Is 9,000-home new 'garden community' right for Colchester?
Piers Meyler, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Developers want to build a massive 9,000-home ‘garden community’ on the Tendring and Colchester border.
Promoters of the Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community – a joint project between Tendring District Council, Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council – say it will have its own distinctive character and identity.
They say it will be carefully constructed to fit into the existing landscape and include important buffers between existing developments in Colchester, Wivenhoe and Elmstead Market.
The proposal would see between 7,500 and 9,000 homes on the Tendring-Colchester border over the next 30 years.
But there is also no doubt the area will be transformed and some of the rural nature will be lost.
The plans have been criticised by the wider community – at an Elmstead Parish Council meeting in May 2020, a spokesman for the Crockleford and Elmstead Action Group said the public do not support the plans.
Councillor Carlo Guglielmi, who sits on Tendring District Council and Essex County Council, responded by arguing that the planning inspector found the project to be sound.
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He added that, without the garden community, the borough would have to find alternative housing sites elsewhere.
It would also leave the district open to speculative planning.
But at the core of campaigners' arguments is that it will do nothing for the people most at need of proper affordable housing.
‘They are not addressing the needs of people who are in most need’
Planning campaigner Rosie Pearson has said garden communities do not address the problem of unaffordable housing.
She said: “The whole need for housing needs looking at.
"Colchester’s growth is far higher than other districts in Essex and there is no proof that makes houses more affordable.
“If you look at Colchester, house prices are still going up despite growth.
“This is not providing the houses people are desperate for and can afford.”
She added: “There were no social houses at all in the garden community proposals. Whether that will change, I don’t know.
“They are not addressing the needs of people who are in most need. They will build 9,000 homes but there will still be people sitting on the waiting list in Colchester.
“The people on the waiting list sit forever and watch all these houses go up around them. But nothing is being done for them.”
At its closest point, a new £100m road linking the A133 and A120 – potentially carrying up to 20,000 vehicles a day – is estimated to be just 63metres away from the home of Adele High, husband Simon and their two teenage sons.
They said the impact the project is having financially and mentally has “ruined” their lives, especially given the county council has refused to compensate them.
Tendring council has said that expanding current villages and towns is not ideal – it pushes new residents away from existing centres, encouraging them to drive to access shops, leisure facilities and places of work.
A new garden community offers a chance to change this in the future, by developing a community around new schools, health facilities and job opportunities.
A new development could also help with issues the area is currently facing – including congestion, as a Rapid Transit System is being proposed.
What the local authorities said
Tendring council stresses that if the proposals for the garden communities are not taken forward, additional sites will need to be found.
A statement promoting the garden community from Tendring council and Essex County Council said: “Colchester, Tendring and all councils have a legal duty to meet projected housing needs and plan for future growth and must follow central government policy to boost the supply of housing to meet ambitious housing delivery targets.
“The projected need for housing in the future in Colchester and Tendring is expected to be very high and simply continuing to expand existing towns and villages is not considered the most suitable way to plan for growth in the long term – particularly when it comes to the providing infrastructure.
“We are therefore taking the garden community approach to think strategically about housing needs in the future and to meet the demand for new homes which involves the creation of a new settlement to the east of Colchester, crossing over the border with Tendring, containing high quality development and new infrastructure.
“The Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community, which would involve the provision of 7,500 to 9,000 homes (to be built over many years), is part of a long-term vision of Colchester Borough Council and Tendring District Council in partnership with Essex County Council to help meet the future growth of the area in a more strategic way.”