South Essex Joint Strategic Plan
Work is underway on preparation of a new Joint Strategic Plan for South Essex. The plan covers the administrative areas of Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock councils. Draft documents are being prepared with the first stage consultation expected in November. Adoption is expected by 2021 but could be subject to delay.
The Joint Strategic Plan will distribute housing across South Essex via a new spatial strategy and guide more focused Local Plans to be prepared by the individual authorities. The emerging Local Plans currently at an advanced stage are likely to require early review. A Statement of Common Ground prepared last year identified five ‘Strategic Areas of Opportunity’ which may be a focus for growth through the Joint Strategic Plan and subsequent Local Plan updates. These are:
- The Thames Estuary
- London Southend Airport and the surrounding area
- The A127 corridor
- Crossrail, the A12 and A129
- The Lower Thames Crossing, Thurrock Thameside and the A13 Corridor.
Although much of South Essex is designated as Green Belt, now is a good time to be promoting development opportunities in this location.
Basildon Council submitted a replacement draft Local Plan to the Secretary of State for Examination in Public (EiP) in March. At the end of June, the EiP was deferred by three months to allow time to consider the implications of a direction issued by the Minister for the Environment regarding the need for air quality improvements on the A127 on the strategy proposed by the emerging Local Plan.
The council has now confirmed that it is preparing additional evidence to explore this. As a result, the EiP hearings are now unlikely to convene before the end of this year.
If it is found sound, Basildon’s Plan will be adopted in advance of the Joint Strategic Plan and it will require early review to ensure it remains consistent with higher-order strategic policies.
Brentwood’s councillors recently voted to consult on amendments to some of the allocations in its final draft Local Plan to respond to representations to its Regulation 19 consultation in early 2019. The amendments involve removing a total of 70 dwellings from four allocations within the Plan and re-allocating them to be delivered at Dunton Hills Garden Village. A focused consultation will take place in October and November before the Plan is submitted to the Secretary of State for examination.
The first consultation on the new Local Plan for Thurrock (Issues and Options Stage 1) was held in early 2016 and focused on thematic policy areas. A more detailed Issues and Options (Stage 2) consultation closed on 8 March 2019 and a draft (Regulation 18) Local Plan is due to be published for consultation in 2020.
Controversially, the council resolved to not proceed with a proposed Pre-Publication Draft (Regulation 19) Local Plan at a Special Council Meeting in November 2018.
Despite many threats, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has not yet intervened to force the council to proceed with the Plan or take over the process. We understand that Castle Point is working on a revised Regulation 19 Local Plan. If this is approved by members in due course, the threat of intervention will subside further. The emerging South Essex Joint Strategic Plan will also have an important bearing in Castle Point.
A Local Plan Issues and Options consultation closed on 2 April 2019. A Preferred Options draft is expected towards the end of this year, with consultation on a final draft due in late 2020. The Plan is due to be submitted for Examination by Summer 2021.
Rochford’s emerging replacement Local Plan is now due to follow on from the preparation of the South Essex Joint Strategic Plan. No consultations are due imminently.
North Essex Authorities (Braintree, Colchester and Tendring)
A joint strategic (Part 1) Local Plan for Braintree, Colchester and Tendring is currently subject to EiP.
Major concerns about the soundness of this Plan and its proposals for three new Garden Communities were raised by the Inspector last summer. The authorities have prepared further evidence to seek to address the concerns and consulted on it until 30 September. Hearing sessions are due to reconvene later in the Autumn.
It was announced in August that one of the three new Garden Communities proposed, ‘Tendring Colchester Borders’, has been granted £100 million from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund to deliver a new link road and a rapid transit system on the edge of Colchester. Following the grant of £1 million in further funding for the promotion of the three new settlements in February, this is another example of the Government’s commitment to the North Essex Garden Communities project.
Uttlesford’s emerging Local Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State for EiP on 18 January 2019. Hearings are ongoing.
Following the close of the examination hearing sessions in June, the Inspector has written to the council to request Main Modifications to the emerging replacement Local Plan. These will require the deletion and replacement of some allocations and a potential change to the spatial strategy proposed by the council. A consultation will be required shortly.
If found sound in due course, this plan will need to be subject to early review to address the significantly higher growth requirements for Epping Forest arising from the revised National Planning Policy Framework (February 2019).
The council was expecting to adopt its Local Plan by June 2019; however examination is ongoing.
The hearings associated with the Chelmsford Local Plan EiP closed in the Spring and consultation on Main Modifications concluded on 19 September. None of the Main Modifications proposed substantial changes to the spatial strategy or the land allocated for development in the Plan. The Plan should be adopted before the end of this year, but it will be subject to review within five years.
In August Chelmsford was granted £218 million from the Government's Housing Infrastructure Fund to support the delivery of the Chelmsford North East Bypass and Beaulieu Train Station. This looks set to provide sufficient funding to deliver the city's long awaited second station in around five years' time and the remaining stages of the missing road link between the A12 at Boreham, the A131 at Great Leighs and the A120 further north.