Councils in North Essex are set to look at a new way of working together to promote economic growth and sustainable housing across the area.
Colchester Borough Council, Tendring District Council, and Braintree District Council have been working in partnership with Essex County Council to achieve this through proposals for three garden communities in North Essex. In order to support the proposals, the four councils set up North Essex Garden Communities Ltd in 2017.
Having submitted a joint section one Local Plan in 2017, the councils received a letter from the Planning Inspector in May 2020 which said the viability of the proposed Tendring / Colchester Borders Garden Community was very strong and can be found sound.
However, the Inspector said the whole plan could only be found sound if the other two proposed garden communities (one to the West of Braintree and one on the Colchester / Braintree border) were removed from it. This change and other modifications suggested by the Planning Inspector are being discussed at meetings at Braintree, Colchester and Tendring councils later this month.
NEGC Ltd was never set up to be the delivery vehicle for the schemes but was established to oversee the development of proposals for the three garden communities. The decision by the Planning Inspector means discussions to potentially wind up the company in its current form have been brought forward, to enable the new arrangements to be put in place to deliver the Garden Community that looks set to become established.
Now, following the Planning Inspector’s letter, the four councils are proposing bringing forward new arrangements designed to help deliver the proposed community and look at best ways of achieving their ambitions.
The NEGC Ltd Board have agreed to recommend to the four councils, who are shareholders in the company, that it should cease trading by the end of August.
Each of the councils will discuss the recommendations at meetings over the next few weeks. If unanimously agreed the councils would look at ways of delivering and promoting the potential Tendring / Colchester Borders Garden Community as well as working across all four councils on housing and economic strategies, benefiting the whole of North Essex.
Over the last two years NEGC Ltd has successfully secured £3.76million in grant funding from Government and has supported successful Housing Infrastructure Bids. It has also developed strategies on Stewardship and Health, taking into account the Town and Country Planning Association’s garden community principles and applying them to the North Essex project.
NEGC Ltd has showcased the potential of North Essex at exhibitions, conferences and at networking events such as MIPIM UK. It created the North Essex Opportunity (www.north-essex-opportunity.com) which promotes the ideas, people, businesses and places within North Essex.
Leader of Colchester Borough Council, Cllr Mark Cory, said: “The Local Planning Inspector has now reported back and given his full judgement on our North Essex joint Local Plan. The Inspector has focused on progressing just one Garden Community on the eastern side of Colchester.
“He has also regularly praised the very positive work carried out by the joint partnership between our four different Councils in North Essex. We remained committed to working together across the four councils, however moving forward, we feel that North Essex Garden Communities Ltd has served its purpose and we now need a different way ahead.
“How we take this work forward in the future will depend on the outcomes of discussions in our respective Local Plan committees.”
Leader of Tendring District Council, Cllr Neil Stock OBE, said: “NEGC Ltd has achieved a lot in its time, and the work has not only been invaluable to get us where we are today with section one of our Local Plan, but will continue to steer garden communities going forward.
“In addition, it has helped to promote North Essex to a far wider audience, and we have seen the fruits of that already – such as the input of Government funding to support our ambitions.”
Chairman of North Essex Garden Communities Ltd, Cllr John Spence, said: “North Essex Garden Communities Ltd has served its purpose and now, in terms of the future, we will move on from this vehicle to a different model which will deliver the Garden Community in Colchester and Tendring.
“NEGC was more than just a means for delivering the strategic garden community project; it played a key role in encouraging inward investment to the North Essex area, highlighting the exciting potential which the location has to offer new businesses, helping to ensure that the local economy is on the map and can grow in the future.
“As well as supporting the three councils through the planning process, NEGC Ltd has successfully engaged people across North Essex in a conversation about how and where development should take place in the future. This knowledge will be invaluable in informing future decision making on housing and infrastructure in the area.
“Finally, I want to pay tribute to the four shareholder councils who created a partnership recognised by Government as one of the most effective in the country; and to our MD Richard Bayley and his team, whose work will benefit the communities of Essex over the coming years and decades.”
The discussions on the proposed winding up of NEGC Ltd will be made at:
Leader of Braintree District Council, Cllr Graham Butland said: ““Braintree District Council remains committed to the principles which made the garden communities so attractive. The work carried out by NEGC Ltd will still inform the work we do, pending the outcome of our local plan committee. The key themes and principles which NEGC Ltd took forward, such as good design, green infrastructure, smart and sustainable living, is all work which we will want to build into our planning system in the future if at all possible. We wish all those working on the garden community in Colchester and Tendring all the best as they prepare to realise some of the ambitions we shared.”
- Colchester Borough Council’s cabinet meeting, on Wednesday 8 July
- Braintree District Council’s cabinet meeting, on Monday 13 July
- Tendring District Council’s cabinet meeting, on Friday 24 July
- Essex County Council, at a forthcoming cabinet meeting