Village’s ‘state of siege’ as proposals for 3,000 homes across A12 north of Colchester put forward

Can villages around the A12 cope with even more development?

Can villages around the A12 cope with even more development? - Credit: Andrew Partridge

Villages are under a “state of siege” as initial plans are put forward to expand Colchester northwards across the A12 with 3,000 new homes.

The proposal to grow towards Boxted and Great Horkesley forms one of three options currently being considered as part of Colchester Borough Council’s (CBC) Local Plan, a blueprint for how the borough will develop up until 2032.

A six-week consultation is set to be launched from mid-January into the housing element of the plan in an Issues and Options paper.

The three broad options being considered are:

1. New settlements to the east (close to Elmstead Market in conjunction with Tendring District Council) and west of Colchester (close to Marks Tey, in conjunction with Braintree District Council), plus urban development in and around Colchester.

2. A new settlement in the west and urban development (as per option one).

3. A new settlement in the east (as per option one), a significant urban extension to the north of Colchester town, crossing the A12, and other urban development around Colchester.

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Each option has a ‘B’ option, which adds in proportional growth in the borough’s villages too.

The options have been drawn up by planning officers after a call for sites, sustainability appraisal and evidence base studies were carried out. At this stage there are no preferred options.

While the new garden village-style settlements to the east and west of Colchester have been under discussion for some time, it is believed to be the first time plans for direct expansion of north Colchester have been publicly mooted.

The council is already working on plans for the Northern Gateway, which includes leisure facilities such as a cycle track on the north side of the A12, but these do not include homes across the dual carriageway.

Although detailed plans for the possible housing have not yet been drawn up, the initial study does say a gap must be kept between the development and the villages of Boxted and Great Horkesley to ensure they remain separate villages.

Tim Brentnall, chairman of Boxted Parish Council, said: “I have been on the parish council for a while now and it does feel that we live in a constant state of siege, simply because of the proximity to Colchester and the size of everybody’s ambitions.

“We have all seen what happened to Mile End, it is still relatively recently that it got subsumed into Colchester.

“We have always tried to maintain the A12 as a natural barrier, but since the incursion of the travellers’ site there has been the petrol station, two-storey McDonalds and park and ride, and plans for the cycle track. It is a gradual creep, and you don’t have to be Einstein to see that’s how they operate.

“They may say it is not people’s first option but the trouble is it is in there, and with council-owned land it will be too tempting.

“It is a depressing vision because Grest Horkesley, Boxted and Langham will disappear.”

Bill Frame, chairman of the Local Plan committee at CBC, said: “The expansion over the A12 is still a twinkle in somebody’s eye at this moment in time, and we don’t really want to do that if we can avoid it – which is why we are looking at these east/west options.

“The A12 forms a natural barrier and we have no firm plans to do this. It is a possibility, but no more than that.

“What we need to do is engage with the public, and using social media, as consultation is a key part of the Local Plan.

“We would encourage people to put forward their ideas, as that gives us a much better basis on which to found the plan.”

Nigel Chapman, borough councillor for Fordham and Stour which includes the two affected villages, said: “Work on the Boxted Neighbourhood Plan shows people don’t want development in the village, and we have sought a commitment from the borough before that they will keep this green space between us.

“There can’t be development to the north of because of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it is difficult to see where it would go south of Great Horkesley because it is already right up to the A12.

“People need to make sure their views are heard, and I will strive to ensure my villages stay villages and don’t become part of Colchester.”