Chelmsford’s new housing plan will give affordable housing power to council

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A new housing plan will give Chelmsford City Council powers to deliver on its affordable needs and climate change commitments, according to its leader.

A major housing plan determining where 10,000 new homes should be built over the next 16 years is set to be adopted by Chelmsford City Council at a meeting on Wednesday, May 27.

The strategic plan sets the vision for the future of the area over the next 16 years and identifies a supply of housing over the plan period from a range of sources including completions, commitments, windfall and allocations, equating to 21,893 new homes. It more than provides for the identified housing requirement of 18,515 dwellings.

Leader Cllr Stephen Robinson said: “We will be using the local plan to deliver on affordable housing and our climate change agenda and without the local plan that will be much more difficult.”

The plan requires the provision of 35 per cent affordable housing in residential schemes of 11 or more units.

Its Strategic Housing Market Assessment includes a calculation of a need for an annual requirement for 179 affordable homes in Chelmsford – around 22 per cent of the overall housing need.

A working group on the city’s affordable housing needs is soon to recommend additional measures and will follow earlier commitments in the budget, including allowing the council to lend money to others, for example to housing associations to provide affordable housing.

Cllr Robinson said: “We recognise the local plan probably won’t deliver enough affordable housing to meet our needs which is why we added extra provision in the budget.

“The local plan will give the council more powers to address the climate emergency and the housing crisis and because it has in there some robust demand of developers we will demand developers that they will provide for jobs, shops and supporting infrastructure, not just new homes and all in a sustainable manner.”

By 2036, the local plan will help to deliver around 10,000 new homes, 55,000sqm of new business employment floorspace and significant new infrastructure including schools, open space and sports facilities, shops and public transport improvements.

A statement as part of the extraordinary meeting next Wednesday said: “Following four rounds of public consultation and an independent examination the local plan has now reached the stage that it can be adopted.”

The statement added that a report by the Planning Inspector concluded that the plan is sound and provides an appropriate basis for the planning of the area.

The plan includes an allocation of 3,619 new homes to take account of previously developed sites in the city’s urban area in the east and west of the city.

The largest proportion of planned economic and housing growth is proposed in significant developments at Beaulieu and Channels, for 4,350 homes and 65,800sqm of mixed employment and commercial uses and a business park, which are currently under construction.

Together these sites are providing a major package of new transport, community and green infrastructure including primary and secondary schools, shops, dedicated bus lanes as part of the county council’s A130/A131 route-based strategy, and an express bus link offering rapid transit to and from the city centre.

Further key infrastructure is also planned in this location, including the expansion of the Chelmer Valley Park and Ride, a new railway station at Beaulieu and improvements to the local and strategic road network including a new ‘radial distributor road’ and the Chelmsford North East Bypass.

The smallest distribution, but still significant, is planned through a northern extension to the town of South Woodham Ferrers.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter