Frequently Asked Questions
On this page we have set out a number of frequently asked questions about the North Essex Garden Communities Project. This page will evolve as the project progresses, but in the meantime if you have a question then please contact us.
What is North Essex Garden Communities and when will the new communities happen?
Four councils (Braintree, Colchester, Tendring and Essex) are working together to oversee proposals for three new communities. Built as Garden Communities they will provide up to 43,000 homes and 43,000 jobs over the next 50 years.
Development is dependent on the planning process, but work on the first site could start by 2021/22.
What is NEGC Ltd?
The new communities will be created to set principles. These are set out in the North Essex Garden Community Charter.
Taking an active role in their delivery will help ensure a holistic approach. This means focussing not only on new homes, but how North Essex is set to grow over the years to come. It also means making sure infrastructure comes at the right time to support the new homes.
To do this the four councils have joined to form a company, North Essex Garden Communities Ltd (NEGC Ltd) to oversee the Garden Communities. The company is one-quarter owned by the four councils. The company will control the type, design and speed of build to ensuring ensure the principles to which the councils have committed are upheld.
What are the Garden City or Garden Community principles and how will they be applied?
To adhere to Garden Community principles it must be a “holistically planned development which enhances the natural environment, tackles climate change and provides high-quality housing and locally accessible jobs. Garden Communities put quality design, innovation and technology at the forefront and are a locally led initiative, with their development and long-term management shaped in partnership with residents and businesses, fostering a shared sense of ownership and identity.
In North Essex, three distinct new communities will support existing towns and villages, helping to unlock new infrastructure and provide better connected places that add to, rather than detract from our local area.
More information on the key principles are set out in the North Essex Garden Community Charter
Why are the Garden Communities needed?
North Essex has seen significant growth in recent years with the population set to rise by 190,000 by 2050. This creates an urgent need for more homes and jobs for the local area.
If the current rate of building continues, there will be 77,000 too few homes by 2036. Consequently, house prices and rents will become more unaffordable for future generations.
North Essex is a brilliant place to live but it faces significant challenges. The economy is performing below the regional average. Many people must travel out of the area for work and the road and rail systems are overloaded resulting in daily delays. Homes are also unaffordable for most, with it now costing over 8 times the average salary to buy a property in Braintree or Colchester.
Typical development has in the past often been piecemeal. This means homes tagged on to existing communities, yet it does not bring with it the kind of infrastructure we need.
The new garden communities will help unlock funding. Road, rail improvements, schools, health and leisure facilities will all be provided. They will also create new business opportunities and jobs for local people.
Why is this different to traditional development?
A significant issue with traditional development is that it is often privately led by commercial developers, so ultimately are designed and delivered in a way that maximises profits for landowners and the developers.
Development is also often small-scale with homes tagged onto existing towns and villages. This piecemeal development can have an impact on services and infrastructure, and often does not bring with it investment into infrastructure.
The approach proposed by the Councils would see a more holistic approach with them stepping into the role played by the developer and so ensuring the focus is not solely on financial return but what is required to create sustainable functioning communities. This means that key infrastructure such as health centres, schools and leisure facilities will come alongside the homes as will business space and social and cultural facilities.
One of the key aspects of the new approach being taken is the idea of capturing land value. When land is developed the value of it rises. This would traditionally go to the developers, but the councils are proposing to capture this land value and invest it back into the communities so helping to pay for infrastructure that we know the communities will need.
Will all of the land highlighted on the map be developed?
No, at this early stage land has been identified which could accommodate the Garden Communities but the extent of development has not yet been determined. As the plans progress and are developed further a more defined boundary will be created and eventually a detailed masterplan for each site will show the amount and location of land designated for different land uses, such as residential, employment and green infrastructure.
It’s also important to stress that the development boundary incorporates all aspects of the development including green space, and the use of generous amounts of green space is an integral part of what a Garden Community is.
Will schools, health and leisure services be provided?
Yes. One of the main reasons for approaching future housing provision in a different way is the opportunity to ensure that suitable infrastructure is put in the right place and at the right time.
And the term ‘infrastructure’ covers a wide range of things from roads through to schools , health centres, parks and leisure facilities.
What types of homes will be built? How will you make sure you reach the level of social housing required?
Our core aim is to provide homes local people can afford in places they will want to live, work and play. A range of homes of different sizes, types and tenures are needed. Social, affordable and starter homes are critical, as is provision of space for self and custom-built homes.
This will be adjusted in response to local need as will the range of community services such as healthcare, schools, transport links and leisure facilities.
The increased level of council involvement also means more control over the levels of affordable and social housing. Private rental properties and key worker housing can also be considered, ensuring that the priority is given to those living in the area.
How will the current infrastructure support such a huge development project? Will we get new infrastructure?
