I am writing on behalf of CAUSE and the 8,500 residents we represent, to draw your attention to a number of current areas of concern about the Local Plan process. I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts on what you will do to stop the problems we highlight here.
Speculative developer applications
CAUSE warned in June 2018 that continuing work on garden communities (the Inspector’s ‘Option 2’) instead of choosing to move forward with Braintree’s own Local Plan (Inspector’s ‘Option 1’) would open the door to speculative developer applications.
Sure enough, since then the District has been under siege from developers lodging speculative applications to exploit the delay to the Local Plan process.
Don’t take our word for this. I attach an extract from a developer application submitted for 50 houses in Finchingfield, which shows only too clearly that Option 2 is causing speculative developer applications and that developers know little can stop them while no Plan is in place. The only answer is to revert as soon as possible to Option 1.
The floodgates to large scale green field developments have been opened
The floodgates are now open. Are you aware that now around 27 large sites across north Essex will have to be considered for ‘Section 1’, the garden communities Plan? Some that you may not know about include:
- 600 hectares at Kelvedon;
- c2,000 homes at Witham
- c4,600 homes at Haverhilll
- c8,500 at Halstead
- c8,000 at Pattiswick
- (Slightly different but worth noting: Wethersfield airfield, available from 2025)
This makes the situation even more complicated and fraught with problems as developers jostle for their site to be chosen. Are you aware, for example, that Lightwood, the promoter at Monks Wood, has written to the Department for Transport, trying to re-open the A120 route consultation because they require route A to justify their site? Have you been made aware of any new proposals in your own ward? And, if so, have you been invited to Friday’s ‘check & challenge’ workshop?
Lack of debate
Meanwhile, you may be aware that recently a consultation was held about the methodology to be used for the new Sustainability Appraisal.
There has been no published analysis of responses. Nor have the responses been reviewed and discussed by your Local Plan Committee. Yet we now understand that the Inspector has been sent proposed changes to the methodology without any review by councillors. This is not acceptable. Are you aware, for example, that Gateway120 has stated that it will build 9,000 homes at West Tey before the A120 or A12 improvements?
CAUSE has carried out its own analysis of the responses and I believe that this is essential reading for all councillors:
I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and to understanding what you personally will do to intervene. Braintree needs a Local Plan now, not protracted delays to a complex garden communities project which the Inspector may well throw out again anyway in 2020. It is not too late to revert to Option 1.
Rosie Pearson, Secretary, CAUSE