'It'll affect every single one of us' - Have your say on 43,000 new homes
Now is your final chance to share views on proposals for three huge new garden towns - which campaigners claim will "change the face of north Essex forever".
A six-week public consultation into the three new 'garden communities' - situated between Colchester and Tendring, at west Tey, and west of Braintree - launches today.
What are the garden communities?
Three huge garden towns are proposed for the above locations, to provide new homes and jobs for tens of thousands of people.
Up to 43,000 new homes would be built over 40-50 years as part of the plans, which developers say will also come with improved infrastructure, schools, health facilities and green spaces.
The fresh consultation - which is the final chance for people to have their say - shines the spotlight on new evidence drawn up by Colchester, Tendring and Braintree councils in response to recommendations from a government planning inspector.
Council chiefs say the issues addressed in the new evidence include:
- A new 'rapid transport network system' with "quick and easy" access into and out of Colchester and Braintree, linking to other public transport hubs
- An enhanced assessment of environmental, social and economic effects of the proposals
- Information showing the council's infrastructure-led approach is 'viable', allowing schools, health and leisure facilities to be built at the same time as the homes
'These proposals affect every single one of us'
Rosie Pearson, from the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (CAUSE), joined the councils in urging people to tell the inspector what they think.
However, she has raised "huge concerns" over the viability of the proposals.
"These new town proposals affect every single one of us and it is the last chance to have our say," she said.
You may also want to watch:
"The three new towns will change the face of north Essex forever, taking up 5,600 acres of countryside.
"They will result in 99,000 people trying to use our roads, rail and hospital. There will be no new station, as originally promised. No new hospital.
"And none of the infrastructure promises can be delivered unless they can be funded.
"We've looked at the authorities' maths and have huge concerns.
She added: "The 'mass rapid transit' is sheer hype - it's a bus and it runs in traffic for at least some of the route.
"Nor will the homes be any more affordable than any other developments, and they certainly won't be the solution for those on the housing register."
'It's vital we get government support'
Yet Mark Cory, leader of Colchester Borough Council, said public scrutiny of the new evidence is extremely important.
He added: "It is absolutely vital that we get government support to deliver the infrastructure we need to turn the principals of the garden communities into reality; otherwise they cannot work.
"Working together with the other councils we have developed detailed responses to the inspector's questions and are urging residents across north Essex to have their say on them to help inform his decision."
This latest consultation comes as a £99.9m government cash pot was set aside for a road connecting the A120 and A133 north of Colchester, with money also pledged for public transport links connecting the proposed Colchester-Tendring garden community.
How can I share my views?
The consultation will run from today, August 19, until 5pm on September 30.