We recognise that North Essex road and rail systems are overloaded, resulting in daily delays. We know that homes are unaffordable for most and this is set to worsen with the population set to rise. There is an urgent need for more homes and jobs for the local area. Doing nothing is not an option, and the current model isn’t working.
When housing is delivered, it is often piecemeal. Housing is tagged on to existing villages or increases the urban sprawl of Colchester and Braintree.
The problem with this approach is that it does not create the critical mass needed to deliver the infrastructure to support it. This means we face problems on our local roads and education and health services suffer under the increased strain.
The Garden Communities are being embraced by the councils because they offer a new approach. Planning communities and not housing developments means looking holistically at homes, jobs and infrastructure.
The councils have committed that all three proposed communities must have the required level of infrastructure and services to support them from the time the first residents move in.
Green spaces and healthy living are also critical components of the Garden Community ethos. We want to see great, affordable places to live, work and play which are co-designed with local people.
How will you ensure there are enough local jobs for all the new residents of the Garden Communities?
When housing is built, it is often piecemeal. The problem with this approach is that it never creates the critical mass needed to deliver the infrastructure to support it.
The Garden Communities have been embraced by the councils because they offer a new approach based on creating communities.
This means homes, but also the conditions, technologies and spaces required to support businesses in the future.
Our strategic location means businesses want to be here, but we are let down by our infrastructure, and our lack of good quality homes.
To support the new communities a North Essex Economic Strategy is being developed.
How is a project like this paid for?
Ultimately each of the three proposals will need to be commercially viable.
One of the key aspects of the new approach is the idea of capturing ‘land value’. When land is built on, the value of it rises. Traditionally this money would go to the developers and their shareholders. The councils are instead proposing to capture this ‘land value’ and invest it through NEGC Ltd back into the communities. This is a model used in other parts of the country and will help to pay for infrastructure that the communities will need.
Developments of this scale will also need a mix of different funding approaches and the councils, through NEGC Ltd, are well placed to work with private sector partners.
How does the work on the A120, A12 and A133 fit in?
The North Essex road network is regularly overloaded resulting in delays and frustrations, and improvements to the A12, A133 and the A120 are therefore very much needed.
A route for the A120 has been identified by Essex County Council. This is now being considered by Highways England and the Government. The planning of the Garden Community will naturally take this new route into account.
The Government has committed to widening the A12 between Boreham and Marks Tey, and Highways England last year undertook an initial consultation on various route options to allow for it to be widened. Since then the Government launched the ‘Housing Infrastructure Fund’ (HIF) to support large infrastructure schemes which would allow housing development to take place as part of the Government’s drive to tackle the housing crisis.
A bid for funding was made by Essex County Council to enable Highways England to look at alternative routes for the new A12 so that the Colchester Braintree Borders Garden Community site could be developed with more housing and employment opportunities than would be the case on the previously consulted routes.
While the bid has been shortlisted, it has not yet been confirmed, and any final route will be subject to further consultation.
Additionally, a HIF bid was submitted by Essex County Council to create a link road between the A120 and A133 to the east of the Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community site. This will be critical to relieve local traffic running through Colchester during peak times and could allow the Tendring Colchester Garden Community site to come forward for development quicker.
The North Essex councils, NEGC and Highways England are all working closely together to progress these road and other infrastructure proposals for the benefit of existing and new residents across North Essex.
Why can’t new housing be built around existing villages and development?
Typically, this is how housing has been delivered locally. It is often piecemeal and tagged on to existing villages or growing the urban sprawl of Colchester and Braintree.
The problem with this approach is that it never creates the critical mass needed to deliver the infrastructure to support it.
The Garden Communities have been supported by the councils because they offer a new approach. By planning communities and not housing developments, it ensures a holistic approach, bringing forward homes, jobs and infrastructure. Creating great, affordable, places to live, work and play which are co-designed with local people and fit for the future.
How will you manage disruption for existing residents?
We are committed to be the best possible neighbour during construction. All our contractors will be part of the Considerate Constructors Scheme and we will work hard to minimise the impact of our works at all times.
The developments will be phased over many years – it won’t be the case that all development takes place at once. One of the benefits of NEGC is that it is made up of representatives of each of the four local councils. Working together, we will be able to manage disruption and plan of each phase of construction.
What will the impact be on local land, trees and wildlife?
North Essex is the green heart of the county and we can’t lose what it is that makes North Essex special. This is a core principle of Garden Communities. Leading landscape architects will include parkland and green space to sit alongside and connect homes and businesses, becoming a part of the new communities.
For developments of this scale an Environmental Assessment would be undertaken before any construction. This is a key aspect of many large-scale planning applications. It’s important that ahead of any work the councils understand the impacts of the proposed development and how best to mitigate them.