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West Mersea is identified within the draft local plan as a District Centre with a high number of key services and community facilities. These facilities fall into two categories, those provided and maintained by local authorities and those provided by the private sector. We enjoy the fact that West Mersea has a supermarket, mini-markets, pharmacies, restaurants, coffee shops, butchers, bakers, etc. These are all well maintained, have capacity to meet the needs placed upon them and provide a first rate service.
The situation is not the same when you examine the services provided by local authorities. The primary school has reached the point where it can only just accommodate all Island children in each new reception year intake. The headmistress feels that the Island's birth rate has reduced slightly potentially easing this situation but this could be reversed if the two proposed developments go ahead and there is a high influx of young families. It would also appear that this situation has been recognised by Essex County Council because it has identified the need for contributions towards expansion of the school. There is no facility for secondary education meaning that all children must be bussed off the Island at considerable cost.
The doctors' surgery is not only turning patients away but actively removing many from their list. At present a new location housing a larger practice (with parking) needs to be funded and constructed. Should this not happen it is hard to imagine how an increase in the Island population could be cared for. Unfortunately, there is also no permanent police presence and the roads and paths are barely maintained and as a result are in poor and unsafe condition.
Mersea Island offers limited employment opportunities and as such the high majority of those who work have to travel off the Island. This is far from ideal because of the limited public transport services that are available and the disruptions to travel caused by the Strood flooding.
We understand the sewerage system struggles to cope with the current number of dwellings, and examples of ongoing problems can be found in many areas across the Island. The volume of solid waste that needs to be removed and transported for processing off the Island is also very high. The local oyster industry has now publicly stated that they have been advised by Anglian Water that the sewerage system is at capacity and close to the point where the amounts of waste being discharged into the sea will reduce water quality to levels where oysters can no longer be farmed. Mersea's oysters are world-renowned and an important economic and cultural part of Island life; to lose this would be catastrophic especially considering the recent native oyster restoration venture in the Blackwater area by the Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative. If the problems are as bad as we understand, the construction of a further 350 houses would surely tip the scales. As a minimum one would expect Anglian Water to carry out a study to ascertain whether the current system could cope with the proposed plan prior to any final decisions being made. To build then wait and see could be a high risk strategy with a potentially serious outcome if it went wrong. We don't think the oyster feast would ever be the same again!
We are an Island community in the literal sense, with one road in and out which regularly floods during high tides, removing access to and from the Island for periods of up to two hours. In addition, the road is frequently at a standstill simply due to just the sheer volume of traffic.
During the periods when the Strood floods emergency medical and police cover can only be provided by the first responders, air ambulance service, police helicopter and RNLI. At present the Fire Service station a supporting tender on the Island during these periods and it would be very concerning if this service was ever removed.
Those who plan to construct a further 350 homes for around 1000 residents with potentially 500 plus cars, surely must conduct a full risk assessment. This should ascertain whether their proposals remain viable when considering all of the above issues as well as other potential natural disasters which could affect the Island, as well as the Bradwell B nuclear reactor proposal.
It must also be understood that the facilities and services of West Mersea are not just used by the 'approximately 3,200 dwellings' in West Mersea as stated in para 6-217 of the Colchester Borough Council's draft plan.
This point was made by the author of this document at the Public Meeting on 01/09/2016 and the following extract from his speaking notes below set out to clarify this point.
Author's speaking notes used at Public Meeting on 01-09-2016
To quote the draft plan: "West Mersea is considered to be a sustainable location for some housing growth. There are currently approximately 3,200 dwellings in West Mersea. The preferred sites could deliver an additional 350 houses over the local plan period. This equates to an 11% increase in the number of dwellings, a level that reflects the availability of existing facilities and services"
The number of 3,200 dwellings in West Mersea is incorrect. The actual number as provided this week (30/08/2016) by Colchester Borough Council, council tax department is 3,580. This is 30 dwellings in excess of the additional 350 dwellings being proposed.
This clearly demonstrates that based on the number of West Mersea dwellings alone there is no availability of existing facilities and services.
However, to further compound Colchester Borough Council's error they have also failed to make any allowance for the following:
* The 121 dwellings that exist in East Mersea
* The 1,481 static caravan sites and the lodges sited across the island [many of which enjoy 10 or 12 month leases]
* The house boats that are at moored at West Mersea
* The visitors to 275 touring caravan pitches and day visitors
And most importantly, West Mersea is designated by Colchester Borough Council as a District Centre supporting through its facilities and services the surrounding rural areas in the south of the Borough c. 5,000 houses.
