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North Essex Garden Communities Briefing

North Essex Garden Communities Briefing





The four NEGC Councils are continuing to explore the viability of three new garden settlements across North Essex as a means of enhancing spatial planning across the county, delivering sustainable communities along garden community principles while address demand from a growing population..


The strategic vision identified through the joint working of Braintree, Colchester, Essex and Tendring Councils and common approach to the development of the project was approved by Cabinet and Council reports in November and December 2016. 


These established a dedicated delivery structure through the creation of North Essex Garden Communities Limited and individual site focussed Local Delivery Vehicles (LDV). 


Central to viability is the ongoing dialogue/negotiation with land-owners and those holding relevant option and/or promotion agreements. Whilst this work is ongoing, there have been no formal agreements reached to date. The land within the project areas therefore remains outside the control of the Councils and LDVs.  


The reason we seek to acquire, or agree options is to enable that control over the development, ensuring garden community principles are observed (the ten principles are attached at appendix 1) and to provide a greater flow of funding for all aspects of the infrastructure development so critical to our ambitions. It has always been envisaged that NEGC Ltd will have overall responsibility for so doing, being accountable to the relevant councils.


The opportunity offered by the Neighbourhood & Planning Act 

Legislative changes offer the opportunity to explore a different approach to Garden Communities; in particular the ability to create a locally led Development Corporation which would have land assembly and (potentially) CPO powers.


The benefits offered by a New Town Development Corporations (NTDC) are significant, and as such the NEGC Ltd board has asked each constituent council to give in principle consideration for the creation of a single locally led NTDC to oversee the project. It must be stressed that the government have not yet published the detailed rules pertaining to such regulations; all we are doing is stating our intention in principle to apply to the Secretary of State who has the final decision. 

The potential benefits of NTDC are:

· The power to acquire land, if necessary by compulsory purchase at ‘no scheme’ values. Such powers may only be deployed when all commercial negotiations have been exhausted; voluntary agreement remains our preferred approach.

· Each of the three Districts/Borough Councils will retain full planning authority status unless they choose to delegate such authority into the NTDC

· The power to carry out development or to sell/lease land to others,

· The power to borrow money from the Treasury (or elsewhere) to fund operations including investment in infrastructure and running costs; 

· The power to make provision for the long term ownership and care of public amenities such as parks and community meeting places.


The amendments to legislation allow the Secretary of State to appoint one or more local authorities to ‘oversee’ the delivery of the new town and the NTDC; with the details of how this oversight would work to be fleshed out by regulations. 


NEGC Limited is proposing that it should position itself as a potential “Responsible Body” as a joint local authority body providing oversight for the authorities. It is understood that regulations will, when made, as far as possible put the Local Authorities / NEGC Limited in the place of the Secretary of State and we are working closely with DCLG to ensure that the emerging regulations, and any future designation orders, can accommodate the proposed North Essex garden community model.  


Managing Director


One of the key findings of the Kerslake review into the programme was the need to ensure it is effectively resourced. As such we have been undertaking a rigorous process to recruit a Managing Director to oversee the programme. An announcement on this will be made in the coming weeks.


Appointed into a contract role the MD will play an important role in helping take forward the plans over what will be a critical 18 month period.


Critical to such a major group of projects is ensuring the necessary experience and competence. The MD appointment is one aspect of this; we will also be looking to create strong non-executive support within the board.


Appendix One

The Garden City principles

A Garden City is a holistically planned new settlement which enhances the natural environment and offers high-quality affordable housing and locally accessible work in beautiful, healthy and sociable communities. The Garden City principles are an indivisible and interlocking framework for their delivery, and include:

· Land value capture for the benefit of the community.

· Strong vision, leadership and community engagement.

· Community ownership of land and long-term stewardship of assets.

· Mixed-tenure homes and housing types that are genuinely affordable.

· A wide range of local jobs in the Garden City within easy commuting distance of homes.

· Beautifully and imaginatively designed homes with gardens, combining the best of town and country to create healthy communities, and including opportunities to grow food.

· Development that enhances the natural environment, providing a comprehensive green infrastructure network and net biodiversity gains, and that uses zero-carbon and energy-positive technology to ensure climate resilience.

· Strong cultural, recreational and shopping facilities in walkable, vibrant, sociable neighbourhoods.

· Integrated and accessible transport systems, with walking, cycling and public transport designed to be the most attractive forms of local transport.


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