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I appreciate that there is a need to accommodate a growing population nationally and more locally in Colchester. I am a supporter of sustainable, considered development.
In my view though, recent developments in and around Great Horkesley have been permitted without the requisite level of foresight around services, both those services that are in the control of CBC and ECC, but also those outside of their control. Irrespective of who is responsible for delivering particular services, it is critical that there is a joined up approach to services that delivers what is needed at the local level.
80 new dwellings in one location in Great Horkesley will have a significant cumulative impact when considered on top of the 200 or so houses already built in the last 10 years in and around the primary school, and the additional 1,600 houses being built at Chesterwell.
I am personally concerned by the provision of schooling (or lack thereof), including for my children who will be needing secondary education in the next few years. It was myopic for the local authorities to remove the requirement of a new secondary school at Chesterwell given the growth in the number of school age children that these developments seem to attract. They are family-sized homes after all.
Most of these new properties will be closer to the existing schools (St Helena, Gilberd) than properties pushing children in the village, further down the list for school entry. ON a personal level, we moved into Great Horkesley in part due to the proximity of schools and the prospect of children walking or cycling to school. Fortunately, they are both in our local school and can do so, but I am far from convinced that this will be able to continue at secondary level without a new school in our catchment area. These concerns will be shared throughout the village and more widely no doubt. In aggregate the many families that find themselves in this position just results in pushing more traffic onto the roads. This brings me to the next point.
The arterial routes in Colchester are not fit to cope with the increased traffic levels. The park & ride service which was established, in part, to address this problem is so overpriced, that it is little wonder it is under-utilised. Why not a price per vehicle?
The bus services serving Great Horkesley are adequate at best. There is little or no service that accommodates commuters returning from London in the evening, without a significant wait. Again, pushing more private vehicles onto the road instead. It is also another expensive service. Palatable for the solo commuter perhaps, but not for family trips to town. A return trip into town for one adult and one child costs in the region of £6, far more than parking would cost, and far less convenient. People vote with their feet and choose to drive instead.
With regard to other forms of transport, the railways particularly to London are creaking at the seams. It is encouraging that investment in new rolling stock has been achieved but will this be sufficient to cope with the burgeoning demand, particularly from Colchester? Colchester has a large London commuter base, and is expected to grow by up to 75% by some estimates I've seen. Peak-time capacity increases are a must.
The choice is simple, either improve the roads to accommodate more private vehicles and make up for the fact public transport is not a viable option; or (preferably) improve the public transport provision to take cars off the road. Right now neither of these is being addressed in a meaningful way in my view. Spending over £1 million on a new cycle path, which nobody wants, on Mile End Road is wasteful - and I am a cyclist who cycles that route daily by the way, but I don't use the cycle path.
Other services need major investment before approval of more new housing, hospital provision, GP provision.
In summary, I understand that incremental and sustainable housing growth is unavoidable but the services need to be in place to support this growth, and in place before / along with housing growth, not as a delayed after-thought --- sufficient local school provision, effective and affordable public transport, health services, emergency services, road and rail infrastructure.