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Section one of North Essex local plan deemed sound

Words: Laura Edgar
Planning / iStock_000035898050

A planning inspector has concluded that section one of the local plan put together by Tendring District, Braintree District and Colchester Borough councils is sound.

Section one sets out the strategic direction for growth.

In June 2018, inspector Roger Clews found the strategic plan not sound – but stressed this was not a rejection of plans to deliver three new settlements.

Nearly two years later in May 2020, the Planning Inspectorate decided that a garden community development on the Tendring and Colchester border would be sustainable, but two other garden communities proposed in the North Essex Garden Communities’ plan should be removed.

Clews ruled that if “unsound” proposals for new settlements on the Colchester and Braintree borders and the West of Braintree garden community are removed, the North Essex Authorities Strategic Section 1 Plan is “capable of being made sound”.

He found that the the financial viability of the Tendring/Colchester borders garden community is “very strong”. The proposed Colchester/Braintree borders garden community would not achieve a viable land price, according to Clews, while the proposed West of Braintree garden community is below – or at best is at the very margin of – financial viability, contrary to advice in the PPG.

In his report published in December 2020, Clews set out a number of main modifications, which were subject to public consultation and were requested by the local authorities in order to make North Essex Authorities’ [NEAs] Shared Strategic Section 1 Plan sound. They are:

  • Deletion from the plan of the proposed Colchester/Braintree Borders garden community and the proposed West of Braintree garden community.
  • Modifications to the policies for the Tendring/Colchester Borders garden community, to ensure that the plan provides a justified and effective policy framework for its development.
  • Modifications to the policy on housing requirements to ensure that the plan effectively sets out how those requirements are to be met.
  • Modifications to the policy for employment land to ensure that its requirements are soundly based and that it sets out effectively how they will be met.
  • Modifications to ensure that the plan’s vision, strategic objectives and spatial strategy, and its policies on the presumption in favour of sustainable development, infrastructure and connectivity, and place-shaping principles, are justified, effective and consistent with national policy.

As part of the modifications, the inspector stated that planning and funding approval for the A120-133 link road and Rapid Transit System must be secured before planning approval is granted for any development that forms part of the garden community.

Clews endorsed the annual housing targets set out for Braintree (716 a year), Colchester (920 a year) and Tendring (550 a year) over the plan period to 2033.

Clews advised the local authorities to seek their own legal advice on whether a section of a local plan could be adopted separately from the rest of it.

Graham Butland, leader of Braintree District Council, said: “I am pleased that section one has now been determined and we can look ahead to promptly getting on with section two. This will mean our local communities can now move forward with more confidence.”

Neil Stock OBE, leader of Tendring District Council, said: “The collaboration and partnership working between the three district councils has been exemplary and groundbreaking; we have led the whole country in that regard. Our proposals and particularly our garden community aspirations on the border with Colchester have passed intense scrutiny, so I am extremely pleased with the progress we have made.”

Each local authority will work on its individual section two of the local plans.

The inspector's report can be found here.

Read more:

North Essex garden communities plans require ‘significant work’

Inspector rules one North Essex garden community sound, but two others should be struck from plan

Image credit | iStock