Open Letter to Colchester’s Deputy Leader: A better way

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22 November 2018

Dear Tim,

This is an open letter, in response to your comments at last night’s meeting of Cabinet that no-one ever comes up with a better idea than North Essex Garden Communities.

As you know, that is not true.

We have met you and discussed this, and reminded you that we would like a positive outcome for the Local Plan.  I regularly send you tweets with positive suggestions.   Recently, for example, I have sent you the following, asking why we can’t consider something similar for north Essex:

  • research about putting cycling infrastructure at the heart of planning;
  • a report by 5th Studio on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc which shows that one size does not fit all and that development should take into account existing infrastructure and employment rather than responding to land owners;
  • research on successful higher density developments;
  • information about Aylesbury, which rather cleverly, has managed to extract government money to support ALL of its growth to benefit ALL of its residents by becoming a ‘garden town’, rather than having to build three huge new garden communities. I agree with Aylesbury that garden city principles should benefit everybody – not just new residents of new towns, and;
  • My blog about my recent visit to Freiburg, which I undertook at my own expense to explore how things can be done differently: http://www.cause4livingessex.com/freiburg-visit-blog-1-should-we-do-any-of-this-in-north-essex/

You will know from CAUSE’s consultation responses over the past three years, hearing statements, analysis and regular ‘Have your say’ talks, that we have numerous constructive ideas.  Here are some of them:

  • The Metro Concept. This is a perfect example of transit-oriented development, which we support.  Instead of using tax-payers’ money to build a new mass rapid transit system, you could turn the Colchester-Clacton line, an under-used asset, into one.
  • Urban extensions. You know that we have worked with Dr Nicholas Falk, Wolfson Economics Prize winner, whose winning essay found that standalone garden communities are more expensive than urban extensions.  And you know that we support small, compact and walkable urban extensions like Poundbury, which you visited recently.
  • Brownfield.  You will be aware that we call regularly for the brownfield land registers to be properly completed and to include sites outside the main urban areas. This should be a priority.
  • Community Infrastructure Levy. We have called repeatedly for developers to be asked to pay a Community Infrastructure Levy, in addition to Section 106.   This could raise £10-20k per new home.   It is a mystery to us why none of the North Essex Authorities collect it.
  • A Better Way. I am sure you have seen abetterway.today which I co-founded and which groups across the country have signed up to.
  • Community Engagement. If you ask people what THEY want (not tell people what YOU want over and over again), you will end up with a Plan.  Maybe even a popular Plan.  CAUSE, other groups, and residents, are full of positive ideas.  Just ask us how we want north Essex to change and grow.  Treat residents with respect and give us answers to practical questions. For example, I beg you to stop telling us about infrastructure first until you can actually show us the delivery plan and a fat cheque from government. It is hardly surprising that hackles rise when we hear that our own money will be used to fund a PR company to sell us a failed and unwanted concept.  No-one wants the huge garden communities and they are not deliverable or viable. Time to think again.

Finally, we invited you to CAUSE’s Visions for Growth conference in 2015, and we have invited you to our January 2019 seminar, which will go beyond the easy slogans to real life examples of connectivity, planning and delivery.

If you really are not aware of any of the above then it is obvious that you are steaming ahead making decisions for people without hearing either their constructive criticisms or their positive ideas.

There is a better way, but it requires you to listen and respond.

Yours sincerely

Rosie Pearson

Secretary, CAUSE