CONTROVERSIAL new towns containing more than 20,000 homes must have a Government commitment to new infrastructure before even one house is built, council bosses say.

Colchester Council’s local plan committee agreed a way forward on the divisive schemes during a meeting last night. 

Alongside Tendring and Braintree councils, Colchester Council was presented with three options from a planning inspector after the controversial proposals were judged to be “unjustified” and “unsound” at this stage.

But the committee agreed a “fourth way” which had been thrashed out by leaders of Colchester Council’s main parties.

The agreement gives a commitment to continue working alongside the two authorities but also states commitment is “dependent on funding for the necessary strategic infrastructure being confirmed, them being proven financially viable and environmentally sound”.

It adds: “The North Essex authorities will provide the further evidence requested by the inspector under an alternative option which will show any Colchester and Braintree Borders Garden Community being planned for the later years of the housing trajectory of the local plan and any Colchester and Braintree Borders Garden Community and Colchester and Tendring Border Garden Community proposals dependent on necessary strategic infrastructure being committed.

“It will also be imperative to prove the economic viability for garden communities and to ensure future housing growth is matched with economic growth.”

The move also calls for a larger number of potential alternative sites to be carried out. It is believed that could include areas such as Weeley and Thorpe le Soken, which already have main line train stations.

The agreement adds: “Should the necessary strategic infrastructure for the garden communities not be committed after a reasonable period of time, this will trigger a review of the local plan to manage the consequential shortfall in housing delivery in a way that does not overburden the infrastructure of existing communities/settlements.” Colchester Council leader Mark Cory told the meeting: “It is important to understand that we have listened and we are addressing some of the points which have been turned up.

“We have listened to the inspector and his letters and [have put forward] what we want to see for our communities while accepting the need for growth.”

The senior Lib Dem added: “This is a hybrid which allows us to make progress and carry out the work on the sustainability assessments.”

The leader also reiterated his pledge to see no development south of the A133 in relation to any Colchester/Tendring border settlement.

Labour boss and deputy leader of the council Tim Young outlined the reasons a local plan must be in place - to deter “greedy developers” - and added it is “essential” a road linking the A133 and A120 is in place before any work on the planned eastern settlement begins.

He added: “If that isn’t the case, it is a non-starter. We must have the infrastructure and that is loud and clear in our wording.

“There is housing coming in Colchester and there needs to be. There are a lot of families who just cannot get on the housing ladder and we want to address that in this local plan.”

'We just needed to be at the table'

COLCHESTER Conservative boss Darius Laws said the agreement is the first success of having his party at the table.

Mr Laws joined Lib Dem leader Mark Cory and Labour boss Tim Young at the discussion table and was among the people behind the wording agreed upon by the local plan committee.

He said: “Colchester Conservatives laid out our red lines for future, infrastructure-led development in the borough. 

“We have an infrastructure deficit now and we cannot permit more house building without adequate infrastructure - and that means more than just building roads for cars.

“We have argued for years that Colchester’s coalition-run council should not continue with its garden community proposals without sufficient plans for infrastructure, jobs, community engagement and viability.

“We backed a proposal to put infrastructure first with an agreement that the council will go back to the drawing board if it does not have sufficient plans for such infrastructure.

“It is time Colchester did development differently.”

Both Mr Laws and the ruling alliance parties also paid tribute to Conservative local plan spokesman Andrew Ellis for his expertise during the process. 

Council leader Mark Cory said he has a “genuine admiration” for the way Mr Ellis has gone about his work on the complex local plan issue.