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Representation 2631 on Preferred Options Local Plan by MOD (Miss Christine Ide)

Support / Object: OBJECT
Document Link: Preferred Options Local Plan - West Colchester, WC4: West Colchester
Representation: Policy WC4 safeguards allocations on the policies map for residential uses, subject to satisfying specific requirements.

The MOD objects to the omission of the Middlewick Ranges site from policy WC4.( or EC3?). The previously developed site is considered to be in a suitable location; and forms a logical extension of the Colchester settlement boundary given the surrounding residential land use. It is located in a sustainable location with good links to transport and key facilities.

Original submission

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) wishes to make the follow representations on the Colchester Preferred Options Local Plan which has been published for public consultation until 16 September 2016.

Middlewick Ranges, Colchester

The MOD is seeking the inclusion of an area of land at Middlewick Ranges, Colchester within the Local Plan as a housing allocation site for up to 2,000 dwellings. The site, which is currently used as a firing range, extends to an area of 84.695 hectares and is shown outlined in red on the attached plan.

Background
Middlewick Ranges was one of 13 sites across the Defence Estate that was the subject of a Ministerial Announcement on 6 September 2016.
The MOD is nearing the completion of an ambitious Estate Optimisation Strategy programme which will provide a plan for a smaller, but significantly better Defence Estate to meet the needs of the Armed Forces. It is expected that the MOD will announce the finalised Estate Optimisation Strategy later this year; however it was confirmed on 6 September that Middlewick Ranges was one of another 13 sites to be released. Land at the 13 sites covers more than 1,200 hectares and is expected to provide space for up to 17,000 new homes.

Last week's announcement is part of the department's strategy to reduce the size of its estate by 30% by 2040, resulting in a smaller, but better Defence estate to cater for the future Armed Forces, and delivers upon the commitments made in the Strategic Defence & Security Review 2015 (SDSR15).
The Estate Optimisation Strategy will reduce the size of the MOD estate through the sale of sites for which there is no longer a long-term Defence requirement and allowing the co-location of similar functions. This will not only reduce unnecessary estate running costs for Defence, but also free up space for up to 55,000 homes across the UK.

It is anticipated that these will contribute some £225 million toward the MOD's £1 billion target for land release sales as set out in the SDSR.

These sites will also contribute to the Government commitment to provide land for 160,000 homes in this Parliament and the MOD's target to provide land for 55,000 houses as set out above.
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The MOD has only therefore very recently been in a position to promote the site at Middlewick Ranges for housing development, and that is the reason it has not submitted representations earlier in the Local Plan process.

The MOD would welcome an on-going dialogue with the Council in order to determine how best the outcomes of the Estate Optimisation Strategy can be accommodated in the Colchester area.

Supporting Information

Site Location and Description

The previously developed site of Middlewick Ranges comprises a military live firing range and training area. It extends to approximately 85 hectares and is adjacent to the Colchester settlement boundary with predominately residential uses to the east, west and north. The site is bounded to the north and northeast by Abbotts Road and to the northwest by Mersea Road and it forms a logical extension to the existing built up area of Colchester.

The site is mainly flat with some minor ground undulations. There are military earthworks to provide firing points and stop butts.

Colchester Borough Council Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment August 2016

It is noted that Middlewick Ranges is included in the Council's published Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA) dated August 2016 (site reference COL71); due to the site having been assessed in an earlier study by the Council.

The overall rating for the site (page 66 of the SLAA document) is shown to be 'amber'.

It is stated on page 23 of the SLAA that:

'Sites assigned an amber rating had an issue or issues which whilst not significant enough to rule out development completely, were nonetheless significant enough to be highlighted in the site's overall rating. Sites were given an amber rating if the issues affecting the site were able to be overcome through reasonable mitigation measures. For example sites with no current availability may have been given an amber rating if the site's suitability and achievability rated highly (in the expectation that the site would become available in the near future). Essentially an amber rating means the site needs further consideration of key issues before being allocated for development in the Local Plan.'

The Middlewick Ranges site is shown to have been rated 'green' with respect to stage two of the assessment relating to suitability and sustainability and the criteria used to assess sites for this stage of the assessment process are set out on pages 12 to 18 of the SLAA.

It is stated on page 12 of the document that:

'Stage 2 of the site assessment had the purpose of assessing sites' suitability and sustainability. A site is considered to be suitable for development if it is free from constraints, or where any constraints affecting the land can be overcome through reasonable mitigation. Suitability constraints include physical constraints such as the site's relationship to the relevant settlement boundary and the capacity for highways access to site. Additionally there are environmental constraints to assess such as the impact on landscape character and the effects of development on wildlife sites. A site's suitability is also affected by its sustainability level, that is how close it is located to existing services and facilities or whether development of the site could accommodate new services and facilities within its boundaries.'

