Agenda item

To report to the Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community Joint Committee, some of the notable issues raised in the representations received from the public and other interested parties to the consultation on the Submission Version of the Development Plan Document (DPD) i.e. ‘the Plan’ for the Garden Community under Regulation 19 of the statutory plan making process. These representations will be considered by a government-appointed Planning Inspector as part of the examination process.


To also seek the Joint Committee’s agreement that a formal request is made to the Planning Inspector inviting them to recommend any specific modifications that might be required to make the DPD sound.


The Joint Committee considered a detailed report (A.1) which set out some of the notable issues raised in the representations received from the public and other interested parties to the consultation on the Submission Version of the Development Plan Document (DPD) i.e. ‘the Plan’ for the Garden Community under Regulation 19 of the statutory plan making process. Those representations would be considered by a Government-appointed Planning Inspector as part of the examination process. The report did not seek to provide an account of each and every comment raised through the consultation.


The report also sought the Joint Committee’s agreement that a formal request be made to the Planning Inspector to invite them to recommend any specific modifications that might be required to make the Plan sound. 


Members recalled that public consultation on the Submission Version of the Plan for the Garden Community had commenced on 15th May 2023 and had closed on 25th June 2023, during which Officers had held nine face-to-face engagement events, which had been attended by 214 visitors.


The report was introduced by way of a presentation given by Amy Lester, the Garden Community Planning Manager.


It was reported that, in all, 276 representations from a total of 88 respondents had been received on different elements of the Submission Version Plan.  All of those representations had been published on the Consultation Portal website for public view which allowed interested parties to see what others had said.  Officers had registered and reviewed each of the representations received, all of which had been submitted in full to the Secretary of State in order to begin the process of independent examination by a Government-appointed Planning Inspector.


The Joint Committee was informed that, approximately 80% of the representations received had been in objection to the Submission Version Plan and 20% in support. The purpose of the Regulation 19 consultation stage had been to allow consultees the opportunity to make representations specifically on the ‘soundness’ and legal compliance of the DPD. 


Members were advised that the largest number of representations had been submitted in response to GC Policy 1 – Land Uses and Spatial Approach.   A number of respondents had continued to challenge the need for the Garden Community altogether; arguing that the development should not go ahead at all. However, the majority of comments had been constructive, with people keen to ensure the development was successful and genuinely met Garden Community principles.


The Joint Committee was told that, on the whole, the representations had presented a broad and diverse spectrum of views with less emphasis on the particular key issues which had emerged through the previous regulation 18 consultation.  There was significant support for the Country Park, protection of the Salary Brook Slopes, quantum of green infrastructure and the Strategic Green Gaps.


Members were made aware that transport, traffic and implications for the existing road network, along with concerns about active travel and modal shift targets had generated a notable body of representations against GC Policy 7 – Movement and Connections.  With views expressed that the plan was both overly aspirational and that it did not go far enough.  Concerns also remained among some respondents about the funding and phasing of the Link Road and that there was insufficient detail on the RTS route, operation and implications for Clingoe Hill and Greenstead roundabout.


It was reported that whilst some concern remained about any development proposed south of the A133 (one of the main issues raised at the previous regulation 18 consultation), more representations this time round had related to the impact of the Garden Community on Elmstead Market, including concerns about coalescence and impact on heritage assets.  A number of representations had also continued to suggest that the Plan gave insufficient protection to the existing community and character of Crockleford Health.


People remained particularly keen that the development was infrastructure led and did not result in existing infrastructure, services and facilities being overwhelmed; that it achieved a high level of energy efficiency; that it delivered high quality architectural and urban design; and that it protected existing historic and natural assets and incorporated high quality open spaces.


The Joint Committee was informed that Latimer, as the master developer bringing forward the Garden Community, continued to offer broad support for the DPD’s overall objectives, vision and purpose including reference to the Garden City Principles.  Latimer had set out key points of objection and had requested amendments to each chapter and policy in the DPD.  The comments were primarily focused on seeking that a greater degree of flexibility was built into the DPD and its policies.   One key area of difference in Latimer and the Councils’ position related to the possible location of student accommodation to meet the University of Essex’s requirements. In particular, Latimer was suggesting that additional flexibility was allowed on the University expansion land south of the A133 in order to enable an element of purpose-built student accommodation to be provided within that location.


