Massive new garden towns plan for 43,000 homes should be abandoned, campaigners urge

North Essex map showing the possible locations of three new Garden Village developments, providing t

North Essex map showing the possible locations of three new Garden Village developments, providing thousands of homes and other facilities - Credit: Archant

A vision to build three huge garden towns totalling 43,000 homes in north Essex should be abandoned in favour of smaller settlements nearer to existing population centres, it has been urged.

A planning inspector is currently examining plans for the three new garden communities near Colchester, Tendring and Braintree which have been proposed as part of the Shared Strategic Local Plan for North Essex.

Colchester, Braintree and Tendring councils say they "will be sustainable and attractive places to live, work and visit" and pledge they will be "infrastructure-led", with schools, GP surgeries and jobs available as the towns grow.

Built over 40 to 50 years, the councils believe it is better than "continually adding housing developments to our urban areas without the necessary infrastructure", which they believe "detrimentally impacts our residents".

But the vision has been criticised by opponents concerned at the effect large, sprawling new settlements would have.

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And now Michael Hand, planning advisor for Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Essex, believes recent developments which reportedly show less of a need for housing than first thought should cast doubt on the scheme.

He also said a report by planning consultants Lichfield provides "sober reading" on the "pitfalls associated with such large-scale development projects - in particular, the long time it takes to begin delivering".

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Mr Hand claimed: "The underlying impression remains that the proposed garden communities in north Essex appear to be an attempt to allocate land based on availability rather than considering sustainable, deliverable development.

"CPRE has always suggested that the extent of housing built on greenfield sites in the open countryside should be kept to a minimum and that alternative strategies based on the 'brownfield first' principle, with some hierarchical growth (including smaller settlements), along with well-planned and deliverable sustainable urban extensions of modest scale, should be the preferred mix.

"Growth should be directed towards existing key settlements, particularly those that are best placed to exploit the potential for new and improved infrastructure and those that enable greater use of public transport.

"Given that housing quotas up to 2033 have been met with built, approved and allocated sites, there is absolutely no requirement for these three new towns.

"If local authorities want to deliver housing fast, they need to concentrate on smaller garden villages in the right locations and linked to existing centres.

"They should abandon large standalone new towns before further money is wasted on projects that will never happen without disproportionate subsidy."

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