Conservative Local Plan spokesman, Cllr Andrew Ellis (Marks Tey & Layer Ward) explains why most people are unhappy with the proposed Local Plan for Colchester.
Andrew’s first point is that Conservatives certainly did not vote for the Local Plan concocted by the LibDem / Labour / Independent Coalition that runs the Council.
Conservative reservations were borne out when the independent Planning Inspector appointed to review the Local Plan found Section One (the garden communities) unsound. The Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate voted for the plan, together with his fellow Labour and Independents Councillors, which is why they now find themselves in a rather unhappy situation over the development of the Middlewick Ranges.
Contrary to the allegation from the controlling LibDem / Labour / Independent Coalition that the Conservatives are ‘keen on the East Colchester Garden Community’, I have repeatedly questioned whether the proposed Garden Communities indeed make any sense at all.
We now know that the University is not going to be as large an economic driver as we first thought. There are a multitude of other reasons why the East Colchester Garden Community makes no sense at its current large scale. On the other side of the Borough, the proposed development of a huge new town at Marks Tey has never had our support.
The Conservative Group does support the concept of development along Garden Community principles, on the basis that this model provides essential infrastructure in advance of, or at the least in tandem with the building of houses.
However, we have never agreed, nor will we, with the size and scale of the communities currently being pursued as part of the the LibDem / Labour / Independent Coalition’s Local Plan. The proposed communities are too big, too expensive and too risky to Council (Taxpayers) finances. Additionally, we have yet to see any evidence which provides definitive proof that the chosen locations are the right ones.
Liberal Democrats are correct to state that this Government favours Garden Community development, as did Labour before, with the unsuccessful Ecotowns project (Only one was ever started). Importantly, the Conservative Government also supports “garden villages”, ranging from 1,500 homes, in line with what Colchester Conservatives propose.
We will stand up for the people of Colchester and have conversations with the Government and our neighbouring Authorities about our alternative ideas regarding housing development. These all involve a bottom-up ‘neighbourhood planning’ approach where communities will be fully involved with how they develop. We believe in working with communities, not dictating to them.
When the Conservatives take control of Colchester Borough Council in May, we pledge not to continue with the current failed large-scale Garden Community policy being pursued by the LibDem / Labour / Independent Coalition.
Instead we will write to the Planning Inspector requesting that Colchester takes an alternative approach, akin to the Inspector’s ‘Option One’. This will update the five year supply of housing land as quickly as possible via the adoption of Colchester’s ‘Section 2’ (the non-garden community section) Plan. Otherwise, like our neighbours in Braintree and Tendring, we will fall prey to speculative development across the Borough.