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From the 310 page report considered by the Local Plan Committee of Colchester Borough Council I wish to confine my comments to land to the east of Salary Brook - variously in the Borough of Colchester and in Tendring District.
My submission endorses the comments which I made at the Borough Council's Local Plan Committee meetings on 5th July and 15th August, and follow my two letters to Colchester Borough Council seeking information as to a precise boundary by the two councils to the proposed "garden village" on the eastern boundary of Colchester Borough and the western boundary of Tendring District.
I have also written two letters making the same request to the Chief Executive of Tendring District Council and one letter to the Leader of Tendring Council. I have not had a reply to any of these three letters.
In his reply to me of 29th July, Mr Ian Vipond, Colchester Council's Strategic Director - Commercial & Place, Executive Management Team, told me: "We do not have any agreed boundaries as yet and this work will be subject to preparation of Masterplans involving community engagement to set the right boundaries."
However, this has not stopped the Borough Council - before "community engagement" even started! - imposing a firm boundary within the Salary Brook area which it has earmarked for the University of Essex! This decision is contrary to some of the other points made in the report to the Local Plan Committee, which I shall outline below - specifically the promise of "a Green Orbital surrounding the urban area of Colchester".
Allocating a ring-fenced area in this way is preferential treatment for the University at the expense of good planning and environmental considerations which the Report claims to attach importance, and which if allowed makes a travesty of those aspects of the report which are clearly ridden rough shod over.
I therefore Object to land to the north of Clinghoe Hill being zoned as "safeguarded for the expansion of the Knowledge Gateway". This land should be included, along with the rest of the eastern hillside of Salary Brook, as a country park.
The starting point in deliberations for the "garden village" to the East of Colchester should be to define the boundaries of the "minimum 70 hectares in size" of the Country Park along the "Salary Brook corridor" (sic) - not to (a) pre-determine an allocation of land for an expansion of the Knowledge Gateway which intrudes into the current open countryside to the north of Clinghoe Hill, and (b) not to allocate land for housing first and then allocating land for the Country Park second. The order should be the other way round - putting the horse before the cart, not the cart before the horse which is what is proposed in the Local Plan report.
Paragraph 4.15 Environment Assets Policies (Page 32)
This refers to "policies on the protection and enhancement of the Borough's natural environment and green infrastructure, ensuring continuing safeguarding of the Borough's countryside ..... as well as the development of new green infrastructure including a Green Orbital surrounding the urban area of Colchester."
I support this statement - if it means what it says.
SP7: Development and delivery of new garden communities in North Essex
On Page 81, following the three bullet points the following paragraph refers to each of them (of which "East of Colchester" is the subject of my comments) as being "an holistically and comprehensively planned new community with a distinct identify", to which in the context of my objections I draw attention to the words "green space".
This leads me on Page 82 where I quote in full the sub-section numbered (x):
Create distinctive environments which relate to the surrounding environment and that celebrate natural environments and systems, utilise a multi-functional green-grid to create significant networks of new green infrastructure including new country parks at each garden community, provide a high degree of connectivity to existing corridors and networks and enhance biodiversity."
An amazing use of words, but if I understand the phrasing I suggest it makes a nonsense to then say it is OK for the University to destroy visually and physically land to the north of Clinghoe Hill, all of which should be left as open countryside - an important part of "a Green Orbital".
SP8: East Colchester/West Tendring New Garden Community
On Page 83, Sub-section (v) says: "A high proportion of the garden community will comprise green infrastructure including a new country park around Salary Brook.
At the foot of Page 83, in sub-section "1" it states: "The development of a new garden community to high standards of design and layout drawing on its context and the considerable assets within its boundaries such as woodland, streams and changes in topography, as well as the opportunities afforded by the proximity of the University of Essex campus to create a new garden community.......set within a strong green framework." (My italics)
Later the same paragraph says there will be "A separation between the new garden community and the nearby villages of Elmstead Market and Wivenhoe."
If it is considered that there should be a separation between the new garden community and Elmstead Market and Wivenhoe (which I agree should be the case) then by the same token there should be a separation between the new garden community and the current eastern edge of urban Colchester. As with my comment to SP7, there should be no development on the eastern slopes of Salary Brook (between Clinghoe Hill and Bromley Road) so that visually and physically there would be no change to what is currently the case.
On Page 85, Section E Community Infrastructure Paragraph 15 states:
"A network of green infrastructure will be provided within the garden community including a community park facility, allotments, a new country park of a minimum of 70 hectares in size provided along Salary Brook corridor and incorporating Churn Wood, the provision of sports areas with associated facilities and play facilities." (My italics)
As with my comments to SP7 and SP8, what is said in Paragraph 15 above is further evidence of the contradiction in saying it is OK for the University to destroy visually and physically land to the north of Clinghoe Hill, all of which should be left as open countryside - "a new country park" as outlined in this paragraph.
Section F Other Requirements Paragraph 19 states:
"Landscape buffers between the site and existing development in Colchester."
What is a "buffer"? I have seen buffers of a width of only a few yards! The phrase "landscape buffers" sounds good - but it is the reality that concerns me, not the rhetoric. The "buffer" needed for Salary Brook is the entire open countryside which exists today: no development - full stop.
On page 105 Table SG1 Spatial Hierarchy - Garden Communities
Describes the development as "University Garden Community"
If this is indeed to be a "University Garden Community", then let the expansion of the University's Knowledge Gateway be incorporated within it - not a visual blot on the landscape on the eastern slopes of Salary Brook.
Starting on Page 151 East Colchester - Knowledge Gateway and University Strategic Economic Area are seven paragraphs relating to the University of Essex from which I shall quote from two of them, and also from the following Section on Pages 152 and 153 EC1 Knowledge Gateway and University of Essex Strategic Economic Area and Zone 1 Knowledge Gateway.
On Page 152, Paragraph 6.45, I quote from near the end the words: "The University will therefore be a key partner in the master planning process for the University Garden Village.
Paragraph 6.46, in respect of what is described as "Knowledge Gateway", the second sentence says: "This plans (sic) identifies an area for expansion of the Knowledge Gateway which will be linked to the Garden Village development."
On page 153 is a section Zone 1 Knowledge Gateway which opens with the following sentence: The area shown on the East Colchester Policies Map will be safeguarded for the expansion of the Knowledge Gateway associated with the new University Garden Village......."
This needs to be read in association with the Map on Page 275 which clearly shows the land allocation for the expansion of the Knowledge Gateway to the north of Clinghoe Hill, on the opposite side of the dual carriageway from the University of Essex and the existing Knowledge Gateway development - not just an intrusion into open land within Salary Brook, but at its most visible location towards the top of the hill when viewed from Greenstead and Longridge Park.
The University is, of course, very important to Colchester and North Essex. But, this should not be a justification to allow the University to expand its operations to the north of Clinghoe Hill. It should instead look to land within its current ownership, and/or to the east of the Wivenhoe Road and/or within the "University Garden Community".
I trust that my submission will ensure that the current threat of a planning and environmental disaster to the east of the current urban edge of Colchester will be averted.
Instead of an urban sprawl, let there be a country park stretching from the valley of Salary Brook eastwards up the slopes to the top of the hill and beyond, between Clinghoe Hill to the south and Bromley Road (and onwards!) to the north, with no new development by the University of Essex on the eastern slopes of the valley........let's have open countryside to the east of Greenstead and Longridge Park as far as the eye can see!