North Essex Garden Communities

Garden Communities

The Shared Strategic Local Plan for North Essex includes proposals for three cross boundary garden communities. The development of these communities is expected to begin within the Local Plan period 2017 – 2033.

The three Garden Communities are:

  • Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community
  • Colchester Braintree Borders Garden Community
  • West of Braintree Garden Community

The Councils are committed to produce a separate planning document on each of the Garden Communities which will eventually become a detailed masterplan for each community.

Garden Communities FAQ's

What are Garden Communities?

Garden Communities are planned new communities which will be sustainable and attractive places to live, work and visit for all.

The principles behind Garden Communities are that they are infrastructure-led. This means all the essential facilities and services - like schools, health services, roads and transport systems, and jobs – would all be available as the communities grow. 

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 Communities will not result in any additional new homes that would not otherwise be built in the area. The key difference is they will be in properly planned new communities.

To further develop the community feel, residents will also have the chance to have a say on the management and maintenance of open spaces and other community facilities within the development.

The North Essex communities, which would be built over 40-50 years, are part of a long-term vision of Colchester Borough Council, Braintree District 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.

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, Braintree and Tendring have a legal requirement from central Government to deliver more than 2,000 homes each year.

There are limited ‘brownfield’ sites that can be used to deliver these new homes – which provides significant challenges for where they can be sited.

We have looked at all potential options for supporting these additional homes including continuing to expand existing towns and villages across the borough.

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 ultimately 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.

Garden Communities give us the chance to change this in the future by developing communities around the new the new schools, health facilities, and job opportunities.

The new developments could also help with issues we are currently facing – including congestion. As part of the plans for the communities 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 North Essex borough.

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.

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 developments?

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 Communities present an opportunity to go far beyond the bare minimum for example by transforming large areas of agricultural land into ‘rewilded’ woodland and other natural habitats.

Due to the scale of the Garden Communities the capacity for habitat creation is unsurpassed and we are very keen to use this opportunity for the benefit of our environment.

Aren’t Garden Communities just another name for new housing developments?

Absolutely not. The Garden Community approach and principles are being explored across the country as a way of meeting the Government’s housing targets in a sustainable way.

Traditional development is usually led by commercial developers meaning they are delivered in a way to maximise profits rather than providing the necessary infrastructure.

We want to move to an approach where we have more of a say in design and developing the much-needed 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 rather than one solely driven by profit.

An example of this is around reinvesting increases in land value. When land is planned for development it rises in value considerably, and normally this increase would go to the commercial developer or landowner controlling the land. However, an alternative approach would see this value uplift invested back into infrastructure provision to create better places for all.

Will there be more council and affordable housing with Garden Communities?

As part of the Garden Communities principles a minimum of 30% of new housing in each of the developments will be classed as affordable (including the potential for more social housing) by the Government’s definition.

Additionally, there is an opportunity to build new housing for specific groups such as older people and people with disabilities.

How big will each Garden Community be 20 years from now?

Depending on the size of the project, the North Essex communities will take between 20-50 years to complete with the rate of delivery dependent on the delivery of key transport infrastructure.

Their actual size in 20 years time will be dependent on the delivery of key transport infrastructure before new homes are built.

What will be the big differences living in a Garden Community to living on a new housing estate now?

The Garden Communities will be built to the highest design standards with abundant tree planting and open space.

They will also be designed with excellent connectivity for walking and cycling with all neighbourhoods connected by public transport to reduce reliance on cars.

Importantly, the Garden Communities will be managed by its residents. Through the long-term stewardship of community assets such as green spaces and commercial buildings, residents will have a say over their communities and will have a powerful voice in how they are run.

What will the quality of life be like in a Garden Community?

The key aim of the Garden Communities is to create high quality environments where communities thrive.

Residents of the Garden Communities will have access to services and facilities within walking distance, live in well-designed new homes 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 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 across North Essex which is why we are promoting Garden Communities and not urban sprawl development.

