Inspector says ‘NO’ to 34,000 homes plans

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Big news this week!    24,000-home West Tey and 10,000-home West of Braintree have been found UNSOUND!!!    This is amazing news for residents who have lived in the shadow of the loss of 5,600 acres of countryside and car-dependent dormitory sprawl on an enormous scale.

Unfortunately, for those who have campaigned against it, including CAUSE, the inspector said that a East Colchester’s “garden community” could be made sound. He advised either dropping West Tey and West of Braintree (which would have to be consulted on), and accepting his modifications (not yet known) OR withdrawing the plan.

It is extremely likely that the authorities will take the first option.

Here is the letter:  https://www.braintree.gov.uk/downloads/file/9294/ied022_-_inspectors_post-hearing_letter_to_neas_-_15th_may_2020

Villages saved from A12 re-route?

We await final confirmation that the £272m HIF award to re-align the A12 to squeeze in thousands more homes at West Tey has been formally dropped.   The written intention always was that if West Tey did not go ahead the 2017 preferred, and less contentious, route for A12 widening would proceed.   It seems as though Copford, Easthorpe, Messing and countryside around them, have been saved from this, quite frankly, ridiculous and pointless re-alignment.

Braintree – left without a garden community

Braintree Council has been left without a garden community and yet it is still a shareholder in the unpopular, tax-payer funded, North Essex Garden Communities Ltd.

Braintree’s Leader has set out his thoughts in an open letter:  https://www.braintree.gov.uk/localplanopenlettermay202

Response to this, as a letter to the paper, is as follows:

“Sir

Braintree’s Leader, Graham Butland, has expressed disappointment, in an open letter, that some of the Planning Inspector’s judgements about West of Braintree garden community were based on ‘fine margins’.

Let’s look at the Inspector’s findings.

Mr Clews actually says that West of Braintree is BELOW or AT BEST at the margins of viability.  He reminds us that this is contrary to the advice of planning guidance.    This isn’t judgement.  It is national planning guidance.    He is doing his job.

Let’s look next at what Mr Clews says about those landowners and developers who Mr Butland says are willing to bring the project forward.  

The inspector notes that these willing developers wish to provide less infrastructure than the authorities require, that they do not phase the infrastructure payments (thus meaning that infrastructure would not come first) and that they apply only a 10% contingency.   Those willing developers are not in the game of providing the utopian garden community lifestyle we are promised.    

And finally, let’s look at the rapid transit system.    The inspector found that the route connecting West of Braintree to the outside world is undeliverable.  That means everyone would have to drive.  The authorities’ costs have been found to be far too low, do not include land acquisition or structures, and have an inadequate contingency.

None of this sounds like an inspector making judgements based on fine margins.   It sounds like an inspector doing his job thoroughly and examining the evidence submitted.”

Delays to Braintree’s Local Plan have been a disaster for the district.   Developers have had carte blanche to develop, under a government clause which allows development if there is no plan in place (or no five year supply of housing land).    Our money has been wasted, with around £8 million diverted to the garden communities project.

The failure of the local plan does not need to lead to further sprawl.    Braintree already has (more than) enough land allocated to meet need until 2033, the end of the plan period.   The Section 2 plan should be examined as soon as possible.

Death knell for NEGC Ltd?

It’s time to wind up North Essex Garden Communities Ltd, the tax-payer funded delivery vehicle.  The work presented by NEGC to the inspector has been slated in the letter.   The PR exercise last autumn was a shambles.    NEGC Ltd always was a waste of money and it certainly is not needed to deliver one ‘garden community’.   The developer confirmed that at the hearings.  Council budgets are under huge pressure already.   To divert funds to NEGC would be unacceptable.

Similarly, we urge councillors to take a long hard look at advice they have been given by officers over the past five years, and council leaders should consider their positions.  Communities have been ignored and £8 million pounds wasted, without taking into account the normal costs of preparing a local plan.

Government response

A Ministry press release acknowledges the failure of the plan, while saying, “We applaud the ambition of the North Essex authorities and will consider whether this plan raises any questions for how large sites are examined in the future.”   CAUSE has written to all the Secretaries of State in the past five years, asking them to hear about problems in north Essex to avoid waste of tax-payers money here and elsewhere in England.   They have all refused.    We will be writing again and we hope this time they will listen.

Way forward

CAUSE (Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex) believes it is time to do things differently.

  1. Involve local people.  Engage properly & listen to feedback;

  2. Put the environment & sustainable travel at the heart of any future plan;

  3. Plan for what we need. Revisit all assumptions about infrastructure and affordable housing.

 

Press coverage

Stories can be found here:   https://twitter.com/RosieP4/status/1263452479095746560?s=20

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