Will the North Essex Garden Communities project also bite the dust?

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Will the North Essex Garden Communities project also bite the dust?

This week, as we wait on tenterhooks for the Inspector’s letter about so-called Section 1 Plan North Essex Garden Communities, we have confirmation of our view that garden communities are extremely difficult to get right.

These four examples reinforce the many different problems facing those attempting garden communities and demonstrate that planners cannot simply draw a blob on a map and wish away all that is there already.

  1. Lodge Farm Garden Village in Rugby’s Local Plan

Many similarities with those in north Essex, particularly West Tey and West of Braintree, only much smaller and therefore all the problems cited by the Inspector are magnified ten-fold here, 1,500-home Lodge Farm Garden Village in Rugby’s Local Plan.  This is some of what the Inspector said, when asking Rugby to delete the garden village from their Plan:

“…the proposed site for Lodge Farm is situated around 10 kilometres (km) from the centre of Rugby and 24 km from Coventry. Paragraph 34 of NPPF expects plans to ensure that developments which generate significant movement are located where the need to travel will be minimised and the use of sustainable transport modes can be maximised. Even if the new village could viably support a new bus service and cycle route into Rugby, the distance and journey times to both Rugby and Coventry by either of these modes or a combination of them would be unlikely to encourage their use. Whilst some day to day journeys to the local shops, surgery and primary school could bemade on foot within the village, trips to secondary school, employment locations and main shopping and leisure destinations off-site would be largely car dependent. As such, I am not persuaded it is a location which could be made sustainable in transport terms. Whilst paragraph 34 also notes that account needs to be taken of policies for rural areas, the emphasis in paragraph 55 of the NPPF is that to promote sustainable development in rural areas, housing should be located where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities. It is not apparent that Lodge Farm would support existing surrounding rural communities to any significant extent, since its local facilities would be scaled to serve the needs of the new community.”

“Lodge Farm is also located in the countryside, within the Leam and Rainsbrook Valleys. Although not subject to a national or local designation, the landscape surrounding the site is open and attractive, visible from the surrounding valley sides including the Rainsbrook escarpment, and contains many historic features, including both designated and non-designated heritage assets. The area also has a distinctive settlement pattern, characterised by small scale villages and hamlets. It is a core planning principle in paragraph 17 of the NPPF that account should be taken of the
intrinsic beauty and character of the countryside. The development of a new settlement of 1,500 dwellings in this setting, even with the inclusion of landscaping and green space, would cause significant harm to the intrinsic beauty and character of the countryside in this part of the borough.”

Anyone familiar with West Tey area and West of Braintree will immediately see the similarities.     The inspector also concluded that there was no need for Lodge Farm GV.

2. Dissington Garden Village, Northumberland.

Refreshingly, but completely unlike north Essex, the Northumberland local plan has been revised to reflect local concerns.    The proposed 2,000-home garden village has been dropped and housing numbers reduced.    Good to see that democracy is alive and well in some parts of the country.

3. Colworth Garden Village, Beds.

This 4,500-home proposed village has now been scrapped after a report to Bedford Borough Council found that the nearby Santa Pod Raceway and the developers could not deliver noise mitigation measures.

4. Drake Park Garden Village, Surrey.

Here, the Secretary of State agreed with inspector David Prentis that the benefits of the proposed development did not clearly outweigh harm to the green belt. The very special circumstances required to justify development in the green belt did not exist, he ruled.  Brokenshire found that the scheme would have a “significant impact” on the visual appreciation of green belt openness and create “significant” views of new buildings from multiple viewpoints outside the site.

These four are just small-fry compared to the North Essex Garden Communities, 9,000-homes, 13,000-homes and 24,000-homes.   The bigger the more complex, the greater the land-costs and infrastructure costs and the longer the time required to build-out.    Let’s hope that the Inspector delivers the only sensible verdict this week.   The Plan is not sound.


More details in the articles below: