A DECISION on whether controversial garden communities will go ahead as planned is set to be made next week.

Two new towns are planned for either side of Colchester, in conjunction with both Tendring and Braintree councils.

In total, the plans would see 33,000 homes built east and west of Colchester.

But the proposals, jointly put forward by all three authorities, were criticised by a Government planning inspector for being “unjustified and unsound” as he cast his eye over local plan proposals.

The local plan sets out where can and cannot be developed across the borough until 2033.

Planning inspector Roger Clews set out three options for the councils:

  •  to remove the ambitious proposals while the remainder of the local plans are assessed
  • carry out the significant work needed on the proposals before moving to the next stage; or
  • withdrawing the proposals altogether.

Both Braintree and Tendring council leaders have taken a unilateral decision to pursue option two.

But Colchester Council is yet to declare its hand and a meeting of the all-important local plan committee has now been pencilled in for September 13.

Mark Cory, leader of Colchester Council, said he has opted not to take a decision unilaterally because he believes it to be undemocratic.

As a result, it will be the cross-party local plan committee members who decide the way forward later this month.

He said: “Both Tendring and Braintree have come forward with their decision, as taken by the leaders of the respective councils.

“I could make the decision for Colchester in the same way, by taking the power into the leader’s portfolio but I do not believe that to be democratic. The best people to make that decision are those who have worked on the local plan committee for some time.”

One issue which could prove to be a sticking point is the committee has not met since the May elections and is, at the moment, without an elected chairman. The Conservative group had targeted the committee as one it would like to chair but that position appeared to soften when Tory Pauline Hazell became chair of the planning committee in June.

The ruling alliance has proposed Highwoods Independent Gerard Oxford as chairman.