24 July 2019
At the Braintree District Council meeting on Monday 22nd July, councillors will debate a Motion tabled by the Green & Independent Group that calls for the council to shelve the controversial "Garden Communities" plan and opt instead to secure a Local Plan via the Part 2 of the Plan as soon as possible to halt the speculative developments being granted on many greenfield sites around villages in the district.
In his letter to BDC in June 2018, the Inspector to the Local Plan found he could not agree that the Part 1 of the Plan – the "Garden Communities" section - was legally "Sound" and he recommended a series of options to deal with this.
The Part 1 "Garden Communities" Plan is a highly ambitious project to build a series of major new communities along the A120 corridor, the largest of which at West Tey would not be completed until the next century. It also involves moving the A12 trunk road to the east to make way for West Tey.
Instead of accepting the Inspector's Option 1 – to secure a Local Plan via Part 2 as soon as possible and shelve Part 1, the ruling Conservatives at BDC decided to carry on with the "Garden Communities" Part 1 Plan and to try to convince the Inspector to accept it through a series of new and updated documents.
Despite statements by the Leader of BDC made in mid-2018 that It would only take a few months to secure new evidence, it has taken over a year to put together the updated information which is now being considered at a series of meetings by Braintree DC, Colchester BC and Tendring DC, the joint North Essex Authorities (NEAs). BDC is doing so in just a few weeks with meetings on the 11th July, 18th July and 1st August and with many hundreds of pages of documents to be looked at by councillors.
If the documents are agreed as well as as some modest changes to Part 1, these will then go out to public consultation before being sent back to the Inspector for Examination at the end of 2019 or early 2020. But Part 2 of the Local Plan, which could deliver a Sound Local Plan more quickly, cannot be considered by the Inspector until after Part 1 due to the choices made by the ruling Tories at BDC.
And there is no guarantee that the Inspector will accept the changes and agree that the Part 1 Plan is now "Sound". If he rejects it again it is unclear as to what BDC will do.
Meanwhile at village after village across Braintree District developers are picking off greenfield sites because of the failure of BDC to have an up to date Local Plan and there is a risk that this could continue into 2021. Communities facing large housing estates being added on which were never part of the original Local Plan consultation include Hatfield Peverel, Rivenhall, Silver End, Cressing, Kelvedon and Coggeshall.
The Green & Independent Group Motion states:
"This Council agrees to revert to the Local Plan Inspector's Independent expert recommendation of 'Option 1' as set out in his June 2018 letter, which is to secure acceptance of Part 2 of the Local Plan as soon as possible and that work on Part 1 (Garden Communities) be halted for the time being.
Council recognises the significant financial and planning risks should the revised material on Part 1 be found still unsatisfactory, resulting in the Inspector again not being able to agree to the Plan being Sound.
Council recognises that as of 31st March 2019 the housing sites allocated in Part 2 already amount to some 13,993 (*) dwellings which is 98% of the total minimum requirement of 14,320 in the Local Plan to the year 2033.
Council also recognises that updated development management policies are vital to ensuring the delivery of sustainable development and that these are contained within Part 2.
Council agrees that by securing an Adopted Plan which has up to date policies and the required housing numbers, it has the best defence against the on-going speculative development proposals being submitted on greenfield sites around towns and villages in the district."
(*) Estimated 5,938 in submitted Part 2 plus actual 8,055 with planning permission and/or built
Councillor James Abbott, Green & Independent Group Leader said
"Our Motion offers the council a chance to take a new path and one which the Inspector to the Local Plan himself recommended.
The "Garden Communities" Plan – or New Towns Plan as it should be called, is highly risky both in planning terms and financially.
The council has an obligation to find land for 14,320 houses in the Plan period to 2033. It can do this by getting the Local Plan agreed as soon as possible via the Part 2 allocations which are all the local sites draft allocated plus all the planning applications granted and houses built since this process started.
The New Towns Plan should not be rushed through now in the space of a few weeks.
It should be shelved for now and can be looked at again in the years to come but we would urge on a more sensible scaled down version.
The current proposals are far too large, not needed up to 2033 and as voters showed at the May elections, highly unpopular.
This is not an argument about whether there should be more new housing. Part 2 of the Local Plan delivers that housing but avoids the vast urbanisation project that the New Towns Plan involves.
It is right that we plan for future residents but it is equally right that we consider current ones.
Imposing New Towns, which in the case of West Tey could be as much as 24,000 houses sprawling between Stanway and Feering/Coggeshall, is not acceptable.
The loss of countryside would be profound, changing parts of the district out of recognition.
And we do not believe the promises made about supporting infrastructure and services.
For many existing communities the legacy of the New Towns project is more likely to be even more pressure on key services and even worse traffic congestion.
Our motion offers an opportunity for the council to take a fresh look at how we plan the housing and services needed for the future, working with local communities and not against them."
The Green & Independent Group has also tabled Motions for debate on the future of local libraries and in support of declaring a Climate and Species Emergency, with a raft of proposed measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy and protect the local environment.
For further details, please contact:
Cllr James Abbott 01376 584576 07951 923073