Here is CAUSE’s response to a letter written by the Leaders of Braintree, Colchester & Tendring, which you can find below.
The extraordinary thing about the joint letter by council leaders, “Garden towns still the right approach” is that it could have been written three years ago. Ideals, promises and PR were fine back then. Now we need substance and practical thinking.
Residents should have little confidence that the councils will do better if they control development. The promises are not deliverable. We know this because we (unlike the Leaders) spent seven days participating in the Examination in Public of the garden community proposals.
Key questions were (and still are) unanswered:
How will the new towns be paid for?? What is the risk to council services and to council taxes? When will government commit to the billions of pounds needed? How will rail capacity be increased on the Great Eastern Mainline? How will affordable housing be delivered? Where will mass rapid transit go? What will it actually consist of? What will it cost? Who will pay for it? How will we deal with 71,000 additional cars from 42,000 homes in three new towns? Where will the residents work? Why are we not doing more with brownfield? Why are we diverting £2m of New Homes Bonus to an unaccountable quango, NEGC Ltd?
The list is endless.
We believe that Messrs Butland, Cory, Stock and Young’s proposals are risky, requiring hundreds of millions of pounds of council debt, which must somehow be repaid. Yet the viability appraisal shows that the plans are not viable. The bigger you build, the higher your costs. Big new settlements do not solve our existing infrastructure deficit. Instead, they create a need for infrastructure, loading cost on.
The leaders say that Garden Communities are the only way to solve our infrastructure problems. But the authorities have not used the tools already at their disposal, such as the Community Infrastructure levy. And they have bid for £100m to reroute the A12 to accommodate a bigger West Tey instead of bidding for infrastructure we actually need and which would bring benefit to local residents
Anyway, the government Inspector’s letter was unambiguous. It asked for answers and asked the authorities to look at alternatives to large ‘garden towns’.
We are tired of hollow promises. Perhaps the new, public relations agency, Grayling, employed to promote the garden communities, does not realise we have heard it all before.