End of extract from speaking notes
The basis of the Borough Council's proposal for additional development in West Mersea are these figures, but these figures are clearly wrong. There simply is no 'availability of facilities' as this 11% has already been exceeded by the current population. In addition, no account has been taken of the high level of infill and property extension work that takes place in West Mersea. A check of the Colchester Borough Council planning records will confirm this. This figure does not either include all the alteration work that is completed purely under the control of Building Regulations.
Due to the proximity of the proposed Dawes Lane and Brierley Paddocks developments, both would have to be accessed via the East Mersea Road and Dawes Lane. Dawes Lane is hardly wide enough for two cars to pass and is in poor condition. Poor condition is defined as the road surface, especially the outer edges, being damaged due to heavy vehicles passing. Regular attempts are made to patch repair this damage but it is a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There is no surface water drainage and last year alone there were two serious accidents as a result of vehicles skidding off the road due to the formation of ice. Unless a major upgrade to the road is completed prior to the start of any development it would be unsuitable and unsafe for transporting heavy vehicles carrying building materials, plant and equipment to either or both sites. A major upgrade, i.e.: infrastructure reinforcement, widening, drainage, access points and paths would be a long and extremely expensive process. However, the more worrying point is Dawes Lane is one of the main access roads into West Mersea and closing this road especially during the summer period would result in a significant traffic management situation and potentially a huge problem for the community. A risk assessment would also need to consider what affect this would have in the event of a major incident or at worse an Island evacuation.
The two proposed development construction phases could run simultaneously and last for three to four years, or even longer if they run consecutively. Highly unlikely, but if development was in small phases over the length of the development plan the situation may be easier managed. Consideration should also be given to the summer period when the aforementioned holiday visitors to West Mersea arrive and depart via Dawes Lane and East Road in their cars and caravans. Only a few weeks ago, Dawes Lane was gridlocked for several hours when Colchester Road (the only other road leading on to and off the Island) was closed due to an accident. The increased volume of cars trying to use Dawes Lane and the inability for them to pass each other caused significant traffic jams in both directions for several hours. Leading onto Dawes Lane is East Mersea Road, again it is hardly suitable for such traffic and sadly we have already experienced at a high cost a serious accident involving a public bus and a heavy equipment transporter at a point close to the junction of Dawes Lane.
The location of both proposed sites also comes with an environmental down side. Dawes Lane is approximately one mile from the village centre and it is therefore highly likely that new residents would prefer to drive into the village, causing additional pollution and putting further strain on roads and the limited parking facilities that currently exist.
Based on all of the above we have serious concerns about the research that has been carried out by the Borough Council into the real viability of large scale development in West Mersea because of the associated costs and risks that would be involved. We would therefore ask the Council to re-examine their own calculations; re-consider the methodology used in drawing their conclusions; consult with Anglian Water; and carry out the necessary risk assessments.
1.2 Comments specific to Dawes Lane and Bower Grove
Bower Grove affronts the area adjacent to Dawes lane earmarked for development. The front gardens of our properties are approximately three feet in depth and our properties are a maximum of twenty feet from the site proposed for development. Following the line of the Coastal Protection Belt as detailed in the CBC Local Plan March 2004.The photographs below show this along with the problems we have suffered in the past from flooding from the proposed site. This flooding extends along the whole of the southern boundary of the proposed area for development. See photographs 1 and 2 below.
Above: Photographs 1 and 2 - Flooding to Bower Grove
The impact on all the residents of Bower Grove and the other properties that immediately face the proposed development will depend entirely on how much consideration the council planners, developers, architects and other interested parties are prepared to give them. Bearing in mind what an immense difference the proposed development would make to their lives we hope that genuine consideration and consultation will be given at the appropriate stage of the process.
The impact we could suffer is not only the serious devaluation of our homes or even how the finished new development would look and affect us, it is also about the years of pain we would all have to endure as we watched something we love being destroyed only feet from our front windows. The wind prevails from the north so the dust and noise during the construction phase would be hellish for the five days each week the developers were on site.
We hope that given the issues outlined in this document Colchester Borough Council can give further consideration as to the real suitability of the Dawes Lane site.
During a meeting between Mr & Mrs Knappett and Mr Stuart Cock (Commercial Director Mersea Homes) on 04/08/2016 Mr Cock stated that his understanding is development of Dawes Lane would be contained within the area defined by the boundary post and rail fence/hedgerow to the west of the proposed site. Not as shown encroaching into the Glebe Public Open Space as depicted in the proposed development site plan.
