A VISION FOR
Prepared by David Lock Associates
Mersea Homes has been delivering quality homes within Colchester and its environs for over 70 years and has a committed and long-term interest in the prosperity of the town and the shape and direction of its future growth ambitions as a place where people choose to live, work, invest and spend their leisure time. The Essex population is predicted to rise even faster than the UK average, by 20% up to 2039, with Colchester identified as one of the fastest growing areas (2016-based Household Projections). The planned scale of growth committed to by the North Essex Authorities is substantial and the emerging Joint Local Plan identifies some 44,000 new homes are required across North Essex to 2033. Land at East Colchester is identified as a sustainable and strategic location to meet a significant proportion of housing and employment needs as part of a new mixed- use development of some 7,500 homes; a new community of some 17,000 people. Mersea Homes, building on its success in shaping and now delivering quality development at scale at Chesterwell, Colchester’s newest community, is uniquely placed to realise the potential at East Colchester to deliver a scheme that captures the town’s growth ambitions; responds positively to the needs and aspirations of the local housing market; and secures investment in associated infrastructure to create a vibrant and self-sufficient new community that supports a collective sense of ownership and community pride that is reflective of Mersea Homes’ values as a local developer and housebuilder.
A Vision for East Colchester
This will be achieved through a combination of placemaking priorities that will provide optimal conditions for the creation of a successful place. ▪ ▪ Comprehensively planned mix of land uses - new housing; a range of employment offers including strategic employment land/ business park adjacent to the Strategic Road Network, and extension to the University’s Knowledge Gateway; a new district centre which could incorporate a number of complementary uses associated with the University, to include student/ visitor accommodation and opportunities for business start-up initiatives; mixed use higher density areas catering for the needs of a new population including social, education, community and recreation uses; and a multifunctional open space and landscape resource that is accessible and varied in its form, providing an attractive setting to built development and providing opportunities for activity and amenity. Mersea Homes’ Vision for East Colchester is rooted in an understanding of local context; a recognition of the scale of the opportunity; and the desire to establish a successful and popular new community that endures over time and contributes positively to the economic success and social, cultural and environmental richness of Colchester Town.
Optimising Connectivity – maximising strong connections to the town and wider areas of influence; prioritising sustainable modes of travel, with a particular focus on establishing good active travel patterns that promote local journeys made on cycle and foot, as well as planning for an integrated and reliable public transport network to include park and ride provision that could form part of the wider rapid transit aspirations for the town as part of a collective agenda to help relieve existing traffic pressure on the network.
Building in sustainability – promoting a master plan concept which integrates within the landscape, demonstrating contrast in design approach between the steep topography associated within the Salary Brook to the west and the plateau land to the east and utilises the prominent woodland blocks and belts to define development extents as part of a cohesive framework of open spaces that provide biodiversity habitat and drainage attenuation; and embraces high-standards of construction and innovations in technology that help deliver smarter and more sustainable solutions to achieve resource efficiencies and healthier lifestyles.
A Commitment to grow Colchester
“Greater Anglia’s Norwich in 90 service has brought London and Cambridge within an hour’s travel of Colchester”
Colchester is a well-connected town, strategically well placed to accommodate significant levels of growth and investment to benefit the town and the wider economic function of the region. The A12, A120 and Great Eastern Main Line railway provide key connections between London, Ipswich and Norwich; there are key East Coast freight ports at Felixstowe and Harwich and London Stansted Airport is within some 30 miles. Greater Anglia’s Norwich in 90 service has brought London and Cambridge within an hour’s travel of Colchester.
Location and Context Plan
Broad Area of Search
University of Essex
The area of search identified for development at East Colchester comprises some 600 hectares of land some 3 km east of the town centre to the east of Salary Brook and close to the residential areas of Greenstead, Parsons Heath and located between two strategic roads: the A133 from Clacton-on-Sea to Colchester, and to the north the A120 from Harwich to the A12. The local authority boundary bisects the site in a broadly north-south direction with the western part of the site within Colchester Borough and the eastern part within Tendring District. The University of Essex Campus and its Knowledge Gateway lies immediately to the south of the site. Its potential to influence investment opportunities and shape approaches to placemaking within the A133 corridor is widely acknowledged. There is a broad political consensus to capitalise on the proximity of this valuable asset which could act as a key driver for local economic growth.
As part of the collaborative working between Braintree District, Colchester Borough and Tendring District Councils’ on strategic cross boundary issues, the authorities have prepared a joint Local Plan Part 1. The emerging Plan identifies a spatial strategy over the long term that focuses growth at three new ‘Garden Communities’. Draft Local Plan Policy SP8 identifies the site as ‘Tendring Colchester Borders’ to accommodate a range of 7,000- 9,000 homes alongside associated transport, employment, education, open space and community infrastructure and so there is an established evidence base that underpins the suitability of the site for development and identifies its development potential as a new community of significant scale. An Issues and Options Development Plan Document for the site was prepared and consulted upon between November 2018 and January 2019. This included a Concept Framework that tested the development potential and considered its form and disposition and mix of land uses to be used to guide future masterplanning stages.
