These are the transcripts for talks given by the public at Braintree’s Full Council. Speakers;
- Tim Came, Stisted resident, on behalf of Monks Wood Action Group
- Tom Foster, Kelvedon resident, on behalf of CAUSE
- Jess Bond, Colne Engaine resident
- Rosie Pearson, Pattiswick resident, on behalf of CAUSE
- Tom Walsh, Coggeshall resident – request to speak refused. Rosie Pearson shortened her statement and read out half of Tom’s in order that he should be able to have his say too….
Good evening. I speak as a resident of Stisted.
Monks Wood. What a mess…!
The obsession with garden towns of a minimum of 5,000 homes has created the Monks Wood monster. Just like in the famous story when Frankenstein asked to have a wife made as a companion. This is an unwanted companion to the proposed North Essex Garden Communities.
The scene of this scary story is the Pattiswick Estate. It is a two thousand two hundred acre rural farming estate and hamlet with seven ancient woodlands. It is truly beautiful. Unspoilt. Tranquil. Bursting with wildlife.
Much loved by walkers, cyclists, riders and many other local residents.
There are few jobs here. There is little public transport. The Pattiswick area is accessed via protected lanes and sited off an overcrowded trunk road. The nearest railway stations, which are already at capacity, are accessed through medieval villages.
Really not the place for a new settlement. And already rejected once by this Council. The scary thing is that the promoter, Lightwood, could at any time decide to take a chance with another planning application.
Lightwood has already shown that it is skilled at gaming the system. And now it is making false promises, saying that Bosch intends to become an anchor tenant at Monks Wood, in a research and development facility which will ‘incept’ the Silicon Valley of North Essex.
We have contacted Bosch Global and had confirmation that, and I quote “There are currently no plans to open a Bosch Research and Development Facility at the Monks Wood site.”
Clearly it is of concern that a land promoter is willing to make unfounded promises which could influence decisions in one direction or another. It looks like Braintree Council have been misled by Lightwood – what a bunch of Charlatans!
Officers rightly rejected Monks Wood in the first place, and only clever procedural footwork from Lightwood’s Barrister has put it back on the Agenda. The inspector did not recommend that Monks Wood was included (he said ‘if‘ Monks Wood is included). So, IF Monks Wood is in the SA we would like to meet the viability consultants ourselves.
This Frankenstein is well and truly on the loose and we expect all Councillors to wake up to the problems of Mr Butland’s chosen ‘Option 2’, which blocks Braintree’s desperately needed district Local Plan.
And finally, this is an overwhelmingly Conservative voting District. However, I have yet to meet a single Conservative voting resident who thinks these large-scale developments are appropriate. What mandate do the Conservative Councillors think they have then? I would be very interested like the rest of your loyal Conservative voters, to see an honest explanation of why we need to massively exceed the Government’s house building targets.
We feel very badly let down. Numbers can prevent vision.
Last month Colchester Borough Council’s Local Plan Committee passed a resolution which said that their council’s commitment to the Garden Communities “assumes, and is dependent on, funding for the necessary strategic infrastructure being confirmed, them being proven financially viable and environmentally sound.”
It is better late than never, but this request for basic, elementary evidence to support Section 1 of the Local Plan should have been made long before it was submitted to the Planning Inspector. The councils and their consultants, having spent the last four years and £4m looking for the evidence have failed to find any. They are about to have another go at justifying the garden communities but, unless they come across previously undiscovered pots containing vast wealth – £1.8billion would be needed for West Tey alone – they will fail.
At the Council meeting here on 23rd July the Leader announced that he had made the decision that this council would proceed with the Inspector’s Option 2. This decision, having a huge impact on the future of the whole district, made by one individual and made without waiting for advice sought from the Inspector, was a poor decision. The Inspector was clear that pursuing Option 1 would be quicker than Option 2 which he said would be likely to take a considerable length of time. Option1 would allow you to proceed to your Section 2 plan relatively swiftly. Option 2 however blocks Braintree’s Local Plan for much longer. It leaves you open to speculative developer applications and uncontrolled sprawl around our villages. It is imperative to have a Section 2 plan AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
While there is no Local Plan, one wonders how the Chief Executive of the council sponsored North Essex Garden Communities Ltd spends his time. He has little to do but the planners at Braintree District Council are very busy dealing with unwanted, speculative applications.
In the circumstances it is ironic that the Leader says that extensions to the villages is what he wishes to avoid by promoting garden communities.
CAUSE believes, however, that if done in accordance with a plan a village extension can be beneficial. Unfortunately, there is no plan.
How have we got into this mess? Perhaps it is because of the belief by some that by building three garden communities large sums will be released from the central exchequer to be spent on infrastructure. This belief fails to take into account the enormous scale of the costs involved.