Garden Communities will be surrounded with green areas to act as buffers while new roads, footpaths, cycleways a Rapid Transport System will connect surrounding areas to the new settlements to enable everyone to benefit from the new developments.

What public transport comes with Garden Communities?

The Garden Communities will be served by world class public transport including a Rapid Transit System connecting the new developments with existing towns in North Essex and London Stansted Airport in the future.

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 Colchester Tendring Borders 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 Garden Communities?

A significant amount of the new Garden Communities 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. The Garden Communities have the potential to see the planting of thousands of trees to help combat climate change.

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 as people move into their new homes.

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 communities grow so will the infrastructure provided to support them.

Where will the new jobs be?

Employment opportunities will be located in the Garden Communities in specially designed areas as well as mixed in with residential areas. 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.

It also creates vibrancy and activity which improves the wellbeing and perception of security for residents.

By having public sector involvement in the delivery of the Garden Communities we can exercise far more leverage to attract employers to the area.

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).

The intention is that the system will be in operation 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

Garden Communities 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 Communities 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 Communities 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 Communities. 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 Communities 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 Communities 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 Communities are a locally-led initiative, and their development will be shaped through engaging existing communities and emerging new communities; residents will be empowered to contribute to shaping the future of North Essex.


  • Principle 8 - Active Local Stewardship

The Garden Communities will be developed and managed in perpetuity with the direct involvement of their 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

The North Essex councils will collaborate to provide clear vision for the Garden Communities and commitment to their 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 Communities 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 an additional 9,000 more homes?

There are significant amounts of traffic in several areas across the borough 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 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?

The condition of the road funding 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 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 and the key ethos of the Garden Communities is to be environmentally sustainable.

North Essex Garden Communities Issues and Options Consultation

The first stage in producing planning documents for each of the three Garden Communities is 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.

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

Exhibitions also took place to find out more about the proposals and speak with the planning officers as set out below.

Date & TimeVenue

Saturday, 18 November

10.00am - 2.00pm

Marks Tey Village Hall, Old London Road, Marks Tey, CO6 1EJ

Monday, 20 November

3.00pm - 7.00pm

William Loveless Hall, 85-87 High Street, Wivenhoe, CO7 9AB

Tuesday, 21 November

4.00pm - 8.00pm

Great Tey Village Hall, Chappel Road, Great Tey, CO6 1JQ

Friday, 24 November

10.00am - 2.00pm

Colchester Market, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1PJ

Saturday, 25 November

10.00am - 2.00pm

The Saling Millennium Village Hall, Piccotts Lane, Great Saling, CM7 5DW

Monday, 27 November

4.00pm - 8.00pm

Old Friend's Meeting House, Rosemary Lane, Stebbing, CM6 3RR

Thursday, 30 November

3.00pm - 7.00pm

Coggeshall Village Hall, Stoneham Street, Coggeshall, CO6 1UH

Saturday, 2 December

10.00am - 2.00pm

Greenstead Community Centre, Hawthorn Avenue, Colchester, CO4 3QE

Tuesday, 5 December

4.00pm - 8.00pm

Feering Community Centre, Coggeshall Road, Feering, CO5 9QB

Wednesday, 6 December

4.00pm - 8.00pm

Braintree Town Hall, Market Square, Braintree, CM7 3YG

Thursday, 7 December

4.00pm - 8.00pm

Easthorpe Church Hall, Easthorpe Road, Colchester, CO5 9HD

Tuesday, 12 December

10.00am - 2.00pm

Rayne Village Hall, 3 Gore Road, Rayne, CM77 6TX

Thursday, 14 December

4.00pm - 8.00pm

Market Field School, School Road, Elmstead Market, CO7 7ET

Contact details


Post: Planning Policy, Tendring District Council, Thorpe Road, Weeley, Essex CO16 9AJ

Last updated on: 06/01/2020 - 11:14