1,000-home scheme approved on unallocated site in Essex countryside

Braintree District Council has approved outline plans for 1,000 new homes on an unallocated countryside site after attributing "some weight" to the location's inclusion in a delayed draft joint local plan it is preparing with two other Essex authorities.

Image credit: Gallagher Estates

The application, submitted by developer Gallagher Estates, proposes providing 30 per cent affordable housing, a new local centre with shops, plus employment floorspace and a primary school on a 66-hectare greenfield site on the northern edge of the town.


The plans were approved by members of Braintree Council's planning committee on Tuesday, following the recommendation of officers, who also said the authority could now demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.


Braintree Council, along with Colchester Borough Council and Tendring District Council, is currently preparing evidence for a revised version of its joint local plan after a planning inspector found their submitted draft plan was unsound in 2018.


However, Braintree officers cited the site's allocation in the draft plan to justify approval of the plans, which conflict with the existing plan it adopted in 2005.


A report to the committee said: "The application site is not allocated for residential development within the adopted local plan and is located in the countryside outside the designated town development boundary of Braintree.


"The application is therefore contrary to and represents a departure from the adopted development plan."


But it added that the site "has a draft allocation within the publication draft local plan for residential development which is an important material consideration and should be afforded some weight".


The scheme would provide 30 per cent affordable housing, a new local centre with shops, plus employment floorspace and a primary school on a 66 hectare greenfield site on the northern edge of the town.


The officer report attributed "more than moderate but less than significant" weight to the proposed development’s conflict with the existing local plan.


However, it said: "that the benefits of this substantial proposal, in this location clearly outweigh the identified harm".


It said the provision of homes to help the authority meet its housing need "weighs heavily in favour of the proposal".


In addition, it said a commitment by the developer to bring forward submission of the first reserved matters application from three to two years from approval also weighed in favour of approval.


The authority also cited the creation of construction jobs and economic benefits that would flow from approval.


Last year, former communities secretary James Brokenshire granted planning permission for a 340-home scheme in the district after he concluded that the council could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply and had only a 4.15-year supply.


However, this week’s report said that following the decision, the council has found that seven sites the  secretary of state considered not to be deliverable were in fact now deliverable as they "are the subject of detailed planning applications from developers". Including these sites gave the authority a 5.15 housing land year supply, the report said.