Date issued: 1 July 2019
A new rapid transit system forms part of Local Plan proposals for three new Garden Communities across North Essex – details of which are set to be published this week.
The Local Plan, a jointly produced scheme between Braintree, Colchester and Tendring Councils and supported by Essex County Council, was initially paused to allow fresh work and to address the queries raised by the Planning Inspector at the public inquiry last year.
A key part of the Local Plan is purpose-built, stand-alone developments. Known as Garden Communities, these new developments incorporate a long-term strategy which will contribute to meeting the needs of North Essex’s growing population.
Built over 40-50 years, they will provide a large amount of the homes needed over that time, reducing the need to expand existing towns and villages. It will also ensure that new developments come with the affordable homes, the schools, doctor’s surgeries and facilities needed for new communities.
This week, the councils are set to publish evidence they have compiled to answer the Inspector’s questions on issues including land for employment, viability, and the environment. This will show that the plans are viable, sustainable and can provide a significant boost to the local economy, offering a wide variety of homes, including a minimum of 30% of homes set aside as affordable housing.
Central to the new evidence are plans for a ‘rapid transit’ network which would grow alongside North Essex reducing congestion, improving air quality and providing quick and easy access into and out of Colchester and Braintree linking in to other public transport hubs.
North Essex Garden Communities Limited (NEGC Ltd) have been working with leading industry consultants and public transport operators to develop the scheme in such a way that the infrastructure is in place so that it can provide the next generation of public transport for communities in North Essex such as trackless tram schemes.
The system will include traffic priority measures (such as segregated routes) and is planned to run every 10 minutes to ensure journey time reliability and frequency of service.
Ultimately, the network will develop over time into an east-west public transport corridor running across North Essex, from the Tendring Colchester Border Garden Community located close to the University of Essex, through Colchester town and connecting the Garden Community settlements westwards through to Stansted Airport.
Cllr Mark Cory, Leader of Colchester Borough Council, said: “The principles of the Garden Communities are a good long-term ambition, but for the principle to work we need infrastructure first and suitable sites to be considered on the evidence being provided.
“It would be a failure if we simply add thousands of new cars to our already stretched roads. This is why the rapid transit system is so important and why we are setting out a strong case for how it could operate from the first few homes.
“As we are starting from scratch, we have the opportunity to design the new communities in such a way that it supports a rapid transit link and encourage people to use it, as well as boosting walking and cycling, instead of their cars.”Cllr Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, added: “Of course, in the future, people will own a car – that’s not going to change – but in planning for growth in North Essex we have a fantastic opportunity to think about how we can provide a really viable alternative to using the car, connecting our communities and providing a quick and easy way for people to move around the area as they do now.”
Cllr Neil Stock, Leader of Tendring District Council, said: “The Garden Community concept goes far beyond the provision of housing. It is about how we create connected communities ensuring that homes, jobs, and infrastructure and social infrastructure are all delivered.
“Transport systems are evolving incredible quickly, and gone are the days where uncomfortable, noisy diesel fuelled buses are the solution. While the early stages of the Rapid Transit may be bus-based, we should be clear now that we will have ambitious, new modes of transport when the system is fully operational.”
Cllr John Spence, cabinet member at Essex County Council and Chairman of NEGC Ltd, added: We are committed to delivering a step change in sustainable transport. We are committed to introduce fast, safe, efficient and environmentally friendly ways for people to get around.
“It is exciting to be able to put this commitment to modern public transport systems at the heart of how we design new places for people to live.”
The findings of the revised and new Local Plan evidence will be considered by Local Plan Committees across the three authorities, through July, and then by full council meetings in Braintree and Tendring ahead of a period of consultation. It is expected that the Local Plan examination will re-open this Winter.