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As referred to above, it is supported that West Mersea is considered to be a sustainable location for some housing growth.
Land at Dawes Lane is allocated for up to 150 dwellings, however without the individual factors the council have taken into account for each site in the SLAA, it is difficult to fully comment on this allocation. It is noted the Settlement Boundary Review (SBR) outlines that as West Mersea is heavily constrained by its coastal boundaries and the associated wildlife and landscape designations, future expansion is only possible to the east of the town. However we do not agree that future expansion should be restricted to the east and the SBR takes a blanket approach by taking the view further development would be inappropriate to the north given its prominent location. With suitable mitigation it is considered there is some scope along the northern boundary for development within our client's land, either on its own or in conjunction with neighbouring sites also put forward.
Our client's land is in the SLAA, reference MER07, and it was discounted at the 1a sieve stage. However we do not know specifically the reasons for it being discounted. As such, we have considered the site against the assessment criteria outlined in section 5 of the SLAA for stage 1a and outline the following:
* The site is greenfield, but not within flood zone 3
* It is suitable for more than 5 dwellings and the site is larger than 0.25ha
* The site is not physically separate from the existing development boundary or outside a vicinity of potential growth - the site's southern boundary adjoins the West Mersea settlement boundary.
* The site is within the Coastal Protection Belt, but it is not considered development would have a significant negative effect on a designated site. Furthermore it is not clear from the Council's perspective how they would determine whether a site would cause a significant negative effect or not. In this case, the site is approx. 0.5 miles from the Blackwater Estuary SSSI and SPA, and there is mature boundary treatment screening the site from wider viewpoints.
* The site can be accessed from the public highway.
As such using the SLAA's own methodology there is no reason for the site to fail the Stage 1a first sieve.
For further clarity we have also applied the second sieve at stage 1b to our client's site, the following is relevant:
* The site is not allocated
* The site is not protected for another use
* There is no other reason, such as an issue with the site's deliverability, that would indicate a full site assessment would not be necessary
Therefore, we are of the view that the site passes both the stage 1a and stage 1b sieving processes. The SLAA rating appears inconsistent in comparison with similarly located sites. For example the neighbouring site at MER03 passes the 1a sieve but fails the 1b sieve. It is not clear what differences the site at MER03 has to pass stage 1a, yet our client's site is discounted.
Looking more closely at the site proposed for allocation, it is also in the Coastal Protection Belt and has a similar relationship in terms of its position along the northern boundary of the boundary, yet it passes the 1a and 1b sieve to be fully considered for its suitability, availability and achievability. Our client's site should have been considered fully for its suitability, availability and achievability as part of the SLAA. Each of these factors are considered below:
* Suitability: Overall the site is well located adjoining the existing settlement boundary to the south. Due to the well established hedgerows and planting the site is screened from public vantage points along Colchester Road or the public footpath running along the north boundary of the site. Additional screening could be incorporated through landscaping and boundary treatment. It is recognised the site is within the CPB, however it would be in accordance with Policy ENV2 and the design, layout and landscaping would seek to minimise the impact on the surrounding landscape, protecting the character of the area and the Coastal Belt. The site has access to transport options and local services and facilities available in West Mersea. The client has instructed highway consultants to undertake a feasibility review of the site. This found, subject to more detailed investigations as the site progresses, there would be development potential to provide a suitable access from Colchester Road and it is unlikely there would be any significant highway constraints.
* Availability: the site is promoted for development and there are no issues in relation to site ownership. The site is not intensively used and therefore would not prevent development on the site coming forward based on existing use value considerations.
* Achievability: There are no viability constraints known; there is no ransom strip that would restrict development; the land is not protected for an alternative use; there is no known contamination; any necessary infrastructure would come forward with the development; the site does not have a history of unimplemented permissions; and there are no other known reasons why the development would have a significant effect on the deliverability of the site.
The site is therefore suitable, available and deliverable for sustainable development of housing and should be considered as part of the Local Plan.
Please see attached representations for full details.