Monday, 21 October 2019 16:34

Letter to Anglian News @ ITV

Local issues: North Essex Garden Communities: Councils becoming property companies with cheaper govt loans. Accountability and oversight concerns.

I am writing to you to highlight the local concerns not only about the scale of housing and impact that it will have on the existing over stretched infrastructure with regards to local councils proposals for numerous new Garden towns along the A120 and A12 which represents the urbanisation of North Essex.

This not just another housing estate - it is the scale which is enormous ( West of Braintree 13,5k, West Tey 21k, East Col. 9k) all in the same planning period.

The latest concern is the council borrowing huge sums to become one of the largest property development companies in the region without proper oversight or checks or balances for such a massive scheme, as they are the permitter, developer and banker. 

The NEGC (North Essex Garden Communities ltd) is the council owned property company in charge is developing the new towns across North Essex. It is as they say themselves ‘unprecedented scale of ambition’ and is one of the largest housing development projects in the UK.

According to the Lord Kerslake Garden Cities Peer Review 2017, it will borrow £481m (see page 7). With articles such as below about other councils borrowing for property schemes and the lack of oversight we feel that they may be of grave concern and result in locals not only having poorly designed towns with minimal supporting infrastructure but also a huge debt burden for generations to come through council tax bills for houses that are not affordable for the local wage earners.

This is particularly interesting as the NEGC is about to embark on a 3 day exhibition of their plans and have workshops to gather evidence for the planning inspector, even enough the public consultation is over and has ended and we are waiting for the inspector to give a hearing date to see if the same plans are ‘unsound’ a second time around. We have been asking NEGC that they wait for the inspector’s findings before assuming he will give the green light for these developments without any changes or amendments, then embark on proper public engagement.

I would also like to draw your attention to the article from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism: The Public Service Gamble: Councils Borrowing Billions To Play The Property Market

Background to WoB Library:

The WoB library is a volunteer group (not experts, not politicians, just regular people), wanting to give locals better information so that they can be better informed about the local plan regarding North Essex Garden Communities. Due to the lack of face to face public engagement by all 3 councils during the recent local plan public consultation, the WoB library set up a series of pop up roadshow exhibitions during the last local plan consultation.

We put in over 75 hours of direct open conversations with locals. In contrast all three local councils had no face to face exhibitions or workshops for the public, which we believe is a disservice to locals.

There are plenty of online social media but feel that those who are not on social media are missing out on the discussions and debate.

We welcome open discussion and therefore would happy to participate in educating and informing people about these issues.

Kind regards
(West of Braintree Library)