Transport and housing are the two issues likely to dominate the campaigning in the battle to become Witham’s next MP
- Credit: Su Anderson
Transport and housing are the two issues likely to dominate the campaigning in the battle to become Witham’s next MP.
The constituency of Witham has the A120 passing through it in the north, while the A12 splits it down the middle, writes Will Lodge.
Both have been the focus of heavy campaigning recently.
Strong calls have been made to make the A120 through the constituency a dual carriageway, making it more efficient, better able to cope with demand, and safer.
While there is generally a consensus that something needs to be done to improve the road, local residents have a number of issues which will need addressing if the project is ever completed.
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These include the route – whether it remains broadly the same or deviates at the eastern end – and any bypasses for villages along the way, and what other associated development may be needed to fund upgrade work.
The A12, which divides the consituency in two, is also set to become tripled-laned from Chelmsford to Colchester, which will throw up issues in Rivenhall where homes and businesses sit extremely close to the existing two-lane carriageway.
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Aside from roads, the railway is also a key factor in the success of Witham and people who commute to the town’s station from surrounding villages.
Candidates will probably commit to continuing to work with other regional MPs on the Norwich in 90 campaign for faster services between the capital and East Anglia, and will pledge to push hard for an increasing number of such services to stop at Witham.
They may also want to look at surrounding infrastructure issues, such as station parking and access.
As with many constituencies ongoing work by local councils on their Local Plans setting out growth for the next 15 to 20 years could prove a hot topic, and the Witham seat is not likely to be any different.
Some housing schemes have already been earmarked for Witham itself, expanding the bustling town, but possibly more controversial could be developments in Coggeshall, Silver End and other surrounding villages.
Tiptree, one of the other larger settlements in the constituency, is not earmarked for much growth in the current draft of Colchester Borough Council’s local plan, but an option has been put forward for a new garden village close to Marks Tey and Great Tey.
The constituency also includes Stanway, which has seen a number of applications from developers looking to expand the Tollgate area with more retail outlets, restaurants and housing.
Although there may be some local concerns, the MPs role may be more to represent the interests of the area in a debate between town centre versus out of town development in Colchester.
The Witham seat was only formed in 2010, but formed from a series of Conservative strongholds the 15,000-odd majority will be hard to overturn.
The Liberal Democrats came closest last time, though Labour might be more in the running as there is a pocket of support for the party in Witham with some Labour district and town councillors.
For more election news from Witham, see here