* Martin Goss is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Colchester and borough councillor responsible for infrastructure

Responding to much of the misinformation from Tory Cllr Andrew Ellis (Gazette, April 2, “We support development...but no on this size or scale”) I felt compelled to write as former chairman of the Local Plan to set the record straight.

Whether we like or it not, Government expects us to build houses and in greater numbers than ever anticipated.

The Tory Government wants councils to build 300,000 houses per annum in their words to deal with the “housing crisis.”

Some people may ask – what housing crisis? Well, putting Brexit to one side, we are a growing population – birth rates have been on the increase in recent years, people are living longer, more healthcare is being delivered at home and there are more single people living on their own.

Immigration also happens, especially where the economy requires workers within the service industries, NHS and agriculture.

Colchester has built on average 830 houses per annum for the last 40 years.

A Government Planning Inspector has signed off that Colchester needs to build 920 per annum.

If councils don’t find spaces for these houses, ultimately Government will force them onto local communities.

The house building process in Britain is broken – there has been too much built with inadequate infrastructure which is more than just roads, it is community facilities, open spaces, schools, NHS facilities, public transport links, cycling links and decent joined up walking routes.

There is also the growing issue in Britain where new estates are being left in private ownership and all roads and open spaces are being looked after by private management companies, as opposed to these areas being adopted by the relevant local authorities.

It is ultimately the developer who makes these decisions at the outset of a development, not the local authority.

When a development is given planning permission there is always a legal agreement which lists what the developer has to fund or build to mitigate the impact any new development will have on existing facilities.

Councils cannot ask for money to fix existing issues – in other words, if a road is already badly congested the developer can only be asked for funding to improve the road for the impact its new traffic would have.

The legal agreements are known as Section 106 agreements. There has been talk for many years in abolishing them and upgrading to something called Community Infrastructure levy which is seen by Government as a more straight forward “rate card” of what developers pay.

The downside, and the very reason why Government has stalled on migrating across to this system, is ultimately developers get to pay less.

This means local communities receive less funding and less infrastructure.

The local Tories, in particular Cllr Andrew Ellis, has publicly stated moving to the levy would be better, but it is a falsehood, you simply end up with less money and potentially bigger impacts on existing infrastructure issues.

How can this be good for Colchester? Call me a cynic...there must an election looming!

Cllr Ellis also talks about Neighbourhood Plans. Having been involved myself at this level I can tell you it is a lot of work and needs volunteers to spend many hours pulling the documents and evidence together. It is potentially years of work.

It also needs to go to a public vote. Some of these plans stall or fail locally where volunteers diminish.

They can be brilliant methods for local communities to set rules for development, but they are not a quick and an easy solution.

Garden settlements are the preferred new method being supported by Government where infrastructure comes first.

This means that before houses are built the much-needed infrastructure is championed first.

The existing system has clearly failed as this tends to happen after many houses are built and occupied.

By continuing with the same old development approach we will never get the upfront infrastructure we need to further enhance the town.

I’ve always been rather outspoken against development especially when it was happening in my own neighbourhood.

We had Government ministers visit thanks to the then MP Sir Bob Russell as we tried to get the plans called in by Government.

They decided to let them proceed. I also voted against the current Local Plan when it went to full council – this is still a matter of public record and can be seen in the council minutes.

With Cllr Andrew Ellis stating the Tories would drop West Tey, but, of course, progress with development in East Colchester (not being a Tory Heartland) the question has to be asked – where is all the housing going to be placed?

It simply means more of the same and a lack of new infrastructure.

It is all very well to talk about neighbourhood planning and letting local communities decide, but the bottom line is these approaches have been tried before with little success.

Middlewick Ranges causes me great concern. Ultimately the buck for this stops with Government.

They wish to sell the land and our MP Will Quince was a junior minister in that department and has done nothing to stop the sale.

When pushed he cannot present any evidence to the contrary.

To stop housing on this site the Government needs to stop the sale of this land.

We had little choice to include it as a site in the Local Plan as the MoD wishes to sell the land for the highest cash receipt and therefore wants as much housing on it as possible.

It wanted at least 2,000 houses. We have halved that and gone for 1,000.

This will protect as much of the area as possible and allow us to explore options with what can be done to enhance what we have left.

I was vocal at the time at how unhappy I am at being blackmailed into this position by Government.

The new emerging Local Plan is also working collaboratively with Tendring and Braintree councils, which means all the infrastructure improvements link such as upgrading the A12, the A120 and also a new A133 link.

If the Colchester Tory party does what it states, it will immediately meaning breaking this up and Colchester being circled by new housing on the Braintree and Tendring side without any of the adequate infrastructure.

Tendring Council could, if it wishes, drop most of its housing on the East border of Colchester, take all the associated funding but push all the impacts on schools, NHS facilities and traffic straight onto Colchester.

If we work collaboratively that won’t happen.

It is also fair to say independent borough council candidate John Akker from Mersea Island has by far the best attendance record at the Local Plan meetings in comparison to the locally elected councillors who are supposed to attend to raise concerns.

No wonder he feels compelled to stand for election to represent his community.

Looking ahead 50 years is bold and will fix the issues of the past but, of course, the business case has to properly wash its face.

Development also should be sympathetic. Size and scale has to be appropriate.

I wanted to put the record straight. Attacks have been made on me and the current administration.

We are having to deal with a government focused wrongly on stuffing more housing in the south east.

We are being honest with the public that the same old development won’t work for Colchester.

Either we stop the Government or find a different way.