PLANS for a ‘metro town’ between Colchester and Clacton which were ruled out as an alternative to garden communities are now being reconsidered.

Following an agreement to continue work on garden communities, Braintree, Colchester and Tendring Councils have set out a timetable for compiling further evidence to support their plans.

A new sustainability appraisal is to be completed by January and any “realistic alternatives” found will also be considered.

One of these is a ‘metro town’ proposed by the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (CAUSE).

The group’s vision was to look at the “underused resource” of the Colchester-Clacton railway to provide “a sustainable and integrated chain of settlements linking jobs, housing and infrastructure”.

The plans could deliver up to 8,000 homes.

In a letter to the planning inspector overseeing the plans, the authorities said: “There could be some proportional growth of other settlements in Colchester Borough/Tendring District.

“For example, a modest development within a ten-minute walking catchment of Marks Tey Station, that would be sufficiently small-scale not to overload the trunk roads and main line train services.

“Our understanding is the relevant Colchester to Clacton stations are Colchester mainline station, Colchester Town, Hythe, Wivenhoe, Alresford, Great Bentley, Weeley, Thorpe-le-Soken, Clacton-on-Sea and the relevant branch line stations are Kirby Cross, Frinton-on-Sea, and Walton-on-the Naze.

“We could include all land within 800 metres of each of these stations that does not already have planning permission.”

Tim Young (Lab), deputy leader of Colchester Council, said there was still work to do, adding: “We are absolutely clear the principle of the garden communities is the best way of ensuring a long-term strategy for housing and jobs.

“It also protects our towns and villages from speculative development.” A public consultation on updated plans could start as early as February.

Neil Stock, leader of Tendring Council, said: “The Government has a big part to play in providing commitments on large infrastructure, such as the A120, the A12 and the A120/A130 link road, and this was our clear message to the housing minister.”

Graham Butland, leader of Braintree Council added: “It’s not an issue that is going to go away.

“The pressure and need is only going to increase - but it’s something that must be done in the right way so that it enhances and improves the local area rather than negatively impacting on it.”

Essex County Council is also involved in the plans.

To view councils’ letter, visit

‘New timeline is just not deliverable at all’

COUNCILS are set to consider other possible sites for expansion as an alternative to large new garden villages.

Other alternative sites for urban extension include land west of Braintree for 2,000 homes, land east of Silver End for up to 2,500 homes, land north west of Coggeshall for up to 8,000 homes, three sites at Marks Tey and four in Colchester, including Bullock Wood, Parsons Heath, the Hythe and east Greenstead.

Land at Monks Wood which was also put forward for thousands of homes but was previously ruled out is also being reconsidered.

Rosie Pearson, secretary at CAUSE, said it was positive to see more options are being looked at. She said: “CAUSE had written to the councils to drop reference to east Colchester in the Metro Town plan. Having seen the councils’ evidence since produced, it is clear that east Colchester cannot be sustainable or deliverable.

“It is good to see the inspector’s requirement to assess more options will be carried out. CAUSE’s Metro Plan is one of these options, as requested by the inspector and a second, of concern, is Monks Wood.

“Residents have been told they are not allowed to meet council consultants yet the letter states that the promoter, Lightwood, will be given access.”

She added: “Unfortunately it is clear from what is being sent to the inspector the councils have no plan.

“It appears that interest in delivering garden city principles and infrastructure first is waning.

“By spring we still won’t know whether the A120 has funding, nor will we know the route of the A12.

“It is impossible in that short space of time to create a feasible and funded mass rapid transit system for north Essex or to get agreement on a new station at West Tey.”