Plans for north Essex new towns in ruins as inspector finds them ‘unsound’

Sometimes wishes come true...

Plans for a cluster of ‘garden communities’ (or new towns) in north Essex lie in tatters after a planning inspector declared them ‘unsound’.
Proposals for West Tey (24,000 homes), West of Braintree (13,000) and East of Colchester (9,000) had been included in a Section 1 Local Plan document put together by Braintree District Council, Colchester Borough Council and Tendring District Council, working on cross-boundary planning issues.
However, inspector Roger Clews has told the local authorities to remove the plans for West Tey and West of Braintree, although he did support the smallest scheme, East of Colchester.
Mr Clews wrote to the three councils citing land-value fears and concerns over whether two rapid-transport system routes could be delivered financially.
“For the foregoing reasons, therefore, I find that the proposed Colchester/Braintree Borders and West of Braintree GCs are not justified or deliverable. Consequently, the Plan’s spatial strategy, and thus the Plan itself as submitted, are unsound,” wrote Mr Clews.
The project had been managed by NEGC Ltd, a body that is “wholly owned by, and works on behalf of, Essex County Council, Braintree District Council, Tendring District Council and Colchester Borough Council”.
Rosie Pearson, secretary of Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (CAUSE), said: “Quite rightly, the planning inspector has found the new towns vanity project unsound.
“The project has been imposed on unwilling residents by a very small group of councillors and officers.
“More than £8 million of tax-payer funds been poured down the drain, and never-ending delays have caused uncontrolled speculative development. Heads must roll and NEGC Ltd should be wound up immediately.
“The 24,000-home West Tey and 10,000 West of Braintree have been banished for good. This is truly fantastic news for all those residents in the 4,600-acre areas of search, who have lived under the shadow of the car-dependent urban sprawl for so long.
“Unfortunately, the promoters of the east Colchester new town have been given some room for manoeuvre, but further consultation and probably a hearing would be needed.
“Whatever happens next, it is imperative our councils start to listen to their communities and work with them. We must plan for the real need in north Essex – no more vanity projects.”
Inspector Mr Clews confirmed that the joint Local Plan had met legal requirements including the duty to co-operate and that the housing targets for each district were ‘sound’.
Colchester is still required to build 920 homes a year, Braintree 716 per year and Tendring 550 per year, leading some to fear that the collapse of the garden-communities proposals might spark a rash of speculative housing applications.

Mr Clews says the authorities have two options:

  • To propose and consult on main modifications that include the removal of the West Tey and West of Braintree proposals from the Plan
  • To withdraw the Plan

The inspector’s verdict follows last month’s news that Uttlesford District Council had voted to withdraw its draft Local Plan from examination.
It had proposed the building of 14,000 homes between 2011 and 2033, with proposals for three garden communities: Easton Park, North Uttlesford and West of Braintree (the latter ‘shared’ with the NECG scheme).

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