Troubling decision-making

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A number of things trouble CAUSE about decision-making at Braintree last week:

  1. A continued tendency to play the person rather than the ball

CAUSE has always relied on analysis and evidence.  However, our volunteer-funded research is ignored, as is our role in promoting public debate, scrutiny and challenge.  We always endeavour to play the ball not the person.   We have valid concerns about the garden communities and they need to be addressed.  We need answers, not diatribe.

8,500 people signed a petition against West Tey alone – that is a huge number for a rural area.  (Who knows how high it would go if we ran a “No to NEGC” petition?).   We have teams of people leafleting for us across north Essex, and our support base is wide and diverse.   It is hardly surprising that the same few CAUSE people turn up to speak at council meetings.  We are the people representing the 8,500 and we are the ones doing all the analysis.

Decisions cannot be run on the basis of guessing what the silent population think!    Consultation responses over the past few years tell councillors all they need to know: huge concern about the unpopular garden communities.

Today’s poll with a question about whether councillor should support tonight’s motion to scrap the garden communities and prevent speculative sprawl has already received 477 votes saying YES, councillors should support the motion.  Only 34 say no.

  1. Ignoring alarm bells about council finances.

On Thursday, councillors were shown a slide saying the project is 100% debt financed.  They should have known this and it should have worried them long ago.  Nick Unsworth’s point about peak debt was confirmed:

  • West of Braintree debt in 15 years -£195.85M
  • CBB (West Tey) debt in 15 years -£235.33M
  • TCB (East Colchester) in 15 years -£76.15M

But why aren’t they challenging what that might mean for council finances and our services?   They are being warned by CAUSE and others, including the Green & Independent Group, that the viability appraisals are flawed and yet they are willing to sign up to a 100% debt financed project.

And don’t forget that Braintree does not collect Community Infrastructure Levy from developers – that avenue should be exhausted first.

  1. Providing benefits for current residents

We were given one example of a benefit of the garden communities to existing residents.  This was that a new school in West of Braintree would benefit the residents of Rayne.   But you don’t need to build a whole new town to provide a school!     Developer contri butions do that.

  1. The housing waiting list

The garden communities do nothing for the housing waiting list.   They take years to build and will be beset by delays and problems throughout.   The affordable rent percentage of affordable housing has been reduced in the latest evidence base anyway.   How often will that keep happening?  And, as Tom Walsh pointed out, Braintree’s normal affordable housing target is up to 40% and yet the garden communities will offer only 30%.