Will Brentwood go the same way as North Essex?

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

Is the Brentwood Borough Council (BBC) local plan going to go down the same path as others where there is a reliance on garden communities for a large proportion of housing numbers?

BBC submitted its local plan in March and the inspectors have already come back with a list of questions for the council, so many questions that the letter ran to 15 pages. Inspectors Yvonne Wright and Mike Worden have acknowledged that some of their questions will result in the council having to undertake additional work, so they have left the timetable for responses open for them to respond.

The council recently decided to move more numbers away from the existing settlements to Dunton Hills, a garden village being promoted by CEG to the east of the district. Neighbouring Basildon Council is not happy with the 2,750 new homes to be built right on the border citing a lack of transparency from BBC, and a good way to meet housing needs without incurring voter hostility.

Essex County Council is also not happy with BBC. It has issues with the transport evidence over Dunton Hills and the Brentwood Enterprise Park. It is also concerned about the funding of transport mitigation measures looking for these to be fully funded by the developers, so it does not have to pick up the tab.

Looking at other recent decisions across the south east could mean that the Brentwood local plan could be doomed. Other councils which have relied upon garden communities for a significant number of new homes have seen their plans fail mainly on viability and deliverability grounds. This is especially so where garden communities are  not part of an existing community – the inspectors for the North Essex Authorities local plan (Braintree, Colchester and Tendring) identified the two standalone garden communities (west of Braintree and west of Colchester) as not being viable or deliverable whereas the Tendring garden community which is shared with Colchester and an eastern extension of the town was seen as both deliverable and viable.

Uttlesford has withdrawn its plan with the inspector suggesting that at least one of its three garden communities was a step too far and even if all three were progressed they still would not make a significant contribution to the 5YLS during the plan period. The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town, however, has not incurred any criticism from inspectors in the three districts it covers as all the proposed developments will be part of an existing town.

It is clear the inspectors have serious concerns about the BBC local plan, but they are trying to work with the council to resolve the issues via modifications. Whether the garden community is the showstopper remains to be seen, but resolving the issues raised by Basildon and ECC about infrastructure would be steps in the right direction.