Colchester Borough Council’s Liberal Democrat and Labour ruling administration caved-in to Colchester Conservative’s demands for an alternative Plan B to be produced to the administration’s current New Town Plans in Council on 16th October in the face of rising opposition. This alternative Plan B would be implemented if an Independent Planning Inspector rejects plans for two new towns totalling 40,000 homes east and west of Colchester that the Liberal Democrats and Labour Groups are trying to force through without adequate public involvement or the necessary infrastructure and services.
Conservative Deputy Leader, Cllr Lewis Barber, proposed the motion calling for an alternative, Plan B to be formulated to the New Towns as a matter of urgency, in case the mandatory five-year supply of housing land was found to be unsound.
The motion said: “A lack of five-year housing supply would put the Council and the Borough at risk of speculative planning applications being permitted at appeal, and highlights the importance of having a new, valid Local Plan. Planning officers should be instructed to develop, with immediate effect, a contingency plan, Plan B.
Cllr Barber continued: “The Conservative Group has consistently voted against including the New Town proposals in the Local Plan because we had concerns about the further acceleration of house-building in the Borough. And unfortunately, while the arguments about the new Towns have dragged on, the approved supply of housing land is falling below the critical 5-year level, with disastrous consequences to the Planning Committee’s powers to control speculative development across the Borough.”
Conservatives wanted the Council’s Planning Department to start work immediately on a Plan B. However, the Leader of the Council maintained that there were insufficient experienced Planning Officers both to support the resumption of the Government Planning Inspector’s public examination of the ill-fated Plan A for the 2 new towns, and simultaneously to start work on Plan B immediately.
In spirit of political cooperation, the Conservative Group accepted an amendment from the Leader of the Council that work on Plan B will commence as soon as the Planning Inspector has concluded his resumed of the Public Examination of Plan A.
Cllr Barber concluded: “because of the complexity of the Local Plan proposals, we expect that the Planning Inspector will take some time in deliberating on this decision. This will provide a window of opportunity to develop Plan B as a contingency. So regardless of the Inspector’s decision, the Council will have a clear way forward, able to protect our communities from speculative development.”
Conservatives believe that housing developments should be limited to the mininimum needed to meet the internal housing demand of the Borough.