Even if you live outside the areas on the map where the 3 north Essex new towns are proposed by the authorities, you should still be worried. Here are five reasons why:
- Other new towns. There are other, speculative, new town proposals. 13,500 home Monks Wood is still alive, and so is 5,000-home Kings Dene. Developers are still circling. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are safe – the council proposals are so flawed that developers will challenge them. The only answer is to allow the district Local Plan to proceed and take stock about the longer term, in conjunction with local residents, rather than imposing on local residents.
- Risk to your council services, and a two-tier Essex. Council debt will peak at over £500m. By the end of this year, North Essex Garden Communities Ltd will have spent £7.6m, and there is nothing to show for it. Yet did you know that each of the four* councils involved will be asked to give another £4-5 million pounds to NEGC Ltd in the next two years? We have got simply no idea what this might mean to future services**. Shiny new infrastructure for shiny new people? Already councillors in Tendring have complained that a recent government grant for a new road between the A133-A120 is simply to ‘unlock’ the 7,500-home new town and does nothing to improve the existing A120, something they have long lobbied for. And, of course, no new hospital so the existing residents will feel the impact, given that the Chief Exec said in 2017 that fast growth of the area was his major concern .
- Water. We are in an area of serious water stress, exacerbated by climate change and fast growth. Council evidence does not address this fully, with Colchester only testing a model with 10,000 homes in garden communities, when 41,000 are proposed. We cannot see any evidence that the cumulative effect of building three new towns plus all the other growth has been looked at. If this growth goes ahead, we will all be affected by hosepipe bans. Rivers like the Stour will dry up more frequently as abstraction from rivers and the water table has to increase.
- Trains. There is standing room only already for 46,000 commuters a day in and out of Liverpool Street. There is no infrastructure investment to increase capacity. And no Plans discussed with Network Rail for station improvments. But yet, they want to build a new town for 50,000 people at Marks Tey. Yes, if you commute, that will affect you.
- Roads. If you add 41,000 homes, you add 53,000 cars. The A120 dualling has not yet been funded; the A12 upgrade is in chaos because of the garden communities, and the new A133-A120 road will probably cause more problems than it solves, given the new town it unlocks. The proposals for the mass rapid transit system have been described as pie-in-the-sky and wishful thinking. They will not solve the problem. Result: traffic jams. This map shows the impossibility of the proposed routes, and the long journey times:
What is more, brownfield sites have been ignored, the garden communities are not needed in the Plan period, and the authorities neglect to collect a Community Infrastructure Levy from developers. We should all be lobbying for a better way than this:
*Braintree, Colchester, Essex, Tendring
**The only report which has looked at the risks was a commercial review by PWC, which was heavily redacted by the authorities. The unredacted bits were scary enough, though. It talked about the magnitude and complexity of the investment, that significant up front funding is required, that the projects do not reach a cash positive position for some time, and that there is considerable uncertainty about cash flows.