`Threat' to Essex rural life
THE Government is expected to unveil this week a house-building plan which residents fear could change the face of Essex forever.Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is due to announce on Wednesday the Government's long-awaited Sustainable Communities Plan, designed to tackle the increasing demand for housing in the UK, especially in the south-East.
By Sharon Asplin
THE Government is expected to unveil this week a house-building plan which residents fear could change the face of Essex forever.
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is due to announce on Wednesday the Government's long-awaited Sustainable Communities Plan, designed to tackle the increasing demand for housing in the UK, especially in the south-East.
If housing figures proposed in studies already published are adopted, more than 500,000 new homes could be built on greenfield sites in four areas over the next 30 years – including the M11 corridor.
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The number of houses predicted for the London to Stansted/Cambridge M11 corridor varies, with estimates ranging from 123,000 to 197,000 new homes, with possibly 50,000 of them earmarked for the Stansted area.
A spokesman for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England said if those numbers were given the go-ahead, they would "unleash a gigantic wave of new urban development in the nation's most crowded, pressurised and fragile region – the Greater South-East".
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He added: "Countryside campaigners have grave concerns about the capacity of the countryside and local communities to absorb the growth which the communities plan could imply."
The "growth area" proposals could include:
a huge expansion of housing, industry and roads and airports in overwhelmingly rural areas, such as in villages and market towns around Stansted Airport
accelerating and adding to greenfield growth in some commercially-successful areas, such as Ashford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge
development in places where it would not otherwise occur – such as the Thames Gateway where there is lots of derelict land.
The Uttlesford branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Essex has already expressed its concern over the proposals, pointing out Stansted was a rural area where few people lived – the largest town in the district, Saffron Walden, has a population of about 18,000.
Sir Alan Haselhurst, the Conservative MP for Saffron Walden, is also worried about the effect the extra housing would have on his constituents, who are already under threat from the possible expansion of Stansted Airport.
Campaigners hope the proposals will include: effective safeguards for the countryside and quality of life; genuinely affordable housing; better use of land by raising average housing densities; and developments incorporating housing, jobs, shops and services.