Government is consulting Councils on proposals to reform the planning system.  Colchester Borough Council’s Local Plan Committee met on 24th August to consider its response. It was revealed that housing targets may increase significantly because of the Council’s “own goal” over its proposals for Garden Community / New Town mega-developments.

Cllr Lewis Barber, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group said “the proposed reforms will streamline and modernise the planning process, improve design and sustainability of developments, speed up the planning decisions, and increase the developer contributions to infrastructure. However, we must ensure that the right balance is struck on the influence of local democracy and the control of development.

More worrying is the impact on the annual targets for housing development. One planning consultant has calculated that the historic average delivery of 920 houses per year could increase to as much as 1612 per year if the Council fails to successfully argue its case for constrains and the impact of local factors.

The Borough Council is already putting significant upward pressure on housing numbers by bargaining an extra 9000 houses in East Colchester in return for Government financing a new link road between the A120 at Elmstead Market and the A133.”

Cllr Dennis Willetts, (Lexden & Braiswick Ward) told the committee: “It is going to be incredibly difficult to challenge any formulaic increase in housing numbers when the Liberal-Democrat and Labour Coalition that controls the Council has told Government on numerous occasions that Colchester Borough can accommodate and deliver at least a further 30,000 houses in two New Towns to the East and West of the Borough.

Once that genie was out of the bottle, going back was going to be really difficult. Even after the Senior Government Planning Inspector reported that the Council’s plans for the 30,000 houses were economically unviable and unsustainable,  the Liberal Democrat and Labour Coalition continued to tell Government that an additional 30000 houses in Garden Communities / New Town Plan is deliverable.

The consequences of their foolhardy action on pushing-up housing targets is predictable and inevitable. We now demand an about-turn by the Council’s controlling Liberal Democrat and Labour Coalition. I call on them to announce their whole-hearted agreement with the decision of the Government Planning Inspector’, then to abandon the reckless proposals to build an additional 20,000 houses between Stanway and Coggeshall, and finally to lobby our MPs on the unacceptability of any increase in housing targets for Colchester."