The Master Plan was published in November 2005 by DTZ Pieda Consulting. There is no copy available in Wickford library, but the 57 page document, Version 3, is on Basildon District Council's website, although at over 8.8MB, it takes some time to download.The total number of housing units detailed in this plan was 490, but it kept increasing until by October 2010 it had reached an incredible 735!
A public consultation exercise was carried out in November / December 2005, and the 684 responses were discussed at the BDC 'cabinet' meeting on 16th February 2006, where a number of key decisions on the Master Plan were made:
The Wickford Masterplan was first unveiled at Wickford Community Centre in December 2004. At this time there was not much detail and so there was not really anything to comment on, and according to the Council figures, 800 attended.
The first details of the Masterplan were unveiled at Christchurch Hall in April 2005 with a Questionnaire for people to complete. The Council estimated 600 attended, and the Hall was so full people could not see the display boards properly.
The main question on the questionnaire was:
Do you support the overall objective of regenerating Wickford through the Draft Masterplan? Yes or No
There were other supplementary questions but from the question above the council got a figure of 81% support and this is the figure that Council Leader Malcolm Buckley presented to a Cabinet meeting later in the Month to gain approval.
It has since transpired that many people were fooled by the 'leading' question, and our argument is that this is two questions in one, as it gave residents no option of the choice of regenerating Wickford other than using the Masterplan. We regard this as a vital point, and the councillors have not yet provided an answer.
The Wickford Town Centre Masterplan
So, the tall buildings were NOT a result of developers doing their own thing, against
the council's wishes,
as some councillors for regeneration would have us believe;
it was fundamental Basildon council policy, and NOT what the residents wanted nor responded to!
This Revised Master Plan can be seen on the BDC website. It was approved 'on the basis of its being a material consideration in the determination of planning applications relating to Wickford Town Centre' and the voting was 6 Conservative councillors FOR and Mr. N Smith, Labour AGAINST.
It illustrates how devious the Council were by changing the plan that public had voted on, and adding extra flats so that when planning permission was sought, no one could object on the grounds that 'it isn't in the plan'. And we now know that 5 and 6 story blocks were part of the Basildon Council's plan for Wickford town centre!
At a Basildon Cabinet Meeting on 19th July 2007, an agreement was made to find a 'Strategic Partner' who will deliver the buildings, 17 months after the Master Plan was approved! One might have expected that the Master Plan and the Partner Search would have been taking place at the same time, so that as soon as the Master Plan was agreed, the prospective partners could be making their bids. It looks like we might now get the partner at the end of 2008, almost three years too late, and we already have 351 homes approved within the Master Plan area, (plus a probable 99 from the Willow Court / Swimming Pool complex); how many more by end 2008? What will the partner have left to do, we are more than half way into the Master Plan housing numbers already, the profits from which should have been funding the community buildings and the infrastructure!
What happened to the Wickford Masterplan? Now we know!
On 24th February 2010 Basildon Council announced they had pulled out of of negotiations with the last remaining bidder for the 'redevelopment partner'! So the plan to rebuild the swimming pool, library and community centre, build a new health centre, move the market into the High Street and transform the town centre into tree lined boulevards and public squares have been postponed indefinitely..
see also 'Recession Hits Town Centre Masterplans" Echo, 6 September 2010
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