7 February 2009
Green Party Councillors have condemned the new EERA (East of England Regional Assembly) Study into growth in the region up to 2031 and beyond.
With the consequences of the East of England Plan and many district and borough plans, still being considered, the new Study suggests an even faster rate of development. The East of England Plan runs from 2001 - 2021 and proposes over half a million houses being built in the six counties of the region in that period (Essex, Suffolk, Cambs., Norfolk, Beds., and Herts).
The new growth Study to 2031 and beyond lists a number of towns for substantial growth. Norwich, Cambridge and Chelmsford would become "regional cities" with 300,000 to 400,000 populations. Regional growth centres would include Ipswich, Colchester and Bury St. Edmunds. But the Study also suggests new towns over 20,000 houses or more at Huntingdon/Alconbur y, A5120/Midland Mainline Corridor, East Beds Strategic Corridor, Marston Vale Eco Town, South of the A120/East of Stansted Airport and the Braintree Area.
The Study claims that this massive level of housing growth would include "eco-credentials" for the proposed new towns, yet there is no evidence that any current or proposed new towns can meet adequate sustainability criteria, such as zero carbon housing.
The proposals could lead to a massive urbanisation of mid-Essex given the plans for expansion of Chelmsford, Colchester and two newtowns in Braintree District and along the A120.
Cllr. James Abbott, a Green Party Braintree District Councillor said
"We are seeing an increasingly dictatorial approach to planning, with numbers being handed down from Whitehall to the regions which have little or no relationship to the real needs of local communties. These numbers from EERA are a developer's dream and a nightmare for everyone else. They have nothing to do with the real need for affordable local housing within existing settlements. They are also highly dubious targets given the current economic crisis which looks set to continue for some time.
The figures for Essex are truly horrendous. The Study is seriously suggesting not one, but two 20,000+ house new towns in the Braintree/Stansted area where transport infrastructure is already under severe strain and people are rightly increasingly concerned about the rapid loss of the countryside around local towns. The Braintree proposal itself would create a new town at least as large as the whole of Braintree, Great Notley, Bocking and Rayne combined (current housing numbers 21,000). The Green Party will oppose such a new town and would hope that all parties can agree to do the same, although from early comments they have made, it appears that the Tories on Braintree District Council may be prepared to support these disasterous plans.
The EERA Study tells us that these new towns will have "eco-credentials" . Thats just greenwash and an excuse for releasing large areas of countryside for yet more unsustainable development. The growth figures in the study are completely unsustainable and would result in higher resource use, higher greenhouse gas emissions, further loss of habitats and even worse road congestion than now. Development on this scale would change many parts of Eastern Region beyond recognition. In some areas, gone would be the current mix of market towns, historic cities and the famous East Anglian countryside. The growth would not just be housing of course, but new roads, out of town retail parks, vast warehousing estates, more superstores, and so on. In areas such as mid-Essex, and the Cambridge area, urban sprawls could swallow up the countryside, leaving just fragments of what was there just a few decades before."