During the next few months, local residents across the Witham constituency will see local councils making progress with their Local Plans. These policy documents will shape much of the future growth and developments in our communities, including the allocating of sites for potential developments. All three local planning authorities covering the Witham constituency are updating their plans and significant new levels of housing growth are likely to be proposed.
Maldon District Council’s draft Local Plan is currently in the hands of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government after he decided to review the initial conclusions reached by the Planning Inspectorate. Colchester Borough Council and Braintree District Council are in the process of allocating new sites for growth while also working with Tendring District Council and Essex County Council on examining the viability of proposals to bring new Garden Settlements locally.
It is vital that local communities are engaged in these process and have their say on where new housing should be. Many local residents have already contacted me about the proposed sites that have been put forward for consideration and I would encourage anyone with a question or a query to get in touch and also contact their local authority directly too.
The Local Plans are not just about making provisions for new housing. They also cover employment and economic growth, infrastructure plans, and give details of the new schools, GP surgeries and other public services that will be required in our communities into the 2030s and beyond. Sensible and sustainable growth plans can bring in new investment and jobs into our local communities, while also raising funds to upgrade our roads and other infrastructure such as high speed broadband. In some other parts of the country, new developments are funding schools and healthcare facilities and I expect the Local Plans that are likely to be consulted upon later this year covering the Witham constituency to include similar measures.
Investment in facilities that deliver new employment opportunities are particularly welcome and I have been following the recent Tollgate Village proposals in Stanway very closely. The proposed leisure and retail development would provide hundreds of new local jobs and bring new growth to Colchester Borough. The officers at Colchester Borough Council have objected to the development. However, local councillors on the Council’s planning committee threw out the recommendation from officers to refuse the application and the matter will now be reconsidered again.
The Council’s officers have stood against the proposals as they want the land used for other employment purposes and because they favour Colchester Town Centre. But their local planning policies are out of date, they have not made any progress in securing the land for the use that they want to see, they have ignored he wishes of local people in Stanway and elsewhere who want access to these facilities and jobs, and are overlooking national planning policies. It is possible to have a strong, vibrant and prosperous Town Centre in Colchester as well as the new Tollgate Village development.
The final decision remains finely balanced and I would encourage residents with views on this matter to get in touch. Last year the Council threw out plans for new jobs and facilities for residents with the Stane Park development so it is very important for the future of Stanway that the Council changes its approach and responds positively to local needs.
Many readers have taken a strong interest in the proposed reforms to local policing that Essex Police put forward in autumn 2015. Since the reforms were announced, the Government has made more funding available to the Police than had been anticipated. As a result, I have made representations to Essex Police to encourage them to utilise these funds so that they are focused on delivering frontline policing and protecting more police officer and PCSO posts. I know that the Police are reviewing their proposals and in the next few weeks we will hear more about their reform plans.
If any local residents or businesses need help or assistance from me, they are always welcome to get in touch by email to: WithamMP@parliament.uk by post to: Priti Patel MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or by telephone on: 020 7219 3528.
Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
Member of Parliament for Witham