On 17 July this year Braintree Planning Committee gave planning consent to Gladman Developments to build 90 dwellings on farmland along the Colne Valley, outside the village envelope of Earls Colne. Apart from Gladman Developments, the farmer selling his land at a premium and Earls Colne Recreation Club who will receive a windfall in excess of £90,000 from the developers, nobody wanted this development to get permission, including Braintree Council. Unfortunately, because BDC have been unable to publish a 5 Year Supply (the task was described by one councillor at the planning meeting on 17 July as an equivalent challenge to attaining the Holy Grail), the residents of Braintree District have been left vulnerable to opportunistic housing developments initiated by farmers selling off parcels of farmland on the edges of our villages and the likes of Gladman, gleefully circling over vulnerable districts such as ours with no civic protection from this kind of development from our Local Authority.
This development will alter an ancient village boundary for ever. And alter the geographical relationship between two neighbouring villages for ever. And because our local councillors are unable to put together a 5 Year Plan, opportunistic developers will now build on land designated a dark valley to protect our wildlife and alter a village boundary. Neither of these consequences will ever be reverted.
Because there is no 5 Year Plan, there is no strategic housing development. Houses are being built around the edges of existing towns and villages. Existing communities and those who will be moving in to these new homes will be badly served by a paucity of infrastructure, local shops, schools, doctors surgeries and places of work. Everyone is expected to muddle along with our already busy roads (the traffic on the A1124 through Earls Colne is heavy by 7.30am on a weekday), without any focus from our Local Authority to mould existing and new communities towards a greener and more sustainable environment.
It seems that the GC proposals, although attempting to address some of these issues, have been rather over-ambitious in the opposite direction. Instead, short to medium-term planning is the much needed approach.
Because there is this inability to create a 5 Year Plan Braintree District Council’s planning department is altering the landscape of rural Essex forever.
ROSIE PEARSON. [Square brackets not read out due to sharing 3 minutes with Tom Walsh]
Mr Walsh of Coggeshall was denied the right to speak this evening, and in the interests of democracy, I have agreed he should have the second half of my slot.[CAUSE really does want to see a good outcome for Braintree District. And ,on that basis, …]
I wish to warn you about icebergs.
To start with, there’s the Size Iceberg.
Perhaps the hypothesis that very large new settlements might solve a problem was a good one to test. However the evidence is clear – there are numerous cost and deliverability problems associated with new towns. CAUSE analysis shows that new developments of greater than 2,000 homes cannot be viable. [They are unpopular, too. Simply reworking the financial modelling submitted to the inspector will not change the underlying problems.]
Then there is the Legal iceberg.
Our barrister has advised us that the presentation of Option 2 as a continuation of work on the same three garden communities may be misleading. The decision was premature and timescales are wholly unrealistic.[By December you will need to show how (among other things) a new West Tey station, including moving the Sudbury line, plus a north Essex Mass Rapid Transit system can be paid for and delivered…. The approach is out of step with the inspector’s letter. ]
And there is the Democratic iceberg. CAUSE’s 8,500 supporters have much to be concerned about:
– Option 2 was imposed on all of you, all of us and essentially also on neighbouring Colchester. Does this meet “duty-to-cooperate” requirements?
– Secondly, despite the rejection of the garden communities, and a district awash with speculative developer applications, Braintree’s most recent Local Plan meeting was cancelled. Apparently there is a lack of business to discuss?!
– And are you not concerned about tax payers’ money being diverted to NEGC? It is an unaccountable delivery vehicle with nothing to deliver. £500,000 of Braintree’s New Homes Bonus has gone there so far and there is an unspecified demand for more cash in the wings.
Please don’t submit a bodge job plan simply to get it out of the way before the May elections. Remember Mr Clews will examine it!
Oh, and one last thing – high density is just one of many weapons in your armoury – don’t let it be sold to you as a bad thing. [The future of north Essex depends on getting the plan right now.]
TOM WALSH [shortened version of planned three minute talk]. Read out by Rosie Pearson when the Chairwoman refused to let him speak in the second half of the slot:
Tonight I speak in a personal capacity; I am not a member of any Party nor of CAUSE. I was a Chartered Member of the RTPI for 28 years
I am concerned that the Leader of BDC has 4 overlapping/leading roles in both planning and commercial development where apparent incomplete disclosure could raise issues of transparency, disclosure and possible conflict of interest
1 Leader of BDC
2 Cabinet Member with Corporate Oversight of Strategy & Direction and of Strategic Partnerships
3 Member of the Local Plan Sub-committee and
4 BDC’s appointment as director of NEGC Ltd
Some serious issues of governance arise:
A/ to what extent does BDC feel 4 such roles in one person comply with the Nolan Principles and BDC Code of Conduct
B/ a “Master developer profit rate 15% is shown in the evidence base. As 15% of £1.515 billion is substantial how exactly does the Full Council distinguish between each of these roles and balance all interests when the Leader sits on these 4 crucial bodies at the same time?
C/ Could this particular combination of these 4 roles not potentially put other planning applicants at a competitive disadvantage ?
D/ the Leader of BDC does not appear to have listed his role at NEGC Ltd in his List of 6 Outside Interests – is this correct?