Proposals to create new Garden Community developments across North Essex could go before the Government Planning Inspector next year.
Writing to the Inspector following an agreement to continue work on the proposals, Braintree, Colchester and Tendring Councils have set out their timetable for completing the further evidence required after the first inspection earlier this year. The evidence and a new sustainability appraisal are expected to be completed by January next year and public consultation will follow.
Ahead of submitting the letter, leaders from the three councils met with Housing Minister Kit Malthouse and reaffirmed their commitment that any new garden community must be supported by key strategic infrastructure improvements.
They asked the minister to do what he could to join up with other Government departments to prioritise infrastructure projects which support sustainable housing growth, and to visit North Essex to see its potential in more detail. Mr Malthouse agreed to do so.
Cllr Tim Young, Deputy Leader of Colchester Borough Council, said: “We respect and understand the issues raised by the Planning Inspector and over the last few months we have carefully looked in depth at every single aspect of his letter. Today we are in a position to inform him of a revised timetable with the aim of re-opening the examination in February with further hearing sessions expected to be held in the summer.
“There is still much work to do over the coming months, but we are absolutely clear that the principle of the Garden Communities is the best way of ensuring a long-term strategy for housing and jobs over the coming decades, providing for future generations. It also protects our towns and villages from the speculative development that impacts so greatly on services and infrastructure.”
Cllr Neil Stock, Leader of Tendring District Council, said: “We understand and share people’s concerns about the impact of widespread new housing development happening without the necessary infrastructure improvements. That is exactly why we need to see a different approach to developing not just housing, but also jobs and new communities which, to use the Minister’s own phrase, will be the ‘conservation areas of the future’.
“The Government has a big part to play in providing commitments on large infrastructure, such as the A120, the A12 and the A120/A130 link road, and this was our clear message to the Housing Minister.”
Cllr Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council added: “The need for housing has, over the last few weeks, been stressed by all the main political parties. It’s not an issue that is going to go away, and we can’t put our heads in the sand and hope it will go away. The pressure and need is only going to increase – but it’s something that must be done in the right way so that it enhances and improves the local area rather than negatively impacting on it.
“That is why creating a holistically planned, stand-alone community is by far the best way of meeting future demand, ensuring we get the social infrastructure that people expect and need while also protecting existing communities.”
The Government Planning Inspector is expected to respond to the Councils’ letter in due course.
To view the letter, visit www.braintree.gov.uk/lpcorrespondenceandnotifications