Two alternative garden community locations have been identified in the north of Essex. Section 1 of the North Essex Authorities Strategic Plan previously allocated three sites totalling 43,000 new homes for the Tendring, Colchester and Braintree area. However, the proposals were criticised by an Inspector back in June 2018, stating that the plans still required “significant work”.

Campaigners at CAUSE, who oppose the proposals, still feel there are a number of unanswered questions about how such growth could be facilitated, including how an increase in road traffic would be dealt with and how they would be funded.

The group are seeking a better way to deliver the homes needed. It held a seminar on 18 January to address its concerns and to propose alternatives.

CAUSE has come up with a Small is Beautiful proposal, which the group thinks will deliver balanced growth. The alternative financial strategy recommends implementing the Community Infrastructure Levy as soon as possible and a transparent viability review for all non-compliant projects as set out in the 2018 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Additional recommendations include investing planning resources into brownfield sites and to reduce the target size for strategic settlements to 2,000 dwellings.

William Sunnucks, who presented CAUSE’s proposal said “We now have a coherent alternative to the garden communities plan both from a planning viewpoint and a financial one. Big settlements aren’t the only way to deliver infrastructure, and our financial analysis shows that they will actually deliver less. If the councils want to continue spending taxpayers’ money at £3 million a year on professional fees, they must now re-examine their viability appraisals as requested by the inspector and publish the results”.

A spokesperson for the North Essex Authorities said “We are committed to engaging with and listening to the concerns of all members of the local community, and we know there are a whole range of views when it comes to how we manage future growth. Over the last few years there have been numerous drop in sessions across North Essex and conversations with hundreds if not thousands of members of the public and this will continue in the future.”

Meanwhile, an independent planning consultant, Ted Gittins, presented an alternative spatial strategy, saying that making North Essex as a whole more self-contained while reducing reliance on private vehicles is key. He also suggested that growth should be focused towards existing settlements, particularly those that are best placed to access new and improved infrastructure, and those that enable a greater use of public transport.

For more information on the North Essex Garden Communities, click here.

29 January 2019