It is clear therefore from this assessment that the Council already considers the site to be 'suitable' for development and in a sustainable location.

In terms of the sites 'availability' Middlewick Ranges is given an amber rating in the SLAA. Given the very recently announcement by the MOD that the site is to be released for development in order to contribute to the Government's target for the MOD to provide land for 55,000 new homes; this status can be amended to 'green'. Although the site is currently used as a firing range, this is no obstacle to the sites development and it is anticipated that the site will be available for development within the next five years.

With respect to the sites 'achievability' Middlewick Ranges is again rated amber. A site is considered to be achievable if it is feasible to actually develop the site and whether it is financially viable to do so. The Middlewick Ranges site is subject to a local wildlife site designation but is otherwise free from any known major constraints to development, and there is no evidence to suggest that development of the site would not be viable. It is acknowledged that some improvements are likely to be needed to the surrounding highway network, and it is noted that Colchester Borough Council intend to prepare an Infrastructure Delivery Plan in the near future which will provide details of the required main items of infrastructure to deliver the Local Plan, including highways.

Policy SG1: Colchester's Spatial Strategy

Policy SG1 stipulates that growth in the Borough will be located at the most accessible and sustainable locations in accordance with the spatial strategy for North Essex set out in Policy SP6 and with the Settlement Hierarchy set out in Table SG1.

The MOD supports the Spatial Hierarchy of SG1 which focuses growth on the urban area of Colchester reflecting its position as the main location for jobs, housing, services and transport.

The Middlewick Ranges site is immediately adjacent to the built up area of Colchester and the redevelopment of the site for residential purposes would be in accordance with the spatial hierarchy set out in Policy SG1. If the site were to be brought forward for housing it would reduce pressure on the need to develop greenfield sites in less sustainable locations away from the urban area and having a lower priority order in the spatial hierarchy.

Policy WC4: West Colchester

Policy WC4 safeguards allocations on the policies map for residential uses, subject to satisfying specific requirements.

The MOD objects to the omission of the Middlewick Ranges site from policy WC4. The previously developed site is considered to be in a suitable location; and forms a logical extension of the Colchester settlement boundary given the surrounding residential land use. It is located in a sustainable location with good links to transport and key facilities.

Merville Barracks, Colchester

The policies map for West Colchester shows an area of land to the north of Earlswood Way (and bounded to the east by Berechurch Road) as designated public open space. Part of the area shaded green on the map forms part of Pegasus Camp, the northern section of Merville Barracks, and is not public open space.

The MOD therefore objects to the West Colchester policies map as currently drafted.

Summary

The MOD is seeking the allocation of land at Middlewick Ranges for residential development in the Colchester Local Plan for up to 2,000 dwellings, subject to detailed assessment.

The release of the site was announced on 6 September 2016 as part of the Estate Optimisation Strategy which will reduce the size of the MOD estate through the sale of sites for which there is no longer a long-term Defence requirement. The aim is to have a smaller, but better Defence estate to cater for the future Armed Forces. The release of sites such as Middlewick Ranges will also contribute to the Government commitment to provide land for 160,000 homes in this Parliament and the MOD's target to provide land for 55,000 houses as part of that target.

This very recent announcement regarding the release of the site is the reason that the MOD has not promoted the site for development at an earlier stage in the preparation of the Colchester Local Plan.

The Council's Strategic Land Availability Assessment concludes that the site is suitable for development and in a sustainable location. The issue of 'availability' is resolved by the Ministerial announcement that the site is to be released, and it will be available for development within the next five years. In terms of the 'achievability' criteria there are no known major constraints to development or any reason why the development of the site would not be viable.

The Middlewick Ranges site forms a logical extension of the Colchester settlement boundary given the surrounding residential land use and the site is previously developed; located in a sustainable location with good links to transport and key facilities. Its development accords with the spatial hierarchy of the Preferred Options Local Plan which prioritises the urban area of Colchester for development. The development of Middlewick Ranges could help to reduce the need to build housing on greenfield land in less sustainable locations remote from the urban area.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you should have any queries or require further information on the above.

The MOD would welcome a meeting with the Council to discuss the issues surrounding the potential residential development at Middlewick Ranges when further details become available.

Attached Files for this Submission


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