Braintree: Housing need trebles across district

Cllr James Abbott blames government policy for the increase in new housing need.

Cllr James Abbott blames government policy for the increase in new housing need. - Credit: PA

A planning inspector has advised three times as many homes need to be built in Braintree district by 2026 than originally thought.

Braintree District Council (BDC) asked the inspector to independently review the housing need in light of changing Government guidelines.

As a result of the guidance councillors are now being asked whether to halt the entire Local Development Framework (LDF) process and create a new plan for where housing should be built, or ask the inspector to also review the site allocation proposals.

The announcement has sparked fears of a developers’ free-for-all in the district.

Graham Butland, BDC leader, said: “This is just part of the jigsaw, but in working with other local authorities we have gathered a picture of the potential future housing need faced and it is important we look at the stark facts.

“The report indicates a need for between 761 and 883 new dwellings per year across the district, considerably higher than currently planned for. This figure comes from estimated population growth of up to 23% by 2035 and there are a number of factors for this.”

Lady Patricia Newton, councillor for planning, added: “In creating the LDF it is important we take a prudent approach. Submitting a plan which could be found unsound could cost taxpayers up to £80,000, so we need to get this right.”

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But Green councillor James Abbott warned: “The papers confirm BDC is facing having to potentially treble the rate of house building from 272 to around 800 per year. This means many thousands more houses may have to be added to what is already agreed.

“It will have developers queuing up not just at sites where they have been turned down in the recent process but at much larger new greenfield sites. Braintree district does not have anywhere near enough brownfield sites to cover the gap.

“This is not the fault of BDC at all, these changes are being imposed by Government policy.

“We support providing housing for local need and with far greater local say from communities. We are about to get the very opposite of that.”

The reports will be discussed at the LDF sub-committee on June 12 before full council on June 30.