For many observers of the local plan process, the North Essex Garden Communities have  represented a benchmark. The 3-community scheme has been in process for some years and is backed by the Government. And yet when submitted to the planning inspector in 2018 the whole grand endeavour has spectacularly failed, at least for the time being.

The reasons for the failure and the kind of arrogance encountered by those opposing NEGC are  similar in many ways to that being encountered in other parts of Essex, and further afield; not least by the groups opposing the Uttlesford District Council plan to build three new communities.

StopNUtown (opposing North Uttlesford Garden Community) has a good and mutually helpful relationship with CAUSE, the principle campaigning body opposing NEGC. Their’s was a forensic and thorough exposure of the poor evidence in support of NEGC, which ironically is far more detailed than that UDC is intending to put before the Planning Inspector.

PRESS RELEASE – Inspector’s sends North Essex Garden Communities back to the drawing board

CAUSE welcomes last week’s letter from the Planning Inspector about the North Essex Garden Communities Plan. In the letter Mr Roger Clews raises a number of problems with the Plan, concluding that it is unsound, and that the proposals have not been shown to have a reasonable prospect of being viably developed.

The letter highlights shortcomings including:

  • Failings in the sustainability appraisal which may breach legal requirements;
  • Major flaws in the viability appraisal of the proposals, including failure to deal adequately with transport infrastructure costs, land purchase and interest or contingency allowance;
  • Failure to include details of employment land or floor-space;
  • Conclusions over deliverability of affordable housing which cannot be relied upon;
  • Uncertainties about trunk road improvements, such that no firm view of feasibility of West Tey or West of Braintree can yet be made;
  • Over-ambitious targets for modal-shift and no feasibility study or costing of mass rapid transit options;

CAUSE’s Secretary, Rosie Pearson, said, “We welcome the Inspector’s recommendation that a new and objective evaluation of strategic options for growth is carried out.  We are also delighted that Mr Clews has recommended that the authorities should work with CAUSE. But we are extremely disappointed by the authorities’ refusal to acknowledge the serious shortcomings of their Plans, as revealed in the Inspector’s letter.  This approach is a continuation of their refusal to accept evidence that is placed in front of them.  £4m of tax-payers’ money has been wasted on the garden communities project.”

“This is not something that can be resolved with a bit of extra work.  The Inspector has told the councils to go back to square one.”

“CAUSE has built wide-ranging links with local community groups, Neighbourhood Planning groups and local experts in a variety of relevant fields.  With respect to ‘West Tey’ alone, we have a support base of 8,500 people.   We believe that we are in a strong position to bring together local voices to help the authorities to create a good local plan.  We hope that the north Essex authority council leaders will meet with us at the earliest opportunity.”