Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Council takes government to court

MP John Barron and protestors
Protestors are calling for local democracy to prevail

A legal challenge has begun against Communities Secretary Hazel Blears after she overruled a planning inspector's decision in Essex.

The application by Gleeson Strategic Land for 200 homes on a green field site was refused at a planning enquiry.

Ms Blears overturned it allowing the development at Barn Hall, Wickford, to go ahead despite fierce local protests.

Now Basildon Council has appealed to the High Court. It says the land is highly valued by the local community.

The council will argue that the decision by Ms Blears to allow Gleeson to build on the land is premature because it still has not completed a local plan called the Local Development Framework.

This will outline where new housing and other amenities should go.

The council will also claim that the government has failed to declare an interest.

A council spokesman said a government agency owned the Wickford site and stood to benefit financially if the land were sold and planning permission granted.

At a previous protest in June outside the Department of Communities and Local Government, John Baron, Conservative MP for Billericay, told members of the Wickford North Green Action Group that local democracy must prevail.

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