All a bit predictable and dull. Have the planners really run out of ideas?
Chelmsford North East Bypass and Beaulieu Station
Chelmsford is one of the UK’s newest cities and plays a vital role in the heart of Essex providing homes, jobs, shopping, healthcare, education, leisure and recreational opportunities.
As a driver of the regional economy, Chelmsford needs a transport network to match if it is to properly facilitate future development and economic growth.
As a result, Essex County Council, in partnership with the City Council, and in collaboration with Network Rail, is behind a scheme to deliver a North East Bypass of Chelmsford and a new railway station at Beaulieu.
This transformational road and rail upgrade is being delivered with nearly £218m in funding from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund, plus £34m of other funding from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and developer Countryside Zest.
The existing A130 between the Boreham Interchange and the A131 was originally built in the 1980s. It needs to be fit for purpose, particularly as Chelmsford continues to grow, catering for increased walking, cycling and public transport.
The new 8km bypass, running between the A131 and the A12 at Boreham will help provide this, bypassing residential areas and relieving high levels of traffic congestion in Chelmsford.
Chelmsford station, meanwhile, is the busiest two platform station outside London with 8.5 million passenger trips per year.
The new Beaulieu station, at the southern end of the NE Chelmsford Garden Community, on the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) from London to Norwich, will relieve crowding at Chelmsford.
It will also act as a transport interchange to encourage sustainable travel by bus, cycle, electric vehicles and on foot.
Background to the North East Bypass
In 2007, Essex County Council and its partners laid out a long-term plan for a Chelmsford North East Bypass and safeguarded the land. Safeguarding is part of the planning process and helps protect land set aside for infrastructure projects such as this one from being used for other purposes.
In 2008, due to economic challenges and reduced funding for local authorities, the scheme was put on hold. However, the corridor has been safeguarded since then, and updates to the safeguarded corridor were presented in the Draft Local Plan consultation held in early 2018. The updates ensure there is sufficient space for the scheme and that no land is safeguarded unnecessarily.
The consultation ran for six weeks, from Wednesday, 31 January 2018, and was the last opportunity to comment on the proposal for the safeguarded corridor updates before the process of seeking legal powers to safeguard the land commences.
The proposed bypass would go from Boreham Interchange on the A12 to the Deres Bridge junction on the A131
The corridor generally reflects a 100m boundary, which is wide enough to ensure the bypass can be built, connect to the local road network, and provide land for environmental mitigation. The land required for junctions, structures and other key highway features, such as local road diversions, has also been updated.
In March 2019, Essex County Council submitted a Housing Infrastructure Fund bid titled ‘Chelmsford North East Bypass and Beaulieu Railway Station’ in relation to this project.
This set out how investment into the bypass and the railway station would enable the new development at Beaulieu to reach its full potential. It also demonstrated how the new bypass will help relieve congestion on local roads.
Death knell for North Essex Garden Communities Ltd (NEGC)?
Is it time to wind up North Essex Garden Communities Ltd, the Braintree Council and tax-payer funded delivery vehicle of the ill fated new towns proposal? The work presented by NEGC to the inspector has been slated. The PR exercise last autumn seems to have been a complete shambles. NEGC Ltd always was a waste of money and it certainly is not needed to deliver one ‘garden community’, the developer confirmed that at the recent hearings. Council budgets are under huge pressure already. To divert funds to NEGC would seem to be unacceptable.
We urge councillors to take a long hard look at advice they have been given by officers over the past five years, and council leaders should consider their positions. Communities have been ignored and £8 million pounds wasted, without taking into account the normal costs of preparing a local plan.
Villages saved from A12 re-route?
We await final confirmation that the £272m HIF award to re-align the A12 to squeeze in thousands more homes at West Tey has been formally dropped. The written intention always was that if West Tey did not go ahead the 2017 preferred, and less contentious, route for A12 widening would proceed. It seems as though Copford, Easthorpe, Messing and countryside around them, have been saved from this, quite frankly, ridiculous and pointless re-alignment.
A Ministry press release acknowledges the failure of the plan, while saying,
“We applaud the ambition of the North Essex authorities and will consider whether this plan raises any questions for how large sites are examined in the future.”
