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COLCHESTER BOROUGH COUNCIL LOCAL PLAN PREFERRED OPTIONS CONSULTATION
There was some discussion about current proposals in the Borough Preferred Options consultation. Councillors also reviewed a plan from a developer to provide for small development on both the Copford side and Marks Tey side of the existing Car Boot Sale land - land which has been included in the Borough Consultation as protected green space between communities. It was RESOLVED that this whilst the Community Woodland proposal was attractive, supporting such a scheme would be reducing an important green space barrier between the two villages and that this would not be appropriate.
RESOLVED: to respond to the consultation as follows:
This Council would have preferred to have seen more focus on use of existing brownfield sites.
Proposed sites, Density and Infrastructure
This Council have serious concerns about the numbers of houses proposed across the two proposed sites of Queensbury Avenue and Hall Road, which together with infill development could be expected to deliver up to 180 houses over the Plan period. This would represent a 25% increase to the number of homes in our community and is considered to be too high and seems to represent one of the highest allocations for smaller Villages such as Copford and we would welcome a downwards review of this number. We have particular concerns about local infrastructure being able to support any development: roads are already heavily congested and commuter parking is causing considerable problems for all villagers and there is insufficient local healthcare capacity or school places to provide for so many new residents. We would like to see the Plan amended to confirm that suitable infrastructure will be in place BEFORE any development commences.
Proposals for Queensbury Avenue Site
We would like to see a policy specific to this site which will protect mature trees, shrubs, historical hedgerows and important natural features that we consider define the local landscape character. We have concerns about the limited access/egress to the site for both construction traffic in the development phase and long term for additional traffic which will be generated from such a new residential development. Given that the development is separated from all important community facilities (i.e. Pits Wood, Pits Wood Play Area, Village Hall, School and Pub) by London Road, which is a busy road, plagued by commuter parking which makes it very difficult for pedestrians to cross, we would insist that any new development should provide for new and safe pedestrian crossing and resident only parking restrictions in order to avoid damaging community cohesion and therefore sustainability of the site, by effectively isolating all of the Queensbury estate from the rest of the Village. In order to mitigate for commuter parking moving to other areas in the Village such as School Road, Allendale Drive and Queensbury Avenue the new development should provide for residents only parking restrictions across the Village.
Proposals for Hall Road
This Council feel that the lack of any suitable footpath into the Village and the difficulties of being able to construct a suitable footpath in to the main social and economic areas of the Village, based on the current lay of the land and the road, bring in to question the sustainability of the site. Further to this, we are concerned about the precedent being set in this particularly rural part of the Village, with gradual 'spread' towards open countryside and Pits Wood, a key social and environmental Village Asset. We are also aware that this is a potentially important Archaeological site and if development were to be allowed to go ahead would wish to see a policy specific to this site to ensure a full and detailed Archaeological investigation of the site is undertaken and that full consideration (including local consultation) should be given to preserving or enhancing anything of special historic interest before development would be allowed. The site should have a specific policy detailing a very low density development in keeping with its rural surroundings.
Protection of Community Assets
We would like to see the following community assets, which are owned by the Parish Council, given recognition and specific protection in the Borough Local Plan with each to have a Local Green Space Designation:
Wellhome Meadow Recreation Ground (Queensbury Avenue)
Pits Meadow Recreation Ground (School Road behind the Village Hall)
The ownership of the following piece of land is unknown but historically has always been considered to be 'Common Land' within the existing Conservation Area, and so we feel that Local Green Space Designation is also appropriate.
Copford Green (unregistered triangular piece of land adjacent School Road and Rectory Road)
The Council will also be applying to have this particular piece of land registered as an Asset of Community Value.
Developer Community Contributions
In addition to delivering residents only parking across the Village as detailed previously we would wish to ensure that our Villages of Copford and Easthorpe could see some definite Community Benefit from accepting housing growth. With regards parking issues whilst we accept that the proximity to A12 and Marks Tey station makes our Village a good parking spot for commuters, this is to the detriment of residents' quality of life and we would be looking for development to mitigate this, and improve our quality of life. We feel that the delivery of Superfast Broadband across both Villages of Copford and Easthorpe, should be a non-negotiable condition, with improved play facilities across existing recreation sites and potentially the provision of a new site to accommodate the increased population. Pits Wood currently survives on donations and funding contributions are needed to ensure that this community asset is sustainable into the future.
Proposed Garden Cities
The creation of a new community at West Tey, and a potential for 25000 new homes will have a huge impact on the small communities of Copford and Easthorpe. We are particularly concerned about the proximity of any new settlement to the rural village of Easthorpe and would wish to see substantial Green Space maintained between settlements and full and inclusive consultation on any proposals, including Settlement Development Boundaries before any agreements are made to proceed. The existing problems with traffic and roads infrastructure will only be worsened by such a development and we would insist that suitable infrastructure is in place BEFORE development is allowed to proceed. This should be guided by the needs and requirements of affected communities such as ourselves, rather than the needs of the new development.