The Shared Strategic Local Plan for North Essex included proposals for three cross boundary garden communities, the development of which was expected to begin within the Local Plan period 2017 – 2033.
The three proposed Garden Communities were:
- Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community
- Colchester Braintree Borders Garden Community
- West of Braintree Garden Community
The Councils committed to produce a separate planning document on each of the Garden Communities which would eventually become a detailed masterplan for each community.
Following examination hearings by a Planning Inspector, his recommended main modifications have said only the Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community can be included in a sound Local Plan. These modifications were consulted upon in Autumn 2020 and the responses are now with the Inspector for a final decision.
Work is progressing on plans for the Tendring Colchester Borders Community in the meantime, and you can read more on the project website here.
Garden Communities FAQ's
What Makes a Garden Community Different?
A Garden Community is a planned new community which will be a sustainable and attractive place to live, work and visit for all.
The principles behind a Garden Community is that it is infrastructure-led and this is something we are committed to. This means all the essential facilities and services – like schools, health services, roads and transport systems, and jobs – would all be available as the community grows.
This is instead of the normal method of continually adding housing developments to our urban areas without the necessary infrastructure or only limited expansion of existing services and facilities. This approach detrimentally impacts our residents.
Importantly, the Garden Community will not result in any additional new homes that would not otherwise be built in the area.
To further develop the community feel, residents will have the chance to have a say on the management and maintenance of open spaces and other community facilities within the development.
Community engagement is key to any Garden Community which is why residents from existing settlements will also have the opportunity to have a say on key issues as development takes place.
Where are the North Essex Garden Communities planned?
There are three Garden Communities planned in North Essex. These are:
- West of Colchester – up to 24,000 homes
- East of Colchester – up to 9,000 homes
- West of Braintree – up to 13,500 homes
Why are Garden Communities needed?
North Essex has seen significant increases in its population – and this is predicted to continue rising in the future.
To meet the demand for new homes, Colchester and Tendring have a legal requirement from central Government to meet ambitious housing delivery targets.
We have looked at all potential options for supporting these additional homes including continuing to expand existing towns and villages.
However, this approach has historically seen new homes built without the necessary expansion of local services to support the needs of the new residents. This also negatively impacts on the quality of life for the existing residents, as well as new ones.
Expanding current villages and towns also pushes new residents away from existing centres, encouraging them to drive to access shops, leisure facilities and places of work.
A new Garden Community gives us the chance to change this in the future by developing a community around the new the new schools, health facilities, and job opportunities.
The new development could also help with issues we are currently facing – including congestion. As part of the plans for the garden community we are looking to develop a Rapid Transit System, potentially a trackless tram, which will improve connectivity and relieve congestion for everyone living, working and visiting the area.
Other examples include the creation of job opportunities, new areas of open space for everyone to enjoy, and specially managed areas of natural space to support wildlife.
If the proposals for the Garden Communities are not taken forward, then the homes needed for North Essex will still need to be built and lots of additional sites will need to be found.
The Tendring/Colchester Borders Garden Community, which would involve the provision of up to 7,500 - 9,000 homes (to be built over many years), is part of a long-term vision of Colchester Borough Council and Tendring District Council in partnership with Essex County Council to help meet the future growth of the area in a more strategic way.
Isn’t there enough brownfield land for new housing?
Given the scale of the housing challenge, not just locally but nationally, we need to develop both brownfield and greenfield sites.
We have an exceptional record of prioritising brownfield land for residential developments but this had led to most of this previously developed land running out.
What will be the impact on the environment of the Garden Community?
There is a challenge in providing new homes while also protecting our precious wildlife and beautiful countryside.
However, recent developments in the UK and abroad have shown new developments can improve the environment, reduce carbon emissions and improve local biodiversity. There are significant opportunities to learn from these developments including embracing the latest innovations in housing designs as well as exploring how renewable energy can be captured and reused at the Garden Communities.
It is now a national requirement to ensure all new development results in a ‘net gain’ of biodiversity. However, the Garden Community presents an opportunity for us to go far beyond the bare minimum for example by transforming large areas of agricultural land into ‘rewilded’ woodland and other natural habitats.
We have policies set out to ensure that design and infrastructure for the Garden Community will incorporate the highest standards of innovation in energy efficiency and technology to reduce the impact of climate change, ensure water efficiency, and implement sustainable waste / recycling management facilities.
We will ensure the new development does not have an adverse effect on any European Protected or nationally important site and that it complies with environmental legislation.
Isn’t this Garden Community just another name for a new housing development?