Development Concept for East Colchester
Knowledge Gateway Employ- ment and potential expansion area
Rapid Transit Route
400m/5min. & 800m/10min Catchments from MRT stops
Area of search for new A120 junction
Proposed Primary Road Linkages
Environmental improvements to A133 Clingoe Hill / Clacton Road
Connected network of amenity open spaces
Existing & Proposed Primary Pedes- trian/ Cycle Connections
Primary Attenuation Feature
Proposed Park & Ride locations
Development Concept Plan (Source: ‘A Plan for Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community North Essex Garden Communities Issues & Options’ November 2017)
The Concept Framework shows capacity for development in the middle of the target range of the number of households and population as identified in the Draft Plan, presented as a series of identifiable neighbourhoods or ‘villages’. The Concept Framework includes: ▪ ▪ Green buffers that separate the new development from existing communities, create an attractive landscape setting for the new development, provide space for functions such as storm water management and create opportunities for formal and informal recreation A new link road from the A133 to a new junction on the A120 An employment area close to the A120 to the east of the new link road Land for the expansion of the University’s Knowledge Gateway to the north of Clingoe Hill Land for the expansion of the University Campus to the east of Brightlingsea Road south of the A133 Two large new residential neighbourhoods north of the A133 separated by a broad green corridor connecting the Salary Brook to open countryside ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Smaller-scale, lower density areas of housing development close to Crockleford Heath Mixed use centres close to the A133 and the proposed expansion of the University and to each proposed new neighbourhood Sites for up to four new primary schools and a new secondary school – education provision will be informed by the number of houses to be delivered A Rapid Transit public transport spine through the centre of the Garden Community connecting Park-and- Ride sites near the A120 and A133, employment areas, the mixed-use centres and the University with Colchester Town Centre and the wider North Essex area A variety of accessible green spaces including a Country Park ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
AREA Hectares (Ha) approx.
c.198 Ha c.7529 dwellings (a density average of @ 38.3 dph)
c.8 ha Might include higher residential density and other land uses associated with mixed use centres such as retail, commercial and community spaces.
Mixes Use Centres (4)
c.25 ha Employment land includes an extension to the University’s Knowledge Gateway; a Business Park adjacent to the A120 with a mix of employment uses supported by Park and Ride, and potential to be served by a Rapid Transit network; and employment floorspace within the mixed-use centres
c.8 ha 3/4 primary schools (schools including early years provision) (2 ha site) Final number of homes and housing mix will determine the number of schools
Primary School (including early years)
c.8 ha 1 Secondary school (8 ha site)
Final number of homes and housing mix will determine the size of a Secondary School
Some 40 % open space land dependent on approach to functional open space as part of the development together with open space retained in its current use to protect against coalescence.
c.10.7 ha Potential land for expansion of North Essex University, for academic purposes, or student housing, or a combination.
Core Garden Community Development Footprint
c. 265 ha
Implementing the Vision for East Colchester - Confidence in Delivery
There are many opportunities available to support direct involvement of future residents and businesses in the long term. Management of community and open space assets could be delivered through management companies where income could be raised from local residents through payment of a levy, or endowment of assets which could in turn provide a source of income generation. Again, given the scale of the development, any strategy for the management of assets will need to be flexible to adapt to changes in procurement, management and delivery over time, in response to the interests of a growing new community.
Part 1 Local Plan examination commenced in January 2018, however it has been paused to enable the authorities to carry out further work to demonstrate, in part, the delivery of the Garden Communities. Whilst a number of governance mechanisms and delivery models have been explored by the Councils for all three of the Garden Communities, a preferred approach has not been secured. Indeed, it is unlikely to be expedient or suitable to apply the same development and delivery model to each of the new communities, which vary considerably in scale, context and offer. A key rationale for the Authorities’ selection of ‘Garden Communities’ as part of their growth strategy, is to enable the infrastructure, services and facilities required by the new communities to be planned comprehensively and delivered in a timely and coordinated manner and for community and public assets to be appropriately managed and maintained locally as part of a community-led stewardship approach. Mersea Homes, as a local developer with significant insight into the Colchester housing market and a proven track record in delivering development at scale, is well placed to provide the confidence that is now required to support the delivery of one of the selected Garden Communities at East Colchester. Mersea Homes recognise the need for a creative and forward-thinking delivery strategy to secure the collective ambitions of the Council, key stakeholders and the local population – a strategy that secures delivery of homes in parallel with investment in infrastructure. The strategy must be flexible enough to endure over time but rooted in a clear understanding of the development and investment drivers which will frame the approach to delivery. Mersea Homes’ model for implementation of strategic sites is to plan development on a comprehensive basis whilst allowing development to take place in phases - with infrastructure programmed and delivered accordingly, understanding that investment made in infrastructure brings certainty to a development scheme, supports sustained rates of housing delivery and sales rates.
Next Steps The scale of growth opportunity at East Colchester is well understood and is underpinned by a significant technical evidence base prepared for the Local Plan, that has identified the land as suitable for development and presents an evidenced capacity range, core development areas, and key infrastructure elements. The Plan requires at least 2,500 homes to be delivered within the Plan period. Developing at scale and over time requires a flexible approach that is capable of responding to changes in market and/ or priorities over the lifetime of the development. Potential ‘early’ development phases are identified as part of the Issues and Options work, with options to commence both at the north and the south of the site. ▪ ▪ Commencing at the southern part of the site, on land adjacent and north of the A133, would provide a point of access onto the strategic highway network. Securing early delivery of the A120-A133 link road will open up further opportunities for development fronts along its length, offering additional flexibility for the extent of a first phase of development. A further opportunity for an early phase could also be secured through delivery of the A120 junction and link road which would make strategic employment land available to the market. ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
The North Essex Authorities have a duty to evidence the delivery of their Local Plan growth and must do so in earnest to ensure that the Examination into the Local Plan can proceed positively. Mersea Homes has the commitment, experience and knowledge to help take this policy framework forward to delivery, providing certainty to the Plan making process, generating investment opportunities for Colchester and delivering the homes required to meet local housing needs.
Early development phases to support delivery within the Local Plan period
Mersea Homes Limited Eagle House 45 Kingsland Road West Mersea Essex, CO5 8RA www.merseahomes.co.uk
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