County fears being concreted over

EXCLUSIVEBy Roddy AshworthA LEADING politician warned last night the county would have to be “concreted over” if it was forced to follow the Government's housing plans.


By Roddy Ashworth

A LEADING politician warned last night the county would have to be “concreted over” if it was forced to follow the Government's housing plans.

Lord Hanningfield, the leader of Essex County Council, said the county was facing the prospect of up to 150,000 new homes being built within its borders - by comparison, there are just over 60,000 homes in the Colchester borough.

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He spoke out after Lord Rooker, minister with responsibility for growth areas, indicated he felt more new houses should be scheduled for the London-Stansted-Cambridge growth area.

Essex County Council has already resisted proposals that would require the creation of 130,000 new homes within its borders by 2021.

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The demands - which equate to the construction of 6,550 houses a year - look likely to be approved at a meeting of the East of England Regional Assembly on February 5.

But Lord Hanningfield now feared the lion's share of an extra 18,000 homes requested by Lord Rooker for the East of England could be forced on an already overburdened Essex.

“The maximum we believe we can take is 110,000. We are already being asked to provide another 20,000 on top of that. Now we are being threatened by up to 20,000 more,” he said last night.

“This is a nightmare. We have not got the infrastructure. The A12 will not be able to cope and it would force us to build on green belt land.

“This is all supposedly to do with sustainable communities, but Essex just cannot take this amount of houses without becoming little more than a London borough instead of a green and pleasant county.”

Lord Hanningfield although the extra housing could be allocated anywhere in the region, he believed the most likely area would be Essex because of its proximity to and ability to cater for London.

He feared Essex would have little say on the matter because proposals would be made at a regional level and the county would be viewed as a soft target.

“Some may be landed on Hertfordshire, on the M11 corridor. But I don't think the Government is likely to want to build thousands of houses on the Norfolk broads,” said Lord Hanningfield.

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for North Essex and shadow secretary of state for the regions, said last night: “If this means another 20,000 houses for Essex, I will be shocked and appalled.”

A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), which covers growth areas, said: “The ODPM is committed to ensuring that infrastructure is in place to support all housing growth. This includes transport links as well as schools, healthcare and open spaces.

“Partners, which include Essex County Council, are currently developing proposals for the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor. It is the local partners to propose exactly where housing should be located.

“We are negotiating with them and want to ensure that their proposals are sustainable and make a significant contribution to meeting the housing needs identified in the 'sustainable communities' plan.”

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