Absolutely not, and we are committed to delivering a quality new community, embracing the Garden City approach and principles, as a way of meeting the Government’s housing targets in a sustainable way.
This involves an approach where we have more of a say in design and developing the services and facilities needed to support the new homes. This new approach would see us, working with other public and private sector bodies, to create sustainable development backed by robust plans ensuring high quality.
We will produce a Development Plan Document (DPD) for the Garden Community, containing policies setting out how the new community will be designed, developed and delivered in phases, in accordance with our key principles. No planning consent for development forming part of the Garden Community will be granted until the DPD has been adopted.
These principles will include things such as community and stakeholder engagement; ensuring the timely delivery of both on-site and off-site infrastructure; the highest quality of planning and design; balanced and inclusive housing needs (including a mix of dwelling sizes, tenures and types); provision for Gypsies and Travellers; 30 percent affordable housing; opportunities for employment; sustainable transport systems; climate resilience; net gains in local biodiversity, highest standards of energy efficiency and innovation in technology; innovative water efficiency/reuse measures; and establishing a long term governance and stewardship arrangements for community assets, including green space.
Will there be more council and affordable housing with Garden Communities?
We have set out in policy our intent that a minimum of 30 percent of new housing in the Garden Community to be classed as affordable (including the potential for more social housing) by the Government’s definition. The affordable housing will be phased through the development.
Additionally, there is an opportunity to build new housing for specific groups such as older people and people with disabilities.
This Garden Community will provide a truly balanced and inclusive community. We will make sure it meets the housing needs of local people including a mix of dwelling sizes, tenures and types, provision for self- and custom-built homes, provision for the aging population, and provision for Gypsies and Travellers
How big will the Garden Community be 20 years from now?
The phasing of development of the Tendring/Colchester Borders Garden Community, up to its eventual growth of up to 9,000 homes, will be guided by a detailed planning framework – a Development Plan Document.
The plan will set out the long-term vision and strategy for the site and require high quality design standards to guide development. In particular, the planning process, as guided by public involvement, will ensure that green areas and open spaces set the context for built development and that development is preceded by the provision of required essential transport and community infrastructure.
What will be the big differences living in a Garden Community to living on a new housing estate now?
The Garden Community will be built to the highest design standards with plenty of green space.
People will have the choice as to how they want to travel around the area. While obviously they could have their own cars, they will also have access to safe and attractive walking and cycling routes, world class public transport and latest green technology supporting electric vehicles close to their homes.
It will also be designed with excellent connectivity for walking and cycling with all neighbourhoods connected by public transport to reduce reliance on cars.
Importantly, through the long-term stewardship of community assets such as green spaces and commercial buildings, residents will have a say over their community and will have a powerful voice in how they are run.
The key aim of the Garden Community is to create high quality environments where communities thrive.
The Garden Community will be designed with jobs close by which are easily accessible, and also promote the move towards increasing home working with superfast broadband.
Ultimately therefore, Garden Communities are all about raising the quality of life of residents.
What will the quality of life be like in a Garden Community?
The key aim of the Garden Community is to create high quality environments where communities thrive.
Residents of Garden Communities will have access to services and facilities within walking distance, live in well-designed new homes and within well-planned neighbourhoods. They will also have a powerful voice over the management of their areas.
Communities will be designed with jobs close by which are easily accessible, and also promote the move towards increasing home working with superfast broadband, to ensure Garden Communities do not simply become dormitory towns.
People will also have the choice as to how they want to travel around the area. While obviously they could have their own cars, they will also have access to safe and attractive walking and cycling routes, world class public transport and latest green technology supporting electric vehicles close to their homes.
Ultimately therefore Garden Communities are all about raising the quality of life of residents.
What will be the impact on other established communities?
We are keen to protect the identity of established communities which is why we are promoting a Garden Community and not scattered uncoordinated development. We will ensure those residents are consulted and informed throughout the development of the new community.
The Garden Community will be surrounded with green areas while new roads, footpaths, cycleways and a Rapid Transit System will connect surrounding areas to the new settlements to enable everyone to benefit from the new development. Existing communities will be able to benefit from the enhanced community facilities and open spaces provided by the Garden Community.
What public transport comes with Garden Communities?
The Garden Community will be served by innovative public transport including a Rapid Transit System (RTS) connecting the new development with Colchester and onward destinations. The RTS has been made possible thanks to a successful Housing Infrastructure Fund bid, submitted by Essex County Council.
Additional transport facilities will include the provision of a network of footpaths, cycleways and bridleways to enhance sustainable transport options and link in with the wider strategic and local road network.
Where will the money come from to pay for the infrastructure and facilities?