Another worrying thing for us in this whole process has been learning just how the Wellhouse Green development is perceived by many Mersea Island residents. It is seen as a disaster in planning terms and not at all in keeping with the Island. Something we had no knowledge of when we purchased our properties.
Already the feeling is emerging that the better quality homes will be built on Brierley Padddocks by City and Country developers and Wellhouse Green will just be extended by Mersea Homes as more of the same but under the heading of Dawes Lane. This really must not be allowed to happen! If the Dawes Lane development is approved, it must have its own identity through separation and planners should do everything to correct the Wellhouse Green problem not compound it. Its legacy should be something that all involved in the planning process and island residents are proud of, not something that is mocked and derided. But most importantly if any houses are ever built they should meet the needs of the community not the aspirations of developers.
Returning to the planning cycle, we welcome and look forward to the archaeological survey of the Dawes Lane site. It would be wonderful for Mersea Island if a site of historical interest was discovered especially if could join up the dots more on when and how our predecessors lived on the Island. Maybe a link could be found to the Barrow located approximately a hundred yards from the north boundary of the proposed site. Sadly, some of the evidence associated with previous occupation of this site may have been lost to the year on year metal detecting activity that has taken place on the site. That said, hopefully the land owner has kept records of any artefacts or interesting discoveries that have been found or identified.
2.1 A proposal to develop just one site
For all the reasons brought to the attention of Colchester Borough Council in this document and no doubt many more that have been raised in other submissions, there is a compelling case either to abandon the plans completely, or at the very least, to manage the impact of development by significantly reducing the proposed number of dwellings. Accepting that any additional number of dwellings will require significant upgrades to facilities and services, and assuming that the Council ensures these are carried out BEFORE work begins, the number should be one that genuinely matches the infrastructure and availability of services.
The question would then be, is there still a requirement for two sites? We would suggest the answer is no. Then, when comparing the two, we would argue that Brierley Paddocks would be preferable for the following reasons:
1. The area designated for development on the Brierley Paddocks site is almost twice the size of Dawes Lane and as such would be able to accommodate the full number of properties required.
2. The area to the south side of the proposed Brierley Paddocks development would also be suitable for any future expansion of houses on the island, should the need arise.
3. It is recognised that there are those who would like to seal off development to the north of the island with the Dawes Lane development. Surely the same objective could be met by thinking outside the box and grasping an opportunity to secure an area for current and the future generations recreational and community development needs.
4. To have this flexibility of usage would also be very important if the area does prove to be of archaeological importance and a mitigation strategy is required.
5. A single site would make the management and control of development simpler.
6. The overall risks would be lower with one development.
7. The overall costs would be lower, for example the infrastructure required and upgrades to the water and sewerage systems would be smaller than that of two sites.
8. Sewage management is a known problem in West Mersea. East Road where the Dawes Lane development would have to feed through is continuously requiring attention by Anglian Water. The smell emitted from the system there on occasions can be quite awful for local residents. The impact would be eased with the Brierley Paddocks development because of its proximity to the sewage treatment works.
9. The construction phase could be more tightly controlled and probably take a significantly shorter period of time, thus also reducing the associated disruption to the wider community.
10. Slightly closer and safer pedestrian access to the village and public transport. Safer because any pedestrian access to the village from Dawes Lane would have to be through the Wellhouse Green development that is renowned for its narrow roads, lack of footpaths and no space to build them.
11. Visitors to the beach could enjoy a short pleasant walk rather than driving from Dawes lane adding to known parking problems in the beach car parks and on the Avenues.
12. No known flooding issues as exist on the south side of Dawes Lane removing the need and associated costs of installing a Sustainable Urban Drainage system should Dawes Lane be developed.
13. No known archaeological risk as may exist on Dawes Lane.
14. Dawes lane is one of two main approaches to the village and to build a large development that no amount of landscaping could improve would surely do nothing for village aesthetics. Neither would it create a good impression for any visitors to this lovely and unique Island. The Brierley Paddocks development site is discretely hidden and would not have the same negative impact on the village. We understand this could be more in line with the Coastal Protection Plan objectives.
15. The impact on residents of Seaview Avenue would be less than that of the residents of Bower Grove, Barrow Mews, Stable Close and Dawes Lane. This is because the distance from the construction area to the residential properties is considerably greater and in most cases screened by mature trees and hedging.