Over the last few months there has been a great deal of speculation about the North Essex Garden Community proposals following the Planning Inspector’s letters published in June.
Since that point, it has been important for us to both understand in more detail the Planning Inspector’s findings and to take independent legal advice on the options available.
It is critical that we have a Local Plan in place. This is the document and set of policies which effectively set out where and what type of development will be permitted in North Essex. Without it we open ourselves to speculative and piecemeal development.
But, it is also important that we do not rush into adopting a Local Plan which does not address current and future needs in the most sustainable way possible.
Within the Local Plan collectively in North Essex we need to build 2,186 homes a year – a figure agreed by the Planning Inspector based on our population need over the coming years.
The easiest way of getting a Local Plan over the line would be to tack homes onto existing towns and villages. But we know that this strains infrastructure and services. To people who are sat in traffic along the A120, stuck driving into Colchester or trying to get a place in oversubscribed schools or doctors’ surgeries, the idea of more homes adding to this would be madness. This is what has been done in the past, and you can see the results today.
And yet the need for homes remains. That is why we must look at a different way of approaching housing, ensuring that any new development is delivered with the required physical and social infrastructure and services to support it.
This is a promise often made but seldom realised – so how does it become a reality? The best way of ensuring this happens is through the creation of sustainable new communities created at a scale which creates the critical mass needed to provide the infrastructure they need to work.
The last thing any of us want to see is large scale housing estates or soulless bland commuter entities which will never provide the strategic infrastructure North Essex needs. If we are to build at scale to accommodate current and future generations – our children and grandchildren – we need to create vibrant, green and healthy communities.
We want to see cutting edge design both in building and layout, with a focus on walking and cycling. We want to see the affordability issue tackled through a mixture of high quality affordable and social homes. We want to see innovation in services such as waste and energy and ultimately, we want to see jobs, so that people can live, work and spend time here in North Essex.
This is why the creation of developments built to a specific set of community and design-based principles and developed over many decades is the best approach.
It’s also why we, as councils, want to take an active role in their delivery, working alongside the private sector and with local people to ensure they are delivered to these principles in a way that is achievable.
For these reasons, continuing to develop the Garden Community proposals is the right approach for the benefit of our communities, and current and future generations.
Cllr Graham Butland, Leader, Braintree District Council (Conservative)
Cllr Mark Cory, Leader, Colchester Borough Council (Lib Dem)
Cllr Tim Young, Deputy Leader, Colchester Borough Council (Labour)
Cllr Neil Stock OBE, Leader, Tendring District Council (Conservative)