The infrastructure and facilities will be paid for through a range of different methods.
Major pieces of infrastructure needed to support the Garden Communities will be funded through central Government. For example, through the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund almost £100million has been given to build the A120/A133 link road for the Garden Community and develop the Rapid Transit System in that part of the town.
Any surplus made through land sales and housing developments would also be used to support the provision of facilities and services supporting the new developments. The certainty of new housing receipts in the future will ensure that this infrastructure can be funded up front.
Will there be more open space in the Garden Community?
A significant amount of the new Garden Community is to be open space, which is far greater than traditional developments.
This open space will take a number of forms including recreational areas, sports facilities, play areas and new nature reserves.
Where will shops, schools and medical facilities be sited and when will they be available?
Essential services such as shops, schools and medical facilities will be located within neighbourhood centres throughout the Garden Community and will be available to serve the community in line with its growth.
Importantly, these facilities will be delivered on a phase by phase basis, ensuring that new homes are built with the infrastructure to support them. This means as the community grows, so will the infrastructure provided to support it.
Where will the new jobs be?
Employment opportunities will be located in the Garden Community in specially designed areas as well as mixed in with residential areas. As and when we agree deals with businesses, this will be communicated.
Planning mixed use areas encourages increased social interaction and reduces the need for people to drive to get to day to day facilities such as schools and shops. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic has introduced fundamental shifts to working patterns that can be expected to result in lasting increases to home working and the need for supporting services in nearby centres. The Garden Community model is well-suited to support these new ways of working.
The Garden Community is well located, with the University of Essex nearby as well as international gateways with Stansted Airport and the ports at Harwich and Felixstowe along the A120 corridor.
We will allocate 25 hectares of employment land within the Garden Community and economic assessments have shown the equivalent of one job per new home built in the Garden Community is achievable.
When will we know about any new jobs created?
Economic assessments have shown the equivalent of one job per new home built in the Garden Communities is achievable. However, the names of individual firms will only be available when they sign deals to move into actual premises.
Through proper masterplanning work we can ensure job opportunities arrive with any new housing.
When will the proposed Rapid Transport System be available?
In August 2019 the Government awarded £30million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) towards the first phase of the Rapid Transport Scheme (RTS).
This will be used to develop a route through Colchester from the Park and Ride in North Colchester through the Town Centre and onward to the Garden Community.
The route through the Garden Community will be agreed through the planning process and will allow for accessibility to the scheme from the very start of the delivery of new housing.
We are ambitious as to the use of new technology for the RTS and a modern tram-style system is our aspiration as soon as it can be delivered.
What are 'Garden Community Principles'?
There are ten Garden Community principles. These are
- Principle 1 - Green Infrastructure
The Garden Community will provide a generous amount of green space. They will be set within a multi-functional and integrated natural environment; providing space for nature, making the communities more resilient to climate change; promoting healthy lifestyles, and creating beautiful places to live and work.
- Principle 2 - Integrated and Sustainable Transport
The Garden Community will be planned around a step change in integrated and sustainable transport system for the North Essex area, putting walking, cycling and public transit systems at the heart of the development. These will be delivered in a timely way to support the communities as they grow.
- Principle 3 - Employment Opportunity
The Garden Community will seek to provide access to one job per household within the new community or within a short distance by public transport. This will be a key component of creating character and identity and sustainable communities.
- Principle 4 - Living Environment
Walkable, sociable and vibrant neighbourhoods will be a defining characteristic of the Garden Community. A diverse mix of homes responding to existing and future local needs will be provided alongside a range of community services, including health, education, leisure and recreation, culture and shopping.
- Principle 5 – Smart and Sustainable Living
Planned for the 21st Century, the Garden Community will secure a smart and sustainable approach fostering resilient environments and communities able to respond positively to changing circumstances. Innovation and technology will be embraced to achieve a higher quality of life and healthier lifestyles; creating the conditions for sustainable living.
- Principle 6 - Good Design
Through all stages of the planning, design and development of the Garden Community the highest quality of design and management of the built and public realm will be promoted. Existing local assets will be capitalised to help create distinctive places.
- Principle 7 - Community Engagement
The Garden Community is a locally-led initiative, and its development will be shaped through engaging existing communities and emerging new communities; residents will be empowered to contribute to shaping the future of their area.
- Principle 8 - Active Local Stewardship
The Garden Community will be developed and managed in perpetuity with the direct involvement of its residents and businesses; residents will be directly engaged in the long-term management and stewardship, fostering a shared sense of ownership and identity.
