On Thursday 8th December, CBC approved the strategic plan and governance arrangements for two new Garden Communities in the Borough: 6,608 new houses on the Colchester-Tendring border, and 16,858 new houses on the Colchester-Braintree border (Marks Tey / West Tey). Breaking with years of tradition in Colchester, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor both voted on a political item to ensure the defeat of the Conservative amendment to proceed only with the lower risk Colchester-Tendring Border Garden Community.

The CBC Conservative Group cautiously welcomed the proposal for the Colchester-Tendring Border Garden Community. There are economic arguments to link a new community with the new jobs being generated over the next decade by the university, its associated knowledge gateway and the many supporting industries and commerce. But our support for the Colchester-Tendring Borders Garden Community project is contingent on a robust detailed economic case, the strategic infrastructure of the A120-A133 link road being constructed first, that it benefits from sufficient green space, adequate buffer zones between existing settlements, and envisages the necessary employment and infrastructure to make it sustainable, with significantly more than the currently planned 1 new job per 3 new houses.

CBC Conservative Group vigorously opposed the much larger Colchester-Braintree Borders Garden Community at West Tey because:

a)    Colchester still has sufficient sites, including brown field sites, to ensure adequate supplies of housing in the Local Plan period of 2017-2033 without consideration of a massive Colchester-Braintree Borders Garden Community.

b)    A Colchester-Braintree Garden Community would effectively join together and obliterate all the villages from Stanway to Coggeshall with high density housing.

c)     The route of the upgraded A120 and its intersection with the A12 is still unknown, but would be the principal focus for housing, industry and commerce if a Garden Community in west Colchester were ever to proceed. This strategic location might not even be in the Colchester Borough.

d)    The economic arguments and justification for a Colchester-Braintree Garden Community have not been properly assessed, tested nor validated. While it is possible to pack-in large numbers of houses, it is not clear where the commensurate jobs will be provided, or indeed whether jobs could be attracted in appropriate number to the area.  This new town could easily revert to an unstainable commuter community, placing further strain on an already overloaded railway service to London.

e)    Conservatives believe that the Council’s intention of providing only 1 new job for every 5 new houses in a high density Colchester-Braintree Garden Community is appallingly bad planning, unsustainable, and militates against the proposal ever proceeding.

f)      Colchester Borough Council does not have the experience, resources and resilience to run two large Garden Community projects simultaneously. The risks are too high to be sustained by the Borough at a time of national and local economic uncertainty.

Cllr Dennis Willetts, Conservative Group Leader, added “We support a vision of sustainable Garden Communities in which strategic transport infrastructure will be provided before any housing development is completed. Local infrastructure, including social facilities, medical centres, schools, employment and leisure, will be provisioned at the same time as each phase of housing development. The “Garden” ethos will be reflected in the generous provision of public open space in and around the developments.

These requirements can certainly be achieved in a Colchester-Tendring Border Garden Community, where there is adequate space, and the prospect of a significant number of new jobs to match the growth of housing.

The position is very different for a Colchester-Braintree Borders Garden Community. This over-optimistic proposal would see high-density housing extending continuously from Stanway to Coggeshall, breaching the “garden” concept, with a very weak economic case, grossly insufficient local jobs resulting in dormitory houses for commuters to London and other centres of actual employment”

Cllr Peter Chillingworth, Borough Council for Rural North Ward in which much of the development would be located, said “Residents in the west of our Ward have made plain in their support for the 8500 name petition their dismay at the prospect of being swamped by development. I agree with them; and believe that without the essential infrastructure, the West Tey proposal is premature.”

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