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Developments of this scale would completely change the nature and character of Mersea Island. While residents in general accept there is a need for additional housing over the coming 15 years, when assessing changes to Mersea CBC should also be considering the changes that have taken place over recent years and the availability of services for existing (and potential new) residents.
Mersea Island has recently seen a massive increase in population with several caravan parks being allowed to remain open all year. This appears to have been discounted in population figures but it is clear that the parks are being used as full time residences for many. Overall, over the long term, this is likely to increase - this change in conditions could lead to 5-10% increase in population before any additional development is considered - CBC should understand the result of these changes and deduct this population growth from any newly permitted development to ensure Mersea remains in line with the rest of the borough.
CBC should also look closely at the type of houses to be developed. It is very positive that developments must be in keeping with the surrounding housing - i.e., large plots with detached bungalows and 4 bed family homes with extensive gardens, all at very low densities. However, CBC should enforce this positively - developers will wish to build high-density housing similar to Wellhouse Green which is not in keeping with the locations listed or in line with the current draft plan. CBC should also be clear about the type of housing to be developed as this will influence the effect these changes have on local services - e.g. high density housing will tend to be for young families who will be more likely to have multiple vehicles and children in local schools.
At the present time, Mersea Island school appears to be operating at capacity in many years. An 11% growth in housing could be expected to lead to an 11% growth in school numbers which could not be accommodated within most existing school years. This growth would be higher if developers were allowed to build high-density housing. There is a serious risk that the school may be forced to develop on the school field to accommodate an extra 8-10 children per year - this would lose a very valuable facility. Alternatively, parents may be forced to accept mixed year classes for more year groups - again not something that should be encouraged.
Other facilities are at breaking point; Mersea no longer has police presence, and roads are stretched at times. On 4 occasions in the last week, the island has been shut for some time due to poorly planned roadworks, and queues extended to Colchester on two of these occasions. Does CBC understand the potential effect of an additional 350 - 700 vehicles accessing the island at peak times and has the tide been taken into account?
In another incident, the main route onto the island was closed due to an accident. During this period, Dawes Lane handled a higher level of traffic than normal. Queues were in excess of 30 minutes to reach the end of Dawes Lane and access East Road. How would this be resolved? i.e. - has CBC taken account of the changes required to roads to allow these additional vehicles to use Dawes Lane - a single track road?
Overall - Mersea is an island which has withstood considerable growth in recent years but is now markedly busier and is struggling to retain character. Simply allowing more growth in line with the borough is not a reasoned approach - and assuming all local services will cope is simply failing to look at the issues.