December 13 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
A decision to approve proposals for a 1,600 home development in Colchester has been described as “a monumental planning blunder” by the town’s MP in the House of Commons.
Sir Bob Russell made the comments yesterday during a Communities and Local Government Questions session, after the planning committee at Colchester Borough Council gave the green light for the controversial Mile End Urban Expansion Scheme last month.
Developers Mersea Homes and Countryside Properties are behind the plans for a mixed use development of up to 1,600 homes, a community centre and land to be used for schools and sports facilities.
The plans have generated a large number of objections, many with concerns about the size of the development and traffic congestion.
However, supporters say the development is of good quality and that the land has been earmarked for homes in the Town Plan.
Although Colchester’s planning committee voted by a majority to approve the scheme, the size of the development means the final decision on whether it should go ahead rests with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, who is currently considering his decision.
Speaking after the session Sir Bob said: “I told the Commons that the estate will be the biggest cul-de-sac in Britain, consisting of 1,600 homes serviced by one road.
“It’s been designed by planners who won’t have to live there themselves and it will put a huge strain on the roads and other infrastructure in the area.
“It was agreed by the planning committee who, knowing that Essex County Council won’t be able to fund the two schools needed in the area, failed to secure the money required to build the schools from the developer.”
He added: “It’s a planning and environmental disaster.”
However, Independent Colchester councillor Gerard Oxford, who proposed the development be approved at last month’s planning meeting, said there was “no planning reason why it should be refused”.
He said: “In the 14 years I have been sitting on committees I have never seen a better development in terms of the space around the homes. The land is in the Town Plan and originally there were meant to be 2,200 homes on the site.
“Not wanting to see houses built in a certain area is no reason to turn down a planning application and the committee could see no planning reason why it should be refused.”
Mr Oxford said although the committee had not secured the money to build new schools in the area, the developers had set aside land for the buildings and playing fields, which he said was valued at around £6million.
He added: “The application has been through three government inspection reviews which have all approved it, so it will be interesting to see if Mr Pickles goes against his own inspectors.
“If Sir Bob knows something we don’t know he needs to tell us because the inspectors have found no grounds to refuse the application.”