Depressing in Cressing

Susan Simpson relates a gloomy tale from one Essex parish that shows how the lack of a Local Plan can allow opportunistic developers to call the shots

Cressing parish lies south of Braintree. It has two main village areas and several hamlets that together, before 2019, had some 700 houses.
It was classified in the emerging Local Plan (eLP) for Braintree District Council at the beginning of the process in 2014 as a semi-rural third-tier village – the smallest category of village in the district and judged to have limited services and facilities and therefore deemed unable to support development other than limited small-scale infill.
In 2014 the parish council started work on a Neighbourhood Plan. This was completed and ‘made’ by BDC as part of its development plan in February 2020. This plan allocated a site of 225 dwellings, while a Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed a remaining requirement for the parish of 155 until 2033, the end of the plan period.
BDC has been ‘working on’ its Local Plan since 2014 and for much of that time has been unable to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply that could not be successfully challenged by developers at appeal.
Planning has therefore been taken out of the hands of the local authority and unsuitable speculative sites without supporting infrastructure have won permission solely on the basis of ‘presumption’.
Cressing has suffered badly from this failure to make a district plan, even though the parish took on the challenge from the government of producing a Neighbourhood Plan that included a site allocation to meet its needs, two sites allocated in the eLP and a fully professional HNA from a company commissioned by MCHLG. Despite this, an appeal was allowed recently for an additional 250 houses.
The map clearly shows how a combination of opportunistic landowners, land agents, developers, political agendas and a flawed National Planning Policy Framework – shortly to be made into an even stronger ‘developers’ charter’ – impacts on a small community. And this is just the beginning…