Members were made aware that the University of Essex, in its latest representations, had also acknowledged positives within the Submission Version DPD, but remained of the view that the Plan was unsound. The University felt that it failed both to properly provide for the University’s expansion and failed to make appropriate provision for the employment land to link to the Knowledge Gateway.  The University did not support student accommodation within the Garden Community’s neighbourhoods as it would only consider developing new student accommodation as a seamless extension to the existing campus.


It was noted that a number of outstanding issues and areas of disagreement therefore remained.  Officers would continue to work cooperatively with statutory bodies and key stakeholders to advance a series of Statements of Common Ground (SoCG) and to seek to resolve and clarify points where possible, and to establish key issues likely to be considered by the Inspector. Through this process, Officers might identify small changes to the DPD that could resolve certain minor matters and Officers were therefore asking the Joint Committee for delegated authority to put forward such changes to the Inspector for their consideration as part of the examination process.


Officers were also asking the Joint Committee to agree that, through the examination process, the Planning Inspector be invited to make recommendations for specific changes to the DPD that, in their view, would resolve any matters of soundness (if found) and which might form formal ‘modifications’ that might require consultation in their own right before the DPD could be adopted. 


The Joint Committee then proceeded to discuss and debate matters pertaining to the Officers’ recommendations as follows:-


Recommendation 1)

Councillor Andrea Luxford-Vaughan (CCC)


·      no particular issues with the report except to question the position of land south of A133 in the conclusion rankings in the Officer presentation. It’s been well established that this is a significant issue for the residents of Wivenhoe, and in addition, Wivenhoe Town Council and Elmstead Parish Council should have been included within the list of statutory consultees on the presentation slide;


Councillor Carlo Guglielmi (TDC)


·      it had been demonstrated that concern about the land south of the A133 had been raised by only a small number of people. This land lay within the District of Tendring and that should not be lost sight of;

·      the boundary had been pushed further and further into Tendring and away from Colchester so something had to give;

·      always been the view of Tendring not to sterilise such a large piece of land so that also had to be noted. It was a huge piece of land that would eat into the density of the development as well as other things.


Councillor Lesley Wagland (ECC)


·      referred to the combination of public consultation fatigue and the public belief of ‘fait accompli’ she wondered in whose interests it was to continue promulgating that belief that it’s not worthwhile responding to a consultation;

·      stated her belief that the opposite was true;

·      reminded Members that the amount of consultation responses provided by the public would be vital to the success of the Examination-in-Public and therefore urged that it was always worthwhile to respond to a consultation;

·      suggested that Officers find a way of putting into the public domain that the Regulation 19 consultation method had been set by the Planning Inspectorate and not by the Councils;

·      further encouraged all those who disagreed with that consultation methodology should write to the Planning Inspectorate to inform them and ask them to change it.


Recommendation 2)


Councillor William Sunnucks (CCC)


·      important now to focus on the statement of common ground with Latimer especially given the scale of their ‘dissent’ in their consultation representations and the gulf in position between them and the Councils. These needed to be resolved before the DPD inspection especially with regards to the Infrastructure Delivery Phasing and Funding Plan.


Councillor Andrea Luxford-Vaughan (CCC)


·      wanted a timescale of when Members were likely to see the statements of common ground, together with the topic papers being produced for the Inquiry.


Councillor Lesley Wagland (ECC)


·      important to understand that statements of common ground were a process which was very well known in planning terms. Common ground avoided the need to contest it at the Examination-in-Public so producing them was a purely procedural way of saving time;

·      public might be alarmed to see such statements where it looks like the developer and the Councils are on the same side so asked the Councils to produce an explanatory note to explain that this was merely a time saving procedural aspect for the Inquiry only;

·      always far apart at the start but would come much closer together as time got nearer to the Inquiry.


