COLCHESTER councillors say there are no ‘cold feet’ over garden communities plans after a local plan meeting was postponed.

Colchester Council’s leader and deputy leader met with community groups to listen to their concerns on the borough’s local plan.

It was after the local plan meeting, due to be held on Monday, was postponed following a letter from the planning inspector.

Leader Mark Cory (Lib Dem) and deputy Tim Young (Lab) met key community groups at a special Leader’s Listening event at the town hall.

Among the groups invited were the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (CAUSE) and Hands Off Wivenhoe.

Mr Cory said: “I made it quite clear when becoming leader I wanted to sit down and listen to community groups about their concerns with the local plan.

“Coming from Wivenhoe, I have my own concerns and understand that existing communities must have a voice.

“It is a vital document and it is important we get it right.

“We have seen the comments made by the Planning Inspector and some of these concerns have been echoed and raised by groups across the borough.

“We may not agree on everything, but it is important we listen to each other and work together going forward.”

The planning inspector raised concerns about the garden communities including transport links and viability.

Mr Cory said about the meeting postponement: “Cold feet is not the case. We are postponing the meeting genuinely because we have further new information from the inspector which deepens the need for discussion.

“I’m ensuring councillors get all the information they need to make the right decisions.

“I think it’s right we take the decision democratically as a committee.”

Mr Young also said the council was taking time to consider all the alternatives.

Councillor Darius Laws (Cons), welcomed the decision to postpone the meeting.

He said: “We do need time to digest the content of the inspector’s letter as well as discussing cross-party.

“Colchester Conservatives do support garden community principles but we have been consistent in our concerns over the plans before us.

“This position has been vindicated by the inspector. We are open minded about the potential for garden communities but we are not content with the current proposals, especially in light of the A120 preferred route plan.”

Meeting is postponed

A MEETING about garden communities has been postponed to give councillors more time to consider problems.

Councillors were advised to agree to carry on with Colchester’s local plan, despite concerns over the viability of garden communities.

The local plan committee was due to meet on Monday, however, the meeting has been postponed.

Three options were to be laid out to councillors on what action to take, after the planning inspector found the garden villages plans to be unsound.

The options are: To remove the garden communities from the plan and continue on with the rest of it, before coming back to garden communities in three years time; to carry on with the local plan following completion of further work; to create an entirely new local plan.

Officers recommended the second option.

Campaigners said more time was needed to address concerns.

Colchester Council said the postponement was “in order to give members more time to consider the implications of the letter, to obtain further advice and then to reconvene the committee to consider the matter”.

An alternative date for the local plan meeting has not yet been decided.