Gimsons development: a tragedy for Witham

The site provided an important area of greenery for a rapidly growing town

A tragedy for Witham… CPRE Essex’s John Palombi doesn’t sugar-coat his view of the decision to approve plans to build 78 homes on a sensitive site in the town.
Braintree District Council’s planning committee in October last year gave Bellway Homes permission to build the properties on the Gimsons site. This was despite hundreds of people objecting to the scheme and the formation of the Heart of Witham Preservation Society, which said the development would “destroy the green heart of Witham”.
Witham Town Council had tried to challenge the decision through a judicial review but was refused permission by a High Court judge, who decided that none of the three appeal grounds were valid and awarded costs against the council.
WTC didn’t give up the fight and sought a renewal hearing in a bid to revive its judicial review, but last month this was also dismissed in the High Court.
The objections to the scheme from individuals and organisations alike were many and varied. Concerned that it threatened a long-established wildlife corridor which achieves protected and safe connectivity between wildlife areas and habitats CPRE Essex was one of those groups, saying in its submission:
“It is a part of open countryside adjacent to the urban environment of Witham, until enclosed by housing development in the 1960s, some considerable distance to the south.
“The RSPB comments have highlighted that the appropriate surveys have not been taken at the correct time, and we support their proposals that they should be taken again, at the appropriate time of day and season to properly establish the existing wildlife population.
“We feel that the need to remove so many trees has not been proven and note the tree warden has also not identified any need for their removal.
“We would support the Witham & Countryside Society proposals to revise the master plan to achieve a smaller development of higher density housing in the existing cleared areas between the trees, and within the 40 identified in Draft Local Plan. The proposed access road from River View will destroy the tranquillity of the local environment for wildlife and the local population alike.”
John Palombi has produced an extensive summary of the Gimsons story; it is an eye-opening portrayal of however unpopular a scheme might be, however many objections to it might be submitted, however well presented and researched those objections might be, a development can still make it through both the planning and legal system with relative ease. A tragedy for Witham…

  • You can read John Palombi’s article here