Council leader blasts opposition for ‘rewriting history’ over garden community plans
PUBLISHED: 05:58 25 May 2020
Colchester’s council leader has accused the Conservative opposition of ‘rewriting history’ after they called for resignations over failed plans for up to 45,000 homes across Essex.
Last week a government planning inspector found that the North Essex Garden Communities (NEGC) plans for three new towns and vast infrastructure investment were partially unsound, with the options left to scrap plans for two of the towns consisting of a combined 36,000 of the homes, or abandon the project altogether.
Opposition Conservative councillors launched a scathing attack, calling for resignations and the company set up by the council to plan the towns, NEGC Ltd, to be wound up to save public funds being misspent.
Colchester Conservative leader and councillor for Stanway, Paul Dundas, said: “We have been saying for years that these proposals will not work.”
Mr Dundas claimed his party was the only one to point out flaws in the plans and ask the right questions, as well as claiming the scheme had cost residents £7million to reach this stage.
He added: “I would seriously question whether those same people who have championed the new towns are the right people to take this forward and think they should consider their positions.”
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Now, Colchester council leader Mark Cory has admonished his fellow councillors for “playing politics” with a plan they helped create.
NEGC is a joint project between Essex County Council and Braintree, Colchester and Tendring councils. Colchester council is run by a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition, the other three councils are Conservative majorities or coalitions with a Tory majority within it.
Mr Cory said: “I’m a history teacher by trade, so I am aware when people try to re-write history.
“This statement by the Colchester Conservatives is dishonest and tries to play party politics with one of the biggest issues we face.
“I don’t deny that they have been opposed to most of this plan, but since I took on the leadership, I have opened up the process and welcomed constructive criticism.”
The council leader said work on a revised plan was ongoing and it hoped to find a way to produce a viable plan for the new town east of Colchester and the 9,000 homes it could provide.
The findings of the planning inspector have also prompted questions about how large sites like the NEGC will be examined in the future.
Following the report being published, a spokesman for the housing ministry said the department “applauded the ambition of the north Essex authorities” and confirmed they “remain committed to supporting new garden communities and helping these schemes to get off the ground”.
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