North Essex Garden Communities Examination Delayed till Autumn 2019

Gazette

Revised proposals to build three garden communities in North Essex will be examined in the autumn not the summer, it has been revealed.

Proposals to create 43,000 homes were formed as part of a partnership between Colchester, Braintree and Tendring Council, but the plans were knocked back earlier this year by the Government’s planning inspector Roger Clews, who asked for additional evidence to support them.

Initially, the authorities planned to send the additional evidence for re-examination in the summer, however a delay has been announced to ensure any revisions are up-to-scratch and agreed by each council.

The inspector is now likely to see the revised proposals in October 2019, with the councils sending a monthly timetable update to Mr Clews to keep him in the loop.

A spokesman for the North Essex councils said: “One of the key pieces of work being undertaken is a sustainability appraisal, which is effectively a piece of work looking at the environmental impacts of the proposals in comparison to other potential sites and varying sizes of development.

“This is something which we will be consulting on with the public in the New Year.

“This has meant we are working to a very tight timescale and, as the inspector has rightly identified, while we are under pressure to ensure a sound Local Plan is in place, it is critical that the evidence base that is being produced is the most comprehensive and thorough possible and there is sufficient time built into the programme to allow for constructive local engagement and then for councillors to consider the findings through our various committees.

“Moving the inspection to the autumn will allow us to do this.”

In September, the three councils, working in partnership with Essex County Council, renewed their support for the garden community approach for housing.

Last month, Mr Clews agreed to the authorities’ approach to gathering the required evidence, effectively giving them the green light to move forward.

“I’ll eat my hat if the timetable doesn’t slip again,” she said.

“Even this next stage will see legal wranglings before the methodology is even agreed.

“Meanwhile, we’re at the mercy of speculative developers and the undeliverable garden communities do the opposite of what they are supposed to do.”

Correspondence between the inspector and the councils can be found online at https://bit.ly/2E0rPEc.

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In What Ways is an SDS (Spatial Development Strategy) Different from a Development Plan?

Greater Manchester, West of England and Liverpool are the three combined authorities with new powers to do an SDS (note not West Midlands).  Greater Manchester is now doing an SDS rather than a new style JSP, as the regs require approval by the council leaders not each authority and two are hung so it would never otherwise get passed.  Thing are messy in West of England as North Somerset is part of the JSP but declined to form part of the combined authority.

Some key differences.

  1. Done under complicated amendments using Henry VIII to the 1999 GLA Act enabling it to cover more than London.  This means it operates in a pre 2004 system i.e. no test of soundness, no binding panel report;
  2. They are not development plans, they cannot allocate land directly or directly change Green belt Boundaries.
  3. They cannot be on a map base.
  4. They still retain the wider ‘spatial’ brief of planning and are not narrowly confined to land use, so they also cover transport and economic development directly
  5. The General Conformity rule applies- like old style structure plans. So if an SDS wants an area to be strategic growth or to change GB boundaries a compliant local plan has to.

In some ways the extra flexibility and scope is helpful to authorities.  It is difficult to see why any area would rationally chose a JSP over an SDS, as South Essex has.

In other ways it is anacronistic, i.e. the lack of the soundness discipline, abused many times in London to ignore panel reports as the London Plan has grown ever less strategic with each review.  Also the inability to directly allocate or designate/designate leads to needless delay.  They should have this power (at the very least in strategic growth areas) , its a hangover from the 1960s  PAG days when planning in England grew paranoid about applying the planning 101 skill of drawing lines on maps (it has never recovered).    Lets print some T Shirts – ‘Real Planners draw Lines on Maps.’