- Principle 9 - Strong Corporate & Political Public Leadership
Colchester and Tendring councils will collaborate to provide a clear vision for the Garden Community and commitment to its long-term success. Central to this will be a commitment to high quality placemaking, timely infrastructure provision, and achieving a steady pace of housing and employment delivery.
- Principle 10 - Innovative Delivery Structure
The Garden Community will be delivered through a genuine and pro-active partnership approach between the public and private sectors, where risk and reward are shared and community empowerment enabled.
Clingoe Hill is already struggling with the current amount of traffic – how is it expected to cope with additional traffic from additional homes?
There are significant amounts of traffic in several areas across the borough of Colchester and there are a number of ways of helping to ease this.
Firstly, the new link road will help motorists to get directly onto the A120 and A12 via the new link road avoiding coming into Colchester.
Then there is the Rapid Transit System which alongside the increasing use of other alternatives to the private car will provide an alternative attractive means of travelling into Colchester and beyond.
Finally, the new Garden Community developments would encourage the majority of journeys to be within the new sites themselves, reducing the need to travel further.
Will the new A120/A133 road be in place before the housing building starts?
Absolutely. We are committed to the ‘infrastructure first’ approach. The condition of the road funding we successfully secured requires that it is built on a tight timetable, so it will be delivered during 2024, in time for people to move into the first homes.
Will the trees along the Avenue of Remembrance in Colchester have to be removed to ensure it can cope with any additional traffic?
While we still need to develop the details of any routes for the Rapid Transport System it is important that the route is segregated.
However, we fully recognise the importance of the trees along Remembrance Avenue.
Is there enough water to sustain this Garden Community?
Yes, the water companies will supply water to sustain the garden community and future development elsewhere in North Essex. Water companies are required to prepare Water Resource Management Plans (WRMP) at least once very 5 years to set out how water supply will be managed to meet current and future needs over a minimum period of 25 years.
How will waste water be dealt with?
Anglian Water, as sewerage undertaker, is responsible for funding any required investment to ensure that capacity is made available at water recycling centres in time to serve development in the company area. Anglian Water have prepared a Water Recycling Long Term Plan (WRLTP) which outlines the planned investment at both existing water recycling centres and sewerage network to accommodate development to 2045.
Won't pressure be put on existing schools and medical facilities until new ones are built?
Planning policies require that supporting infrastructure for the Garden Community is phased alongside development to ensure capacity keeps up with demand. Some larger facilities such as secondary schools require larger catchment areas to warrant opening. In these instances, the local authorities will work with infrastructure providers such as the County Council to ensure expansion of adjacent existing facilities as required prior to demand for a new facility reaching critical mass. Education and health providers have a statutory requirement to meet needs and are continually exploring new delivery methods to address this demand such as increased use of digital communication and shared multi-purpose community facilities.
Won't the new A120/A133 'split' the Garden Community?
The new link road is a vital part of our commitment to ‘infrastructure first’. Such an important transport provision is crucial for the Garden Community and wider area. Whilst masterplanning is yet to be undertaken, one of the rationales for selecting the chosen route is that it aligns best with the initial conceptual idea for the route to be located towards the eastern side of the Garden Community. Primary points of connection from the Link Road to the Garden Community will be through a series of roundabouts.
What happens next?
A project team from all three authorities has now been assembled. The priority now is to start the preparation work in order to produce the *Development Plan Document (DPD) over the next two years or so. This DPD will be produced with input from stakeholders and the community. An Engagement and Consultation strategy will outline how we will do this. We expect to launch this strategy by the end of the year (2020).
*A Development Plan Document is prepared by local planning authorities and outlines the key development goals of the local development framework. Once adopted, development control decisions must be made in accordance with them unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
North Essex Garden Communities Issues and Options Consultation (2017-2018)
The first stage in producing planning documents for each of the three Garden Communities was called Issues and Options. There was a public consultation for each of the proposed plans between 13 November 2017 and 2 February 2018.
Responses were strongly encouraged between these dates via the consultation portal which is being hosted by Braintree District Council's consultation portal where you can choose which plan you wish to view, read the document and answer the consultation questions. Please click here to access the portal.
Exhibitions also took place to find out more about the proposals and speak with the planning officers.
This was an opportunity for the general public to put forward their views on the main issues that will need to be dealt with in the development of the Garden Communities and to identify potential options to deal with those issues.
The feedback received will help with the more detailed stages of masterplanning.The Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community Issues and Options document can be viewed here and the accompanying Draft Sustainability Appraisal Report can be viewed here. A copy of the Response Form can be found here.
Post: Planning Policy, Tendring District Council, Thorpe Road, Weeley, Essex CO16 9AJ