MORE time could be needed to get plans right for garden communities, the Planning Inspector has said.

The Planning Inspector overseeing the examination of Colchester, Braintree and Tendring’s Local Plan has backed the suggested approach for garden communities.

However he did say the councils should take time to make sure the plans are viable.

Following a public examination earlier this year, the Inspector approved the number of new homes required, but set out areas of work needed to help make plans sound.

After reviewing the Inspector’s feedback the authorities set out their approach to help take the plans forward.

This was focused around the viability of infrastructure needed to support the proposed garden communities, and also undertaking a revised ‘sustainability appraisal’ looking at the impact of the proposals over other potential sites.

The Inspector was unable to comment on whether the revised plan would be sound, but he welcomed the council’s ‘constructive proposals for taking the examination forward’.

In his response, the Inspector said: “I would advise the authorities should take as much time as is needed to ensure the further work addresses all the shortcomings in the evidence base and the Sustainability Appraisal that were identified in my June 8 letter.

“In order to avoid further delays to the examination, it is vital all the necessary further work is complete when the examination resumes, even if that means extending the original timetable for its preparation.

“I agree it would be appropriate for the examination to be suspended until all the authorities have considered and approved the updated evidence base and sustainability appraisal and confirmed their position on the plan’s strategy.

“I would like the authorities to provide a report to me at the end of each calendar month, beginning at the end of November 2018.

“I am content for public consultation on any changes which the authorities may propose to the plan to be carried out alongside consultation on the evidence base.”

The councils will now have to respond back to the Planning Inspector addressing his points raised.

The inspector added: “You say the revised sustainability appraisal and the updated evidence base will enable the authorities to decide whether they wish to pursue or amend the plan strategy.

“This indicates the authorities are approaching the necessary further work on the Sustainability Appraisal and the evidence base with an appropriately open mind and without preconceptions as to the outcome.”

A spokesperson for the three north Essex councils said there has been constructive dialogue with the Planning Inspector to ensure due process is followed and they can move towards the adoption of a sound plan.

They added: “The proposals are complex and look beyond the normal timescale for a Local Plan. It’s important we allow time to ensure what comes back to the inspector is thorough and fully answers the issues he raised, but we welcome his support for the approach set out.

“Any garden community would be developed over several decades. They will only come to fruition when we have the commitments for the necessary social and physical infrastructure to ensure they are delivered in a way benefitting local people.

“This is what people and businesses rightly demand. We will now assess the evidence to see if it supports the viability of garden communities, and whether the best sites for development have been put forward.”

One of the garden communities put forward is the West Tey development. 

A spokesman for the West Tey team welcomed the Inspector's letter. 

He said: "We are pleased that the Inspector has supported the councils’ approach to bringing forward the Local Plan.

"The examination of the plan will allow us to demonstrate that West Tey is the right option to meet the needs of North Essex, providing around 17,000 quality homes alongside upfront infrastructure and stunning open green spaces, while involving communities in the design process.

"Our team includes local people, and combines an understanding of residents’ aspirations with L&Q’s significant resources. We’re looking forward to working with councils in making our vision a reality, so North Essex gets the homes and investment it needs.”

The latest letter from the Inspector is available on the Braintree Council website at

Campaigners support calls for more evidence 

CAMPAIGNERS against urban sprawl have supported the Planning Inspectors calls for more evidence.

The Inspector has reminded the authorities of the need to do the work with an open mind and without preconception.

Rosie Pearson, secretary at the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex, said: “The inspector has cautiously given the green light, but it is clear he has fitted dual controls and will be with them in the car.

“We are delighted to see strong checks included so promises made by our authorities are backed by hard evidence, something we have been calling for.”

The Inspector said he would be available to examine the proposals in June next year.

Rosie added: “The inspector doesn’t quite slam his hand on the dashboard, but he does say authorities should take as much time as is needed.

“We feel confident the Inspector is holding the authorities to account to ensure things are done properly.

“However, in the meantime, we are at the mercy of speculative developers, particularly in Braintree and Tendring.

“We would like to see our councils putting an immediate back-up plan in place to cover the inevitable slippage of their timetable.”