Councillor Mike Bush (TDC)


·      referred to the matter of stewardship and estates management and expressed his concern that the Councils were not fully engaged on this with Latimer in the run up to the Inquiry.


Amy Lester, the Garden Community Planning Manager, responded to Members’ statements as follows:-


·      in relation to the statements of common ground, Officers were at the very beginning of the process on all of those so could not give a timeline but they would not be coming forward in the near future;

·      there was no timeline yet for the Inquiry and the production of the statements of common ground could, in theory, take right up to the date of that Inquiry. They would be put into the public domain as soon as possible;

·      the statutory bodies statement had been prepared but had yet to be finalised;

·      an initial Health Topic Paper had been prepared and placed on the Examination website and other topic papers on viability and the land south of the A133 had been started. There would be others;

·      the Inspector would drive this process going forward as he decided what the issues were for the Inquiry.


Councillor Tom Cunningham (ECC)


·      as this would be his last meeting as a member of the Joint Committee, he paid full tribute to the work, dedication, application and integrity of the various Officer teams involved. He also paid tribute to the work and dedication of the Lead Members from the Councils and for their political leadership on a very difficult project.


Recommendation 3)


Councillor Andrea Luxford-Vaughan (CCC)


·      what was the definition of ‘minor’?

·      would they be circulated and made public?


Amy Lester, the Garden Community Planning Manager, responded to Councillor Luxford-Vaughan as follows:-


·      yes, these are minor changes to the policy so they would not make significant changes to the policy as they would not be possible at this stage of the process;

·      an example of such a minor change was that a healthy had asked for the inclusion of particular wording relating to “emergency services” so that where the policy refers to health and well-being services that it also refers to emergency services as well;

·      so those would be very minor changes to the text that don’t change the fundamental principles of the policy in any way;

·      they would be put into the public domain and sent to the Inspector and would go forward into the Examination-in-Public.


Councillor William Sunnucks (CCC)


·      stated that there was a need to make two major changes to the DPD to tighten up the clauses of the DPD relating to the link road and the Infrastructure Delivery due to the fact that there was now only going to be half a link road with no binding commitment for the remainder. Additionally, Latimer wanted to examine the evidence at the time rather than commit to the Infrastructure Delivery Plan as it currently stood;

·      the Councils should therefore request the Inspector to make those two changes.


Councillor Carlo Guglielmi (TDC)


·      Councils had a firm commitment from Latimer through a Memorandum of Understanding that the link road would be financed;

·      conversation needed with Latimer was - what was going to give, given that the ‘pot’ was limited;

·      now was not the time to be raising potential major modifications.


Amy Lester, the Garden Community Planning Manager, responded to Councillor Sunnucks as follows:-


·      clarify that it was not within the Councils’ gift at the moment to suggest major modifications to the submitted Plan in the lead up to the Examination;

·      it would be for the Inspector to draw out the areas of difference and to thrash those out and to put forward any major modifications themselves.


Councillor Lesley Wagland (ECC)


·      there were a number of different points at which those matters will be addressed including the Section 106 Agreement;

·      this was a common occurrence when it came to such road schemes;

·      the use of a phasing approach had the advantage of being able to be dealt with under the Section 106 Agreement by reference to a developer who has made a commitment to doing so and that commitment could be built into the planning process but there were innumerable steps along the way at which those matters could be addressed including planning conditions and Section 106 Agreements.   


It was thereupon RESOLVED that the Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community Joint Committee –


1)  notes the contents of this report and the issues raised in response to the Regulation 19 consultation on the Submission Version Plan;


2)  endorses the continued work of Officers in the preparation of the supplementary material necessary to aid the Planning Inspector and the forthcoming Examination in Public;


3)  authorises the Garden Community Planning Manager, in consultation with TDC’s Director (Planning), CCC’s Executive Director (Place), ECC’s Director for Sustainable Growth, and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community Joint Committee, to submit minor suggested modifications to the DPD for the Planning Inspector’s consideration ahead of the examination-in-public;


4)  agrees that, in accordance with Section 20(7C) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended), a request be made to the Inspector to recommend specific modifications, if required, to make the Plan sound.



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