questions from the audience. The hall was packed and the local opinion was very clear, with the exception of a few chaps from the so-called Wickford Action Group who oppose development in Wickford Town Centre but seem a bit ambiguous when it comes to the Green Belt, I know it sounds like the People's Front of Judea vs. the Judean People's Front but bear with me here. Our view, that is the Conservative administration's view is that to meet the government's housing targets we can either concrete the Green Belt or build on brownfield, and we choose the latter. There are very legitimate concerns about roads, schools and healthcare provision, but that does not change that central policy, so I am very pleased that local people have organised to fight the Barn Hall development.
The highlight for me was when an elderly member of the audience told us how he and his neighbours had organised to fight, and win, against an earlier attempt to encroach on the Green Belt in Wickford, opposing then Chairman of Planning on Basildon Council ex-Councillor David Harrison, who is now a leading light of the Wickford Action Group. It was actually very moving and the Chairman of the current campaign spoke of the torch being handed to a new generation of community activists.
So, the planning application will be heard in October and any appeal against a possible refusal would be heard in public in the New Year, but as the Wickford North people said, one battle at a time. If you oppose the development then make sure you write to Basildon Council and tell them so. Local opinion matters, and if people decide to stand up for their community then they can make a difference.