The Way Forward
Involve local people. Engage properly & listen to feedback
Put the environment & sustainable travel at the heart of any future plan
Plan for what we need. Revisit all assumptions about infrastructure and affordable housing
Braintree’s Leader, Graham Butland, has expressed disappointment, in an open letter, that some of the Planning Inspector’s judgements about West of Braintree garden community were based on ‘fine margins’.
Let’s look at the Inspector’s findings.
Mr Clews actually says that West of Braintree is BELOW or AT BEST at the margins of viability. He reminds us that this is contrary to the advice of planning guidance. This isn’t judgement. It is national planning guidance. He is doing his job.
Let’s look next at what Mr Clews says about those landowners and developers who Mr Butland says are willing to bring the project forward.
The inspector notes that these willing developers wish to provide less infrastructure than the authorities require, that they do not phase the infrastructure payments (thus meaning that infrastructure would not come first) and that they apply only a 10% contingency. Those willing developers are not in the game of providing the utopian garden community lifestyle we are promised.
And finally, let’s look at the rapid transit system. The inspector found that the route connecting West of Braintree to the outside world is undeliverable. That means everyone would have to drive. The authorities’ costs have been found to be far too low, do not include land acquisition or structures, and have an inadequate contingency.
None of this sounds like an inspector making judgements based on fine margins. It sounds like an inspector doing his job thoroughly and examining the evidence submitted.”
Planning Officer's response to NEGC's proposal to Braintree Council.
Braintree Council accused of downplaying quit petition
Rosie Pearson has helped set up Better Braintree – Together
BRAINTREE Council was accused of “downplaying” the petition calling for the resignation of its leader.
Rosie Pearson, who started the petition calling for Graham Butland to step down, made the claim when presenting the document to councillors in a meeting.
The council had allowed the petition to be debated despite stating it did not have the 1,000 signatures required.
It said only 571 of the 1,628 signatories were residents in the district.
But this was questioned by Ms Pearson, who called for an investigation into the petition process.
Ms Pearson said:
“I believe many hundreds of signatures have been wrongly discounted.
“The chair and vice-chair of one of the district’s parish councils have not been validated. Nor have other long-standing residents. In one household one spouse was validated, the other was not.
“In addition, many people who live outside the district or come here to work would have been directly affected by the garden communities – by the traffic, the rail commuters, the competition for jobs, the loss of 5,600 acres countryside and the huge debt required.
“Whichever way you read it, it is clear that the council has tried to downplay the petition and the strength of feeling, and appears to be attempting to discredit me.”
Mr Butland rejected the concerns raised about the petition process, and said the council was only able to go on information provided by those who signed it.
He said: “The council was presented with a list of the signatories and where they were from.
“It is up to the lead petitioner to check addresses and provide the council with the information. Officers were only able to use the information given to them and validate the ones who listed an address in the district.
“I think it shows online petitions are flawed and are not the way to do this.
“The only continent we didn’t have a signature from was Antarctica.”
Graham Butland: I’ve been the victim of a vendetta!
COUNCILLORS have rallied around their leader and given him their full support amid plans to remove him from his post.
Braintree Council leader Graham Butland received the backing of 38 councillors during a debate on his future on Monday.
The debate had been triggered by a petition calling for his resignation after the council’s plans to build two new garden communities – made up of 34,000 homes – either side of Braintree were ruled to be “undeliverable”.
Colchester, Tendring and Essex County councils had also supported the proposals.
The ruling means the Braintree district has yet to secure a housing plan – something critics say leaves the region open to speculative development.
Petitioners called for Mr Butland to “take responsibility” for the apparent failure to deliver a housing plan and step down.
But more than 75 per cent of councillors voted for him to continue as leader, with only eight Green and Independent councillors calling for his resignation.
In a speech delivered during the debate, Mr Butland said he felt he had been the victim of an “orchestrated and highly personal vendetta” following the ruling on the garden communities.
He also said the petition had made “falsehoods and half-truths” about him.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Butland admitted he was pleased to have the support of his colleagues, but said he had concerns about an increase in personal attacks on himself and other councillors.