Responding to concerns raised about the recent consultation on the additional evidence being submitted to the Planning Inspector supporting the development of three new garden communities in North Essex, Deputy Leader of Colchester Borough Council, Councillor Julie Young, said:
“We are fully aware of how emotive the issue of Garden Communities is which is why we sought to ensure we used a variety of ways of raising awareness of the consultation.
“As well as distributing a leaflet to homes across the borough, we carried out a widespread campaign including social media and extensive stories and comment pieces in the local media. This helped us receive approximately 1,000 comments from around 800 people on what is an extremely technical consultation related to Garden Communities.
“In regard to the leaflet itself, given there was no requirement from the Planning Inspector to produce one we were damned if we did and damned if we don’t. If we hadn’t, we could have been accused by those against the proposals of not raising awareness of the consultation at all.
“Obviously it is disappointing some people may not have received a copy of our leaflet. However, an audit carried out following the distribution of the leaflet found that 76 per cent of those contacted remembered receiving the leaflet – with the actual coverage of the leaflet across the borough estimated to be much higher.
“We are always open to listening to potential ideas on how to continue to enhance our consultation response rates but to date none have been forthcoming.
“I genuinely think we did all we could to encourage the residents of the borough to respond and I am grateful that so many residents have responded to this further consultation.”
The representations received have now been sent to the Planning Inspector ahead of the re-opening of the Local Plan examination.