A “HUGE” block of 300 flats as high as 14-storeys could be built in Basildon’s town centre – sparking fears “rabbit hutch” apartments could create a mini-ghetto.

If works are given the go ahead, existing buildings at Great Oaks Retail Park are set to be demolished to make room for the project – which includes commercial and community space, and car parking.

The 300 apartments – aimed at first-time buyers – will range from studios, and one and two bed units.

The development is one Basildon’s council leader Gavin Callaghan hopes could help attract more visitors to the town centre, making the most of its mixed residential and leisure offer.

But Andrew Baggott, leader of Basildon’s Conservatives, said: “I think we do need additional housing across the borough but I don’t know if we need 14-storeys, putting residents into rabbit hutches in the town centre and creating a mini-ghetto problem for future generations.

“I don’t think residents would want to look out of their windows and see a building of this size. And the question is, how many will be available to those on the waiting list currently?”

It comes after plans for four blocks of flats which could be as high as 26 storeys were revealed in November, as part of the £1bn overhaul of the town centre.

Historian Vin Harrop, 83, said: “Although 14 storeys isn’t that high rise, when you think about how Basildon has been a low rise place apart from Brooke House we’re going from one extreme to another. I do think it will make the town a darker and almost smaller place.”

Mr Callaghan added: “Before Christmas we were told by the planning inspector that we were short on the number of houses we needed. So this is putting homes in a part of the borough which can take density and is close to the rail and bus services.”

Basildon Council confirmed that although the site sits in the area under the Basildon Regeneration Strategy, the land is not owned by the council and that the application is from a separate landowner. The council have however engaged with them as part of the planning process.

A spokesperson from developers GS8 Basildon Limited, said: “This will become the most sustainable and greenest development in Basildon.

"The new homes, aimed at first time buyers and key workers, all provide a spacious apartment with an integrated garden on the balcony as well as access to wellness rooms and indoor gardens.

"The ground floor is solely for the community and we are in discussions with a number of organisations and charities to take the space. We also have an art studio that will be made available to local artists and a support network to encourage career growth. 

"We are incredibly passionate about our work in Basildon and so we are working with the local authority to ensure that funds go towards local homeless projects for the next few years. 

"We hope it’s something local residents can be proud of for years to come."