What is the purpose of this engagement exercise?
To give everyone the chance to influence and shape the new Garden Communities for future generations as planning develops. There will be no layouts or detailed plans at this point, just open conversations. We will then prepare options to use as the basis for further discussions during the course of 2020.
Didn’t you just run a public consultation?
This is different to the recent Local Plan consultation the planning authorities (Braintree, Colchester and Tendring) ran, which was a statutory exercise.
NEGC Ltd is the body taking the North Essex Garden Communities project forward. It is wholly owned by, and works on behalf of, Essex County Council, Braintree District Council, Tendring District Council and Colchester Borough Council.
Why are you doing this engagement exercise now, before you’ve heard back from the inspector?
Whilst the delivery of the Garden Communities is subject to their being approved by the Planning Inspector, we must ensure that we keep the project on track. By doing this now we are making the best use of time. It is important that we are well prepared and ready to progress matters to ensure that funding is used within the specified timeframe.
Are there bigger considerations such as the £99 million investment, which it seems has been allocated on the understanding that garden communities will be built regardless of what the Inspector rules?
Whilst the delivery of the Garden Communities is subject to their being approved by the Planning Inspector, in common with all large development projects, NEGC Ltd has been undertaking preparatory work to ensure that adequate information exists both for planning purposes to aid the Planning Inspector and for delivery purposes to ensure that the project is in a position to progress. The project has previously received £3.2m funding from Government and £2.4m funding from the four Councils, the level of which reflects the scale of the project which is the largest Garden Community in the country. The project requires additional funding from Government and the Councils during 2019/20 in order to continue with the preparatory work which is especially important in light of the recent £99.9 million Housing Infrastructure Fund funding that was recently announced by Government and which needs to be used within a specified time frame and depends on us being ready to start the work once the project gets the go-ahead.
Will you really listen to, and take on board, what people say?
Yes. The information we gather from the first phase of our engagement programme will be used to prepare a range of options. We will bring these options back to the public for feedback and as the basis for further engagement in 2020.
How can people get involved?
The engagement programme will include workshops, public exhibitions, pop-up events and focus groups. The public will also be able to register their ideas and comments online in the coming weeks. All dates for public exhibitions will be published on our Facebook page at @northessexgardencommunities and on Twitter at @NorthEssexGC.