Where we are with Middlewick currently
In late 2016 it was announced that 13 Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites were to be sold off for housing including Middlewick Ranges in Colchester by 2019/20. This proposal was to counter the large cuts coming from central government. In the case of Middlewick the land is still due to be sold and this will likely be completed when the renovation works at Fingringhoe ranges are complete.
The MoD initially proposed an enormous 2000 homes on the site. This was reduced to 1000 by Colchester Borough Council, who felt that 2000 was too much for the site regarding infrastructure and protecting green spaces. With it being a late submission to the local plan this has not allowed us, locally, to prepare a neighbourhood plan so residents have a say on any development.
In Summer 2019 the MoD’s development team consulted residents on plans of where to build. These designs were subject to huge opposition.
Since then we are no further and we are yet to have a local plan in place.
Our biggest fear has been that by removing Middlewick from the Local Plan entirely, we may face the government allowing housing here anyway and in greater numbers than 1000. This has already been shown by the Local Government minister, Robert Jenrick, overturning a decision by the independent planning inspector and allowing a development to go ahead. No one has yet offered another site for 1000 homes that would offset the homes planned for Middlewick in the Local Plan. This has been made harder after the decision by the planning inspector to turn down a proposed ‘Garden Community’, in West Tey, which offered an infrastructure first approach to housebuilding and would have provided much of our future housing quota.
What is a Local Plan and why do we need one?
A Local Plan allows council to control the building of future housing and commercial units, offering protection from speculative development.
Currently Colchester is expected to build 920 homes a year and a local plan should run for 15 years with it being re-evaluated every 5 years.
Without a local plan we are left open to speculative development, as Tendring has been for the last few years. This means developers can essentially build where they like and appeal any planning application that is rejected. As our Local Plan has been delayed in Colchester we have already seen an unwanted planning application be overturned by the government’s independent planning inspector in Tiptree.
What the new planning changes mean for Middlewick
With the Conservatives planning changes designed to push through more housing we are likely to see devastating results for Colchester.
The biggest changes include;
- Scrapping Section 106 (community money) from developments that is used for building social housing and infrastructure
- Housing pushed through without community involvement
- Lower quality housing
- Offices can be converted into housing without any planning permission
Labour nationally have called the changes a ‘Developers Charter’ as it favours developers significantly.
However the most shocking statistic has been uncovered by Lichfields, a planning and development consultancy. They have crunched the numbers on the government’s formula for calculating how many homes each council will be expected to build. Rather than 920 a year, Colchester could face a massive 1612 homes a year. This with Section 106 scrapped will mean insufficient infrastructure coming with these homes.
Where Labour stand on Middlewick
Colchester Labour have called on the MoD to take Middlewick off the table when it comes to housing, whether they maintain it as a shooting range or gift the land to Colchester Borough Council. In February 2020 we handed in a petition from residents calling for this. Colchester has always supported the MoD and now it is time we received something back. These planning changes show that this is needed more than ever as it is likely any planning application that is submitted will be approved by either the planning inspector or the Tory minister.
While our Tory MP claims to oppose development here, he was the private secretary to the Defence Secretary, where he could have done something. If he votes through these outrageous planning proposals then there will be no hope in saving Middlewick.