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An open letter from Cllr Graham Butland

An open letter from Cllr Graham Butland

In response to the Planning Inspector's letter of May 2020

Dear Residents,

Five years ago, Braintree, Colchester and Tendring councils, alongside Essex County Council, started work to fulfil a shared ambition for sustainable strategic long-term growth, providing the housing, employment and supporting infrastructure we need to create the best places to live now and in the future.

More than 2,100 homes have to be built each year in North Essex now and in the future – that is a number we have no control over. We felt that ‘garden communities’ – new planned settlements rather than add-ons to current towns and villages – were the best option to protect our existing towns and villages from urban sprawl. Residents of our district tell us time and time again that they need better roads, more public transport, easier access to healthcare and quality school places for their children.  We firmly believe that garden communities are the best way of achieving this.

While we don’t have control over the number of homes that need to be built in our district – we had an opportunity to do something a bit different. There are too many issues with the current house building system. Too many homes are built with the developer front and centre – not the community. Too many developments meet the letter of the law but not the spirit of thriving communities with new homes matched by better health facilities, improved journeys and new jobs for people living here now.

We wanted to create three garden communities which would be the place where homes and jobs could be supported by much needed infrastructure. These communities would have been to the West of Braintree, on the Braintree and Colchester border and on the Tendring and Colchester border.

Sadly the Planning Inspector who has been examining our joint plan has now concluded that we should remove the Colchester/Braintree Borders and West of Braintree Garden Community proposals from our Shared Strategic (Section 1) Plan; leaving just the Tendring/Colchester Borders Garden Community. We are all disappointed that our joint strategy for long term growth and infrastructure to support both new and existing communities has not been supported by the Planning Inspector.

We’re disappointed the Inspector feels that the West of Braintree Garden Community was just below what would be considered viable, despite the fact that the landowners and developers of the sites were both willing to take it forward.

Some of the judgements the Inspector made were based on fine margins and we are disappointed with some of the conclusions he draws on viability of the West of Braintree Garden Community and a rapid transport system. We have formally requested the main modifications from the Inspector in order that we can understand the best way forward, and these are expected to be received within the coming weeks. 

It is an unfortunate fact that the relatively short term nature of the local plan system doesn’t suit our ambition to plan long term for the future of our community’s needs.  As we move forward from the Inspector’s findings and the required modifications, we will have the challenge of finding space for our share of the 2000 plus homes each year (716 homes each year in the Braintree District), where our employment opportunities will come from and where we can provide sites for the gypsy and traveller community.

Our goal has always been to get the best housing in the best place hand-in-hand with the infrastructure needed to make it work for you and your families. We had hoped that garden communities could help deliver that, and further consideration of the Inspector’s letter and the modifications will allow us to consider whether additions to existing towns and villages in the district will be required. This is something we wished to avoid but unfortunately the concept of further urban sprawl is now a real threat.  Those who lose out will be the local people who need sustainable homes and communities in which to live, and our current communities which may need to bear more development in the near future. We will, however, approach this in the most effective way possible.

Leader of Braintree District Council Cllr Graham Butland

Read our press release here