Controversial proposals for three garden communities in north Essex, promoted jointly by Braintree DC, Colchester BC and Tendring DC in a Joint Strategic (Section 1) Local Plan, have been declared unsound by the local plan inspector, Roger Clews, following an examination held earlier this year.
Whilst the proposals appeared to have gained tentative support from central Government they were opposed by local residents and affected landowners.
The main active opposition came from CAUSE (Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in north Essex) and SERCLE (a grouping of local parish councils). CAUSE participated in the examination and produced a wealth of evidence against the proposals in the Plan and also advanced an alternative proposal which the authorities had rejected out of hand.
CAUSE was supported by two written legal opinions which cast doubt on key elements of the proposed local delivery vehicle, especially as the method of delivery and scale were untested and challenged the basis on which the necessary land was to be acquired, the level of compensation to be offered and related issues of human rights. There were further concerns about the lawfulness of the Sustainability Appraisal.
CAUSE presented a considerable amount of evidence that cast doubt on the viability of the proposals and also suggested an alternative means of satisfying the objective of ensuring a sustainable boost to the housing stock in north Essex, which the authorities rejected.
In his 32-page letter dated 8 June 2018 addressed to the three authorities, Mr Clews found that the authorities had not demonstrated that the garden communities in the submitted Plan were financially viable and he cast doubt on whether the unspecified new models of delivery were capable of achieving their objective.
Detailed and serious doubts were also cast on the legality and adequacy of the Sustainability Appraisal requiring significant further work. Interestingly he also recommended that a re-consideration of alternatives was required and that this should include, as a minimum, consideration of CAUSE's alternative Metro Town Proposal.
Martin Edwards advised CAUSE in the run-up and throughout the examination. Martin's first legal opinion of 18 January 2018 can be found here and his second opinion can be found here.