Monday, 21 October 2019 15:47

Let the 'Silent Majority' be heard

Letter to Braintree & Witham Times in response to an article. From Sue Baugh

Dear Sir, I have never ever written to a newspaper before but, although the headline of your article “Support to stop garden communities is overwhelming” was an absolute representation of what is happening right now, the fact that Councillor Butland felt that he could throw out a “silent majority” comment because he and BDC can see that Braintree District residents are finally starting to stand up for themselves, is unacceptable. I realise that BDC have to have a right to reply but please don’t take us for fools.

 Interestingly, several local District Councillors are also using the same phrase. It feels like something that the Tory Councillors at BDC have come up with as a new campaign slogan. So let’s look at the reality since this is another example of political spin on the part of our local Conservative party.

They know that Braintree District is a Tory heartland and they always get voted in. However, that doesn’t give them a mandate to build these “Garden Communities”. It doesn’t give them carte blanche to concrete over the countryside in this district and to come up with ridiculous comments such as saying that by building New Towns (Garden Community sounds idyllic but it isn’t) then the villages of Braintree District will be protected.

The reality is that the villages of Braintree District which are in the way of these “Garden Communities” and the great swathes of countryside which they want to urbanise will disappear forever.

Putting leaflets through letter boxes does not count as keeping people informed. I think you will find the majority of people who get flyers through their doors will throw them away. We all get too much junk mail as it is and BDC cannot base a reliance on people reading their flyers to demonstrate acceptance of these Garden Towns.

In order to keep people in touch and inform them, personal letters should be written to every resident and a public vote should be held on this proposal. We should not accept BDC telling us that this exercise would be too expensive when we see how much has already been spent on the Garden Community project.

Talking to people I know in Braintree and Witham they are totally unaware of what Cllr Butland and BDC want to do and, when the proposals are explained to them, they are horrified. They are shocked by the prospect of even more congested roads, increased pollution, lack of schools and healthcare, lack of infrastructure, the enormous debt that tax payers would be saddled with.

And if you really think that people are aware of what the Garden Community proposal really means, here’s an example of people not being aware: Looking at Braintree itself you will find that very few (if any) Clare Road residents realise that a Rapid Transport System is proposed to run right down their road.

It is more accurate to talk about the majority who have been kept in the dark, rather than the silent majority. BDC hoped that the relatively small number of village residents around the West of Braintree site wouldn’t be able to shout loudly enough to fight this destruction of the countryside and BDC’s ill thought out plan. They are shaken because the villages are getting together to stand up for themselves and to fight to protect the countryside and the heritage of Braintree District, while also pointing out the enormous flaws in the Council’s Garden Community plan.

BDC ignored the advice of the Government Planning Inspector and are trying to prove that he was wrong when he said their proposal is not sustainable, not justifiable and not viable. They could have spent the last 14 months doing much more constructive (yes..) things than spending tens of thousands of pounds trying to justify a plan that doesn’t work.

The Conservative Councillors sitting at BDC have no interest at all in their existing residents and their quality of life or the issues that affect them on a daily basis. They only care about building a legacy so their names go down in history - the question is will that be for doing something brilliant for their community (such as affordable housing, improving roads, providing great healthcare and schooling, improving places like Braintree town centre which is where they are based but they obviously manage to ignore the problems with Braintree and walk around with blindfolds on) or something truly appalling (like pushing through Garden Towns and changing the face of North Essex forever - wiping out centuries of history and heritage, let alone valuable villages and countryside). They see the latter option as their only route to fame.

If you had time (and it would have taken hours and hours) to read through all the documents that they published (was this to bamboozle us?) you will have found comments that they want to build the New Towns to create an economic power house in North Essex. It’s not about providing housing to address the housing issues that exist now, even though that’s what Cllr Butland has been saying for years in his “it’s about my children and grandchildren” speeches.

If the Councillors at BDC cared about their residents, they would be listening to them and not going on about a silent majority.

How about this for an idea? If they really believe that there is a “silent majority” why don’t they give us all the opportunity to have a referendum on the issue. Then there could be no more of this “silent majority” nonsense. People would be presented with what is planned in full detail, there would be public exhibitions and people would understand the impact that it would have on their daily lives and on the future of North Essex and be asked for their vote for or against.

This is much too important to get voted through on three line whips in the council chambers at BDC. This is of national importance since the proposal would change part of East Anglia forever.

Give residents the opportunity to vote on a clear cut proposal.

Yours faithfully

Sue Baugh
Bardfield Saling