My views and ongoing efforts regarding the proposed West Tey and East of Colchester developments
It is now harder than ever for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder. Most people agree that more homes must be built. The Conservative Party has, controversially, committed to a major house-building plan across the UK, so that more affordable homes to buy and for social housing are available. The question is not: will there be new housing? The question is: where they will be built?
There has been an understandable outcry over the proposed developments (known as ‘garden settlements’) to the east and west of Colchester. An MP must balance the need to provide houses for families, against the importance of preserving our countryside and not overwhelming our public services. Beyond this, the decisions as to where and which developments are approved lies with the local planning authority. This means relying on the Colchester Borough and Tendring District councils. Braintree Council and the Essex County Council are also involved in the planning process for West Tey.
Unless everyone is happy with the final proposals, I will demand a full public inquiry into each plan for development. Infrastructure (roads, GP surgeries, schools, community facilities) must be built with any new housing, not as an afterthought. The developers and landowners must pay for this up front. And the new communities must be special and in character with the area, not urban sprawl with no heart and identity. And local people must be consulted and their voice heeded.
Anyone from the communities east of Colchester, in the Teys, Chappel and the Colnes, will be understandably appalled at the recent announcement to increase the proposed size of West Tey to 20,000 houses. The sheer magnitude of this development appearing in the countryside is unimaginable for local residents.
Since this plan came on to our radar, local MPs have held a number of meetings with the Chief Executive of the Colchester Borough Council, where I have consistently stressed that the planning authority simply must make sure the public are fully engaged with the framing of these proposals, not just told what they must accept. Developers and local councils cannot expect the public to support massive changes in the nature of the local area without input from those most affected. I have also made this point in many meetings very forcefully to the developers.
Local residents continue to tell me they feel they are being frozen out of discussions, with details being withheld and plans emerging for yet more homes, without further information on planned infrastructure. This is an unacceptable failure of leadership on the part of Colchester Borough Council in particular, where the ruling Labour and LibDem councillors are failing to represent the public interest.
The public absolutely must have a say. I will continue to fight for local action groups like CAUSE to be heard and engaged in the discussions. I also remain firmly of the view that there should be no new development until infrastructure plans are in place, upgrades are made where necessary and the public can be reassured that improvements to road, rail and local services are not left until after they are feeling the squeeze from new houses.
To the east of Colchester, we have the new proposed development by the A133. This is another major proposal which will shape the growth of Colchester for years to come. The development will bring major road improvements (an A133-A120 link road) which will ease the traffic burden in and around Colchester. However, infrastructure is again a concern, with local health services in surrounding towns like Wivenhoe already at capacity. Again, local people must be consulted, and listened to, as this plan comes to fruition, and infrastructure must be in place, or built at the same time as houses, to avoid any sudden influx of pressure on local services.
Recent talk has surrounded plans to extend the development south of the A133, towards Wivenhoe. There have got to be some boundaries. This may just be the developers trying this on, but I am absolutely clear: the ‘green gap’ from the A133 to Wivenhoe must be protected. There should be no development south of the A133. This speculative addition to the plans goes against the grain of what was discussed before. I will oppose any development creep from this proposal south of the A133.
As you MP, I will also work closely with local action groups to ensure they have a seat at the table in the years ahead. I will also continue to campaign that there should be no new developments unless accompanied by major infrastructure improvements, including improved rail capacity, and I will fight for public input into the consideration of local developments.